The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent’s human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.
The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the 'Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this 'heroic' or 'golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year but they still occupy the same sites. The seals which are no longer hunted for food lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.
Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey includes The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell Island. They break our long journey but more importantly they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the power house which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
Day 1 Wednesday 10 February
Today with beautiful weather, we arrived at Invercargill New Zealand’s southern-most city, where most of us stayed in the fine centrally located Kelvin Hotel. Brendon, the Functions Manager, made sure that we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the evening with fine local produce and an excellent desert with berry compote a favourite. We also met Don McIntyre our Expedition Leader and David Harrowfield, a member of the expedition team. This was a good occasion to get to know many of our fellow expeditioners, some of whom had travelled with Heritage Expeditions before.
Day 2 Thursday 11 February
Noon position: Latitude 46o35.504’S; Longitude 168o20.71’E,
Air temperature: 16oC Water temperature 15oC. Taken from the Bridge Log Book (1430).
The ship positions are noted in case following the expedition one may wish to compile a chart with our voyage. This can also be useful when used for a presentation or to supplement photographs.
This morning we arose to cloud and light rain however this soon cleared and the weather today was excellent. Following an excellent breakfast, we assembled with our luggage in the foyer. Here David H. and Max the Ship Manager, made sure that possessions had our cabin number noted and the luggage was then loaded in a truck and conveyed to the ship. This provided an opportunity to do final shopping, then most of us walked with David to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. The visit with so much to see proved to be a highlight of our brief stay in Invercargill.
We began by viewing the excellent presentation ‘Beyond the Roaring Forties’, this being the same name for the exhibition, which featured aspects of the natural and human history of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, some of which we will visit in the next few days.
There were superb artefacts associated with early shipwrecks and the castaways. These included, the beautiful figure head of a woman clutching a bible, from the barque Glory wrecked at Bluff in 1881; the original wooden grave marker for 15 casualties from the Derry Castlewrecked on Enderby Island in 1887 along with a pair of seal skin slippers laced with twine, from the Dundonald wrecked on Disappointment Island during a storm in 1907. One can only imagine what it must have been like for men on the General Grant wrecked in 1866, who resorted to making miniature wooden rescue boats, complete with a keel, mast and sails and inscribed “WANT RELIEF”…
Other items such as a blubber fork, blubber cutter and scrimshaw (engraved sperm whale teeth) were linked to the dangerous work of early whaling. Other galleries included paintings done by a well-known early New Zealand artist, John Gibb, who completed interesting artworks depicting boats in the Bluff oyster fishery late 1880s-late 1890s. We all of course know that the best oysters in the world are still dredged from oyster beds in Fouveaux Strait. Come on April, when the season begins and the Oyster Festival is held in Bluff!
Other galleries included excellent displays of the region’s natural history, Maori artefacts from pre-European times, an exhibit titled ‘Deep Freeze’ with ice scenes including one based on a Herbert Ponting photograph (taken near Cape Evans in 1911) by Tony Bishop; staff photographing artefacts found during an archaeological excavation and a small wooden waka (Maori canoe) immersed in a bath; as part of the long conservation process. In the Tuatara gallery, we saw Henry the oldest resident, who was born in the late 19th C. and several baby Tuatara which before being put on display, have six months exposure to ultra-violet light. This is needed to provide Vitamin D and to get their biological clock (circadian rhythm) functioning. The presence of a third (pineal) eye located above the brain, is visible through the skin in newly hatched reptiles, however as the eye grows it is then covered with scales.
Back at the Kelvin Hotel, we enjoyed an excellent lunch with a good selection to choose from and just before 2p.m. boarded the coach to take us to Bluff. At the port after passing huge mounds of logs and wood chips, we had our identification checked by a security officer and soon parked beside our home for the next 30 days. The Spirit of Enderby is also named Professor Khromov (1904-1977), after a prominent Russian meteorologist, during the former Soviet Union era and used for oceanographic work. With a learned expression, he observes us each time we walk along the passage on Level Three. Here we took photographs, were welcomed by Don the Expedition Leader and Jane the Cruise Director. On account of Jane from the UK with us, the Cruise Director was known as Jane, Jane. Members of the expedition team then directed us to our cabins, where our luggage had been previously placed, we had a nice afternoon tea in the bar/library and generally familiarised ourselves with our home for the next for weeks.
We cleared Customs, had our passports taken for placement in the safe and gathered in the bar/library. Here we enjoyed freshly baked scones with jam and cream and a glass of blackcurrant juice. Soon after 1600 we left the pier and headed out into the shipping channel. A launch named Takitimu 2 took off the Pilot who saw we made it safely down the channel and by 1630 we were on our way.
At 1700 Expedition Leader Don, had us assemble in the Lecture Room. Members of the expedition staff were introduced and spoke briefly about their background and expectations. We were then advised about various ‘housekeeping’ requirements and Don explained emergency procedures. This was followed by the mandatory lifeboat drill, when we were required to report wearing our lifejackets to the muster stations and cram into either the Port or Starboard lifeboats according to the side our cabin was located on. The Saab diesel engine was briefly started by a Russian sailor, Don checked each boat to ensure we were appropriately kitted out, and the drill was then concluded.
The bar opened at 1830 and an excellent dinner with a mains choice of lamb rump or salmon fillet, was served at 1900. The end of the meal as we continued south past the east coast of the Chatham Islands, light rain was falling. Several Cape (Pintado) Petrels were seen along with a Sooty Shearwater and a New Zealand Fur Seal. We are now becoming familiar with the ship and are getting to know our cabin mates.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 3 Friday 12 February
Noon position: Latitude 68o02.799’S; Longitude 166o38.799’E,
Air temperature: 20oC Water temperature 15oC.
Conditions were calm last night with just a gentle roll occasionally and most of us slept well. As daylight returned, we were now about 200km south of New Zealand, with a light swell from the west-south-west. Many of us visited the bridge and saw large flocks of Sooty Shearwaters flying out to sea for the day, while large birds had also formed rafts near the ship. The occasional Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross were also observed. Sooty Shearwater are known to Maori as Titi or ‘mutton birds’ and under their customary right, Maori are permitted to harvest chicks once a year. They are dug out of burrows for food, although it is not known why there is a comparison to sheep.
The Snares Islands have a highest point of 152m, the islands cover 328 hectares, have a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1200mm per year. Before breakfast we had a good view of the Snares and being on the north coast were sheltered from the westerly. We had ideal conditions for a Zodiac cruise. Don summoned us all to the lecture room for a briefing at 1745 where he gave an excellent introduction Zodiac travel, with Lorna from the Heritage office, demonstrating the correct wearing of the life jacket. This was followed by a brief description of the Snares discovered by Captain George Vancouver on 23 November 1791 and the same day, Captain Broughton, also sighted the islands. Subsequent sealing era decimated the population.
The Zodiac operation using five boats, each equipped with a four-stroke 60 hp. Yamaha engine, began at 0900 with us setting out for two hours on the water. With exception of the scientific parties from University of Otago and National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), no landing is permitted on these pest-free islands. We had a highly enjoyable morning with sun, a little scattered cumulus cloud and no wind. Cruising a short distance off-shore, we enjoyed excellent views of the volcanic rocks, some with nice colouration and the zoning of vegetation adapted to salt-laden air with Olearia lyalli the tall ‘tree daisy’ with grey-green foliage, prominent in places. Other plants included the smaller ‘tree daisy’, Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’, a bright green shore Hebe and large tussock grass.
The many birds included spectacular rafts of Cape Petrels although with lesser numbers than observed previously and Snares Crested Penguins, a dead Common Diving Petrel, Antarctic Terns, Brown Skua, nesting Buller’s Albatross and Salvin’s Albatross, a Giant Petrel, several black Snares tomtits, Silvereyes, a Snares Fern Bird, Back and Red-billed Gulls. The Sooty Shearwaters are the most prominent bird species on the Snares, with an estimated 2.7 million pairs (1971), however they had mostly flown out to sea before dawn for a day of fishing. In two areas we obtained good photographs of Snares Crested Penguins. Excellent viewing was also enjoyed of numerous New Zealand Fur Seals including pups that were resting on warm kelp and some of us saw a loud confrontation, between a large male and two younger seals that resented the bigger male entering their territory.
We passed through a large arch, entered two large caverns exposed to the sea and saw a deep fissure with green and brown algae up the sides. In the first cavern, Victoria gave an excellent rendition of the first of two Andrew Lloyd Webber pieces from Phantom of the Opera; an aria and arpeggio. This was followed by a further piece in the second cavern entitled ‘Wishing you were somehow here again’. William made a further contribution with a rendition of the famous Irish tune ‘Danny Boy’.
Water running down from the first cavern appeared to come from the small penguin colony above, with Victoria stating “I’ve just been peed on by a penguin!” Where the sun touched the entrance, the water appeared a most beautiful turquoise. In places 3cm wide bands of quartz strata were seen and some surfaces of rock exposed to the sea was pitted from salt.
In Ho Ho Bay we glimpsed huts of a research station established in the 1960s and now occasionally used for science projects. Time was spent obtaining photographs of a rainbow where a blow hole existed, however one of the best highlights was an excellent view of the famous ‘penguin slide’ with large numbers of Snares Crested Penguins commuting over granite, with the surface worn smooth perhaps over hundreds of years. The population of this species is around 30,000. Some penguins which became stranded in the kelp, managed to extricate themselves remarkably quickly. Penguins were calling and from nests on adjacent headlands, the distinctive nasal-like and guttural, braying calls of Buller’s Albatross were heard. By 1115 we were back on board and Don, David and Chris, each agreed that the visit was rare, as conditions often prevent any Zodiac cruising.
We enjoyed a very nice lunch at 1300 and at 1400 David gave his first lecture ‘Bleak Outposts in Stormy Seas’ which focused on the various stages of occupation in New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands and Australia’s Macquarie Island. These were discovery; ship wrecks and castaways; sealing and whaling; scientific parties; farming; military lookouts during WW2 and pest eradication.
At 1700 Don gave the mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) briefing, followed by an introduction to the Auckland Islands. All personnel then completed their form in which they stated their boots, back packs and clothing was free of unwanted seeds, dirt etc.
The bar was well patronised and it was very interesting to discover from conversation that we have direct descendants on board from three expeditions. For each person, there was a desire to learn more about their ancestor. Celia’s great, great, grandfather Charles Thorndike Tucker, served as Master (Navigating Officer) on HMS Erebus, during James Clark Ross’s expedition in 1841, when the Ross Sea was penetrated for the first time. The Tucker Glacier was named by Ross for him. Ian Williams’s wife Gwyneth is the great, great, granddaughter, of Sarah Cripps who was born at Hardwicke, the village established on Auckland Island, by Charles Enderby in 1849. Sarah’s Bosom named after her was later changed by Samuel Enderby to Port Ross. William Grey is a great grandson of Professor Edgeworth David a member of Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09. The ‘Prof’ as he was known, took part in the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and also discovery of the South Magnetic Pole. By evening the sea was calm and prospects were looking favourable for a fine and interesting day tomorrow.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 4 Saturday 13 February
Enderby Island (Auckland Islands)
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.529’S; Longitude 166o16.734’ E
Air temperature: 12oC Water temperature 8oC.
We had an exceptionally calm evening and after a little rain, enjoyed a fine day with a mix of cloudy and sunny spells. A stiff northerly was blowing on the far side of Enderby Island.
Port Ross where we anchored is named after the famous English Arctic and Antarctic explorer, James (later Sir) Clark Ross, who visited here in November 1840. Originally it was named Rendezvous Harbour by the French expedition led by Dumont D’Urville and renamed later by Charles Enderby. Many of us on deck early were fascinated with the spectacular columnar basalt cliffs with prominent jointing, topped by rata forest and Dracophyllum, along the south side of Enderby Island. The rock has formed in this way during cooling of the lava.
Most of us had a hearty breakfast and after Don’s briefing on the landing, held in the lecture room at 0745, we made our lunch and soon after 0900 the landing using three Zodiacs got underway. We all disembarked on a rocky tidal platform covered with kelp, behind which was a shallow cave. Some of us were fortunate to see a Red-crowned Parakeet. Anchored in the bay was a large yacht Evohe that had a film party on the island. We left unwanted clothing and life jackets at an old boat shed and enjoyed a welcome and brief talk from Sea Lion research team leader, Chris Muller. The DOC party was very concerned at the loss of four two-month old pups in the past 36 hours and the colony is showing a general decline. Don and David recalled seeing the beach almost covered with New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lions in years gone by.
Our party now split up with a little over half of us, opting to do the long walk around the end of the island. The remainder then set out on the short walk. Of special interest was a mauve native orchid, one of three species on the island. Some trees and low shrubs of Southern Rata, along with Cassinia and small white and mauve Gentians were also flowering. A few Southern Royal Albatrosses were on nests some distance from the boardwalk, although some of us had a good view of one taking flight. Once on north coast, both parties spread out and all a metre apart, we slowly walked through the tussocks and Bulbinella rossii a ‘mega herb’. In December these magnificent plants have a beautiful orange flower head, although was now a dark brown seed head. We were fortunate to flush out a small Auckland Islands Snipe and could not get over how well camouflaged the bird was. Heritage Expeditions is the only group with permission to undertake the activity and several of us obtained good photographs. The next point of interest was a nesting site for Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. One well developed albatross chick in brown down was seen and we were treated to a fine flying display by a pair of birds, while an adult near the chick, periodically emitted calls.
The long walkers continued on their way and by 1300 the short walkers were back at Sandy Bay and enjoying lunch. We were able to photograph some pups and adult Sea Lions and one or two Yellow-eyed Penguins were seen and others were heard calling in the Rata forest.
David, with New Zealand, UK and Antarctic experience in archaeology, found a worked chert flake in the vicinity of the excavation done a few years ago. It has not been established where the source material was located, although similar stone is on Campbell Island. The artefact which appeared to have been burnt was photographed and left on the site. The area had many fragments of bone and it was not possible to determine if these were associated with cultural or Skua activity.
Some of us visited the Stella castaway depot. This depot named after the ship, is thought to have been placed in 1880 and was stocked with clothing, blankets, medicines and food. One of our shipmates suggested Stella Hut, would not have much room for a honeymoon. Near the boatshed we noticed that a ‘finger post’ directing castaways to the depot, is actually pointing in the wrong direction! There are several of these in the Auckland Islands. A few of us watched the autopsy by vet Emily, from Massey University, of a New Zealand Sea Lion pup. Samples taken to ascertain why the pup(s) had died included half the brain preserved in liquid nitrogen. The short walkers all found something of interest and most returned to the Spirit of Enderby by 1430. Many photographs were taken of Sea Lion pups, adults, some of the birdlife and the interesting flora.
Those who had embarked upon the long walk who arrived at Sandy Bay later in the afternoon, had been rewarded with views of the Derry Castle reef where the ship was wrecked in March 1887 and of the memorial plaque placed near the site with 15 graves. The barque had a load of grain from Geelong Australia. There were eight survivors who subsisted on grain and shellfish for 92 days, as the castaway depot was found to contain only one jar of salt. The walkers covered the ground in good time and all were back on board by 1700. Bird sightings were plentiful with numerous Red-crowned Parakeets and a variety of other interesting birds including, Auckland Islands Tomtits, Red Polls, a Blackbird, a Spurwing Plover, juvenile Bellbirds, brown Northern Skuas, Kelp Gulls, Arctic Terns, Auckland Islands Teal and Yellow-eyed Penguins. A dead White-headed Petrel was seen and there were many Sea Lions, but no Elephant Seals today.
It would be difficult to determine the most special aspect of today as there were many highlights. Before the evening meal, we had a recap in the Bar-Library when many of us were given a chance to comment on the day. Ian A took numerous photographs of ferns for Te Papa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, which is undertaking a major survey of ferns. Each side of the frond was photographed and five species were recorded. Stuart photographed a burrow that was perhaps that of a petrel; Chris in the expedition team enjoyed observing a Skua and had a far from friendly meeting with a Sea Lion; Don saw a young Diving Petrel that appeared to have fallen from its nest on a cliff above the rock platform, doing its best to avoid a Skua.
This evening many were writing diaries or enjoying going through photographs taken. The bar opened at 1800 and this was followed by the usual excellent dinner with the choice of lamb or chicken was provided by Robin and Benny. A birders meeting was held in the bar-library.
Don’s definition of Adventure – “adventure is you don’t know the outcome”
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 5 Sunday 14 February
Auckland Island – Carnley Harbour – Tagua Bay
Noon position: Latitude 50 o48.759’S; Longitude 166o 04.654’E
Air temperature: 17oC Water temperature: 12oC
We departed from Port Ross about 0320 and had a calm sea for the night. By 0630 the coastline of Auckland Island was visible with Cape Farr to Starboard and Gilroy Head to Port. It was very bleak with light rain falling. At 0640 a 25 knot wind was blowing from the north-north-west the temperature was 10oC and the water also 10oC. The few birds about included Sooty Shearwaters which Don pointed out was the first species in the world to have been found contaminated with plastic. By 0700 Adams Island was to port and Musgrave Peninsula was emerging. To starboard lay Mt D’Urville 631m and the highest point on Adams Island is 640m. We continued up Carnley Harbour in very bleak conditions, with the wind showing no sign of abating. Following breakfast, we assembled in the lecture theatre. Don explained the present and anticipated weather situation, and then gave an outline on what we could perhaps achieve this morning. Sheltered reasonably well by the Musgrave Peninsula, we then dropped anchor in Tagua Bay. The objective today was to enhance our knowledge of the Auckland Islands more recent history linked to WW2.
Following the rapid departure from Port Chalmers New Zealand, of the German cargo ship Erlangen on the eve of war being declared in 1939, the ship was without its full load of coal. The Erlangen then headed south and finding a good location to hide at the head of the North Arm of Carnley Harbour, the largely Chinese crew cut 400 tons of Rata for fuel. Ian A. mentioned that unbeknown to the Germans, Rata is one of the few timbers than will burn when green. New Zealand authorities had by now organised the secret Cape Expedition.
Soon after 0900 two Zodiacs were launched and we were shuttled to a basalt boulder beach below Rata and Dracophyllum trees. On the beach were blue-lipped mussels, limpets, snails and the attractive small paua, Haliotis virginia, which is also found in New Zealand. A Bellbird was calling, an Antarctic Tern was seen and two small Pipits were seeking food on the rocks. Once everyone was ashore and on top of a terrace, we made our way along a muddy track and through a ‘goblin forest’ of very old Rata and Dracophyllum trees. The vegetation was of great interest and included lichen on trees, interesting ferns, purple flowering Gentians and some nice examples of a green native Orchid. Everywhere small seedlings had discovered a niche to become established; this often in clumps of moss, or in decayed wood. Ian was especially interested in a very small fern which could possibly be a new species and Chris found a footprint from what appeared to be from a large wild pig.
Don pointed out the secret WW2 Cape Expedition lookout site with commanding views either side of the peninsula and after a walk up a steep track, we arrived at the site of the main building complex which housed the New Zealand coast watchers. The buildings are in a sorry state of decay yet the cooking range was still in evidence. We all agreed that it must have been quite a cosy retreat and that considerable effort was required to man-handle all the building materials and other items to the site, which had to be firstly cleared and levelled. Then there was all the cooking utensils, food and communications equipment. From here we walked a short distance up the ridge and inspected the lookout hut. This has been restored by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, which has done an excellent job. A few artefacts included a packet of playing cards and several rusted tins including a baking powder tin.
An emergency shelter was also located at Emergency Bay near the entrance to Tagua Bay. A further party was located at Ranui Cove on the north-east corner of Auckland Island and another was on Campbell Island at Tucker’s Cove. This also had a lookout although nothing remains of the Campbell Island lookout hut. We enjoyed a leisurely walk back down to the beach and by now the sun was beginning to break through. By 1130 we were on board after a most interesting excursion having enjoyed the distinct aroma of the damp forest, the beauty and variety of the plants, interesting relics of past recent history and the exercise.
Don advised that weather conditions at Macquarie Island were not favourable for landing and after consultation with the captain the decision was made to head direct for Antarctica. Heritage Expeditions Operations Manager Nathan Russ, advised from the office that yesterday all the ice broke out from McMurdo Sound, leaving us with the possibility of still seeing Macquarie Island and perhaps also the Balleny Islands, on the way north before the final scheduled landfall at Campbell Island. We enjoyed a very nice salad and pasta for lunch, continued up the North Arm and then departed the Auckland Islands to commence our run south. Shearwaters along with White-bellied Petrels and a Grey-backed Petrel were feeding.
Our course was set to follow 167o Longitude with a westerly heading toward 166o and soon we were well south of the Auckland Islands. The sea now a lead-grey colour with numerous white caps and created the occasional roll of the ship. Because of the conditions, Don called off any lectures. An excellent dinner was enjoyed after which Birdmon, held his lively evening discussion in the Bar/Library and with a calm sea we looked forward to a comfortable night.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 6 Monday 15 February
Noon position: Latitude 55o06.66 ’S; Longitude 166o19.547 ’E
Air temperature: 17 oC (probably nearer 13 as sun on thermometer). Water temperature: 10.5oC
We had a very good rest last evening and this morning we are on a course of 182o True with about 1000 nautical miles (nm) to go before we reach Cape Adare in the early hours of Friday. Today we have a following sea with a two-three metre swell and a northerly wind speed of 15 knots. At 0815 the temperature was 10o and the sea temperature also 10o. The light fog this morning is due to the northerly wind and we are however still some distance from the Antarctic Convergence. The few birds about this morning included Wandering and Southern Royal Albatrosses, Cape Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters. During the evening, we began veering west toward 166o Longitude, with a speed of 11.5-12 knots and our position at 0740 was 54o08.745’S; 166o19.426’E.
Most of us had only a partial or no idea of what many instruments on the Bridge were for. After breakfast most of us assembled on the Bridge where Don who has wide experience in sailing, provided a clear explanation for us. Don began his discussion with aspects concerned with navigation such as the radar and small blocks of wood providing a visual record of the course setting. It was interesting to hear that some instruments such as three electronic chronometers were backed up with a standard wind-up instrument and that along with national flags, code flags, are also internationally recognised. Mounted on top of the ‘monkey bridge’ above the Bridge, there is even the equivalent of an aircraft ‘black box’. This contains a record of all systems in the previous 48 hours. Other instruments such as the echo sounder are electronic with a paper recorder also used. There are several items of equipment for communication which use satellites and also have back-up systems. The international distress frequency is Channel 16 and our ‘line of sight’ VHF radios operate on Channel 8. Don also explained the role of the officers with the Chief Mate also a qualified Captain, along with the Second and Third Mates, who are highly skilled; watches operate on a system with four hours on and eight off and the Spirit of Enderby has twin engines that operate through a gear box and single propeller. At 1000 we assembled in the Bar-Library to try on our handsome blue polar outer jacket with liner, which will be delivered to our cabins in due course.
Birdmon’s lecture was very useful and well attended. Most of us have an interest in the variety of birds and already this morning in addition to albatrosses, we have seen a White-chinned Petrel and Antarctic Prions. The lecture began with charts indicating the various important wind and ocean circulation patters around Antarctica. Excellent photographs conveyed distinguishing features, such as upper and lower views with subtle differences between. Other topics briefly discussed included dynamic soaring by albatrosses, feeding and nesting. These will be expanded in further presentations. Before lunch at 1330 a large piece of seaweed was seen and Don advised that Christchurch had today experienced a magnitude 5.7 earthquake, at 10 km depth off-shore.
We had a busy afternoon again with Don giving us an excellent introduction to the calculation of latitude, longitude and the importance of time. This was very helpful as it made us appreciate the problems that confronted early mariners and was also a useful lead into Part 1 of the excellent film ‘Longitude’.
After a 30 minute break, David then gave his second lecture to a good attendance. ‘From Ross to Borchgrevink 1841-1900’ focused on the early discovery of Antarctica and in particular the 1841 voyage of James Clark Ross with the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (later lost in the Arctic), which penetrated the Ross Sea and discovered the two major volcanoes on Ross Island, the Ross Ice Shelf and other features. Reference was made to the Challenger Expedition, the first landing at Cape Adare in 1895 and the British Antarctic (Southern Cross) Expedition 1898-1899, when the first winter-over on the continent was achieved in 1899.
By late afternoon we were experiencing 30-35 knot winds with swells from the west as we are now moving into the centre of a depression (low). Progress is good however and this evening, we had a very convivial time in the Bar-Library followed by an excellent meal with a choice of Chatham Islands blue cod or beef spare ribs. After dinner Birdmon held the evening bird checklist discussion. This was attended by 14 when a photograph taken by Ian, was used to confirm identity for a Cape Petrel. This led to an interesting discussion on the use of the term Cape Pigeon that was given by early mariners, on account of the bird when feeding, nodded its head like a pigeon. We also learned that it is good to describe what one sees before consulting a book, with a sketch a good way of doing this.
Day 7 Tuesday 16 February
Latitude 60 degrees passed – now responsible to Antarctic Treaty
Noon position: Latitude 58o 53.807’S; Longitude 169o 04.809’E
Air temperature: 12oC Water temperature: 7.6oC
1822 Latitude 60o00.550’S; Longitude 168o27.816’E
First of five Global Drifter Programme buoys released.
We enjoyed a further comfortable night although during the morning, the ship experienced a few rolls on the beam from the northwest, with one at 20o and this morning a few of us decided to lay low in the cabin. The course is 145o True with 760 nm to go before Cape Adare. Barometric pressure rising which is good and by lunch time, we had travelled 865 nm from Bluff. There were not many birds about this morning.
David gave his third presentation to a full house this morning. ‘Antarctica Unveiled’ dealt with the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904, led by Commander Robert Falcon Scott; also known as the Discovery Expedition, on account of the new ship SY Discovery. Major achievements included the first record of an Emperor Penguin colony, first view of the Polar Plateau, discovery of the first Dry Valley (now Taylor Valley) and a new furthest south of 82o11’. A number of reasons were given for the failure of the dogs taken on the southern journey, reference was made to illness suffered by Scott, Wilson and Shackleton and the idea of sleeping in a three-man sleeping bag, caused some amusement.
There was a superb hot beef sandwich with salad for lunch and an excellent caramel square for desert. We are certainly being fed better than those who spent two winters on the iced-in Discovery.
In the afternoon Don offered a further very useful lecture on the basics of navigation, charts and GPS (Global Positioning System), which we all attended. We extended our knowledge on navigation with such details as ‘the doppler effect’ which enables the accurate measuring of distance. We also learned how GPS receivers can locate four or more satellites to work out distance and latitude and longitude, while a fourth satellite will indicate the height above sea surface level.
The second part of ‘Longitude’ was screened at 1500 and a number of us have had the pleasure of viewing John Harrison’s three clocks and his beautiful watch, along with the Kendall copy, which are exhibited in the Royal Maritime Museum at Greenwich London. We returned to the Lecture Room later where Birdmon, gave his second presentation entitled ‘Recognising Bird Behaviours’. A good attendance heard about the variety of behaviour shown by different species including, social relationships, foraging for food, habitation, song development and the fact that young birds with eyes yet to open listen to the parent and also when developed, tap the parents beak as they demand food. Other topics discussed included body care and aggression, as shown by the Skua with its ‘long-call’ display. There was a hilarious end to the lecture, as the imminent arrival at 60o led to a fast exit from the Lecture Theatre, with Birdmon briefly speaking the last few words to himself.
At around 1820 and making good progress at 11.1 knots, the Spirit of Enderby crossed Latitude 60o this now indicating that we are in the waters of the Antarctic Treaty. A large number of ‘Antarctic virgins’ were invited by Don to gather at the bow where to please King Neptune, they received The Polar Blast. All were hosed, drenched and recorded by the numerous photographers. Soon afterwards the first of five 30cm diameter steel ocean buoys with a 15m long cloth drogue was released as part of a Global Drifter Program jointly sponsored by WMO and UNESCO. It was thrown over by Chris, Jim and Birdmon, at 1855 and provided a further interesting aspect to the expedition. The five buoys will be released between 60-66oSouth and 160-179oEast. Each buoy will receive and transmit data to a satellite such as air temperature, conductivity, barometric pressure, along with sea temperature, ocean current and salinity. Many of us obtained a good photographic record of the buoy release and the second buoy was scheduled to be put over about midnight.
The bar was again the setting for much laughter and later we tucked into an excellent meal featuring either Butter Chicken or venison Rogan Josh. Birdmon had his evening species discussion again in the library and advised that he has a book in his library entitled ‘Birds of the Caribbean’ by James Bond, but not the same one as we are familiar with! Don said we can expect good weather over the next day or two and the wind is likely to come from the east. We are not over the Antarctic Convergence yet and we and the Akademik Shokalskiy will be the only ships in the Ross Sea at present. Of interest was the sighting of three Royal Penguins perhaps from Macquarie Island and about 360 nm from home.
Day 8 Wednesday 17 February
Antarctic Convergence; 1st iceberg; Humpback whales; release of buoys
Noon position: Latitude 63o20.489’S; Longitude 167o45.434 ’E
Air temperature: 3.5oC Water temperature: 6oC
This morning we got up to a nice calm sea and during the night passed through the Antarctic Convergence which appears to be further south this season. There was a light fog at 0730 although this soon faded away. The water temperature was 4oC and air temperature 3o. Our position at 0730 was Latitude 62o27.578’S; Longitude 167o45.609’E. However the barometric pressure is falling and we may be in for a rough spell. Several bergs were picked up on radar about 0200 however these disappeared in the fog. The large berg to starboard was deemed to be the first for competition purposes at a time of 0715. Don estimated its height to be about 40 metres above the water line and he described it as a remnant tabular berg, verging on a ‘castellated’ iceberg. The Spirit of Enderby was brought closer and many of us obtained good photographs.
At 0900 we assembled in the Lecture Room below Deck 3 for a presentation by Chris. Titled ‘Weather forecasting and the Effects of El Nino on the Southern Ocean’ this was an excellent lecture. Although many of us had some familiarity with the subject, it was a very useful refresher and carefully explained with good illustrations. The lecture began with a discussion on the steps involved with forecasting – data collection including use of satellites, balloons and automatic weather stations (AWS - one was on Enderby Island), processing of data and modelling and compilation of a weather forecast and what it is consists of. This included Low and High Pressure systems, fronts, along with an explanation of wind speed in knots and direction, all using simple symbols. Chris also made reference to the buoys being released and gave a careful explanation of El Nino and La Nina systems with the present El Nino in the Southern Hemisphere, disrupting the atmosphere system over the South Ocean.
Our handsome blue polar jackets were issued by the expedition staff and at 1100 the third buoy was put over the side, this providing a further photo opportunity, with a few autographing the cardboard wrapper which soon disintegrates. One inscription, GNOME, was appropriate when considered as an acronym as it means ‘Guarding Naturally over Mother Earth’ which may also explain, why there apparently is a Gnome overlooking Germany’s Gondwana Station in Terra Nova Bay. Gnomes are part of a long established part of folk-lore not only in Europe, but also in New Zealand.
Don gave his next presentation titled ‘Ice is Nice’ which explained the extensive terminology for sea and land ice, supported by excellent photographs. The lecture was in two parts and special emphasis was given to the overall formation of sea ice at different times of the year, along with such features as tide cracks and the ice foot, which are often undercut and can be very dangerous. Care must also be taken during Zodiac travel in the proximity to ice bergs. Many if not all of the various forms of ice, will be seen by us during the expedition and we may also encounter the polyna area in Terra Nova Bay, where the sea remains ice-free during winter. On land, we may observe phenomena in the atmosphere caused by ice crystals and also fine ‘diamond-dust’. If wind is blowing there may be ‘drift’ with fine wind-blown snow, a short distance above the ground and often remarked on by early explorers. There was some discussion on climate change and Don mentioned that in the 2014 winter, the total surface area of ice around the continent was 11% more than that previously recorded. Furthermore around the Antarctic Peninsula, sea-water temperatures are up and large ice-shelves have been collapsing.
Again our chefs excelled themselves with a nice fresh salad and superb sausage rolls for lunch, a favourite with everyone. There was an opportunity to photograph two large bergs and many of us were lucky at 1405 to see a splendid pair of male Humpback Whales breaching several times. Three Black-browed Albatross were also sighted off the stern. The Sea Shop opened for half an hour, providing an opportunity to purchase various gifts and mementoes of our expedition. There was an interesting selection of apparel with the Spirit of Enderby logo, postcards, books, a map and other items. This was followed by a screening of the documentary ‘Polar Bearing – 200 teddy bears to Antarctica’ about Don’s yacht voyage to Antarctica in 1993. He had previously sailed the same yacht around the world during the BOC Challenge in 1990 and on this particular expedition the yacht Buttercup (also named Spirit of Tincan) carried Don, his three crew and 200 teddy bears as the silent observers. The yacht had no sooner arrived at Commonwealth Bay, when a second yacht appeared and both parties were forced to wait out a katabatic blizzard. Don said he only had three eight hour, spells ashore at Mawson’s huts and for several days the violent wind blew up to 60-70 knots and for three days over 70 knots. The yachts were coated with ice and although a great experience, they were pleased to head north, eventually to be towed to their final berth in Australia and a great welcome. However this would not be an end to Don’s Antarctic sailing.
The next buoy was put over at 1700 and the last five hours later. By late afternoon the Spirit ofEnderby was enjoying a relatively calm sea with an occasional roll and soon we expect to cross the Antarctic Circle at 66o 33.3’ South Latitude. At 1830 in the Bar-Library the results of the Iceberg Competition were announced. The winners were Mark and Debbie with 62o44’ South and they were only nine miles out. The time winner was Ian A. with 0700 with his position of 61o35’ South. The winners will have the privilege of being first to enter the historic huts. Birdmon mentioned that some of the birds seen today were Back-browed Albatross, a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, White headed, Cape and Giant Petrels. There was much fun in the library this evening with a whiskey tasting session, while Naoko and Sybil compiled art works. Naoko detailed maps in her diary and Sybil drew various signs in the passages. Another artist is Debbie from South Africa, who uses oils to paint a variety of subjects. Most of us retired as an early start was expected.
Day 9 Thursday 18 February
Southern Ocean; Antarctic Circle crossed
Noon position: Latitude 67o 44.0’ S; Longitude 170o36.6’ E
Air temperature: +2 oC Water temperature: +2 oC
Around 0500 today we surfaced to a bleak morning with a grey sea and scattered white horses. Don summoned us to the Bar-Library at 0530 and advised that at 0541 we would cross the Antarctic Circle. This is a geographical boundary (also in the Arctic) at which in summer, marks the most northerly point at which the sun is visible for 24 hours a day on mid-summer’s day (21 December), when the sun is at its highest above the horizon. In winter it is the southernmost point at which the sun can be seen on Mid-winters Day (21 June). South of the Antarctic Circle in winter, it is dark 24 hours a day.
The crossing of the Antarctic Circle is considered to be a symbolic point of the entry into Antarctic waters. On 17 January 1773 Cook and his crews on the HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure were first to cross this significant geographical line.
There were of course, a few bleary eyes. Jane handed out mugs of the mulled wine Robin had concocted and then Don recited passages in which we pledged to advocate preservation of Antarctica until the day we ceased to visit.
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility - a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin - as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.” This was applied to the forehead by Lorna.
Then with a busy programme ahead, it was back to bed for another two hours rest.
At 0815 we were at 67o South and 170o30’ East, on a course of 166o True. We were making a good 12 knots with a 20 knot north-west wind and a three meter sea. The temperature was falling and just 0oC with the water 2oC although Don mentioned the temperature is 1-1.5oC too warm. The barometer was falling fast. Rodney Russ, the founder of Heritage Expeditions who is currently leading an expedition aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy, informed Don that yesterday the air temperature was -10oC on Ross Island and -19oC on the Ross Ice Shelf. Don suggested we can expect similar temperatures.
We passed a large berg at 0900 after which David gave his fourth lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Earnest Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition 1907-1909. He discussed Cape Royds and Shackleton’s hut, the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and the two main expeditions which for the first time attained the South Magnetic Pole and got to within 97 miles of the Geographic South Pole. A recording made by Shackleton in 1909 following return of the expedition was played and this is possibly the only known recording as Scott did not make one. The library has several books we are enjoying.
William Grey from Queensland, grandson of Professor Edgeworth David, treated us with an excellent presentation on his ancestor with the lecture complimenting the earlier lecture by David. We learned much of ‘the Prof’s’ early life, how he came to join Shackleton’s expedition, of his influence on science and major contribution to the expedition. The lecture was interspersed with good quotations and one perhaps must feel pity for the Prof’s wife and family, when they heard he decided to remain for a year in Antarctica, advising that among other aspects, it would be good for his health. Don reminded us that the Magnetic Pole moves ‘fast’ through an elliptical path of 370 km, and that Mawson was the first to discover this.
By 1230 the state of sea was much the same as in the morning and the horizon obscured by fog. The captain was busy on the Bridge keeping watch for icebergs of which there were six in our vicinity and from time to time, checked the display on the radar. At 1245 a polystyrene container floated past and its position was recorded. A few bergy bits and one or two well-rounded growlers were also seen and Don advised a selection of maps had been placed in the Bar/Library and that rather than us asking what various features were, he would in fact be asking us. Following lunch we had a briefing from Don for our arrival at Cape Adare which included a video on the Code of Conduct for historic sites, prepared by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Later Birdmon gave an introductory lecture on penguins entitled ‘Speaking Spenesidae – Penguins of the Polar South’. This most interesting lecture began with a description of the six genus. At present only the Adelie and Emperor are true endemic penguins in Antarctica, with the rest being confined to Subantarctic and peri-Antarctic islands (those off the Antarctic continent), along with the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula, although some are beginning to appear in the Antarctic, perhaps as the result of climate change. Of interest too were the various means of adaption for penguins such as strong breast mussels for flippers, dense plumage on a compact body and flattened yet strong bones. Physiological aspects include the counter current system in for example the legs where the veins return blood to the heart, these are next to the arteries and is an adaptation whereby penguins can stand on a cold surface. There are two million Adelie Penguins in Antarctica with the largest colony (previously termed rookeries) at Cape Adare having 100,000 breeding birds.
The day passed very quickly and many of us began to assemble things ready for a potential landing at Cape Adare in the morning and prepare for an early night. By 1800 the sea was calmer and the sky was clearing. Birdmon had a good muster of 14 after dinner when sightings were discussed. He mentioned that “birds are dynamic and change their appearance a lot. Look carefully, study it and note various characteristics.” Most of the birds we will encounter are ‘tube-noses’ which excrete salt via a gland. One such bird, an Antarctic Fulmar, was sighted today.
Day 10 Friday 19 February
Off Cape Adare
Zodiac cruise in Robertson Bay – icebergs, huts, wildlife
Noon position: Latitude 71o 18.06’ S; Longitude 170o 06.214’ E
Air temperature: 0oC Water temperature: 0.7oC
175 years ago today: James Clark Ross with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, named Cape Adare after Viscount Adare; MP for Glamorganshire.
This morning Don woke us at 0630 and many of us went up to the bridge. There had been an early snow flurry, the decks had a reasonable coating and it was -4oC. Rodney said it was -30C at Scott Base yesterday and was the lowest temperature he had ever experienced there. The sea was however calm with a light ripple and a light southerly was blowing. Near us were several large bergs, some with deep blue caves near the water line. We were in 312m of water, about 12 nm off Cape Adare and moving at around 9.6 knots. Wildlife seen included a Giant Petrel, Snow Petrel, several South Polar Skuas, a Weddell Seal and a pod of around 20 Orca. Soon we were surrounded by floes and numerous bergy bits, providing ample scope for photography.
Unfortunately Robertson Bay, named after Dr John Robertson, the Surgeon on HMS Terror, had too much ice for us to consider a landing. However most of us could make out the historic huts through binoculars and some picked up the cross on the boulder at the head of Hanson’s grave, located on the top of Adare Peninsula. Don planned a Zodiac cruise but this had to be delayed an hour while a snow flurry passed through. Soon after 1000 we launched five Zodiacs and had a marvellous two hours cruising despite one good snow flurry which lasted a short time. This was nature at its best; the real Antarctica which we had come all this way to see. We saw, photographed and enjoyed, superb grounded bergs some with caverns and icicles, some with layers of past annual snowfalls and in places, dust layers from guano or perhaps moraines. There were also excellent close-up views of a Crabeater Seal (the species which actually eats euphasids including krill, rather than crabs) and two Weddell Seals, Adelie Penguins and birds including Wilson’s Storm Petrels. Am imitation of the ‘long-call’ of the South Polar Skua was given by an enthusiastic passenger in Don’s Zodiac. It was interesting to see the effect of the Robertson Bay clockwise current with large pieces of ice and a small berg moving at 3+ knots. At the end of Cape Adare sat the last of two volcanic ‘stacks’ named Gertrude and Rose. Gertrude, the larger of the two had toppled over some years ago. Gazing across to the brownish surface of guano on Ridley Beach, named by Borchgrevink after his mother’s maiden name, we had an excellent, albeit slightly distant view of the two huts, along with the porch of the now wind demolished, Scott Northern party hut.
By midday we were back on board and departed Robertson Bay. Don advised with a forecast of light winds over the next three days, we would now head south to Ross Island with perhaps Franklin Island tomorrow evening. Lunch was excellent with a colourful rice salad containing corn, chopped pepper and red onion, two wraps with chicken mince and a very fine piece of Chef Benny’s carrot cake. Soon we were heading south with the Downshire Cliffs to starboard. These were named by Ross at the request of Cdr. Francis R.M. Crozier of HMS Terror, for the late Marquis Downshire. Mt. Hanson, named for Nicolai Hanson of Borchgrevink’s expedition who died aged 28 years, loomed above steep cliffs of volcanic rock while Skuas escorted us southwards.
Many of us had a rest and later the first part of the documentary ‘Shackleton’ part of the Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (Weddell Sea party) 1914-16 was screened. A whale was also sighted from the Bridge and by 1900 we had passed Cape McCormick at the southern end of the Adare Peninsula. This feature was named by Ross for Robert McCormick, Surgeon on HMS Erebus. We then passed Possession Island and the Dickson Pillar, with the latter named for Paul B. Dickson USN, VX-6, who first photographed the feature on 18 January 1958. There was a briefing in the Bar-Library at 1915 when all learned to pronounce the name of the new South Korean Station, Jang Bojo. The station named after a ‘military leader’ to whom the present Korean culture is attributed, following a split from the Chinese culture around 900 AD, has extended an invitation to us to visit, as has the United States McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. We then enjoyed a fine dinner with a choice of a pork chop or beef hot pot. A beautiful tart desert followed. Birdmon gave his evening discussion and many of us had an early night as we may have a late landing tomorrow.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 11 Saturday 20 February
Ross Sea, off Franklin Island
Noon position: Latitude 74 o 45.5’ S; Longitude 169o 23.4’ E
Air temperature: -6oC Water temperature: 1oC
We had a calm sea last evening with the ship drifting and this morning had passed Coulman Island. This large island was named after Ross’s father-in-law Thomas Coulman.
At 0730 we were at Latitude 74o04.107’S and Longitude 170o12.639’E. Light snow had fallen in the night and the sea was now up with a 25 knot southerly and wave height of about a metre. Outside the temperature was -6oC and the water temperature was -1oC with Don predicting an early winter. We were making around 9.3 knots, with no ice or birds visible. Celia spotted the dorsal fins of three whales some distance off, although they were not identified. At 0930 David presented his fifth lecture ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ which covered the last expedition in 1910-13 led by Captain R. F. Scott. This was a complex expedition with two intentional winter-over parties, and an extensive science programme including two geological expeditions and the main journey to the Geographic South Pole. A science and marine survey programme was also undertaken by SS Terra Nova. It was not easy to cover the key points to the expedition and reference was made to what the various parties were doing at different times. At the conclusion of the lecture, the audience asked several interesting questions and the general opinion was that it was a pity Scott did not consider Amundsen’s previous experience. Don, who answered many questions, recommended that those interested should read the recently published book ‘The Scott Disaster’.
Later Birdmon gave a lecture entitled ‘Avian Polar Adaptions’ which began with mention of three strategies applicable to all creatures including humans, which deal with the cold – migration, hibernation and activation. We then learned about the various physical adaptions, followed by discussion on physiological then the various behavioural adaptions. There was such a variety and many of these concerned penguins along with seals and already we have seen some of these. We are likely to observe more during our forthcoming landing which is at the tail-end of the penguin breeding season. Comparisons were made with some Northern Hemisphere species with one interesting comment that a bird, the Ptarmigan, excavates snow which it uses as an insulator.
By noon we were still in the open water of the Central Ross Sea with several large bergs in the vicinity and the sea reasonably calm. A few Snow Petrels were seen and sailors took the opportunity to open and clean the Bridge windows. Lunch today was at the earlier time of 1300 and was an outstanding selection of pizzas followed by delicious blueberry muffins. During the afternoon the sky cleared and weak cerulean blue took the place of Payne’s grey. At 1300 Don mentioned that we had a SW wind of 20 knots with the sea up, perhaps generated by a 50 knot katabatic along the coast of Terra Nova Bay, which is renowned for such conditions. The second part of ‘Shackleton’ was screened and at 1800 we assembled in the Lecture Theatre for a briefing that covered landings for Franklin Island, Cape Royds and Cape Evans.
After dinner a pair of Humpback Whales was sighted off the port bow and by 2035 we were approaching Franklin Island with our position at 70o09.935’ South and 168o17.770’ East.
A northerly swell, breaking waves and a fresh snowfall over the Adelie colony area, meant that a landing or Zodiac cruise was not possible. There was also a cold wind blowing and the temperature was -5oC. We were however treated to beautiful views of puffy cumulus clouds over one end of Franklin Island through which annual snowfall layers and patches of dark volcanic rock were visible and the ice cap lit up with sunlight at the opposite end. Franklin Island was as with many other landforms, named by Ross in 1841, to recognise Sir John Franklin, the noted Arctic explorer, who was at the time Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and had entertained the expedition on its way south from Hobart in 1840. In the distance we had our first glimpse of Mt. Erebus (3795m) while Mt Discovery (2680m) was prominent to the right. The Transantarctic Mountains were mostly under cloud however above their peaks we could see a beautiful pale yellow to apricot sky and above that were dark to pale grey strato-cumulus clouds. Occasionally a pale cerulean blue sky was visible and the golden orb of the sun. The evening birding gathering was held as usual and most of us prepared for an early start and busy day tomorrow.
Day 12 Sunday 21 February
Shackleton’s Hut; Cape Evans – Scott’s Hut; Ice edge; Furthest South
Noon position: Latitude 77o 33.724’ S; Longitude 166o11.951’ E
Air temperature: -5oC Water temperature: +1oC
This morning Don woke us at 0430 and urged us to come out on the deck and view the sunrise over Mt Erebus which lay to starboard. The mountain was almost clear and we had the great enjoyment of watching the sun appear above the range ahead of us. Mt. Discovery also looked superb with early sun lighting up its rocky flanks. To the west the Transantarctic Mountains with the Royal Society Range prominent, looked magnificent and we were able to identify major glaciers including the Koettlitz, Blue and Ferrar along with other features such as the pale brown landscape in the area of Marble Point, originally proposed for Scott Base, Butter Point, the Bowers and Wilson Piedmont Glaciers and beyond, the Dry Valleys. In the distance one could pick out buildings at Williams Field used by United States aircraft and several mirages were also seen. There was a 5-10 knot wind blowing from the south and a light ripple on the sea. Many of us returned to the bunk for an extra hour, until called again at 0645.
The landing for a visit to Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds got underway in perfect conditions at 0800. We landed on a narrow black beach of scoria at the head of Backdoor Bay and carefully made our way over a very icy surface behind the beach. Nearby was a Weddell Seal pup with a nice silvery coat and several Adelie Penguins including a chick, most of which were moulting. Cape Royds has the southernmost Adelie Penguin colony in Antarctica and is of considerable scientific importance. From here we had an easy walk on a track over a ‘moonscape’ of black scoria with large rocks of volcanic Kenyte, containing feldspar crystals resembling smoked glass which sparkled in the very bright sunlight. After a short walk over undulating ground with scattered erratic rocks; mostly pinkish to white granite and of varying size form that of a mandarin to very large boulders, we were soon at the Antarctica New Zealand green field hut or wannigan (a North American Indian term). David proudly exclaimed that he used to sleep in this hut and we then descended a short slope, to arrive at Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908.
Jim and David had placed a strip of vinyl and boot brushes outside, which we all used before entering the hut. A screwdriver was used to prise pieces of rock from the tread of our boots, as this could damage the floor. First into the hut were Mark and Debbie who had won the iceberg sighting contest. For many of us it was a dream come true and we had a wonderful time with our cameras, while David explained where the 15 men slept and of some of the antics which occurred during the winter. While we awaited our turn inside the hut most of us enjoyed a walk around the ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area) enjoying the landscape, the view across McMurdo Sound and the beautiful late summer morning. The time soon passed and by noon, we were back on the ship. There was however more to come. Don announced that pancake ice, indicating an early start to the sea freezing, was drifting by and that a Minke Whale had been sighted. On an ice floe, a lonely Emperor Penguin soon captured our attention and once again, we enhanced our photographic record.
As we enjoyed a lunch of lasagne, salad and chocolate brownies the ship relocated to just off Scott’s Hut and both anchors were lowered so our second landing for the day could get underway. We had a magnificent visit to this historic site associated with Captain R.F. Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, which Don described as “a living thing” – in other words history coming alive. It was the hut that Scott along with four of his men left, to never return. After the boot cleaning operation, we again enjoyed a very special visit inside this peaceful hut with so much to see. David pointed out items of interest including links to Shackleton’s Ross Sea party which lived here for two years (1915-17) during World War 1. Stuart was surprised at how large and well organised the hut was. Ian A. was particularly impressed with the shear grandeur of the setting for the hut while Chris was amazed at “the different scenes” each having a variety of contents. Most of us enjoyed a walk around the area within the ASPA with many items of interest including a husky skeleton, a large pile of mutton carcasses, dog and pony lines and crates each with a drum of Shell petrol. Further afield we were treated to the sight of seven moulting juvenile Emperor Penguins. Soon it was time to return to the ship with everyone on board by 1845 and satisfied after a very special day in our lives.
Before dinner Don held a briefing for our planned activities tomorrow and a further full day is expected at the United States McMurdo Station and at New Zealand’s Scott Base. We then held an auction for a bottle of McKinley’s replica Shackleton whiskey and the lucky buyer Alma who outlaid NZ$900, will be donating the box and contents to a close friend. Proceeds of the sale will go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
After our usual sumptuous evening meal, the ship was repositioned and at 2040 was passing the Dellbridge Islands (Inaccessible, Tent, Big Razorback and Little Razorback) named by Scott during his 1901-1904 expedition, for James H. Dellbridge the Second Engineer, on the SY Discovery. With very light snow falling, we headed to the ice edge for the evening, where whales and penguins may be seen. We achieved our Furthest South at 2240 at Latitude 77o53’S;Longitude 166o25.263’E. With another full day planned for tomorrow, most of us had an early night.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 13 Monday 22 February McMurdo Station; Scott Base; Discovery Hut; Observation Hill
Noon position: Latitude 77o 51.072’S; Longitude 166o 38.506 ’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: 0oC
Vladimir advised today all Russians celebrate “Mens’ Day”
This morning we were again called early and rose to a beautiful almost cloudless day, with a very cold wind. By 0800 the Transantarctic Mountains were superb and all was looking good for the busy day Don had arranged for us. After a reconnaissance, a landing site with small shingle beach below the ice foot was fortunately located behind the Discovery Hut. Groups had already been arranged for the visit during the morning to McMurdo Station where Mac Ops, kindly organised various tour guides for us. Scott Base was our destination for the afternoon.
Jim and David walked over The Gap to Scott Base where Jim spent two winters in 1992 and 1996 and was interested to see the changes that had taken place. David, who has spent much time at Scott Base and is busy undertaking research for the Scott Base 60th Anniversary in 2017, was also able to view changes to the base and to discuss with a friend, the science being undertaken.
The remainder of us had a most interesting visit to McMurdo Station in the morning. We were impressed with the wonderful hospitality extended by the US McMurdo Station personnel. In addition to visiting the beautiful Chapel of the Snows with its stained glass windows, we saw the bronze statue of Rear Admiral Byrd and flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations outside the National Science Foundation chalet. We visited the shop in Building 155, although Kent decided the lingerie did not have the range of sizes to warrant a purchase. We then spent time in the Crary Laboratory with a most helpful tour guide Valerie. An item of great interest was a display of meteorites of which 467 were found on the ice last season. Three meteorites (with one as large as 22lbs) were on loan from the Smithsonian Institute and some thin sections were also exhibited. There were no fish in the aquarium as the biologists have finished work for the season, however it was interesting to hear that sea water is pumped from and is a closed circuit system with water returned and the temperature maintained to 5oC.
During a discussion in the radio room, it was interesting to hear that the ‘Golf Ball’ at Arrival Heights, is owned by NASA and the microwave transmitter is at Black Island as the reception from the satellite/s is much better and new equipment was being installed. We enjoyed a cup of coffee and cookies at the coffee lounge in one of the older buildings and saw mountain bikes with large snow tyres. Soon it was time to return to the ship for lunch.
After lunch, Scott Base kindly provided transport to take us over to the New Zealand station which has been operating continuously since 1957. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this installation which is much smaller than the sprawling United States McMurdo Station and the Scott Base staff was extremely hospitable. Mark said “it had a different passion” and he specifically mentioned the level of collaboration between McMurdo and Scott Base, with this including electricity generated by the Meridian wind-farm, fuel and medical services. Mark found “there were no barriers” and he could not get over the friendliness of the Kiwis. At Scott Base many of us found a few mementos in the shop named Compass and some of us also met Anthony Powell who compiled the award winning time-lapse film ‘A Year on Ice’ which was made using time-lapse photography. One aspect of interest was the unusual presence of Leopard Seals which have not been seen in such large numbers before and that divers undertaking science are being accompanied by professional divers. In addition to a tour of the base, we were able to see the vehicles outside, the historic flag pole, half of which is from the original pole once erected by Discovery Hut, the Scott Base sign, the memorial to the four New Zealanders, who have died during service with the New Zealand Antarctic programme and ‘Grub the Chippie’ was making a table incorporating an early sledge. At present some of the Kiwis at Scott Base are training for competitions including tug–o-war and weightlifting. A comment was made by one American that “the Kiwis beat us at everything” so it will be interesting to see who wins the next round.
With Mts. Erebus and Terror standing clear against a pale blue sky, it was all too soon time to leave and we were shuttled to Discovery Hut where David explained the “layers of history” which the hut represents; in particular, the occupancy by the Shackleton Ross Sea party who spent a miserable few months here in the winter of 1916. From here Lieutenant Aeneas Mackintosh and Victor Hayward left to walk on the sea ice to Cape Evans and were never seen again. We were amazed at the contrast in the three huts we have seen and many of us found Discovery Hut cold and depressing. Honour, once a Curator for Coleman’s in the UK, described the hut as “so atmospheric”. However it was interesting to see the high standard of carpentry undertaken by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, in which identical timber has been used for replacements. The artefact conservation as at the other two huts was apparent in some examples and in others perhaps not so obvious, such is the quality done for this specialised work. When it was time to leave, Winter Quarters Bay was already beginning to freeze over and the Zodiac had an interested time, breaking through new pancake and grease ice before reaching the ship, which had its own icy coating on the hull. In places owing to a difference in temperature between the air and unfrozen sea water, there was a little ‘frost smoke’. Don as a mark of gratitude for our welcome at Scott Base, invited several staff to the Spirit of Enderby where they enjoyed a drink in the Bar-Library. This provided a further opportunity to catch up and to thank them for their hospitality. They very much enjoyed the visit including a short Zodiac cruise.
We had really enjoyed a marvellous day and learned much about two totally different Antarctic stations and of the research being undertaken. Birdmon was proud of his 18 trips as Zodiac driver today, along with four walks visits from Discovery Hut to McMurdo Station, the evening climb and although he “had a hunch that there was a clamming tide”, a careful visual inspection on the shore revealed nothing. Don took the Scott Base staff back and 18 of us were able to climb Observation Hill after dinner to inspect the memorial cross to the polar party that died during Captain R.F. Scott’s expedition. In the calm clear evening, we had magnificent views of the surrounding areas including Black and White Islands, Minna Bluff, the Ross Ice Shelf, Mt. Discovery, the Transantarctic Mountains and of Scott Base and McMurdo Station. Those of us on board at 2130 saw some Minke Whales about 100m off the bow. Many of us however had an early night and we departed for Cape Bird about midnight with a cloud-capped Mt Erebus a beautiful pink and a wonderful apricot colour over the Transantarctic Mountains. Alma noted that the sun set at 0028 and rose again at 30343. She took an excellent photograph showing the moon almost on the horizon to the left of Mt. Erebus.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 14 Tuesday 23 February
Cape Bird; Cape Crozier; Ross Ice Shelf; Franklin Island
Noon position: Latitude 77o 13.223’S; Longitude 166o 24.405’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: 0.6oC.
Don advised the water temperature recorder was indicating 1oC in excess. From here on the reading is 1o less.
This morning we had a very comfortable ride up the coast and many of us would have enjoyed another hour in the bunk. We were however roused at 0715 to a beautiful morning off the beach at Cape Bird. On the post-glacial terrace behind the beach, we could see the New Zealand field station (the second here) with most of the beach and ice-capped cape behind still in shade. A brisk breeze was blowing and it was -5oC with the water temperature at 0.6oC. Our position was 77o13.221’S; 166o24.294’E and barometric pressure was slowly falling as we left the influence of the high pressure cell. At 0830 Don held a pre-landing briefing over the PA system and a reconnaissance revealed that there was a swell on the beach. We soon discovered it was a rather wet landing, however we enjoyed the walk along the beach which was familiar to David from his first visit to Antarctica. Only a few clusters of Adelie Penguins remained in the central colony where some late chicks were doing their best to fend off the Skuas attempting to take them. The main colony near the hut was almost clear of penguins.
To the south was the Shell Glacier along with the magnificent Quaternary Icefall and further away the crevassed slopes that Aeneas Mackintosh and seaman McGillon had crossed in 1908, after nearly losing their lives on the sea ice, during a hazardous walk to deliver a mail bag to the Cape Royds hut. Some icebergs were grounded off the low-lying Priapulus Point, while to the north the ice cliffs of Cape Bird and beyond, Beaufort Island were prominent in the early morning light. Cape Bird rising to Mt Bird (1800m) was named by Ross for Lieutenant Edward Bird of HMS Erebus and volcanic Beaufort Island at 76o56’S 166o56’E, was also named by Ross for Captain Francis Beaufort RN, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.
Following the landing Don arranged a polar plunge. A rope was tied around the ‘jumper’ who then leapt off a gangway landing platform and left the water almost as fast as they entered. Lorna from the Heritage Expeditions office went first and gave an impressive scream as she hit the water. She was followed by William and the others while photographic evidence was recorded from a Zodiac by Wang. The intrepid 12 provided great entertainment for the rest of the group and very much appreciated a rejuvenating hot shower afterwards.
By lunchtime the visit to Cape Bird was successfully concluded and the ship turned out to sea setting a course around the ice cliffs of Cape Bird and Lewis Bay en-route for Cape Crozier and the Ross Ice Shelf. David gave his next lecture 1500 which focused on the Northern party of Scott’s 1910-13 expedition. After undertaking surveying, geology and glacial observations, this group was forced to winter for 209 days in a snow cave at Inexpressible Island. The point was made that following the news of the deaths of the polar party in 1912, it was the survival of the Northern party which was seen as an act of heroism and gained considerable media attention. The SS Terra Nova made three attempts to collect these men, however was prevented from doing so by heavy sea ice and diminishing coal. Aspects such as the diet of seal brain, liver and kidneys led to mostly a protein diet with few carbohydrates. The term ‘hoosh’ (basically a stew with 60%beef and 40% fat) was also explained however we decided not to try this at home. The six men eventually walked 230 miles down the Victoria Land coast and reached Discovery Hut where a message informed them that the polar party had died. They continued to Cape Evans with two men, Raymond Priestley and George Abbott, later completing the second ascent of Mt. Erebus and Trygve Gran, the first solo and third ascent during the same expedition.
By 1600 we were travelling through beautiful pancake ice with the sea moving as a series of gentle unbroken waves, as it moved up and down. The pancake ice represented a refreeze of the sea surface and many pancakes which resembled giant lily pads had an almost greyish opaque surface, with the upturned edges formed by colliding, glistening in the sun. In places the pancakes had over ridden by others and one seen by David was a perfect heart shape while another had a heart within the circle. Where there were gaps, the sea was an inky-black. As we neared the Ross Ice Shelf, first discovered by James Clark Ross in 1841, there was more open water and the pancakes progressively became smaller. Beyond the ice shelf, was historic Cape Crozier with its dark black volcanic rock, made famous by the book ‘The Worst journey in the World’ undertaken by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Birdie Bowers and Dr Edward Wilson, in the winter of 1911. Cape Crozier was a further landform named by Ross, in this instance for Francis R.M. Crozier Commander of HMS Terror. Further back and below Mt. Terror (3236m) we saw the now barren extensive Adelie Penguin colony, although the message post erected by Scott’s expedition in 1902 was not visible today and is well up the slope in the colony area.
This vast feature of floating ice about the size of France has a front edge a staggering 800 km long along its seaward face and 750 km back towards its source; the giant glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains. It varies in in thickness from around 330m to 700m and has only 1/7thof the ice above the waterline. At our point where we first drew opposite the ice shelf, Don estimated the height to be around 12m above the waterline. When James Clark Ross discovered the ice shelf in January 1841 he wrote “…a perpendicular cliff of ice between one hundred and fifty feet and two hundred feet above the sea, [was] perfectly flat and level at the top and without any fissures on its seaward face”. Ross also stated “There is no more chance of sailing through that than through the cliffs of Dover”. Decades later, the Ross Ice Shelf attracted explorers of the famed ‘heroic-era’ and later men such as Admiral Byrd’s expeditions. Nearer the ice shelf, we could clearly see undercutting with waves rebounding then moving fast along the water line until dissipating. Some of the colours were superb with subtle blues and greens and the ice shelf at this point appeared to have been sculptured by an artist. A large iceberg had calved and was still by the shelf. We also had a sighting of a Minke Whale and Birdmon noted at least six more whales. Later Don and Birdmon in discussion with Rodney identified the pod as six Arnoux Beaked Whales.
At 1840 at 77o25.382’S; 169o49.883’E and having passed Spirit of Enderby Bay, we left the ice shelf and set a new course for Terra Nova Bay. A debrief was held in the Bar-Library when the suggestion was mooted for an entertainment night and a recap outlined the wonderful last few days. Don made the point that any documentaries we see in the future will take on a whole new dimension for us, such as seeing the Ross Ice Shelf. The programme was then discussed and once again we had an outstanding evening meal although happy birthday sung for Don, was not correct. With a calm sea it was a good opportunity for an early night. Perhaps still weary from yesterday, only a small number attended the evening bird sighting discussion.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 15 Wednesday 24 February
Terra Nova Bay; Gondwana Station; Jang Bojo Station; Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o 48.484 ’S; Longitude 164o 34.077 ’E
Air temperature: 0.5oC Water temperature: -5oC.
Today 100 years ago, Dick Richards, Ernest Joyce and Victor Hayward of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party 1914-16, reached the crucial Minna Bluff depot. Some historians have suggested Wilson and Bowers could have possibly made a similar trip to One Ton Depot 11 miles away and in doing so, saved Captain Scott.
We enjoyed a comfortable night however by 0730 the sea was a little rocky. Off the bow was an excellent view of Mt Melbourne (2732m) with below, Cape Washington 275m, the southernmost extremity of a peninsula, which separates Wood Bay and Terra Nova Bay. The cape was named by Ross in 1841 for Captain W. Washington, Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society 1836-40. As we neared the coast we were accompanied by eight Snow Petrels and a solitary Skua. Mt. Melbourne is a volcanic cone which although not active, has near the summit, areas of warm ground and ‘fumeroles’ similar to those on the summit of Mt Erebus. These chimney-like formations are created by steam escaping through vents and meeting cold air which condenses. Inside a fumerole the temperature can be +40oC and outside the air temperature -30oC. Excellent views were also enjoyed of other areas along the Victoria Land coast.
We were now at 75o12.077’S; 166o57.298’E and moving along at 11 knots. Our heading was 321.6o and the air a cool -5oC. Of interest were patches of grease ice. This grey, soup-like surface had on close inspection, very small fragments of ice. The expedition has been excellent for sighting the different varieties of ice, explained by Don in his lecture.
At 1000 we sang Happy Birthday to Birdmon before he began his presentation ‘Sea Lions and Seals Down Under’. This excellent presentation, the first from him on mammals, began with us learning that creatures such as seals, whales and dolphins which are Cetaceans have been shown by the fossil record to have evolved from land-based carnivores ‘Indohyus’ 55 million years ago. They had features such as heavy limbs used for walking, gradually developing into flattened toes enabling swimming. There are three main classes of Pinnipeds – Phocidae or true seals with 18 species; Otariidae or walrus, with the one species and the Odobenidae seals, with 14 species. Birdmon then compared Sea Lions and seals and we also learned about some of the major physiological features that enable them to dive to great depths, such as compressing their lungs under pressure, thereby reducing the possibility of ‘bends’ and reducing the heart rate to slow oxygen consumption. The place of seals was then shown in an excellent chart depicting the Ross Sea food web and the lecture concluded with excellent photographs and details of Sea Lions and seals which will help with identifications. We finally learned that 30% of body mass for an adult male Elephant Seal is blubber.
By 1100 we had extensive pancakes with most being saucer to dinner plate in size. There were further patches of grease ice and between floes, the deep Prussian blue of sea water. The morning was absolutely superb with outstanding viewing from the Bridge and the ‘monkey-bridge’ above. Don gave a useful commentary on the landscape before us and by 1230 we could see the unoccupied Italian Mario Zucchelli Station, the summer-only unoccupied German station Gondwana and the handsome blue and architecturally-designed, South Korean Jang Bojo Station. The vista ahead could only be described as majestic. It was paradise for a physical geographer, geologist and glaciologist. Mt. Melbourne was still the dominant feature to starboard, however we enjoyed viewing the board valleys with snow covered glaciers, old hanging valleys or cirques, and long arêtes (ridges) with small peaks and rocky outcrops with talus below, extending down towards the coast. In one coastal area to port, steep grey cliffs were topped by an extensive ice-planed area. In other localities, snow-clad slopes which appeared to be about 40ooverall and extended to the coast had pale to dark brown rocky areas.
We began our next landing at 1400 and alighted on a small shingle beach with a small area of slippery ice to negotiate. It continued to be a beautiful day with very little wind. This was our first continent landing and the locality was quite different to that of Ross Island. The ‘country rock’ was predominantly gneiss with quartz, mica and iron and was highly metamorphosed, with some nice folding in places. Numerous erratics deposited after retreat of melting glacier ice, included granite, quartzite and some pegmatite. Other items of interest were some large colonies of black lichen and lesser amounts of yellow, green and red lichen, along with some mosses. About 70-80 Skuas with chicks were in the vicinity and we took care to avoid these. There were 11 Weddell Seals near the landing place and the Gondwana station, with many others in the vicinity. Unoccupied for about a decade, the Federal Republic of Germany, Gondwana Hutte scientific station, was of interest. We had a look at the original hut elevated on metal supports while on another building, there appeared to be solar heated windows.
After inspecting the station and carefully avoiding the Skuas, we walked over a ridge from which we had a commanding view of Jang Bojo Station. Here we were met by Dr Yong Soo Kim, one of the 16 member winter over party. Dr Kim took us on a long walk during which he carefully explained the various components of the station and gave us numerous interesting facts. At the end of the access road was a tall tower used for meteorology and this proved irresistible to Andrew who climbed to the top and had a good view of the station and its surroundings. The station is elevated in order that wind can blow beneath and is of modular construction. Solar and wind power make up 30% of the stations energy needs and a desalination plant produces 20 tonnes of water for the station. At Cape Washington where there is an ASPA, 25,000 Emperor Penguin chicks and 75,000 adults were counted. Other science is focused on marine biology, earth science, meteorology along with upper-atmosphere physics. The Korean icebreaker Aaronarrives on March 9 when the two helicopters, New Zealand aircraft and non-wintering personnel will leave. We had a very enjoyable visit to the station and presented the staff with six bottles of Spirit of Enderby wine and a special bottle of Terra Nova wine donated by Peter in appreciation of our visit. A group photograph was taken and after inspecting the wharf, we walked past the garden gnome with wheel barrow back to our landing and returned to the Spirit of Enderby by 1800. The station has had only four visits from tourists and each have been with Heritage Expeditions. The anchor was raised and we had nearly a two hour voyage toward Italy’s Mario Zucchelli Station, before assessing Inexpressible Island for an evening landing.
A late evening landing was now scheduled for Inexpressible Island. This was where the Northern party of Scott’s last expedition was forced to spend 205 days incarcerated in a snow and ice cave in 1912 when the Terra Nova was unable to collect them due to heavy ice. During our evening meal the katabatic wind came up, however this fortunately abated and by 2100 we landed in a small cave and from the bow, stepped onto the ice foot. This was a totally different landing and here Don had put in ice screws for two ropes to ensure any Zodiacs left were secure and also to aid our landing. We walked over a firm surface of snow between the ice foot and boulders, then along the shore of one of the three Evans Coves, before cutting onto the boulder strewn shore and old post-glacial beach ridges where David was already waiting at the site of the snow cave. A weathered plywood sign erected in 1969 indicated it was placed on the site of the cave and early photographs with large boulders confirm this. Here also were two pieces of bamboo and remains of several seals and penguins that once provided sustenance for Lieutenant Victor Campbell’s party. David explained various aspects of the site and suggested that we should now read books on the subject, with particular mention of ‘The Longest Winter’ by Meredith Hooper.
While we were ashore the sun dipped below a ridge, transforming clouds into beautiful shades of dark orange and red. A light wind also came up and soon after viewing numerous Weddell and Crabeater Seals with advanced pups, along with three mummified Elephant Seals by the shore, we walked back to the ship in time to see a full moon rising above the brown Northern Foothills. A number of us also enjoyed a hike along a ridge from which we had a good view up the Priestley Glacier and enjoyed the weathered rocks and others split from freeze-thaw processes. We had an interesting time getting onto the bow of the Zodiac and more so the floor which was very icy. Yoshio apparently “did a dance” on the icy metal floor. Then at the ship, alighting on the platform below the gangway in the slight swell was another exciting experience. We retired to bed tired but very happy.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 16 Thursday 25 February
Noon position: Latitude 74o 11.753 ’S; Longitude 169o 57.259’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: +1.0oC
We had a calm night and this morning at 0800 were at 74o 32’ S; 168o93’E, with the air temperature -2oC and barometric pressure 993 hp. Our course was set at 073o True and we were doing a comfortable 9.5 knots with anticipated arrival at Cape Adare early tomorrow morning. However Rodney had advised Mowbray Bay at Cape Hallett and Robertson Bay at Cape Adare were not accessible due to ice. We also later heard from Don that the Australian icebreaker/supply vessel Aurora Australis had parted its moorings in a 30 knot wind and was aground.
After breakfast David gave his presentation ‘Heroes that history forgot’ and said how he was privileged to have known Dick Richards GC, the last surviving member, along with two other expedition personnel. This focused on the still comparatively little known Ross Sea party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition 1914-1916 during World War 1. The lecture focused on a chaotic, under-funded expedition, which departed from Hobart on Christmas Day and became established at Cape Evans the next month. A sad aspect was the loss of three men including Mackintosh, leader of the party, who anticipating his death, wrote a final letter just as Scott had done – “…Goodbye friends. I feel sure our people [and] my own dear wife and children, will not be neglect[ed]”. However the seven men that were marooned in Antarctica had successfully laid depots for Shackleton, to the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier. A blizzard that took the ship Aurora out to sea, resulted in the ship then drifting in ice for nine months, fortunately led to the ship unlike Endurance, reaching New Zealand to be refitted. It returned south with Shackleton as a passenger and collected seven survivors. Overall the expedition was a catalogue of errors which should have been called off at the start of WW1.
Birdmon gave the second lecture this morning about ‘Orca: stealth of the sea’. This very interesting lecture began with a comment that the term ‘Killer whale’, was promoted by the military and in fact no person is known to have been killed by the species when in the natural habitat. Sailors once called Orca ‘wolves of the sea’. The lecture moved to the origins of whales as shown by the fossil record, where the Orca now fit in as Odontoceti - toothed whales (and dolphins). We learned about the various swimming adaptions along with special anatomical features such as large lung capacity (95% of the time Orca are under the surface) and the various habits of the species, of which many are used during hunting; such as creating a wave to wash prey into the water. The lecture was especially interesting since we had on three occasions, observed pods of Orca; recognised now as being Type C of the four ‘eco-types’ in the Ross Sea region.
By 1500 we were off the south end of Coulman Island and had moved to 73o48.124’S; 170o07.707’E. We were amongst scattered floes of various sizes with the water a pale grey reflected from the cloud above. On the horizon was a long band of puffy strato-cumulus clouds. There is a colony of Emperor Penguins at the south end of Coulman Island and we were treated to an excellent viewing of a juvenile Emperor and an Adelie (possibly a hybrid) on a flow. A Weddell Seal was also seen but we have not sighted a Leopard Seal or a Ross Seal thus far.
Chris gave the third presentation today. He talked about quite a different subject from what we have heard so far during the expedition. Using excellent photographs, Chris discussed ‘Growing up at Gorge River – New Zealand’s remotest family’. The talk focused on the decision his parents Robert (aka ‘Beansprout’) and Catherine’s made to abandon the ‘rat-race’ and enjoy a sustainable life in New Zealand’s South Westland. He revealed what can be achieved with hard work and patience while at the same time, contributing in various ways such as pest control to the well-being of New Zealand. One does not necessarily need all the modern conveniences for contentment and bringing up of a family. In 1992 the home budget amounted to a mere NZ$2,000. It was inspirational and nice to hear Chris speak openly about not only his own life, but also of his sister Robin, who is studying the Fiordland Crested Penguin and his friend Gracie Bodo from Minnesota. His parents along with sister Robin are accomplished authors, artists and makers of apparel and other products utilising possum fur.
Late in the afternoon we were in open water, with just the occasional bergs away to starboard and port, scattered bergy bits and occasional pancakes. After our time in the ice when we sighted the lone Emperor, course was changed and the Spirit of Enderby was by 1800 about halfway along the wild coast of Coulman Island. The occasional Snow Petrel was keeping us company and we enjoyed an opportunity to be in the Bar-Library to write our journals or sort photographs. The bar opened at 1830 before we tucked into hamburgers or chicken with wedges for dinner. Robin had spent most of the day baking fresh bread and buns for the evening meal. Most of us then had an early night.
Day 17 Friday 26 February
Ross Sea; Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 70o 38.6 ’S; Longitude 170o 23.2 ’E
Air temperature: -4oC Water temperature: +1oC
We had a comfortable night and some of us had a view of the entrance to the Tucker Glacier. We had an area of jumbled ice to port and the occasional Snow Petrel as we made our way towards the northern end of the Adare Peninsula. We were now at 71o 20.848’S; 171o169.93’E and moving along at 11.7 knots. Outside the temperature was -5oC and we had a nice sunny start to the day. Over the last ten days, there has been a good accumulation of snow on the Transantarctic Mountains and along the top of the Adare Peninsula. From 0600 on we were 14 miles off the rugged Downshire Cliffs, however as we neared the end of the peninsula, we could see that Robertson Bay was full of ice. The last ice floes and five Snow Petrels left us, as we too departed the Ross Sea and once again entered the Southern Ocean. Away to port, the great Antarctic continent gradually diminished and finally faded from view. Many of us wondered if we would ever see Antarctica again and were thankful for our experiences and the mostly kind weather conditions which made these possible.
Before lunch Don screened the digitally enhanced film ‘The Great White Silence’ made by Herbert Ponting and released in 1924 and which he stated, showed Antarctica “in her savage and marvellous moods”. King George V who attended the premier showing said “…I wish that every British boy would see this film…” Hand-tinted colour for photographs and models were used and there was interesting information including, work on the SS Terra Nova; mention of the motor sledges which could pull two tons at three miles per hour; footage of seals including their rasping ice at breathing holes; frost smoke; pancake ice and the use of eleven dogs to pull a sledge (Scott Base teams with Malamutes were generally nine dog teams).
One interesting comparison Ponting made, concerned an iceberg 22 miles long. This he said “could bear the city of London and all its suburbs on its back”. In the light of knowledge today, some details such as for Adelie Penguins filmed at Cape Royds was incorrect and footage such as portraying the polar party, was done in the vicinity of Cape Evans along with four people with three sets of skis. Nevertheless it was a very interesting film and of course we have viewed Ponting’s darkroom in Cape Evans hut which he termed a ‘house’ and where he processed the film. When the film became more readily available, it was shown around the world and David recalled seeing this as a teenager at Waitaki Boys’ High School in Oamaru New Zealand, where an annual Scott Memorial Essay, now replaced with a Speech Competition, has been held since 1913.
At noon we were progressing with a very comfortable 11.3 knots and on a course of 349.2o. The deep Prussian blue sea had a scattering of white horses and was nice and calm. Don gave a presentation after lunch entitled ‘McIntyre Adventure’. This began with Don’s early interest in sailing and his contact with Round the World sailor, Robin Knox Johnson. By 1978 with his background in sailing, diving and Macquarie Island, Don sailed 10,000 nm in the yacht Skye and a decade later was manager for the Goodman Fielder Wattie Bicentennial Around Australia yacht race. This led to the BOC Challenge in 1990 when he was 2nd in his class for the 27,000 nm race from Newport Rhode Island and return.
In 1993 using the BOC yacht and accompanied by 200 teddy bears, he visited Commonwealth Bay and began the first restoration of Mawson’s huts. Two years later with his then wife Margie and using a yacht Spirit of Sydney, they participated in the Living Alone in Antarctica Expedition this in a small purpose-built 12x8ft hut, erected near Mawson’s huts where they undertook various scientific and other observations. A further visit with Margie to Cape Denison followed in 1999, for the ‘Ice-Walk’ to ‘Maddigan’s Nunatak Expedition’. With the large yacht named Sir Hubert Wilkins and support from entrepreneur Dick Smith, a further three expeditions to Antarctica followed. Since then Don has followed the voyage of Bligh, searched for Spanish galleon treasure and flown around Australia in a gyrocopter. He and Jane now live on Nomuka Iki Island in the Tonga group, where they have been exploring early wrecks and plan to develop interesting activities for visitors and in doing so promote and give something back to the Tongan community and Kingdom.
The remainder of the afternoon passed quickly and at 1600 the first Southern (Antarctic) Fulmar seen during the voyage was reported by Birdmon. As the species breeds in large numbers on the Balleny islands, we are likely to see more of these. It has not been established why less of this species has been seen in the Ross Sea region over the last two or three years.
The first episode of the superb documentary ‘Frozen Planet’ narrated by Sir David Attenborough was screened at 1700. The production began with the Arctic and included wonderful natural history footage of mating Polar Bears; the largest gathering of birds on the planet; of a huge glacier on the Greenland ice cap which is six times the area of the UK and is advancing 40m a day; wolves taking a young bison that became separated from the herd, along with superb photography of a Great Grey owl, flying straight for the camera. The programme then moved south to the Antarctic and we were told that 40 million plus, penguins feed there during the brief summer. Wonderful time lapse and freeze-frame filming included a Sea Lion trying to take a Gentoo Penguin and Orca creating waves and water turbulence to break a floe and then take a Weddell Seal by the hind flippers, a process first observed during Scott’s 1910-13 expedition. There were beautiful fern-like ice crystals in caves below giant ‘fumeroles’ on the high slopes of Mt. Erebus, of a pod of Orca ‘spy-hopping’ and finally shots of the beautiful benthic world below the ice. Here the cold results in slow growth leading to large sizes for many creatures such as sea spiders.
In the Bar-Library this evening, certificates were handed out for crossing the Antarctic Circle, with further certificates for The Polar Blast and Polar Plunge still to be prepared. Don then gave a useful introduction for the Balleny Islands, advised the weather should be favourable for Macquarie Island and that when over 60o south, we will probably experience a 20-25 knot winds from the north-west. We were a day ahead of schedule which was to our advantage and may arrive at Macquarie around noon on the 2nd or 3rd. The sea was getting up a little this evening with a light fog and our ETA at the Ballenys is expected to be around 0930 tomorrow. The evening meal was of the usual excellent standard with a choice of marinated pork ribs or brisket beef in a filo pastry case for the main and desert was a gorgeous cheese cake topped berry fruit. Those at the end of the port side dining room were entertained by Geoff with his spoon disappearing act.
Day 18 Saturday 27 February
Southern Ocean; Balleny Islands; Antarctic Circle
Noon position: Latitude 67o 03.090’S; Longitude 163o 42.404’E
Air temperature: 1oC Water temperature: 0.5oC
Last evening the sea remained calm and this morning when we tuned out, the convection fog which came over yesterday was still with us and light snow was falling. At 0730 we were 11 nm off Sturge Island in the Ballenys and half way along the eastern side of the island. On the Bridge radar we could see that there was a cluster of icebergs near the south-east corner and one was between the island and the ship, this showing the value of the ship’s electronic aids. We were now doing 12.8 knots on a course of 281.9o True. Our position at 0730 was 67o 27.986’S; 165o262.50’ E. The sea was rising slightly and by lunch time, Don said we are likely to have 35 knots from the south-east. Just after breakfast two Humpback whales were seen 200m off the starboard bow and birds passing the Spirit of Enderby included seven Southern Fulmar and a prion. Light snow was still falling.
There are three prominent islands in the Balleny group named Sturge (in the south), Buckle and Sabrina (in the north), along with several smaller islands including Borradaile, named after one of the merchants who united with Charles Enderby in sending the expedition. There is also the well-known Monolith. The islands were discovered by John Balleny on the sealer Eliza Scott in February 1839. They were named in Balleny’s honour by Captain Beaufort Hydrographer to the Admiralty. A sister vessel the Sabrina after which one of the islands is named, was lost in a storm. Sabrina Island named after the sealer has a colony of Chinstrap penguins and has been an ASPA since 1966. There is not a lot of literature published on the islands, although a report was published following a US/NZ scientific expedition in the 1960’s. In a change from the usual programme, Birdmon asked us to assemble in the Bar-Library at 1000 for his interactive presentation ‘Knots and Splicing 101’. Most of us had used some of the basic knots and we each received a small length of cord to make several common knots. Using illustrations on a screen, this began with the familiar Reef Knot and the incorrect granny knot version. Birdmon suggested that as we are now in the Velcro age, many have forgotten how to tie knots. We then did the Bowline; an important knot used by sailors as it won’t slip, is strong and can be easily undone by “breaking its back”. Don said he would not allow anyone on his yacht unless they could tie a bowline. Others experimented with were the Half-hitch, Clove-hitch, Figure Eight and re-woven version used in climbing along with the Prussic, including the double overhand. Andrew gave a demonstration of the rolling hitch and Sjirk, of the trucker’s knot. It was an enjoyable and useful hour and we all successfully passed ‘Knots 101’.
Light snow driving in from the south continued and a few bergy bits were in the water. At times the sun was trying to break through, however soon the decks had a layer of wet, slushy, snow. The sea was busy with white horses interspersed with bergy bits and by noon, we had rounded the top of Young Island and were off the corner of Buckle Island. Through the murk the Monolith was briefly seen, although with the tough sea, no Chinstrap Penguins, as we moved along the west coast. Species of flying birds recorded included Sooty Shearwaters, numerous Pintados, a flock of Southern Fulmar, several Antarctic Prions and a solitary albatross which may have been a Black-browed. There are often interesting aspects mentioned by our fellow guests and Ian W. recalled, when as a 15 year old St. Peter’s College student in Adelaide, one day when he was climbing inside the roof area of the science laboratory he found a sledge with ‘Mawson’ written on it and numerous other objects.
Don gave the next presentation at noon. This began with an interesting discussion using maps on the screen, showing where China has its four Antarctic stations at present, along with details of the proposed Ross Sea station, which will be sited away from katabatic winds and possibly somewhere on Ross Island. The lecture then focused on the Antarctic Treaty, a simple document with 12 Articles which were carefully explained. The area south of Latitude 60orepresents 10% of the world’s land surface and 10% of its oceans. We learned about the original 12 Consultative members when the Treaty was established after the International Geophysical Year 1957-58 and signed on 12 December 1959; coming into force on 23 June 1961. Since then a further category of Non-Consultative members has been created. These members abide by the Treaty and can attend meetings, however have no voting rights. The number of Consultative Members has also increased and Don mentioned the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Flora and Fauna (1964); the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1978), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) based in Hobart and the Protocol on Environment Protection (the Madrid Protocol 1991), which marked the beginning of a comprehensive environment protection scheme. Antarctica remains as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science; environmental principles apply for the conduct of all activities; activity relating to mineral resources other than research is prohibited and subjects all activities to prior assessment of their environmental impact. The Environmental Protocol has been welcomed by conservation organisations and stands as a landmark in Antarctic history. Don also discussed the role of tourism including requirements for Heritage Expeditions, IAATO and final discussion concerned such aspects as landing fees and use of aircraft, for which the United States controls airspace in the Ross Sea region.
At 1340 we were advised a 50 knot wind was blowing at Cape Adare, so we were fortunate to be clear of the locality. As we passed Buckle Island, a mere two nautical miles off shore, the wind was beginning to pick up as predicted and was blowing at 35-40 knots. There was very little visible through the murk from the Spirit of Enderby and most of us read, rested, or worked on our photographs. There were however some of us on the Bridge, on the lookout for items of interest and because of ice, we had to slow down at 1440. Many of the bergy bits had a brown coating from phytoplankton (diatoms), which we had seen previously and learned about in lectures. Later in the afternoon we passed the end of Young Island and five minutes later, the Antarctic Circle. Small pieces of ice and the occasional bergy bit continued to be about, along with a few Southern Fulmars.
At 1600 Don screened his excellent documentary ‘Two below Zero’ which he said is available free for down-loading on YouTube. The video told of the year Don and his then wife Margie had spent at Cape Denison in 1995. As Don said in such a situation “you learn a lot about nature and even more about yourself. How do you quantify putting man on the moon or climbing Everest?” Don was already familiar with the locality as had been there before in 1993 on his yacht Buttercup, however did not envisage what they would have to put up with. He was 40 and Margie turned 31 during the adventure. Even before erecting their pre-fabricated 2.4x3.6m Gadget Hut modelled on an outback Kangaroo meat freezer, the site was photographed. Over three days, 25 loads with half a tonne of supplies and equipment with enough food and fuel for two years, was sledged to the site. Six years later when the hut was removed, the site was re-photographed. Work often went on until 2300 each day, and they put up with low temperatures - the interior of the hut reached as low as -18oc and outside -43oC; severe blizzards with a record gust of 240 km/hr (Mawson recorded 320 km/hr) and owing to a blocked ventilator, both suffered from carbon monoxide exposure. With return of the sun and arrival of Adelie Penguins on 20 October, followed by visitors from the USCGC Polar Star, life at Cape Denison took a turn for the better and Don completed a photo survey of Mawson’s main hut. They were collected by Spirit of Sydney, richer for their year in Antarctica with Don saying they were both probably the first colonists on the continent.
At 1730 we cleared the northern end of Young Island and experienced residual swells coming from the north. We entered a band of fairly heavy pack soon afterwards and slowly pushed our way through. The ice dampened the big waves which rolled away from port. The ice band was about 500m wide and beyond it a cold, lead-grey sea merged with the equally grey sky on the horizon. Of great interest however were several rafts of Southern Fulmar on the far edge of the pack. One raft had at least 200 birds and Birdmon estimated there were around 500 birds in total. It really was a spectacular sight. Other birds around the ship included Wilson’s Storm and Snow Petrels along with a distant albatross which was not identified. By dinner time we were punching into big widely spaced waves, with some crashing over the bow and only a few pieces of ice including a few growlers, were about the ship. Don reminded us to keep one hand for the ship and one for yourself, as we may have a wild night. There are three different wave patterns resulting in a confused sea which could have been caused by several events, such as being away from the lee of the island and the wind although not high, is creating a swell from the north-west. There is also both an easterly or south easterly air flow and Don suggested a current may be at the end of the island. This evening in spite of the ship rolling our chefs produced a superb meal with a mussel soup entre; chicken or lamb rump for the main then a fine apple tart with custard. We then settled down for the night and the sea appeared to be calming.
Day 19 Sunday 28 February
Noon position: Latitude 63o 02.517 ’S; Longitude 161o 20.604’E
Air temperature: 2 oC Water temperature: 2 oC
The ship rolled a little in the night however most of us had a reasonable rest. This morning we are over around 2500m of water, with a clam sea and light swell. A flock of 8-10 Sooty Shearwaters was seen at 0730 when we were at 6 63o49.683’S; 162o02.241’E and moving along at a comfortable 11.6 knots. The air temperature is still a cool 1oC however the water has warmed up to +1.7oC.
About 0900 we passed a nice dark blue large tabular berg. We are now close to seeing the last of the ice with these at 63o32.384’S; 161o46.291’E. The sun was trying to break through and the sea was pleasantly calm.
After breakfast David gave a presentation ‘Icons of Exploration’ which began with a comparison of Arctic and Antarctic historic sites, where they are found and the variety of them. Most of the lecture focused on the lead-up to the conservation of these sites, the work done by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust established in 1987 and the variety of problems affecting the huts and artefacts, with many of an environmental nature. The Trust utilises skills from around the world and is led by Nigel Watson, Executive Director; Al Fastier, Programme Manager; Lizzie Meek, Manager Artefacts and Paula Granger, Manager Communications. Pip Cheshire of Auckland is the Senior Architect. A large team of people with other expertise assist the Trust, which is supported by Antarctica New Zealand and Christchurch International Airport. The Trust has every reason to be proud of its work and with the historic huts and artefacts on Ross Island now completed, is turning towards Borchgrevink’s huts at Cape Adare, with significant financial support provided by the Government of Norway. A further project is focusing on the Hillary Hut Scott Base, erected for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) 1955-58 and International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-58. This hut was the first at the New Zealand station and will be 60 years old next January. Once all the huts and their contents have been conserved, on-going maintenance will be undertaken as required.
Several Humpback Whales were sighted after the lecture and we had a number of icebergs on the horizon, to port and starboard.
Our next presentation ‘Drilling for Oil’ was delivered by our fellow guest Richard C. This was an extremely interesting talk which continued into the lunch break. Richard began his oil career with a BSc in Geology and then became a “mud-engineer” on drilling rigs. He has worked in the North Sea, West and North Africa, Canada, Qatar, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and South East Asia (Philippines). None of us in the audience realised that there was so much to the oil drilling industry. Richard discussed in some detail, with clear power point charts, such topics as the drill and production process, terminology, the rotary drill process, rig types and personnel. His own work as a fluid engineer was primarily concerned with the drilling mud which consisted of freshwater, bentonite and various chemicals with a high pH of 9-9.5. Some of the depths drilling were as deep as many peaks are high in New Zealand’s Southern Alps; over 3000m. Later in his 40 year career, Richard was involved in management and as a consultant to the oil industry.
At noon a slight course change was made and we had a further berg to port and a solitary Shearwater was seen. We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon until Part 2 of ‘Lonely Planet’, was screened at 1600. Before the documentary, Don showed wonderful footage obtained in Tonga of a Humpback Whale and calf in his local lagoon. This included the communication call between mother and offspring. David Attenborough’s film began with arrival after 6000 miles of travel, of Adelie Penguin males which commenced nest building at the Cape Crozier colony. It then moved to the Arctic spring, with arrival of Polar Bear cubs and the transition from the winter ice to thaw and spring with plant life, wildlife, insects including at 14 years, the World’s oldest caterpillar, which eventually becomes a moth. The programme then moved to South Georgia with wonderful scenes of Wandering Albatross and chicks, a Macaroni colony with five million penguins, before moving back to Cape Crozier and the arrival and breeding of the Adelies with males taking over incubation and the females going fishing.
The sea became rougher in the afternoon and the level four deck doors were closed by dinner time. Don suggested we may not be in the lecture room tomorrow. Following dinner Birdmon held his species sighted meeting in the Bar-Library. Of interest yesterday was Chris’s sighting of either Rockhoppers or Royals. Other species were a Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmer, a Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross and a Black-browed Albatross. With the sea getting up and one roll of 35o noted by Sarah, we decided on an “early retirement”.
Day 20 Monday 29 February (Leap Year)
Southern Ocean; Antarctic Convergence
Noon position: Latitude 59o00.426’S; Longitude 159 o 38.449 ’E
Air temperature: 2oC Water temperature: 4oC
The night proved to be reasonably calm; far better than expected as we continued to ply the Southern Ocean enroute to Macquarie Island.
This morning at 0745 we were at 59o48’S; 159o10’ E and moving along nicely at 11-12 knots. The south-westerly was 30 knots with the occasional 35 knot gust, the air temperature a warm 2oC and the barometric pressure rising to 1002hp. We deviated slightly from our course to make travel more comfortable and on arrival at Macquarie Island tomorrow morning we will be in the lee and have much calmer conditions.
At 0900 what was perhaps our last iceberg, was passed when we were at latitude 59o22’S.
With the chairs in the lecture room in disarray and the occasional roll, lectures were cancelled this morning. Instead we were offered free drinks at the bar this evening, if we are able to come up with over 15 names for “prepared carrot”. Those of us planning to take part in the concert met with UK Jane in the library at 1030 to finalise plans for the ‘Enderby Icecapades’ production. Before lunch many of us were on the Bridge enjoying the wild sea. Birds observed included Black-browed, Wandering and Gibson’s Albatross, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Antarctic Prions and Shearwaters. By noon we were enjoying a comfortable 12 knots with the occasional roll and a brief flurry of light snow which reduced visibility off port to less than 100m.
Lunch was excellent with a pasta salad and splendid large sausage rolls created by Benny. During one conversation amongst the ‘intelligencia’ in the far corner of the port dining room, Geoff told us he had been to see Rob the doctor. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Geoff told him that he couldn’t get the words of the ‘Green, Green, Grass, of Home’ out of his head. Rob then said “You’ve got Tom Jones syndrome” to which Geoff replied “is it rare?” “No” said Rob “that’s not unusual”. Geoff said he felt better after that.
Kent then told everyone that, Lorna’s presence on the ship this morning will be long remembered. When near the port side bridge consul where controls are duplicated, she unknowingly leant back several times on a small lever, below the window. In doing so, Kent maintained that she sent a tap, tap, tap, signal to the voyage data recorder on the deck of the ‘monkey-bridge’ thereby recording her time on the Spirit of Enderby for posterity. At 1715 we were over 5000m of water and with most of us either resting, busy in the Bar-Library or on the Bridge, the afternoon passed quickly as we now looked forward to Macquarie Island. Australia’s 200 nautical mile zone around Macquarie Island extends to approximately 10o of Latitude before 60o which marks the boundary for the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and was crossed by us a few hours ago. The Bar-Library was busy this evening with scrabble players, readers, the bird identification discussion and Japanese top of the range, Hibiki whisky tasting. The sea was also rough with the occasional big roll so many of us preferred to turn in early.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 21 Tuesday 1 March
Southern Ocean; Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 55o12.128’S; Longitude 159o 17.397’E
Air temperature: 6oC Water temperature: 5.5oC
St. David’s Day UK
At 0745 we were at 55o59’S; 169o27’E and had 75 nm to go before reaching the island and already there were a few birds are about. The sea however is dropping fast and we are on a course of 300o NW with both engines going and doing 9 knots. Macquarie operates on Australian time and there will be two hours difference to New Zealand. Don said we can expect rain and the annual rainfall is around 900mm.
The island is located on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary and is formed of rocks from the Earth’s mantle. Many of the rocks are iron and magnesium rich and are termed ultramafic. They have been formed about six kilometres under the mantle and pushed up. Mild earthquakes are not uncommon here, although in 2004 an earthquake registered 8.1 on the Richter scale and in 2007, there was one of Magnitude 7.1. The island is very young and is thought over the last 6000 years, to be rising about 0.8mm/yr and the ridge it is on, extends to New Zealand. Macquarie was once thought to have been widely glaciated however on the basis of old beach ridges, this has been discounted.
In addition to early sealing expeditions, many Antarctic expeditions stopped here and a radio station base was established for Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14. This closed in 1915, and following a public campaign by Mawson to stop ‘oiling’, the island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1920, renamed Macquarie Island Nature reserve in 1978. In 1948 the present ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) station was established. A remnant of Mawson’s radio mast is still on Wireless Hill behind the station, with the remainder in Hobart. Extensive science in many fields, including historical archaeology of sealing and more recent sites, has been undertaken and with the recent removal of pests (feral cats, rabbits, rats and mice) the vegetation has had a dramatic recovery. The birdlife, four species of penguins, Fur and Elephant Seals, along with the hospitality of station staff including Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service rangers make this a very special place to visit. Our chef Benny has been privileged to spend a year including winter, at the ANARE station. Don held a briefing in the lecture room at 1100 during which he gave an excellent introduction to Macquarie Island which Douglas Mawson described in 1913 as “one of the wonder spots of the world.” Of interest was that New Zealand tried to annex Macquarie Island, but on this occasion was too late. The island was claimed from Britain, annexed by New South Wales and named after Governor Colonel Lachlan Macquarie. New Zealander Josef Hatch however, obtained a lease for ‘oiling’ from 1902-1920. Details of the flora and fauna along with extermination of the various introduced animals, was of interest and the island is now pest free. At noon as we neared the island, we were over nearly 5000m of water and 28 nm from Macquarie. We had passed over the Antarctic Convergence, the sea was rough with white horses on wave crests and as Don suggested may happen it was raining steadily. We had just 28 nm to go.
Following lunch Birdmon gave his next presentation, which focused on ‘Birdlife of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands’. This lecture was based on images of a variety of birds, many of which we have seen, and initially focused on the New Zealand Falcon. Other birds included the Bellbird, Tui, Tomtit and rare Black Robin. One good aspect of the presentation was that there were many observations of birds commented on by the audience. We were surprised to learn that the Bar-tailed Godwit has the longest non-stop flight for any bird, of 7700 miles over six days and at about 1000m height. In Christchurch New Zealand when the Godwits arrived at the Avon-Heathcote rivers estuary, the cathedral bells were once rung.
At 1500 we approached Macquarie Island through rain and low lying fog. The sun briefly tried to break through as we neared Lusitania Bay, where surf could be seen breaking on the beach, green vegetation and the King Penguin colony of about 100,000 birds was visible. Around the ship we had a welcoming party of both Kings and Royals or should it be said, Royal Kings? Other birds about the ship were Giant Petrels, including two white variants and one with a white head. The anchors were dropped at 54o43.470’S; 158o51.912’E. The name origin for this bay is obscure however David vowed he would establish this, once he had access to his library. Five Zodiacs were put in the water and we enjoyed a wonderful hour on Lusitania Bay viewing, King Penguins often within a metre. Many of them were porpoising and emitting a call, quite different to that of the Adelie. A leucistic King Penguin was also seen. There was some good surf along the shore about 100m from where we cruised and we could see three Josef Hatch digesters (one which toppled over two years ago). In the Rock-hopper colony to the south, there was a derelict hut. We cruised back and forth along the beach to make the most of the photographic opportunities. Those of us in Jane’s Zodiac were intrigued by a white Giant Petrel washing beneath the wings and alternately plunging the head beneath the surface. When we returned to re-board the ship it proved an interesting operation where good timing was essential if one wanted to make the landing platform, without boots being filled with water.
All of us enjoyed a hilarious evening in the Bar-Library. Don requested ‘formal dress’ and there were three ties worn. With Kevin acting as MC, Terry providing Technical Support and Geoff Publicity, the production ‘Enderby Icecapades’ was performed. It began with a story from Margaret, followed by a poem by Victoria and Jenny an impression. William sang a sea shanty with audience participation (‘Rule Britannia’), Alma recited a poem, Honour recited ‘If’ and Jane provided ‘A Thought’. Andrew performed ‘The Wellie Song’ with the audience singing the chorus and of course the three-man sleeping bag had to be included. The latter entitled ‘Scott’s Last Night’ was scripted by William with comments by Captain Scott (Richard C), Lieutenant Bowers (Richard G) and Dr Wilson (William). Merlin (Geoff) contributed ‘Mind Reading’, however after careful thought when he buried his forehead in his hands, had trouble distinguishing between a bracelet and a bangle before finally settling on ear ring. As Don proclaimed “It was a great team effort” and engendered much laughter for performers and audience alike. The evening meal was simply superb offering lamb back-strap or seafood chowder after the entrée. Peter generously donated bottles of splendid Terra Nova Pinot Noir wine which was very much enjoyed by all. This evening we remained at anchor at Lusitania Bay and prepared for what we hoped would be a good day ashore tomorrow.
Day 22 Wednesday 2 March
Noon position: Latitude 54o 34.0’S; Longitude 159o 58.7 ’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 6.5oC
Today we surfaced to a bleak morning with low cloud and a 30 knot NW-NNW blowing. It was not possible to consider a landing at Buckle’s Bay where we arrived before breakfast. The air temperature was 7-8o however the barometer is falling. By 0815 there was a big surf and two metre swell at Buckles Bay so we headed south to Sandy Bay to check conditions there. However on arrival we found conditions were similar with gusting wind. At 0930 David gave his final history presentation ‘Douglas Mawson - from the AAE to ANARE’. There was a large attentive audience and the Australians in particular enjoyed hearing about Mawson’s three expeditions in 1907-09 to the Ross Sea, followed by two to East Antarctica, the AAE and BANZARE. Information which most were unaware of, related to the radio operator in 1911 and Mawson’s relationship with Captain John Davis, during the first voyage of the BANZARE in 1929, after which Davis resigned. The lecture concluded with the establishment of Australia’s Antarctic programme in which Mawson was instrumental with Dr Philip Law being its first Director. On his death, Mawson received a State Funeral and his lasting legacy is undoubtedly the sound science programme which Australia enjoys today, along with the Australian Antarctic claim for 42% of the continent. By late morning the sea was still rough with whitecaps and before lunch at 1230 Don announced that there would unfortunately be no landing today.
After lunch we all assembled in the lecture room to enjoy three videos made by fellow passenger Shigeki with technical assistance provided by Kent, Luke and Chris. These began with a private expedition to a camp by the Transantarctic Mountains reached by aircraft operated by Ken Borak Air, when using a metal detector a successful search was made for meteorites. It was interesting to see the construction of some of the tents. These were identical to a tent used by Shackleton’s Weddell Sea party and designed by artist Putty Marston. Shigeki then flew to the South Pole and we saw excellent views of the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, with this followed by a visit to an Emperor Penguin colony at Gould Bay on the north edge of the Weddell Sea pack ice. The close-up photography of the adult Emperors in particular was very detailed and we enjoyed good views of four month chicks and of adults tobogganing. In the final video we travelled for 13 days to 90o North on a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker charted by Quark expeditions at a cost of a mere US$45,000. There was excellent viewing of a Polar Bear, Walrus’s, Guillemots and of Fritjof Nansen’s cave site in Franz Josef Land, where he and Johansen wintered over. At the close of the presentation we were treated to three minutes of the Spirit of Enderby pushing through ice and rough water. This was recorded by Shigeki using a mini video camera on a telescoping pole and he kindly offered to copy this for us. Later we viewed outstanding images of swimming King Penguins Shigeki had taken with a special underwater camera attached to the extended pole. The regular ↕ and gentle motion of the flippers, along with the occasional use of the extended feet and tail to steer, was of great interest. We were very grateful to Shigeki for sharing his wonderful photography with us. Birdmon told a nice true story when a photograph of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park USA was on the screen. A naturalist running the visitor centre had talked about Half Dome all day, when a woman asked “Where is the other half?.” He jumped over the desk, then ran outside and on returning said “I don’t know. It was there a minute ago!”
Many of us saw Part 3 of ‘Frozen Planet’ and learned that there are an estimated 50 million plus Crabeater Seals in Antarctic waters and that these have a greater combined weight than any other animal on the planet. Also that every Adelie Penguin chick requires 30 kg of food before it is fully grown. Again we saw film of a pod of Orca Whales in which a Minke Whale was drowned by a larger Orca turning it on its back and preventing it from breathing. Orca also created a wave to try and overturn an inflatable; in the same way as they dislodge a seal from an ice floe.
In the bar certificates were given out to participants in the Polar Plunge Swim Club and to those who braved The Polar Blast when deluged by Don with 4oC sea-water. It was also announced that that the ice broke out from the front of Scott Base today. After a fine evening meal, the bird sighting meeting was held and by 2115 there was a good fog outside.
Day 23 Thursday 3 March
Macquarie Island; at sea for Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 54o 40.660’S; Longitude 158o 55.788 ’E
Air temperature: 6oC Water temperature: 7oC
The sea was nice and calm last evening and we got up to a clear morning at Buckles Bay, with the green slopes of Macquarie Island vibrant under the sun. The wind was however gusting at 25 knots and the surf could be seen crashing on the beach at both the usual and alternative landing sites. Unfortunately the forecast is not good for the next two days and little better for Campbell Island. From the Bridge we could see waves at Hasselborough Bay on the west side of the isthmus. This bay was named after the discoverer of Macquarie Island Captain Frederick Hasselborough who arrived in July 1810 while searching for new sealing grounds. At 0930 the engines were started for a final visit to Sandy Bay. Don showed three short documentaries on his solo gyrocopter trip around Australia, his commemorative Captain Bligh voyage in the ‘Bounty boat’ and one when on the Orion during which a French solo sailor was very grateful to be rescued. We enjoyed these very much and many of us envied the interesting life Don has led as an adventurer.
At 1100 the Sea Shop opened for the final time with a 40% discount enticing many to obtain further mementos. By noon we were again heading back towards Buckles Bay again in a strong westerly wind and a sea well sprinkled with white horses. Looking back on the past three weeks however, we have had the weather gods on our side to accomplish so many good landings. Don advised that following a consultation with our captain and seeing increasing winds (a sustained 35-40 knots at the station) being forecast, the decision had sadly been made to depart from Macquarie at 1400. We were advised to ensure our cabins were prepared for the journey to Campbell Island which was likely to be three days away. Don also said the Aurora Australis was making its way to Perth where the vessel will be dry-locked and renew its ice classification.
We were invited to participate in a photo competition, with one entry in each of three categories for people, places and wildlife. To enhance the atmosphere in the corner where members of ‘The Captain’s Club’ meet for dinner, Natalia provided candles which with the photo gallery, impressed the diners including Jenny and Lorna in the predominantly male domain. In the course of conversation, Richard G. suggested “It’s hard to set a fossil on fire” to which Geoff responded “Is that what your wife said to you?” There was of course much laughter. In the evening Shigeki again kindly offered to share his videos and many of us received copies for our personal enjoyment and the bird discussion followed by a shot of Ardbeg courtesy of Andrew. A few of us stayed up late to see if there was an aurora but nothing was visible. Victoria commented that for the first time in many days however, a starry sky was visible.
Day 24 Friday 4 March
Noon position: Latitude 53o25.554 ’S; Longitude 164o55.980 ’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9.3oC
The sea was fairly calm last evening and this morning at 0745 we were greeted by a cloudy, but at least fine day and an air temperature of 8oC with the sea temperature 10oC. We have 211 nm to travel before Campbell Island, where we expect to arrive at 0600 tomorrow. This morning the sea was still calm with only a 20 knot N-WNW wind and we were making good progress at 10 knots. At 0930 we had a great view of a Humpback Whale, 400 metres to port.
Birdmon gave a lecture entitled ‘Great Whales of the Southern Ocean’ which greatly extended our knowledge on these magnificent mammals, but it also had its entertaining moments. As Birdmon said “It’s hard to interview a whale and get a straight answer.” We learned that the Hippopotamus is the nearest surviving direct link to the whales, which have various strategies for foraging and that the baleen whales represent 50% of biomass of all marine mammals in the Southern Ocean. The mouth of large baleen whales, takes in 10-15 tonnes of water (along with krill) which is also used as ballast and ejected using the tongue. They are only seen on the surface about 5% of their time; have differences to both sides of the body and a ‘splash board’ to protect the blow hole/s and the large pectoral flippers on the Humpback serve as tactile organs. The shape and location of the blow - bushy for the Humpback, columnar and tall for the Blue, Finn and Minke, angled and forward for the Sperm Whale, will help us recognise various species. Further links to the land fossil mammal is the vestigial ‘floating’ pelvic bones along with perhaps the presence in young, of hair on the body. Other aspects described included activities such as breaching, singing with low decibel levels, the specialised skeletal structure and possible camouflage. The lecture finished with discussion on the Sperm and Long-finned Pilot Whales, with William a philosopher, being offered the role of “answering questions”. The presentation finished with lively discussion and Birdmon is certainly an advocate for, as he put it “citizen scientists” who are diligent, active recorders of information and should be listened to.
By Noon the sun was breaking though a veil of stratus and a few birds were about. We should see many more as we near Campbell Island. By now we were passing over 2300m of water at a comfortable 10 knots. The next presentation was given by Chris at noon. Chris spoke about his ‘Adventure into the Artic – sailing the North-West passage’. This very interesting talk concerned a journey he and Grace made along with three others, with no person having met the others previously. Chris began with an interesting outline on early-recent expeditions to the North-West Passage (actually now with ice melt several ‘passages’) first sailed by Roald Amundsen in 1903-06. They learned of the trip by yacht through a web site – www.findacrew.com and with little notice, joined Joe Wolff, the owner and captain of the 47 foot long, 19 year SV Hawke in Baltimore. The vessel had an 8mm thick, insulated aluminium hull. They stocked up with US$10,000 of food including 1100 eggs, “most of which went rotten”, 20 cabbages “which kept well”, 100 apples, 60 cans of salmon, 25 kg of cheese etc. along with fuel and fresh water which in some places, cost more than fuel. They travelled from 20 July - 22 September for 7000 nm, with the sea time taking 31 days during which 35% was sailing/motoring; 35% sailing and 30% motor sailing, finishing in Kodiac Alaska. Places of interest included the well-known four graves (now with bronze plaques) on Beechy Island linked to Franklin’s 1845 expedition when the entire 129 man crew of Ross’s Antarctic ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror perished; an early Hudson’s Bay Company trading post; colourful houses; ice-moulded landscapes; a smoking coal seam and wonderful sightings of a Polar Bear and three Brown Bears. People were very hospitable although those of Stephenville in Newfoundland were with their 50:50 Canadian and Irish accent, “unusual”. Other memorable experiences included tacking though a field of ice bergs, catching a tuna fish and several large cod.
Toward the end of the afternoon, Don had us attend a briefing for our proposed landings on Campbell Island. Options discussed had to be planned around the anticipated windy/wet weather. The 115km2 island was discovered the same year as Macquarie Island by Hasselburgh (or Hasselburg) of the sealing brig Perseverance in 1810 (wrecked at Campbell Island in 1828; the only known shipwreck there) and was named for his employers Robert Campbell & Co of Sydney. This was the same year that Macquarie Island was discovered. The weather can be summarised as cool, cloudy, wet and windy and only receives 650 hours of bright sunshine annually and less than one hour on 215 days (59%) of the year. The rich human history on the island, has focused on several early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, pastoral farming (300-400 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses) which began in 1895 at Tucker Cove, the WW2 Cape Expedition 1942-45, the former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 and replaced with automated system) and pest eradication since 1990 with in 2008, the island being declared by UNESCO, a World Heritage site. Jim our New Zealand Government Representative spent a year on the island in 1993-94 and so knows the place well. His visit would be one filled with nostalgia.
The bird meeting was held as usual with species reported, including Storm and Giant Petrels, Prions, Sooty Shearwaters, Southern Royal, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and White-chinned Petrels. The days are really flitting by fast now and most of us retired early.
Day 25 Saturday 5 March
Perseverance Harbour Campbell Island; at sea off Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o 32.911’S; Longitude 169o 09.666 ’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 9oC
After a comfortable night we dropped anchor in about 32m of water around 0300 and were woken by Don at 0600. Those of us who had indicated that we would like to take part in an assault on Mt Honey (558m) went ashore at 0700. The party of 36 (including five keen expedition staff and the ever enthusiastic Lorna) were soon at the start of the track. There was a light ripple on the water, a scattering of thin cloud and a Yellow-eyed Penguin could be heard calling from scrub near the former meteorological station. As the surroundings became more distinct, some of us enjoyed views of rocky outcrops, vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice-moulded landforms and olive-green scrub extending from the water’s edge, then merging with tussock. Lava flows were also visible on wave washed cliffs and hillsides were clothed in tussock grass and Dracophyllum scoparium scrub.
On the left we could see the old meteorological balloon launching shed, then behind the wharf the generator shed and on the ridge-line the New Zealand Meteorological Service automatic weather station with solar panels for charging batteries. Below at the water’s edge are fuel and supply sheds, the old crane and from here, rail tracks leading up to the winch, behind the meteorology and DoC sheds, fridges and freezers, then the accommodation annex. At the right-hand end is the DoC accommodation facility for science and track maintenance parties. Three outer huts are at North West Bay, Bull Rock colony with Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses and at Six Foot Lake. Volcanic bush-clad Beeman Hill (187m) rising behind main annex, has tucked behind it two now dilapidated coast watchers huts from the secret Cape Expedition in 1942-45. The lookout hut is no longer visible and may have been dismantled or was obscured by scrub. However there is the emergency cave, which walkers would see on their return from North-west Bay.
By 0830 much of Mt. Honey was becoming obscured by fog, the wind was up and the harbour had scattered white horses. Numerous Shearwaters were about and some were on the water as rafts. It was obvious that the sun was unlikely to be with us today. With the Mt. Honey walkers away, Don had the remainder of us prepare for a Zodiac cruise about the inner harbour. This began with two boats at 0930 with Don and David assisting with interpretation. The wind came up and there were occasional strong gusts. Just as we passed the old station buildings, a pair of Campbell Island Teal was seen around the rocks on the foreshore. This was a major highlight for David who over many visits with passengers since 1993 had never before seen the bird. Since 150 were returned from New Zealand to the island some years ago, pest eradication has ensured they have adapted very well. The species previously thought to be extinct was re-discovered by Heritage founder Rodney Russ.
We were treated to close-up encounters with New Zealand Sea Lions with some following us as they held their heads just above the water while others porpoised, occasionally fully breaching. Stops were made beside a rock and timber ‘jetty’ at Tucker Cove, where we were able to stretch our legs, inspect the local geology, with nice chert-like rock of various browns etc. and limestone. There were shells of limpets and blue mussels, which Jim and David agreed are very good. Around the corner, we inspected the site of the former Tucker pastoral farm homestead. Here Wang when taking a short-cut across an area of boggy ground, managed to measure his length in water and mud. His video camera was wet but fortunately still operated. The homestead was established along with a shearing shed for sheep in 1895. All that remained isolated on a grassy sward was the Shacklock Orion coal range, with a rusty row boat rowlock and a bottle base embossed Dunedin placed on top. By the water’s edge, were a few worn bricks and a broken bottle of ‘Bonnington’s Irish Moss, for Coughs and Colds.’ Also of interest a short distance away, were an adult Giant Petrel with four chicks and another adult with chick further along the shore. Numerous dead seed heads for the mega herb Bulbinella rossi which in December would have a bright orange colouration were amongst tussock.
At Camp Cove, we saw the Sika spruce recorded in the Guiness Book of Records, as the ‘loneliest tree in the world’. Here we enjoyed the song of a Campbell Island Pipit from the top of the spruce, planted in 1901-02. This was followed by a sighting of a “schizophrenic penguin” which was in fact a Campbell Island Shag. “Chicken-man” Alan described the bird as “a brown creature” to which Birdmon later said “there is a Brown Creeper”. Nearby a Sea Lion pup now fending for itself, was frolicking in a pool beneath water spouting from the top of the bank. We passed Garden Cove, followed by Venus Bay, where in 1874 the French hoped to observe the Transit of Venus and all were on board soon after midday.
The first group to return from Mt Honey decided against a full climb and those who continued further up the hillside, decided when at 220m to then turn back. As hikers bush-bashed their way up the steep, muddy track with occasional running water and surrounded by Dracophyllum scrub and high tussocks, they too decided they had had enough of the rain and wind. However everyone enjoyed themselves and apart from a few Pipits, the most interesting observation was of four Royal Albatross with at least one having a chick which Shigeki filmed from just five metres away from their nests. Ian A. claimed “There was a lot of mud and I slipped around and fell over, before turning back at the cloud base”. Valerie commented, “I got lost a few times” and Naoko said “I got very wet. I am drying my gears now”. William pointed out that poet Rupert Brook (who had attended Kings’ College in Cambridge as he had) wrote words in ‘Heaven’ which perhaps best summed up this walk:
One may not doubt that somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose In Liquidity.
Our chefs provided a fine lunch of hot beef slices with chutney on a large slice of freshly baked bread with salad, followed by a cake slice. Don announced that because very strong winds with gusts were forecast, we would be departing at 1500 for the open sea, although he hoped to find a sheltered place to ride out the weather until the early hours of Monday 7th. We left on schedule and as we made our way out to the harbour entrance we passed Davis Point followed by Erebus Point named by James Clark Ross. Near here we saw the often well populated Sea Lion colony, although today only two animals were seen. Along the coast of Perseverence Harbour to starboard, were caves and undercut areas in the rock, of which at least four lava flows were visible. Above a narrow area of tussock on the cliff tops was thick scrub although further up gentle slopes there was more extensive areas of tussock. When clear of the harbour entrance, we could make out Jacquemart Island half obscured by mist and La Botte (The Boot), along with volcanic rock stacks one of which was standing like a pencil. Beyond here was Antarctic Bay and Mt. Dumas (499m) although these were not visible. Several localities have French names, given at the time of the French Expedition visit in 1873 -1874. Low cloud was obscuring much of the landscape and sea birds were soaring over the waves. Bird sightings included Wanderer, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross, the Campbell Island Shag, Cape Petrel and Sooty Shearwater.
For the rest of the afternoon many of us rested or relaxed in the Bar-Library. The meeting to discuss bird observations today was convened as usual and species sighted included eight Mallard Ducks, a vagrant probably from New Zealand and various albatross species. Lorna was in charge of the evening entertainment and decided to screen the Australian movie ‘The Adventures of Pricilla – Queen of the Desert’. Those not watching the movie played Scrabble, read books or retired early to take advantage of a calmer sea.
Day 26 Sunday 6 March
At sea near Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o34.2’S; Longitude 169o16.7’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 8oC
This morning we discovered that during the night we had been making journeys up and down the coast, from the entrance to Perseverance Harbour to beyond North-east Harbour and between Cossack and Bull Rocks. This was a 2 hour return journey of 13 nm, 1 nm offshore.
At 0730 we were positioned at 52o32.534’S; 269o176.09’E and crossing over 80-90m of water. The sun rose at around 0720 and the air temperature was 7oC. Wind remained at 25-30 knots although later in the day it was expected to increase to 40 knots. Waves could be seen crashing against vertical volcanic cliffs over which mist came and went and the sea was sprinkled with white horses. Birdmon gave the first presentation of the day on ‘Merlins in Urban to Wild Environments’. The Merlin Falcon Foundation supports the Coastal Forest Merlin project with its main objectives being research, education and stewardship. Field work has often involved 10-16 hour days over three decades and the behavioural ecology has provided insight into this species of raptor, which can fly from 60-100mph. A major part of the diet made up of small birds which are conveniently beheaded in flight and interestingly the Merlin’s eye is two to three times stronger than those of humans, the female is larger than the male and in North America, there are three sub-species. In the course of his research, Birdmon has travelled extensively and one field trip in 1983 involved 10,000 miles, as he gathered data on these “symbols of wildness and freedom”. Most of the field area is from Juno to Vancouver, when nest platforms, sometimes previously used by Crows, have been examined at 200ft above the ground and involved use of crossbows and climbing equipment. The emphasis has been on non–invasive research techniques.
William, Hon. Res. Assoc. Prof. at the University of Queensland gave the next lecture entitled ‘The Melting Planet – Reflections on Human Sustainability and the long Thaw’. Using excellent visual material, William after briefly mentioning Al Gore, discussed ice during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods and considered global and cosmic perspectives from the point of view of a philosopher. It is clear that tropospheric CO2 is increasing and ice has been steadily disappearing over the last fifty years. Examples included Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt. Everest and seasonal ice melt has shown for Greenland to have increased for 1992-2005, while parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have also shown rapid collapse. The reduced capacity of the ocean to retain CO2 has had an impact on ecosystems, the rise in temperature is affecting coral reef communities and increased acidity due to formation of carbonic acid, will compromise the calcification process in the shells of molluscs. A now widely accepted model is that of Milankovitch which demonstrates how our planet’s orbit and orientation changes as a result of the sun fluctuating over time, changes the way the orbit varies, along with the tilt of orbit. Major global warming glaciations have been shown to have begun 300 million years ago and the present Quaternary Era began 2.6 mya. We have evolved from a cool planet which has got cooler while the sun has become hotter, but at present we are injecting a large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere. Global temperature is rising more quickly and will not level off until temperatures decrease. Clearly fossil carbon carries substantial risks. As William said, “we live prosperously by treating the atmosphere as a sewer”. However the suggested carbon limit of 445 parts per million is perhaps too high. There has also been a dramatic increase in population with one estimate that by 2400, the mass of people will equal the mass of our planet and deaths will be equal to or greater than the number of births. Limits once suggested by Thomas Malthus have been proved incorrect and now 36% of the global terrestrial biosphere is dominated by humans. At the end of the day, we need a transition away from fossil carbon. We all learned a lot from William’s enlightening lecture which sparked a few lively debates.
Don carried a flaming candle stuck into the end of a parsnip as he led a parade of expedition members singing happy birthday to Steve into the dining room for lunch. There was more happy news that Jenny and Doug are expecting a new member to their family.
Many of us returned to the lecture room at 1600 to view ‘The Search for the North Passage’. This focused on Roald Amundsen who as a boy was fascinated with the loss of the Franklin expedition when 129 perished. Amundsen secretly left Norway on 16 June 1903, with a crew of six on the shallow draft fishing boat Gjoa without scientists or even a doctor. Over the next two years, he learned much from the Inuit and on 26 August 1905, achieved his goal of being first to navigate a route through the North West passage above Canada, which had claimed scores of lives and several ships. We could all see what made him successful in his goal of reaching the South Pole.
Before the bar opened at 1830 we had an informative presentation from Sjirk, who is an enthusiastic environmentalist from the Lane Cove Sustainability Action Group. ‘Can we make our lives a little less plastic?’ began with the origins of plastic and how by the 1950’s the product was being advertised in Life magazine, as ‘throw away living’. There is now sufficient plastic produce to entirely wrap the planet. This includes production of four billion bags annually and we dump 7,000 bags a minute and a staggering 4.5 tonnes has been calculated to enter the ocean each 15 seconds. Is it not surprising that we see our coastlines and other areas of recreation along with roadsides, littered with plastic bottles. Unbeknown to most people, it will take 400-500 years for a plastic bottle to break down and furthermore, plastic does not biodegrade. The impact on wildlife such as turtles, fish and birds is considerable. A dead Shearwater at Lord Howe Island was found with 175 pieces of plastic inside. According to Sjirk the major problem is that “governments are out of touch with reality” and we can all play our part by for example, forming a local environmental group, conversing with the public, declining to accept goods in plastic bags and approaching our political and community leaders with petitions.
At 1910 Don advised that the weather was showing signs of improvement and later the wind eased and the seas abated. There was also a peep of blue sky with a possibility that we may enter the harbour earlier than scheduled. Fingers were crossed for a good day ashore and in the Zodiacs tomorrow.
We had the usual laughter over dinner this evening and Geoff who offered to assist with dishes, was given a crew shirt, apron and head scarf. Several photographs were taken with staff and active at the sink. Many decided on a quiet night again, although a team effort was underway on a large jigsaw puzzle.
Day 27 Monday 7 March
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.0’S; Longitude 169o09.5’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9oC
Birthdays for Kevin and Kent celebrated
We had a comfortable nights rest and by breakfast we were anchored in Perseverance Harbour. We then made preparations for a day on the island and some Zodiac cruising. The water was calm despite the wind getting up around 0800. There was however promise of a nice day with scattered cloud and larger areas of blue sky than over recent days. Four Zodiacs were launched after breakfast for a tour of the interesting area at the head of the harbour and as we left a raft of around 50 Sooty Shearwaters took off. Some of us had already enjoyed the ride on Saturday and decided it was well worth another trip. An interesting variety of birds was seen including three Black-Bellied Storm Petrels and a pair of Mallard Ducks. Returning to the site of the Tucker homestead, we not only examined the old Shacklock range again but also had an excellent view of four New Zealand Sea Lions which were most cooperative with our desire to obtain a good photographic record. This was an excellent opportunity to observe their behaviour. Ian A. was able to photograph two fern species at their southern limit for the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand records.
From here we journeyed past a long pebbly beach with occasional large basalt boulders, to Camp Cove where there was no wind at all. Here many of us went for a walk through the Dracophyllum to the tussock, while others visited the ‘Loneliest tree in the World’ so it would be a bit less lonely or were simply content to lie back in the grass and enjoy the stillness and fresh air. There was a nice example of a basalt dyke extending onto the beach and here Alma found the perfect place to rest. Continuing around the coast, we made perhaps the first Spirit of Enderby visit to the lonely grave of M. Duris, the Engine room Technician on the frigate Vire, who died here on 22 September 1874, when the French scientific expedition called in an attempt to observe the Transit of Venus. The grave surrounded by a nice wooden fence with rails and pickets, had been visited by sailors of the Royal New Zealand Navy ships HMNZS Rotoiti and HMNZS Hawea. They had perhaps done the restoration, as two medallions were attached to the fence which was in good condition. Sadly the ornate metal cross at the head of the grave is in urgent need of conservation and the grave would also benefit from removal of ferns. We all considered it a rare privilege to visit the hallowed site, tucked away in the Dracophyllum. Our journey continued around the shoreline to the waterfall and we then gradually made our way back to the Spirit of Enderby. We had been blessed with a perfect morning and enjoyed our cut lunch in the Bar-Library.
At 1330 the next landing got underway with a shuttle service which deposited us beside the old wharf and huts of the former meteorological station. The weather continued to be beautiful and soon we began the one hour trek up the board walk to Col Lyall. Don had predicted the weather perfectly for the excursion today. We followed the initially steadily rising boardwalk through Dracophyllum, around the side of Beeman Hill and once well past the hill and steadily gaining height, we noticed the two World War 2 Coast Watcher huts away in a valley inland from Tucker Cove. Most of the mega herbs including Bulbanella rossii and Pleurophyllum criniferum had finished flowering, although at a higher altitude near the end of the board walk the occasional Pleurophyllum speciosum (Purple daisy) was seen. There were good examples of the mega herb Anisotome latifolia with large spikey leaves resembling a carrot, although it had now finished flowering. A few small white Gentians and the same green orchid we had seen at Tagua Bay were also spotted. After an hour or so most of us reached the col and carefully observing the five metre rule, enjoyed the Southern Royal Albatross at close quarters on their elevated nests. Some of the birds were sitting on chicks and it was unlikely now that any eggs were unhatched. Of interest was the ‘bill-clappering’ and towards the end of the afternoon the ‘gamming’ behaviour with two or three male birds arriving at a female sitting on a nest. Several albatross were seen flying high above the col and gradually circling as they came in to land. David observed one bird which flew with a “whoosh” only a few feet above his head and then glided in to land inelegantly beak-first in the base of a tussock plant. Others were seen to join their mate, their arrival heralded by ‘bill clappering’ followed by a ‘mewing’ sound such as made by a cat. It really was a special privilege to see the majestic birds at close quarters and this excursion will be remembered for a long time to come. At the top of the boardwalk it was only a short breezy walk to look down into North-West Bay with interesting islands we had seen from the Spirit of Enderby, during the passing to and fro as we waited for better conditions. The landscape was also of interest with re-vegetated slips and rocky lichen covered crags of schist which stood out above the yellow-brown of the tussocks and was reminiscent of the Maniototo in New Zealand’s Central Otago.
The Northwest Bay walking party of 14 including Jim and Birdmon had left at 0845 and completed their journey by 1630. They had enjoyed an outstanding trek, which Luke considered was “not as bad as Mt. Honey with its mud”. Early on the walk Sea Lions were avoided by bush-bashing through Dracophyllum and at Windless Bay large fossil palm-like leaves about 15 inches wide were observed in sedimentary rock; perhaps limestone. Here they had lunch and discovered a large bull Elephant Seal and a smaller one in the bush. Birdmon and William were only 12 inches away from being bitten by male Sea Lions in the bush and Geoff became lost “a few times” in the high tussocks and claimed he had joined the Fukawi tribe. A further six Elephant Seals, a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and numerous Pipits were seen when they looked over a cliff. A hill was ascended and they had a look in the old DOC hut which was pretty basic. It contained two bunks, a sink, book shelf and a visitor book in which Jim found his entry made in 1993. Jim said he had been counting seals, penguins and whales and had had a long day walking from the hut to Courrejolles Peninsula and back via Col Ridge. He wrote “zooted” in the hut book. Sea Lions again required a detour through scrub, however a real highlight was the opportunity to view large numbers of low-flying Southern Royal Albatrosses and many were seen on nests with chicks. For Drs Rob and Clare, the highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the “fantastic displays of the albatrosses”, but they also commented on the beauty of the landscape, the colours of the rocks and offshore islands along with the beautiful turquoise of the sea. Near the end of the walk, they inspected the cave used by the Coast Watchers, which has two rather old seats. On completion of the walk, most of the group then hiked along the board walk to Col Lyall and were able to enjoy the early evening albatross activity. Don reported on three interesting pinkish jellyfish and a large black cod by the landing. He also commented on a female Sea Lion surfing on the wave behind the Zodiac as it travelled to and from the ship until her mate turned up and she left. By 1930 the last Zodiac was being hoisted aboard and it was anchors up and on our way. It had been a great day and pleasing to see Robin had been able to leave the kitchen for a walk to Col Lyall while Bennie was also able to complete the North-west Bay walk.
This evening we had a later dinner than usual with fine New Zealand Terakihi fish or pork beautifully cooked and plated. Kevin and Kent’s birthdays were celebrated with cakes and a magnum of New Zealand, Cloudy Bay Pelorus Vintage 1908 sparkling wine, courtesy of Doug and Jenny, with this also commemorating their forthcoming family member. Only one glass broke when the ship gave a sudden lurch, however it was a sad end for the contents. The bird species meeting was convened and noted the sighting of Black-bellied Storm Petrels and Yellow-eyed Penguins today. The wind is expected to rise to 35 knots and the sea from three to five metres. We now have two days to pack and enjoy the remainder of what has been a very special expedition.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 28 Tuesday 8 March
Noon position: Latitude 49 o 46.761’S; Longitude 169o 02.375’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9oC
Womens’ Day in Russia
100 years ago today, the Reverend Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party 1914-16, died on the Ross Ice Shelf when 30 miles from safety. “Jesu, Maria – I am near to death. And thou art calling me; I know it now…That I am going, that I am no more…” A copy of the Dream of Gerontius by Cardinal Newman was carried by Spencer-Smith, who died eight days short of his 33rd birthday. This along with his 1915 diary, the last letter to his parents and other historical documents, were found by David in a wooden apple box, within a garden shed, near Invercargill in the late 1970’s. They are now in Canterbury Museum Christchurch.
The ship rolled occasionally in the night and at 0815 we had around 400 nm to go with a course of 350o True set for Stewart Island. We were moving along at 10-11 knots and the sea was 3-4 metres with us rolling to the beam. Wind was expected to be 25-30 knots although would pick up this evening then die off tomorrow. The air temperature at 8.15 was 8oC and our position was 50o25’S; 168o37’E.
We changed course to 50o13.6 S; 168o35.9E and by noon the ship was pitching and yawing from the westerly, the occasional roll over 40o. A few birds were about and included albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters along with a White-chinned Petrel. Although there was some cloud it was a sunny day and the sea flecked white, was a deep ultramarine colour. Today most of us began packing and spent time resting or in the Bar-Library. With the lectures cancelled, this was probably the quietest day we have had. At 1830 a trivia quiz was organised by UK Jane who was compere, in the Bar-Library. There were six teams: Merlin’s Morons; ANZAC Troops; The Albatrosses; Tuckers Wanderers; The Winners and Let’s Get Quizzical. There were 30 questions and as two groups tied, a play-off was required to determine the winner. The winner was in fact The Winners, led by Jenny and they received a bottle of wine for the victory. A second bottle was awarded to the runners-up. It was a lot of fun with much laughter. After a pleasant evening meal of Malaysian curry or a Chinese chicken dish, we tucked into delicious profiteroles for dessert.
Day 29 Wednesday 9 March
Noon position: Latitude 45o 408.56’S, Longitude 172o25.313 ’E
Air temperature: 14.2oC Water temperature: 13.5oC
This morning the sun rose at 0725 on our final day. Don announced that we had 190 nm to go and we were heading north at 10.5 knots, 90 nm off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The air temperature was 12oC, a 15-24 knot westerly was blowing and the sea was at 3-4 metres. Our position was 46o27’S; 172o2’E; the pressure is rising and a fine day is forecast for tomorrow. At 1030 we returned our polar jackets and gumboots that had served us so well, with a few pairs of boots also kindly donated for use by future travellers. A questionnaire for DoC was completed which will help guide future management of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands.
Before lunch Ian A. delivered an interesting presentation ‘North Korea – some personal observations’. Ian had six visits (the most recent six years ago) during contracts with the United Nations Development Programme, when he was concerned with forestry and forest conservation. Only two flights a week enter North Korea via Beijing and Chinese Air Traffic Control keep the 1½ hour flight over land. On crossing the border, a political lecture is given by a hostess. The control of the ‘Democratic’ Republic of Korea over its citizens is extraordinary. Ian showed excellent photographs of major buildings and monuments of the much revered former Leader Kim II-sung and was under strict instructions as to what he could or could not do. On arrival his passport and cell phone was taken. When asked about his binoculars, he explained that he was interested in birds although apart for White Herons and Thrushes, he was unable to identify most species. A most unusual aspect was the lack of traffic and people not smiling and continually gazing at the ground. On one visit Ian was the sole occupant on one floor of the hotel where he stayed. The country which has had considerable deforestation to enable people to be warm in winter did however have extensive market gardening with cabbages, silver beet and rice. Chestnuts are also roasted and eaten. People are made to assist with construction projects which are accompanied with loud music and signage. Tourism is beginning to become more popular.
Before lunch we watched a ‘trailer’ on the US Army Greely expedition before Don screened a documentary on Sir John Franklin who was lost when searching for the North West Passage. The expedition in which 129 men lost their lives, gripped Victorian England. The last sighting of the ships was by a whaler in 1845 however various clues began to pull together threads of the expedition’s failure. Franklin’s men were unlucky to have to put up with a very cold winter when there was no thaw for five years. Once in Peel Sound, they were trapped and eventually the ships were abandoned. Forensic archaeologist Canadian Owen Beattie excavated three graves on Beechey Island and analysis later showed very high lead levels, which were assumed to be a result of eating canned foods. As men died in the effort to make the 800 mile journey by foot and dragging boats to the nearest human habitation, their travel was noted by Inuit hunters. Later examination of oral history archives in Washington along with physical evidence found at various localities also pointed to possible cannibalism and scurvy. These together with hypothermia, frostbite and exhaustion finally signalled an end for the remaining men. Franklin himself had died two years into the expedition on 11 June 1847. The expedition continues to be a source of fascination for historians, scientists and others. Over the last two years the HMS Erebus has been located and various artefacts are preserved in England. It is believed HMS Terror is close to being found, unless it has been already. From time to time other artefacts continue to be found. A comparatively recent book titled ‘Frozen in Time’ by John Geiger, focuses on the exhumation of three of the expedition men.
Jane tidied up our expedition accounts during the afternoon and the remainder of the day was taken up with packing and relaxing. We crossed the 45th parallel about 1515 and at 1700 our disembarking briefing was held. We then had an enjoyable hour in the Bar-Library before a relaxed dinner. At the final meeting in the Lecture Room, Don asked the expedition team to address the group for the last time and Chris then showed his first class DVD slide show of our activities which we could then download onto a memory stick or other media. The winners of the Photography Competition were announced with the winner of each category receiving a Spirit of Enderby cap. The first category of People was won by Heather who captured us in action with her video camera in Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. The second category for Wildlife was won by Neil with his picture of a Skua and the third category for Landscape was won by Shigeki with his photograph of Scott’s Cross on Observation Hill. An honourable mention was given to Naoko whose outstanding photograph featuring the moon rising beyond Inexpressible Island with iced-up rocks in the foreground looked almost like a painting.
The Farewell Dinner in Ice Culture was for the record:
Starter: Duck confit in crisp wonton basket on a bed of red curry cabbage
Mains: New Zealand lamb rack crusted with mustard and panko, kumara gratin, pea puree and red wine jus OR Stewart Island salmon fillets with crushed baby potatoes, roasted beetroot and miso hollandaise
Final: Chocolater fondent with salted caramel ice cream.
This meal was particularly festive and accompanied by much hilarity which increased as the evening progressed. Doug kindly provided more Jan Herzog Marlborough wines with the Riesling 2011 being particularly notable. We were all extremely grateful to Robin and Benny for their great service and culinary expertise, often under very difficult circumstances. On behalf of Don and colleagues, along with Natalia and Albina and of course Captain Dimitry, his officers and crew, the author of this Log would like to say what a pleasure it has been to spend a memorable month with you and to say thank you for contributing to our knowledge. It is hoped that this will be Au Revoir and not goodbye.
We arrived at Lyttelton about 0100 on Thursday 10 March, were cleared by Customs and Immigration, and then disembarked to say our goodbyes after breakfast.
Of doors there is this.
We don’t even see them
as we pass through.
Captain: Dimitry Zinchenko
Chief Mate: Aleksi Zinchenko
Nathan Russ (Expedition Leader; coordinator lectures and landings)
Agnès Breniere (Cruise Director; Zodiac driver)
Lieutenant Ross Hickey RNZN (NZ Government Representative/Department of Conservation Representative)
Dr Lesley Cupit (Expedition Medical Adviser)
Don McIntyre – (Lecturer and guide)
Samuel Blanc (Lecturer – ornithology; bird list; expedition DVD; Zodiac driver and guide)
Dr David Harrowfield (Lecturer – History; on-shore historic site interpretation and guide; compiler of the Expedition Log)
Connor Arcus – Chef
Frank Widmer – 2nd Chef
Day 1-2 Sunday 11 January – Monday 12
Invercargill, Bluff, at sea
11 January Anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s death
12 January Mike and Mary’s 30th Wedding Anniversary celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 46o35.5’South; Longitude 168o20.13’E
Positions and other data are taken from the Deck Log Book
Air temperature: 14oC
Yesterday we arrived in New Zealand’s southernmost city Invercargill and settled in the Kelvin Hotel. It was a century since the Ross Sea party on the Aurora of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917, arrived at Cape Evans on Ross Island Antarctica.
Late in the day light rain began and it was far from warm. In the evening we met Expedition Leader Nathan who is also Operations Manager for Heritage Expeditions, Cruise Director Agnès and Lecturer David, who made us very welcome. Amongst us was Mary, with not only a sailor’s hat but an inflatable penguin named Charles Enderby. Over a sumptuous dinner Nathan gave an outline on plans for the next few days, along with present and expected future weather and possible ice conditions.
The following morning we were treated to a fine sunny morning and were greeted by David, Samuel and the ship manager Max. Our luggage was loaded into a truck for conveyance to the Spirit of Enderby. The ship is also named Professor Khromov (1904-1977) after a prominent Russian meteorologist during the former Soviet Era.
David then escorted many of us on a short walk to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Here we met Lindsay Hazley, Curator of Tuataras and Photography, and began our visit viewing the fabulous Roaring Forties theatre presentation. Lindsay who has been with the museum 42 years then guided us to the Tuatarium.
A reptile from an otherwise extinct linage, the oldest known bones of a true Tuatara date back just 34,000 to 100,000 years. Today the live on 32 islands, mostly around New Zealand’s North Island and Cook Strait and in five mainland wildlife sanctuaries. We were most interested in the oldest Tuatara named Henry who is estimated to be over 110 years old. Some of us touched his leathery-looking skin and were surprised to see how soft it was.
From here we visited the Subantarctic Islands gallery which had many fascinating relics linked to ship wrecks and the castaway era. Examples included a wooden punt made by survivors from the Derry Castle wrecked in March 1887 and who lived in huts made from tussock grass, also a pair of seal skin slippers made by survivors from the wreck of the barque Dundonald in March 1907. A small display which included an oak rum tub (still with aroma) from Captain R.F. Scott’s ship Terra Nova; a Nansen sledge, an All-sky camera once used at New Zealand’s Scott Base Antarctica, and an interesting selection of geological specimens. Nearby were items linked with the sailing ship and whaling eras. An interesting exhibit focused on conservation of two parts of a waka (Maori canoe) hull in tanks with the liquid maintained at 18.5oC. There was certainly much to see. At 12.15 we boarded a coach for the Kelvin Hotel where we enjoyed a further excellent meal, before David ushered us onto a coach which delivered us to the Spirit of Enderby.
About 20 minutes later, we drew up alongside the ship where we were greeted by Nathan, Agnes and other staff, then shown our cabins in which our possessions had been placed. We had Devonshire scones and a glass of black currant juice, tea or coffee for afternoon tea and after meeting with a Customs officer, surrendered our passports and familiarised ourselves with the ship. We departed soon after 3.30 p.m and by 4 p.m. the Takatimu 2 which collected the Pilot had left and we entered Foveaux Strait on our way to Stewart Island, with the ship now gently rolling.
At 5.15 p.m. we had our first briefings in the Lecture Room. Nathan began by introducing the staff each of whom gave a brief resume of their background. Agnès then acquainted us with various important details including use of the vacuum toilet system, the Sea Shop along with other aspects. Nathan resumed the briefing with reference to all-important signals for Emergencies and Abandon Ship. Matters such as appropriate dress and types of landings expected – dry/wet/very wet, the tag system, appropriate dress for wearing during the abandon ship, immersion suits and two types of life jackets, one for use with lifeboats, the second for Zodiac travel.
At 6.30 p.m. all heard seven short and one long blast, three times from the ship’s horn and participated in the lifeboat drill. The lifeboat used depended on whether our cabin was on the port or starboard side of the ship. We were off Stewart Island until 8.30 p.m. and after dinner at 7.30 p.m. the Captain headed south past Lord River and Port Pegasus with 60-65 nautical miles to travel to the Snares. Agnès then opened the bar before dinner where staff attended to our needs. The sea was calm and a few sea birds including Salvin’s Albatross and Stewart Island Shags were present.
At 7.30 we were treated to an excellent meal prepared by Connor and Frank, with two main choices of beef rump or salmon. The Russian crew schedule their meals around the ‘watches’ so as not to coincide with ours. Their chef on our voyage is Angelique.
With a course change, the sea was a bit bumpy. We rolled a little and most opted to have an early night.
Don McIntyre’s definition of adventure is – “you don’t know the outcome”.
Day 3 Tuesday 13 January
Noon position: Latitude 48o10.15’South; Longitude 166o37.6201’East
Air temperature: 16oC Water 20.5oC
Birthday of Ros E. celebrated.
Most of us enjoyed calm conditions last night and rested well. The maximum wave last night was four metres. At 6.30 a.m. we were on a course for the South promontory of North East Island with Broughton Islands and the south-east. The Snares Islands have a highest point of 152m, cover 328 hectares, a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1200mm per year. The position of the islands is 48o01’S and 166o35’E. Sea birds were beginning to appear and this morning we saw Buller and Salvin’s Albatross, Common Diving Petrel, Cape Petrel (Pintado) and Sooty Shearwaters or Titi as known to Maori, who harvest chicks for food, once a year.
Before breakfast we had a good view of the Snares and being on the north coast and away from the westerly, we had ideal conditions for a Zodiac cruise. Nathan summoned us all to the lecture room for a briefing at 7.45 a.m. where he gave an excellent introduction to the Snares. This covered discovery by Vancouver on 23 November 1791, the subsequent sealing era which decimated the population, details of the geology (granite), botany and ornithology. The Zodiac operation using five boats each equipped with four-stroke 60 h.p. engines began at 8.20, with us setting out for two hours on the water. With exception of the scientific parties from University of Otago and National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) no landings are permitted.
Cruising off-shore, we enjoyed excellent views of the rocks, some with nice colouration, the zoning of vegetation adapted to salt-laden air with Olearia lyalli the tall ‘tree daisy’ prominent in places. Other plants included the smaller ‘tree daisy’, Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’, a shore hebe and large tussocks. The many birds that were seen included spectacular rafts of Cape Petrels and Snares Crested Penguins, along with Common Diving Petrels, Brown Skua, Buller and Salvin’s Albatrosses, Giant Petrels, the small black Snares Tomtit, Back and Red-billed Gulls. Two Australian Tree Martins were sighted, however the Sooty Shearwaters, the most prominent bird species on the Snares, with a calculated 2.7 million pairs (1971), had mostly flown before dawn.
We enjoyed excellent viewing of numerous New Zealand Fur Seals with an estimated 40-50 seen. Showers came and went and we entered several large caverns exposed to the sea, where the swell created a deep booming sound. In Ho Ho Bay we glimpsed the huts of the research station established in the 1960s. One of the best highlights however was an excellent view of the famous ‘penguin slide’ with large numbers of Snares Crested Penguins commuting over granite, the surface worn smooth by millions of webbed feet perhaps over hundreds of years. We were amused to see birds about to enter the water, then change their plan, slide in the process and with the next incoming swell, take advantage of this to enter the water. Some penguins which become stranded in the kelp, managed to extricate themselves remarkably quickly. As Nathan said, why go to the trouble of marching up a steep rock slope when there are much easier places for access. Penguins were calling and from nests on adjacent headlands, the guttural, braying calls of Buller’s Albatross could be heard.
We returned to the ship by 10.30 a.m. after having enjoyed a very special outing in rarely experienced calm conditions. It was an excellent way to begin the away from ship aspect of our expedition. Our chefs Conner and Frank produced a very fine lunch of bacon and egg pie with fresh salad and later most of us took time to enjoy our photographs or to rest; the sea now being a little lumpy with the occasional large roll. Not long before 12.30, five dolphins were seen and were thought to be Dusky dolphins.
At 4 p.m. Nathan held an important briefing covering quarantine measures as part of our preparation for tomorrow. Then taking turns to use a vacuum cleaner, we carefully examined our field rig, back packs etc to remove any possible bio-hazard such as seeds. The chefs produced a fine dinner with a choice of rolled roast pork served on apple mash or chicken breast with such tasty delights as thyme roasted beetroot and garlic asparagus with lemon beurre blanc. This was followed by a desert of apple and pear strudel with ice cream and custard which rounded off the meal beautifully. Most of us retired early with the promise of a calm sea offering a good rest.
Day 4 Wednesday 14 January
Enderby Island (Auckland Islands)
Birthday of Howie celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.419’South; Longitude 166o16.653’East
Air temperature: 14oC Water 11oC
We were treated to a calm sea last night and this morning the anchor was lowered at Port Ross around 4 a.m. Port Ross is named after the famous English Arctic and Antarctic explorer James (later Sir) Clark Ross who visited here in November 1840. Originally it was named Rendezvous Harbour by the French expedition led by Dumont D’Urville. Before breakfast many were out on deck taking photos of the sunrise. As the sun ascended higher, the columnar basalt cliffs along the south side of Enderby Island, presented a spectacular sight.
With a busy day ahead we had an early start. A Southern Lakes French Squirrel helicopter arrived to transfer eight drums of fuel ashore as part of an emergency supply and for use during the aerial census of Hooker Sea Lions and Albatrosses for the Department of Conservation (DoC). The helicopter can make the flight from Invercargill airport to Enderby Island in less than 2½ hours.
Those of us who were unable to attend to quarantine measures last evening carried this out after breakfast and at 7.30 a.m. we assembled in the lecture room for Nathan’s excellent introductory lecture to the Auckland Islands and an outline of the two walks planned for the day. With help from the chefs we made up a packed lunch to take ashore and prepared for an interesting day on Enderby Island.
The ship to shore operation began by 9.30 a.m. and we were landed on a shore platform of volcanic conglomerate rock with huge waving fronds of D’Urvillea kelp either side of the narrow channel we had entered. Once ashore many of us changed from our gumboots to hiking or tramping boots and Nathan gave us a further brief talk on the two walks for today. Simon, a researcher on the Hooker’s Sea Lion, also spoke and mentioned that the decline of the species which began in the late 1990’s is continuing. This season about 300 pups have been born at Sandy Bay with a further 1400-1500 on Dundas Island, the main breeding location.
We all set out walking north from Sandy Bay at around 10 a.m. and before long we came across a Yellow-eyed Penguin on the boardwalk. Beside the trail were the remains of two Southern Royal Albatross and two birds were seen on their nests some distance away. The botany was very interesting with some of the Southern Rata having rich crimson flowers. The white flowering Cassinia, (also prolific in New Zealand) and at least three species of Gentian with one, Gentiana cerina, a beautiful deep mauve, had become established on large cushion plants. Of the megaherbs Bulbinella rossii had finished flowering although the occasional one had a little of the rich orange flower head remaining. On the north side of the island the pink and white flower of Anisotome latifolia was prolific. There was a place for everything. Ferns grew where branches joined trunks and seedlings of Rata and Dracophyllum and numerous other plants had found a home on cushion plants.
On reaching the north coast where only a light breeze was blowing, we went a short distance along the cliff top and were treated views of nesting, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with chicks and a pair demonstrating precision flying. Other birds present included Auckland Islands Shag and Red-billed Gulls. Those participating in the long walk around the western end of the island, now left us as they prepared to enjoy an extension to the wonderful natural history experience that Enderby Island provides. The short walkers then headed back to be treated to a pair of Yellow-eyed Penguins on the boardwalk and enjoyed time observing the Hooker Sea Lion community on the beach below the grassy sward. Most of the pups were together while large Brown Skuas watched from a distance. Near the DoC huts, some of us observed Karen, a vet from Massey University, carrying out a post- mortem on a two week old pup which may have died from starvation.
We had been extremely fortunate to have a fine, mostly sunny, day and those on the long walk were also rewarded with many interesting sights. The bird life was prolific and included Red-Crowned Parakeets, Tomtits, Auckland Islands Snipe, Auckland Islands Teal, Brown Skua, Arctic Tern, Giant Petrels with well-developed chicks, Yellow-eyed Penguins and the Double Banded Plover. Also seen were fur seals and fine displays of Anisotome and Gentians. The Derry Castle Reef with those who drowned buried in the vicinity was a poignant reminder of the wreck of the ship in March 1887. The Sandy Bay castaway depot was found by the survivors to contain only a jar of salt. Associated with this tragedy is the wooden punt, which we viewed in the Invercargill Museum and Art Gallery.
By 7 p.m. the bar/library was a busy place. We all considered the day had been first class and with good weather again expected for tomorrow, everyone was in high spirits. A species of bird photographed by a passenger and bird enthusiast during the long walk was deemed to be an Australian vagrant named the ‘Pectoral Sandpiper’. Everyone got something out of the trip – Robbie who had returned with a mass of bidibid seeds providing camouflage to a glove, decided to change her name to ‘the walking seed pod’. Ginny decided the wildlife and fresh air was something she will long remember and Lyspeth had found a perfect small Paua shell and was intrigued with the mother of pearl colourings. With a busy day expected tomorrow most decided on an early night while others remained on deck to enjoy the Subantarctic sunset.
Day 5 Thursday 15 January
Musgrave Inlet and North Arm of Carnley Harbour (Auckland Islands) – Zodiac cruising
Noon position: Latitude 50o47’South; Longitude 166o03’East
Air Temperature: 11oC Water 10oC
We enjoyed the a calm sea last night and at 6.30 Nathan came on the intercom advising a Zodiac cruise would take place this morning. Steep rock cliffs were topped by thick rata forest and the anchor was dropped at Musgrave Inlet in 34m although we drifted to 37m. By 7 a.m. we were enjoying a beautiful soft light on the hills of Auckland Island, as the sun rose. Most of us took advantage of the opportunity for an early morning ride and five Zodiacs were used. Our travel began on the north side of the inlet below magnificent basalt cliffs with huge boulders along the water’s edge which was fringed with thick kelp. Penguins could be heard calling In scrub and we had excellent viewing and probably the best we will have on the expedition, of Rock Hopper Penguins. These were perched in small groups on large boulders, many with a grey coating of algae. The morning was still and only marred by low strato-cumulus clouds.
At 7.15 we crossed to the other side of the inlet and entered an amazing volcanic amphitheatre in which the top had collapsed, leaving a surrounding cliff edge fringed with Rata, other trees and shrubs. Two strange, long moss covered bundles of roots hung from the cliff edge and we could see why the place attracted those fortunate to visit here. On one expedition a passenger was so inspired by the setting, that apparently some opera singing took place. Much of the rock appeared to be volcanic ash and tuff with beautiful colours of ochre, brown etc. although there appeared to be some conglomerate with rounded water-worn cobbles at a lower level.
As we exited the cavern a small flock of terns passed overhead and Nathan then led us to another cavern which had amazing whitish streaks on the roof as a result of leaching of minerals from the volcanic rock. As we continued around the shoreline a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and a Campbell’s Albatross were seen and we noticed that the Rata tree buds were beginning to open out. The canopy of the Rata resembled a giant cauliflower with the interlocking tops each having a rounded surface. A lava plug was visible on a hill top and an old glacial cirque was nearby.
Soon after 10 a.m. we were off the entrance to Carnley Harbour with 57m of water. Layers of volcanic rock with scrub and grasses were of interest as were a number of Sooty Shearwaters. Andre the Bosun was at the bow and released the brake on the anchor in case this had to be lowered. We now made our way up the harbour and while doing this Don McIntyre gave an excellent commentary from the Bridge. The landscape was of great interest and on the end of Grafton Point a ‘finger post’ was pointed out. These assisted castaways to locate small huts containing emergency supplies such as woollen suits, food and matches.
The sun was out and conditions excellent for viewing albeit from a distance many points of historical interest. We also saw two survey vessels that were undertaking a survey for Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) of the coastline. These were the Tranquil Image a 24m long boat and the other the Star Key at 19m.
We rounded Musgrave Point and stopped opposite where the small topsail schooner Grafton was wrecked during a storm on 3 January 1864. Captained by an American named Thomas Musgrave, the schooner had been to Campbell Island for the purpose of following up reports of silver-bearing rock. They were unsuccessful and when passing Adams Island, bad weather had blown the ship up Carnley Harbour where it was wrecked in North-Arm. After managing to make it ashore, a small rock hut was erected in the Rata forest above the beach. Named Epigwaitt after the Indian word for ‘dwelling by the sea’ (also referred to by Musgrave as ‘near the great waters’), the five men lived here for 12 months until Musgrave with two others set out seeking rescue, leaving two men behind. They reached Stewart Island from where Musgrave mounted a rescue operation on the Flying Scud and on 15 September 1865 he rescued the other two men.
Today many of us landed to examine the remaining timber of the Grafton and also to view the rock hut, now surrounded by nettles. Of the original four walls only one remains standing and a few bottle fragments and timber from the ship are all that remain. The Rata and Dracophyllum forest was quite open and tracks had been made by wild pigs. Some of us also had an interesting walk over natural iron-stained boulders and cobbles along the beach, amongst which were shells of blue mussel, limpet and other molluscs. Along the back beach hebes and grasses then merged with Rata and Dracophyllum. The Rata forest here was reasonably open.
Today lunch was at 1 p.m. and the Captain then began our journey of around 360 nautical miles to Macquarie Island. Soon after 2 p.m. the weather changed with heavy overcast, rain and a busy sea with whitecaps created by a strong North-east wind. In the meantime Nathan advised us to secure our cabins as the sea may become rougher.
At 4 p.m. the lecture programme got underway with Samuel giving his first lecture enentitled ‘Seabirds of the South Ocean’. This was a very useful lecture as there are several bird enthusiasts on board and most people are interested to know the different species. Samuel focused on aspects concerning the biology and ecology, time spent at sea (about 70% of their life), distances travelled, the age of many along with distinguishing features.
The bar manned by staff opened as usual at 6 p.m. with convivial discussion on the day activities and at 7 p.m. we returned to the Bar/Library for a recap on our Auckland Islands visit. Dinner was at 7.30 p.m. with the choice for the main being porterhouse steak or Chatham Islands blue cod. We then retired for an early night.
Day 6 Friday 16 January - at sea
Enroute to Australia’s Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o38.323 ’South; Longitude 160o47.016’East
Air temperature: 11oC Water 10oC
Barometer – 926hp (was 1005hp early today).
With a following sea, we enjoyed a nice comfortable night with the ship occasionally rolling. At 7 a.m. we were on a course direct to Macquarie Island and over 3859m of water at the Emerald Plateau. The origin of the name is obscure. A ship named Emerald reported in 1821, what may have been a green iceberg, with this leading to the naming of an ‘island’. The present name followed although who this is attributed to is uncertain.
The ship was making a comfortable 12 knots with 193 nautical miles to go. The rain had ceased however a light fog was present and the sea still had a rumpled surface with the occasional large white horse. The few sea birds about were a Wandering Albatross; White-chinned Petrel and a prion. The barometric pressure is falling and Nathan mentioned a front is expected to pass over Macquarie Island early afternoon.
We assembled in the lecture room at 9.30 a.m. when Bob screened the Television New Zealand Intrepid New Zealand documentary (courtesy of DoC) on the re-enactment of the survival of the five men from the wreck of the Grafton. After a journey of 280 nautical miles with five nights at sea, Musgrave and his two men reached Stewart Island in their modified ship’s boat named The Rescue. The boat was abandoned and has not been seen since. With New Zealand disinterested in a rescue, Musgrave then organised a rescue boat and his other two men were collected 37 days after being left. Musgrave made a return trip to the Auckland Islands and later New Zealand decided to place castaway depots on the Auckland Islands and at Campbell Island.
Agnes and Lesley had the Sea Shop open and many of us took the opportunity to purchase post cards, a map of the Auckland Islands and other merchandise. The sea however was beginning to get a little on the rough side and at noon the barometer had taken a steep dive as we came under the influence of a frontal system. We continued to make good time and by noon were about 12 hours ahead of schedule, with 80 nautical miles to run to Macquarie. The east-north east swell had really moved us along nicely.
Macquarie Island is located on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary and is formed of rocks from the earth’s mantle. Many of the rocks are iron and magnesium rich and are termed ultramafic. They have been formed about six kilometres under the mantle and pushed up. At 3 p.m. Don gave an interesting introduction to the early history, the establishment of the Australian station and conservation measures undertaken for Macquarie Island. This lecture was followed by Samuel’s second lecture concerned with penguins. Samuel mentioned there are now 19 penguin species and he acquainted us with many interesting facts. One of these concerned the largest penguin the Emperor with the male estimated to cover 40,000 km during trips on the sea ice during its lifetime, when he is also calculated to lose eight years of his life from fasting.
Several birds have been about however an unusual sighting was made at 3 p.m. when a Dark Faced Kermadec Petrel was spotted. Two Bottlenose Dolphins were also seen.
The weather at Macquarie has not been particularly good. To 9 a.m. 42.4 mm of rainfall was recorded. At 6.30 p.m. we had 12 nautical miles to travel and the front had passed. Nathan who has been in contact with the Australian stations said we can expect an easterly swell from behind and 20 knots of south to south-west wind. We were also reminded that the station operates two hours behind New Zealand.
Most of us took advantage of completing post cards for mailing at Macquarie although these will not reach their destination until perhaps April or May. Dinner this evening was postponed to 8.30 to enable galley staff to have better conditions for preparing and serving our meal. By then we were expected to be in the lee of the island and hopefully in calmer waters. The meal was up to the usual high standard and the Southland roast shoulder of lamb with roast vegetables followed by a delightful and nicely presented vanilla panacotta with melon and pineapple sauce was excellent. We then called it a day with hopes for better weather tomorrow.
Day 7 Saturday 17 January
Macquarie Island – Buckle and Hasselborough Bays
Noon position: Latitude 54o32.298’South; Longitude 158o57.921’East
Air temperature: 10oC Water 9oC
Captain Dimitry placed the ship in a “holding pattern” and during the evening, six return traverses were made from Buckle’s Bay to Lusitania Bay. Apart for the occasional roll due to the south-westerly swell, we had a fairly comfortable night and this morning got up to find a bleak day which did however show some sign of clearing. The top of the island was shrouded with mist and we could see large waves breaking all along the coast. It has been known at times for big seas to wash right over the isthmus from Buckles to West Bays.
Nathan made contact with the radio operator at the ANARE (Australia National Antarctic Research Expeditions) Station and advised us that because of the swell, with waves up to two metres high breaking on the shore, we would be unable to land this morning. Winds of 5 – 10 knots were abating and following breakfast at 8 a.m., we headed south again on another traverse.
Don was again invaluable with his commentary conducted from the Bridge. He has enjoyed numerous visits to the island since 1997 and knows the various aspects intimately. Our brochure on Macquarie Island given when we boarded the ship also gave valuable background information. The station reported that by 9 a.m. this morning 63.4 mm of rain had been recorded. This was a new record – the previous 24 hour record of 52.8 mm was recorded on 14 March 2001. Over a period of about 36 hours the station received a total of 105.6 mm.
As we journeyed along the coast, evidence for regrowth since the rabbits have gone was clearly seen. The lower spurs were rich green although higher areas with mainly tussocks were much browner. Some waterfalls and slips were clear evidence of the heavy rain and at one penguin colony, it appeared a slip had come down and in all probability, killed some penguins. We had a good view of Joseph Hatch’s cast iron penguin digesters in the King Penguin colony and at Hurd Point saw the location of the extensive Royal Penguin colony there.
At 9.30 a.m. we made our turn north for Buckle’s Bay again. The sea was gradually calming and hopes were held for a landing this afternoon, this evening or tomorrow. Most of us watched the excellent documentary enentitled ‘Saving Macquarie Island’ on the rabbit eradication programme, produced by The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. By 11.30 a.m. the swell was dropping although considerable white water was evident at the two landing sites at Buckles Bay. We then began a further run south before having lunch at 12.30 p.m.
We assembled in the lecture room at 1.45 p.m. for a presentation from Nathan on ‘Ice Maps and How to Read Them’. Nathan began by stating that the Ross Sea is the furthest south a ship can travel in Antarctica. The area has its own weather and current systems and these determine ice conditions. Using satellite imagery which is interpreted by the University of Bremen, the extent of ice is described in tenths and by use of colours. Dark purple is multi-year heavy ice, while yellow and green is one-year lighter ice. The maps indicate how fast the ice can change. It is a dynamic system.
Using knowledge of current and weather patterns, Nathan then outlined the plan of approach which is likely to take a route south to the 180o meridian and then move in a westerly direction with about six days in the ice until reaching McMurdo Sound around 320 nautical miles south of Cape Adare. The amount to which our time in the south takes place, also needs to allow for exiting the Ross Sea along with around three to four days to reach Campbell Island. Nathan also mentioned that two yachts, one of fibreglass and 72 ft long, the other of steel and 60ft long, have left Hobart for the Ross Sea.
With diminished swells and hopeful of a landing at Buckles Bay, Nathan and staff went out in two Zodiacs to assess the situation. Buckles Bay was however ruled out and they then went around to Hasselborough Bay on the west side of the isthmus. This looked promising so the Captain then took the ship around and anchored at 4.55 p.m. when we sighted a male Orca. Nathan returned to the ship and a briefing was held in the lecture theatre. The station however had bad news. The very heavy rain yesterday created slips and the dam from which fresh water is supplied was filled with sediment. The pipes that carried water to the station were badly damaged.
We were however told by Chris Howard the Chief Ranger for Tasmanian Park and Wildlife Service that we could as groups walk for up to four hours, about the area of beach beside Hasselborough Bay, named after the discoverer of Macquarie Island. Owing to a wave zone of about eight metres, the landing would be a wet one and so we prepared accordingly. However by 5.25 p.m. the ship was according to the markings on the hull, rising up to 2.8 m with the swell (waves were breaking over the Judge and Clerk Islands to the north) and with safety paramount, Nathan and staff advised it was unfortunately too dangerous to proceed. We now hope to have a further try tomorrow here or at Sandy Bay, before turning southwards.
Bird life observed today included a White Morph Giant Petrel, Sooty Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Brown Skua, Macquarie Island Shag, Kelp Gull and Antarctic Tern. In the water were seen Royal, King, Gentoo and Rock Hopper Penguins. We spent the rest of the day enjoying convivial conversation in the Bar/Library and enjoyed a lovely meal which included New Zealand venison, before having an early night with hopes for a fine day and calm seas tomorrow.
Day 8 Sunday 18 January
Macquarie Island, Enroute to Antarctica
Natalia’s birthday celebrated.
Noon position: Latitude 54o 42.750’ South; Longitude 158o 52.006’East
Air temperature: 10oC Water 8oC
We had a very good rest last night until around 3 a.m. when the ship began to roll a little. At 5.30 a.m. the Captain moved the Spirit of Enderby around to Buckles Bay and we then began to head down to Sandy Bay. It was a cool 7.5oC outside and much of the island was shrouded with mist. Royal and King penguins were porpoising and a Giant Petrel was seen feeding on an unsavoury looking mass, that bird enthusiast Steve thought was a large deceased Elephant Seal.
At Sandy Bay waves were seen washing five to six metres up the beach then rebounding off a mass of kelp. As at the isthmus, large slips had come down the slopes. The ship was then turned back toward Buckles Bay where two Zodiacs were put on the water. Conditions meant that it was not possible to take on the Ranger and staff and following a gathering in the lecture room, we were advised that a landing at Sandy Bay would not be possible. It was a very difficult decision for any expedition leader, but we fully understood the position and were most grateful for the effort made by Nathan, his team and Captain Dimitry. Macquarie Island is accessible 95% of the time and we were just unlucky.
As we continued towards Lusitania Bay, our attention was drawn to 50-60 mostly dark brown Giant Petrels including a White Morph, this only found with the Southern Giant petrel species. The birds appeared to be feeding on something and it was not long before it was apparent what interested them. A pod of Orca that had taken a penguin also appeared and we had excellent viewings and photography, as the whales were very close to the ship. Some Orca turned upside down in a technique used to distract and disturb prey, and a penguin skin was seen.
‘A Yellow-eyed Penguin named Blue
Had a brawl with a Skua or two
They both heard him say
As he porpoised away
I can swim faster than you.’
At 11.45 p.m. when we were about 400m off the Lusitania Bay King Penguin colony which accommodates an estimated 250,000 pairs, the anchor was lowered. Unfortunately we are unable to land here as the closest one is able to be is 150m from the beach. However we did have superb viewing of large numbers of penguins about the ship and a good appreciation of the vast number in the colony. Off shore some were together as ‘rafts’ and swimming on or below the surface. Others were calling or lying on their side or back as they preened themselves, and many were diving for food which includes fish. The species can dive up to 300m and it was a good opportunity to observe their antics and the beautiful coloured plumage about the head and neck. A Light-mantled Sooty Albatross was also seen and the morning was certainly an outstanding opportunity to observe nature at its best as a spell of sunshine improved the day.
At 1 p.m. the anchors were raised and we headed south with around 1000 nautical miles to our second waypoint. At 3.30 p.m. Don gave an excellent presentation enentitled ‘The Art of Getting from A to B’. This focused on chart projection (the Mercator projection), Latitude and Longitude, how to read Latitude and Longitude, charts, plotting the ship’s position and GPS. Don explained very well these aspects and we were reminded that 1 nautical mile = 1.852 km or 1.15 statute mile or I’ (minute) of arc at the Equator and that 10 mph = 10 knots. Use of a sextant was explained in which the angle is measured between the sun and one’s eye and how GPS (Global Positioning System) accurately determines height, then calculates where the receiver is to measure distance.
An interesting video of Orca chasing Sea Otters was shown followed by a description on the circulation of the Southern Ocean including the Antarctic Convergence which we will soon encounter. This is roughly a circular belt of water about 25 miles (40km) wide lying between Latitudes 48o and 60o South. By no means a fixed boundary, it forms where cold north-flowing Antarctic bottom water and Antarctic surface water meet the warmer water flowing south. This produces a sharp change in temperature which we will encounter.
The final presentation of the day was Part 1 of the excellent film ‘Longitude’. This focused on the invention by Englishman John Harrison of his clock and later his watch for determining Longitude. These beautiful and intricate hand-made instruments can be viewed today at the National Maritime Museum London.
Later in the afternoon we were enjoying a partially clear sky with the ship riding a good swell causing it to roll. The rules for the iceberg sighting completion were posted. These included the option of either latitude or time and the berg which had to be no smaller than a London double-decker bus had to be seen with the naked eye.
During the afternoon two Blue Petrels were seen and at 5.30 p.m. the water temperature had fallen to 6o. By 7.30 p.m. we had 940 nautical miles to run to the 180o longitude. An hour later the water temperature was down to 5.90o. Most of us had an early night and to close this entry Frank our No.2 chef had an interesting experience. He said ‘I opened a cupboard in the galley and it was too late to stop a bag falling towards me. I then became covered from head to food with cocoa – it went everywhere!’
Day 9 Monday 19 January – at sea. Southward Ho!
Enroute to Antarctica
Noon position: Latitude 57o 53.95’ South; Longitude 163o 13.2’ East
Air temperature: 5oC Water 5.9oC
This morning we got up to a fairly calm sea and surprisingly at 7.30 a.m. only one Southern Royal Albatross was about. Last evening there were several Albatrosses. They included two Wanderers and three Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Other birds included a Giant Petrel and two unidentified prions. The water and air temperature are steadily falling. At 4 a.m. today the water was 5.6oC and air 4oC and at 8 a.m. the water had fallen to 4.6oC. Yesterday there was a 2oC drop in water temperature over 20 nautical miles. By noon the water temperature had risen.
At about 10 a.m. we left Australia’s 200 nautical mile zone around Macquarie Island and were approximately 10o of Latitude before 60o which marks the boundary for the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and also for the Ross Dependency, the area administered by New Zealand. The Ross Dependency was passed by Order in Council by Britain to New Zealand in 1923, however all territorial claims are presently held in abeyance although while in the Ross Dependency, New Zealanders are subject to certain laws. Russia and the United States have not claimed any territory in Antarctica.
The Antarctic Treaty is a simple document which followed the very successful International Geophysical Year 1957-1958. The area south of Latitude 60o represents 10% of the world’s land surface and 10% of its oceans. The Protocol on Environment Protection (also known as the Madrid Protocol) signed in 1991, marked the beginning of a comprehensive environment protection scheme. It has determined that Antarctica remains as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science; establishes environmental principles for the conduct of all activities; prohibits activity relating to mineral resources other than research, and subjects all activities to prior assessment of their environmental impact. It has been welcomed by conservation organisations and stands as a landmark in Antarctic history.
It was appropriate that at 10 a.m. we had the opportunity of viewing the excellent Natural History New Zealand documentary entitled ‘Beyond the Crystal Ocean’ and filmed by renowned photographer Michael Single of Dunedin. This focused on the Southern Ocean which began with the winter cruise of the US icebreaker/research ship Nathaniel B Palmer (named after the famous American sealing captain) which covered 800 nautical miles of ocean to the Ross Ice Shelf. The science cruise took two weeks and was the furthest south a ship had been during winter. Other aspects focused on the sea ice and life above and below the ocean surface.
At 11.30 Don gave a further lecture entitled ‘43 Years of Adventuring’. This was a most interesting presentation which gave us an insight into his long and extensive expeditions around the world by sea and air – the latter by gyrocopter, including a year spent with his wife at Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica along with conservation work on Mawson’s huts at Cape Denison. His most recent expedition by sea was to retrace Captain Bligh’s famous open boat voyage and with an interest in the early Spanish galleons, Don is now involved in treasure hunting in Tonga.
During the morning a possible Fin Whale was seen, two possible Hourglass Dolphins and birds included Sooty Searwaters, Cape, White-chinned, White-headed and Mottled Petrels and prions.
David gave his first lecture at 3 p.m. on the history of early exploration in the Ross Sea region. Entitled ‘Forerunner to the Heroic-era’, the lecture began by covering early ideas for the existence of a southern landmass, the early expeditions of Cook and Bellingshausen, the three national expeditions conducted by France, Britain and the United States and finally the first expedition to winter on land, led by Norwegian born Borchgrevink at Cape Adare in 1899.
During the afternoon the water temperature had risen at 4 p.m. to 10oC however unusually few birds were about. A snow flurry occurred and mammals sighted included five Hourglass Dolphins along with two whale blows although the species was not identified. Those of us not on the Bridge, relaxed in the Bar/Library and others rested in the cabin or enjoyed being out on deck. About 01.30 a.m. tomorrow morning those of us who are ‘Antarctic virgins’ and having never crossed Latitude 60o South are invited to participate in Don’s ‘Antarctic fire’. Read on to hear about the frivolities! The remainder of the day was spent watching Part 2 of ‘Longitude’, followed by the usual convivial gathering for a drink and yarn on many subjects before another fine dinner.
Day 10 Tuesday 20 January – at sea.
Enroute to Antarctica. Southern Ocean
We cross 60o South Latitude. First iceberg. New Zealand’s Scott Base 57 years old today.
Noon position: Latitude 61o 37.550’ South; Longitude 168o 45.28’ East
Air temperature: 7oC Water 5oC
At 1.30 a. m. this morning 20 of us including two crew and a few onlookers, assembled in the bow lit with the ship’s lights for a special ceremony. The rules were simple – no wet weather clothes and as little as possible. In preparation, crew members Sasha and Dimitri had a pre-warm up in the sauna; it was 5oC outside. Coordinator Don made a brief speech and fire hosed the assembled group. ‘I remind you that you are sacrificing yourselves to keep King Neptune happy and to give you good luck on board’ he said. Photos were then taken and each participant (some opted out) now making their first crossing of 60o South Latitude was eligible for a certificate. At the conclusion of the brief ceremony, Don unsurprisingly had a bucket of water thrown over him! Later quite a few who had participated enjoyed time thawing out in the sauna before retiring to the warm bunk. We were all now in waters under the jurisdiction of the Antarctic Treaty (1959).
A few hours later we were woken with the announcement from Nathan that it was 7.25 a.m. and the first iceberg had been sighted away to the west of starboard. This was recorded by radar as being at 61o09.8’ South, 167o12.0’ East and estimated to be 20 nautical miles away. The tabular berg had tilted and estimated by Don to be about 80m high and from our view, around 300m wide. Water depth on the chart was at this time around 1600m. This led to a determination at the staff breakfast meeting, as to who the two winners of the competition were. After much discussion, Derek was awarded the prize for latitude of 61o0’15” South and Lorraine for the closest time of sighting as 08.10a.m. However Derek had written ‘inappropriate markings’ on the form and it was suggested that as he did not attend Don’s navigation lecture he should be ‘keel-hauled’. With much laughter it was decided that the Judge’s decision was final and Derek was declared the winner.
Derek West from London later wrote:
“I first ‘discovered’ Scott in the nineteen forties when my father took me to see John Mills in [the film] ‘Scott of the Antarctic’. I was hooked! From then on I read every book about Antarctica I could lay my hands on. The highlight of all this has come to fruition on this trip. Also, I won the prize of being first into Scott’s Hut by predicting the co-ordinates for when we would see our first iceberg. This tour was [later] conducted by David Harrowfield for which I was very grateful”.
In his morning announcement Nathan advised there has been little change in the ice maps and that we have 400 nautical miles to run before the Antarctic Circle 66o 33’ South Latitude. The morning was beautiful with a calm sea and a few Sooty Shearwaters and Antarctic Prions about. We were advised to keep a look out for whales as the sea provided ideal conditions for sighting. A further iceberg was seen off to starboard at 09.00 and a distant sighting was made of the blow of a Humpback Whale. David gave his second historical lecture at 10.00 to a good attendance. Entitled ‘Antarctica Unveiled’, the lecture focused on Scott’s first expedition, the National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition 1901-1904. The power-point presentation made extensive use of early photographs and focused on the ship Discovery, sledging journeys and scientific achievements which included discovery of the first aerial photographs taken (from a balloon named Eva), the Cape Crozier Emperor Penguin colony, the Polar Plateau and of the first Dry Valley, since named the Taylor Valley after geographer Thomas Griffith Taylor of Scott’s last expedition in 1910-1913.
After a break the first episode of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, based on Roland Huntford’s book Scott and Amundsen (also republished under same title as the film) was shown at 11:30 a.m. At 3 p.m. we were issued with our handsome blue Antarctic insulated jackets by the expedition staff with the assistance of Mary B. An hour later there was a sudden drop in water temperature to 3.3oC and a rise in air temperature to 9oC. At this time we were at Latitude 62o 26.181’ South, Longitude 170o 02.54’ East. According to the chart we had reached the start of the Convergence at Macquarie Island at 4 pm the day we left, this accounting for the sea fog. The line of the Convergence appears to be much further south this year.
Of interest is the scarcity of bird life which is similar to the same time/day last year. Each day including today, we have seen Sooty Shearwaters, Mottled and White-headed Petrels. Other species seen today were two Blue Petrels, a Subantarctic Diving Petrel, two Wilson’s Storm Petrels (first sighting this voyage), Black Browed Albatross and Southern Royal Albatross. Nancy and Steve have maintained an all-day vigil in the bow, observing and recording. The sea continues to be calm and much of the sky is clouded over with the occasional clear patch.
At 5 p.m. Samuel gave an excellent presentation entitled ‘Antarctica – the Great White Continent’. In his lecture which was illustrated with excellent visuals, sea ice was covered and also the Antarctic Treaty, politics and other aspects. Of special interest was his reference to the first scientific expedition to the Southern Ocean. This was led by Jean Baptiste Bouvet de Lozier in 1739, 34 years before James Cook, when the concentration of whales was recorded and penguins and ice bergs was described. Bouvetoya Island, a dormant volcanic island in the South Atlantic, is named in honour of the French explorer. Numerous good questions followed Samuel’s lecture.
At 6.25 p.m. a southerly course change took place and this evening we had delightful entree with pine nuts and pieces of smoked chicken, followed by a superb main course of either rib-eye steak or rack of lamb then a desert of sweet pecan pie.
At 8 p.m. the Bridge recorded the water and air temperatures with the water since 4 p.m. now reading 2.7oC and the air 4.0oC - quite a change in four hours and the water temperature will further decrease until it reaches around 1oC or lower to near -1.86oC. We were then at Latitude 63o 02.45’ South, Longitude 170o 39.82’ East. An hour later three Fin Whales were also seen blowing and we can expect to see more of this activity as we work our way further south. Nancy obtained some excellent photographs and the water depth at this time was around 1800m.
And so another wonderful day in the South came to a close with tomorrow being highly anticipated as we were due to make our crossing of the Antarctic Circle at Latitude 66o 33’ South.
Day 11 Wednesday 21 January
Southern Ocean. We cross the Antarctic Circle Latitude 66o 33.3’ South
Handa’s birthday celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 66o 06.45’ South; Longitude 172o 58.9’ East
Air temperature: 2.1oC Water 4oC
The sea got up early this morning and by 7.30 a.m. a brisk north-west wind was helping to push us southwards. Several small bergs, possibly parts of larger icebergs, were seen as they made their way north. These silent sentinels of all shapes had calved from ice shelves and glacier tongues and were well-weathered. A few ‘growlers’ were also seen floating just above the surface. These are potential hazards to unwary ships.
By 7.30 a.m. the air temperature had lowered to 3oC and at 4 a.m. the water was a cool +1.1oC and will fall even lower. A few birds about included a pair of beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatross which swept above the waves fringed with white, a Cape Petrel and a prion. On the bridge the officers on watch and assisted by a crew member using binoculars, scanned the horizon for any bergs concealed by the light fog. After a hearty breakfast, many of us assembled in the lecture theatre to enjoy Part 2 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. The bird life gradually increased during the morning with several Light-mantled Sooty and also Black-browed Albatross. Of special interest was the first sighting this voyage of Antarctic Petrels, of which two were seen. Unfortunately it was not a good morning to walk the deck or carry out bird observations from the bow, the Bridge being a much warmer place.
At 09.35 a.m. we had 55 nautical miles to travel before the Antarctic Circle. This is a geographical boundary (also in the Arctic) which in summer marks the most northerly point at which the sun is visible for 24 hours a day on mid-summer’s day (21 December), when the sun is at its highest above the horizon. In winter it is the southernmost point at which the sun can be seen on mid-winters day (21 June). South of the Antarctic Circle it is dark 24 hours a day in winter.
The crossing of the Antarctic Circle is considered to be a symbolic point of the entry into Antarctic waters. On 17 January 1773 Cook and his crews on the HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure were first to cross this significant geographical line.
At noon Nathan and Don assembled us in the lecture room for a compulsory briefing. This began with the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators founded 1991) briefing of which Heritage Expeditions is a foundation member. They told us that during this summer, just 300 people are expected to visit the Ross Sea region compared to 20,000 on the Antarctic Peninsula. This was followed by the Code of Conduct for historic site visits administered by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Birds increased with ten mostly juvenile, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross following the ship and a Campbell Albatross was also recorded. Bergs came and went in the mist and many of us took photographs of their presence on the screen of the Japanese Furuno radar set. Soon after lunch a Humpback Whale was sighted and at 2.15 p.m. we assembled in the Library/Bar for a special ceremony to commemorate crossing the Antarctic Circle. There was even a ‘hybrid penguin’ present. As the time neared for the crossing, Samuel relayed the position passed by David over the PA system and at 2.32.5 p.m. the ship made the crossing.
Bob dispensed for each of us, a mug of mulled wine made by Frank as Nathan read the following:
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility - a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin - as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.”
This was applied by Don and Agnes.
The afternoon passed quickly and at 5 p.m. Don gave a very interesting presentation video entitled ‘Polar Bearing – 200 teddy bears to Antarctica’. This was followed by updates on the South Magnetic Pole and Southern Ocean weather.
Of interest from the Bridge was seeing what appeared to be a mauled or very sick, young Emperor Penguin which lifted its head briefly as it drifted past the ship, a number of Antarctic Petrels, several Mottled Petrels and two blowing Humpback Whales. A little ice was in the water however no further bergs were seen. Occasionally the sun made an effort to break through however fog of varying intensity came and went and by 8 p.m. the air temperature was 2oC and water 0.1oC.
After a beautiful evening meal with pork fillet stuffed with apricots and almonds or fine Chatham Islands blue cod, both of which were very well received, a few hardy souls walked around the deck while most preferred to stay indoors. Several cabins now had their panel heaters turned on. Nathan in his last announcement for the day said that about 1 a.m. our course will change to south-east and we expect to confront the ice pack which has probably been condensed by the north-west wind today.
Day 12 Thursday 22 January
Noon position: Latitude 69o 58.024’ South; Longitude 173o 50.492’ East
Air temperature: 3.1oC Water 0.2oC
First Antarctic fulmar sighted (absent in Ross Sea -Spirit of Enderby- last two seasons).
We entered the pack as promised at 1 a.m. with some not sleeping, noticing changes in the sound of the ship and surroundings. Frank on his first visit to Antarctica was one of those out on deck at 3 a.m. By 07.30 a.m. and at Latitude 69o 24’ South Longitude 173o 57’ East, many were on the Bridge with most enjoying their first Antarctic experience, as we were surrounded by one year old snow covered pack-ice and open leads. There were a few snow flurries and the chart indicated that we had during the night followed a zig-zag course. Below us was 3000m of water. At 8 a.m. the air temperature was a cool 2oC and the water slightly warmer at -0.1oC. The sky influenced by the snow below, was a pale grey and a cool breeze was blowing.
There was much to interest us around the ship. Many Snow Petrels were seen, the occasional Antarctic Petrel, a nice group of Adelie Penguins, one Emperor Penguin and several Crab Eater Seals including a group of three on one floe. This is the most common of the true Antarctic seals and one species we had come so far to see. On the Bridge Captain Dimitri perched on his stool studied the ice-flecked Southern Ocean as he sought out the best route for the Helmsman to follow through the ice, as we headed southwards towards the Ross Sea. Apart for the background sound of the ship’s engines, little sound was heard on the bridge, as we gazed in awe at the beauty of the pristine surroundings before us. This previously had been confined to books, video, dvd, www, photographs or discussion with others.
Making our way through leads between floes, was little different to that done by mariners of the heroic-era (1895-1917) who in their diaries, wrote about the vista surrounding them. They also remarked on hearing only the rhythmic, thump, thump, thump, of the triple expansion steam engine below, as it enabled their wooden ship to push through the ice. Some passengers also commented on the similarity to present day ‘explorers’ making return visits. Also how technology with electronic aids such as satellites and radar, has replaced eyes aided with early binoculars along with the ‘tub’ or ‘crow’s nest’ on the main mast, to facilitate travel through icy waters.
Many of us enjoyed seeing the exquisite blue shades in some of the older ice. Snow appears white because the air trapped between ice crystals scatter, reflecting all the wave lengths of sunlight back into one’s eyes and is therefore seen by us as white. However compacted deep blue ice such as from a glacier ice or in an iceberg that has calved from an ice shelf, retains small air bubbles which scatter little light. This allows the penetration of sunlight deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light at the red end of the spectrum and at the blue end. Since the ice absorbs most of the red light, only the blue end of the spectrum remains reflected back to us to see.
This morning was left for us to enjoy our new surroundings. Nathan mentioned during his 9 a.m. announcements, that the ice map looks fairly true to its colours and that we can expect to meet heavier ice conditions. Around mid-day, we enjoyed two excellent sightings of Crab Eater Seals, which one passenger likened to giant ‘looper caterpillars’. Birds about the ship included the Northern Giant, Antarctic and Snow Petrel. A Brown or Subantarctic Skua as it is now described was also seen.
We all decided that one can spend many hours gazing at the ice. There is something addictive and almost mesmerising, as the ice gently moves up and down with waves created by current, wind and the Spirit of Enderby. The floes are all different as they change shape, are continually on the move and reveal their varied beauty. Six varieties of pizza, excellent large potato wedges and sliced beetroot was enjoyed for a splendid lunch today. Connor and Frank really did our waistlines proud. This was topped off by the first sighting this voyage, of an Antarctic (previously named Southern) Fulmar by David and Agnes from the stern. The fulmar following the ship flew along the Port side where it was verified by Steve as it flew around the bow and a cheer went up. The bird then settled on the ocean off the stern. During the past two seasons the species has been absent.
One of the best photographs today however, had its true glory revealed when studied later. Ben had photographed as many of us did, a blue fissure in an ice floe which on closer examination, revealed a Snow Petrel sitting on a nest with in a later photograph, the other parent flying above the flow.
Nathan announced that the latest satellite map for the ice had arrived. This indicated that we have around 70-80 nautical miles to the ice edge which is changing hourly and will be in the vicinity of Cape Adare and the Downshire Cliffs at the entrance to the Ross Sea.
We assembled in the lecture room at 3.30 p.m. for a lecture by Samuel. This was entitled ‘Sea ice; the eighth continent’. Using excellent pictures with many taken during his expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic (where he spent a winter), Samuel began by explaining the terminology concerning ice such as we have seen today. The formation and decline of sea ice for both Polar Regions followed and of concern was the effect the lack of summer sea ice will have on the livelihood of the indigenous Inuit and wild life – particularly Polar Bears. Some aspects such as effect on albedo (extent to which incoming solar radiation is reflected) are not established and how will the ocean react in the long term along with world climate.
Late this afternoon the Spirit of Enderby was confronted with heavier ice and large blocks of ice passed the ship. On a nearby floe we once again had the opportunity to photograph a Crab Eater Seal and after the evening meal enjoyed an excellent view of an Emperor Penguin. We anticipate even better lighting conditions for photography as we move steadily south towards the Downshire Cliffs.
At the end of another interesting day we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner which began with a delicious seafood chowder. Later many of us spent time on the Bridge enjoying the ice and occasional bird life including an Emperor Penguin at fairly close quarters along with small clusters of Adelie Penguins.
Day 13 Friday 23 January
Noon position: Latitude 71o 27.1087’ South; Longitude 172o 06.1922’ East
Air temperature: -1.0oC Water –0.1oC
We enjoyed good long spells of calm water last evening and on entering pack ice again, the occasional large floe contacted with the hull. Steady snow began driving in from the south-west between 5.30 and 6 a.m. however the blizzard-like conditions with poor visibility, did not detour many of us from spending time on the Bridge. At one stage a flock of 20+ Antarctic Petrels flew by however the Snow Petrels were according to Steve “hard to see” – funny that. A small number of Adelie Penguins were present.
Captain Dimitry was busy on the Bridge and taking advantage of the heated spinning windows to establish the best course to be taken. He frequently relayed course changes to the Helmsman who after making the correction repeated the Captain’s command thereby ensuring the instruction was understood and made. Visibility diminished and snow increased with a crew member requiring use of a snow shovel to clear the deck behind the Bridge. At 8 a.m. the air temperature had fallen to -2oC, the same as that recorded for the sea water.
After a fine ‘French’ breakfast which included very nice ‘French toast’ and crispy bacon, Nathan advised that the ship would be parked for around two hours to give time for the weather to clear, as the radar was having difficulty picking up leads just 200m ahead of the ship. We now had 15 – 18 nautical miles to go before the ice edge and as Don pointed out, the edge of the ice at the points of entry and exit can be dangerous due to the swell. During the time the ships engines were stopped and driven by the current, we drifted slowly at 1.4 knots, although basically remained on station.
At some stage all the early ships were held up for varying periods in Ross Sea pack ice. It was therefore appropriate that at this time, David would give his third lecture which focused on Shackleton. Entitled ‘A Charismatic Hero’, the lecture was concerned with the British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition 1907-1909. The lectured covered key aspects of the expedition including walking to within 97 nautical miles of the Geographic South Pole, reaching the South Magnetic Pole, the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and other achievements. The lecture concluded with a playing of the only recorded speech by Shackleton originally sold on an American Edison cylinder record to play on a phonograph (which David has), although for today was played via a digitised version on a laptop computer.
After a break many of us enjoyed part four of the ‘Last Place on Earth’. The series has certainly increased interest and added to our knowledge of Scott’s last expedition, with the ship’s library books in demand. By noon we were in open water, however the sun which showed signs of appearing through the low cloud, did not remain long. We were drifting at 290o from the north-west in an area of open water with beyond about 7/10ths of ice with leads and the wind was driving in snow from the south. Owing to the full moon, the ship was under the influence of a north-north-east current rather than the wind. Three Crab Eater Seals were seen on floes and a flock of 25 Antarctic Petrels flew around the ship. Out on deck it was a cool -0.1oC. At 3 p.m. a bitterly cold southerly was blowing, waves covered any open water and the ship was plugging along at 3.5 knots. A small flock of around 8 Antarctic Petrels appeared then disappeared in the murk.
Don once again had us in the lecture room. He began with a short explanation on compass bearings and influence of the magnetic poles and mentioned that we are presently south of the south magnetic pole. Don’s presentation was entitled ‘A Year in Antarctica’, and covered the time he and his wife Margie wintered over by Mawson’s huts at Cape Dennison in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica. Don kept all of us attentive as he outlined the two years preparations including buying a yacht they named Spirit of Sydney, problems related to the hut, how it stood up to the katabatic winds and blizzards, the low temperatures which fell to as low as -18oC within the hut overnight, daily activities including the schools educational programme along with, amusing observations of wildlife. We look forward to viewing the documentary.
The Sea Shop then opened for a short time enabling us to acquire a few items. By now however, although the wind was still blowing, the sun was making an effort to break through and we continued plugging south towards Terra Nova Bay with the aim of having as much time as possible in the Ross Sea region.
By 6 p.m. the sun was out and we were in a large area of open water with scattered floes although the wind was still blowing an estimated 30-35 knots. The southern side of the ice edge was near and there were signs of a swell coming under the ice from the south. Nathan advised that the new ice map appeared with the conditions we have experienced over the last 24 hours. A course was set which would see us pass the Downshire Cliffs and Coulman Island as we make our way to Terra Nova Bay, with the wind expected to drop by early morning. Soon after six we had further good viewing of Adelie Penguins and some of us obtained excellent photographs of a large Leopard Seal. Later 5 – 6 South Polar Skua were seen, the first for the expedition.
At 7.50 p.m. we cleared the ice and with the second engine engaged headed on a 300 nautical mile journey towards Terra Nova Bay. We had certainly enjoyed our pack-ice experience and looked forward to the following day.
Day 14 Saturday 24 January
Ross Sea. Terra Nova Bay, Zodiac cruise in ice floes
Noon position: Latitude 74o 37.173’ South; Longitude 170o 25.494’ East
Air temperature: 1.0oC Water 2.0 oC
Mary B’s birthday celebrated
We had a very good rest in calm conditions and rose to a nice sunny morning with a temperature of 3oC. Unfortunately the sun was not with us long and the three layers of cloud (Stratus, Alto and Cirrus) briefly visible then by 9.30 a.m. became a layer of strato-cumulus although we were blessed with a calm sea.
The morning passed by quickly. Nathan advised a possible programme for the hours ahead and at 10 a.m. David gave his lecture ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ which dealt with Scott’s last expedition, the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910-1913 and was dedicated to William Burton RN, the last survivor from the expedition. The lecture covered a lot of ground and provided detail additional to that from our first four programmes based on the book by Roland Huntford. At the conclusion of the lecture numerous questions focused on a variety of aspects including stores taken on the polar journey. Later in the morning 2-3 Minke Whales were seen.
By 1 p.m. we had already made a course change to bring us in line with Terra Nova Bay and at 2.15 p.m. we enjoyed the first distant view of the Transantarctic Mountains. At this stage we still had around 80 nautical miles to run which would see us off the Northern Foothills between 10 and 11 p.m. The Northern Foothills, a line of brownish coastal hills on the west side of Terra Nova Bay and originally called the Southern Foothills, were named as with several other features, by the Northern Party of Scott’s last expedition.
Shortly afterwards three Minke Whales were seen off the port bow and many of us obtained photographs and also had a good view of a row of ‘footprints’ – the roughly circular patches of clear flat water remaining after the whales had sounded and passed below the bow to starboard. Further sightings have been made of the South Polar Skua and a number of Snow Petrels have been seen.
Episode 5 of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was well attended by many of us who are keen to follow the series through to its conclusion with a further two episodes to follow. In the afternoon some of us took time to exercise with walks around the deck, making the most of the calm waters. We were able to photograph a moulting Emperor Penguin and enjoyed a good view of a Crabeater Seal with a beautiful silvery coat as it passed by.
At 5.15 p.m. Nathan called us together for a briefing as we hope to make several landings beginning early tomorrow morning. An invitation has been given for us to visit Italy’s Mario Zuchelli Station and Cape Royds is accessible. However Cape Evans has about 200m of ice and we may not be able to visit McMurdo Station or Scott Base. David gave a 15 minute talk on the Northern party of Scott’s last expedition, which was incarcerated for nearly 200 days in an ice cave on Inexpressible Island which we hope to visit. Later we embarked on a Zodiac cruise amongst ice floes near the ship. This was a wonderful experience and the electric blue colour in tilted hummocks of ice were outstanding. Some blocks of ice on large floes resembled a graveyard struck by lightning. Above through gaps in purple-grey cumulus clouds, the sun looked like a white hot ball of metal.
As we made our way through the floes with the Spirit of Enderby eventually some distance away, Samuel radioed that an Emperor Penguin was visible on a floe. We nosed the Zodiacs into the edge of the floe just five metres away from the Emperor. This was a wonderful opportunity to take photographs and view the beautiful colours on the bird which kindly obliged by remaining in place for us. Occasionally it showed its means of travel by tobogganing and also emitted a few brief calls. This encounter will always remain a highlight of our expedition. Continuing on our cruise a Crab Eater Seal was the next subject for photography and this was followed by sightings of another two on a nearby floe. By 9 p.m. we were back on the ship and soon in the dining room enjoying an excellent meal of Irish stew or chicken which Frank very kindly organised while Connor was driving a Zodiac. Frank made a special cake for Mary and the staff along with others at her table, then sang Happy Birthday.
A 10.30 p.m. the soft light was beautiful and the opportunity was taken to obtain photographs of Mt. Melbourne, a 2732m volcanic cone which although not active, has near the summit, areas of warm ground and fumeroles (chimney-like formations created by steam escaping through vents and meeting cold air which condenses). Inside the temperature can be +40oC and outside the air temperature -30oC. Excellent views were also enjoyed of Cape Washington and other areas along the Victoria Land coast. With the possibility of a very early morning start most of us decided to have as much sleep as possible.
Day 15 Sunday 25 January
Terra Nova Bay – Inexpressible Island (Scott Northern party historic site); Gondwana Station (Germany); Jang Bojo Station (South Korea); Mario Zucchelli Station (Italy)
Noon position: Latitude 74o 38.53’ South; Longitude 104o 14.0 ’ East
Air temperature: 5oC Water -1.9oC
Celebrated Paul M’s birthday
Today we got up to a beautiful sunrise with fantastic soft light on the nearby hills and mountains. Nathan had the staff out of the bunk at 2 a.m. and we followed about an hour later. For many it had been a short night. By 3 a.m. staff members were already at a small cove on the end of Inexpressible Island and this became the landing and departure place. When the first Zodiac arrived, a large Leopard Seal was on the rocks but did not stay long. Noticeable was the amount of penguin feathers in the seal’s excrement. David and Frank led the first party initially along snow then by way of boulder hopping (some of the boulders were rather large).
After 30 minutes or so we all began arriving at the site of the ice cave. Here Scott’s Northern party spent a miserable winter in 1912 and there was ample evidence of their presence. A tin thought by David to be a Cerebos salt tin was found where it had blown to by a rock and in the immediate vicinity of the cave site were seal skins and bones and two Emperor Penguin skeletons with skins. Davis had a copy of his book ‘Icy Heritage’ here and this had a diagram illustrating a cross section of the ice cave. Of interest was a plaque placed by New Zealanders in 1969 and the official multi-lingual plaque of the Antarctic Treaty which recognises the historic site.
The morning was still with a beautiful sky and many of us took the opportunity to climb a hill above the landing place, another behind the cave site or to visit the Adelie Penguin colony around the head of the bay. Some Weddell Seals and two very ‘dessicated’ Elephant Seal carcasses were seen. According to earlier scientists who sampled tissue, these were thought to be up to 2,000 years old. Many similar remains of numerous Crabeater Seals are recorded from the Dry Valleys in south Victoria Land.
From the summit of the two nearby hills we had an excellent view of the Priestley Glacier. This was named after Shackleton and Scott expedition geologist Raymond (later Sir) Priestley and of Hells Gate Moraine near the terminal face of the glacier, named by the Northern party and of Evan Cove. The latter was thought to be named by Shackleton for Captain F.P. Evans of the USS Koonyathat had towed the Nimrod and is considered to be the first steel hulled ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.
With the last boat departing at 6.30 a.m. we began our way back and a few of us saw the two ‘sun dogs’ with one either side of the sun. Back on board after a very special landing, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at 7 a.m. and began to prepare for our next foray ashore.
In the meantime the Captain had relocated the ship to near the Federal Republic of Germany Gondwana Hutte scientific station. The station is presently unoccupied however we were all ashore soon after 9.30 a.m. and enjoying a walk over the moon-like landscape with rocks of many colours and many with black and occasional red and yellow lichens. Some of the black lichens were over 20cm in diameter. This was our first ‘continental landing’. The station huts, especially the smaller one elevated well off the ground was of interest. This was the first hut erected for the Ganovex 1 scientific expedition in the late 1970’s. It had solar panels and expedition stickers on a wall and door. A few of us ventured to areas along the coast where we enjoyed the experience of sampling the peacefulness of the Antarctic environment. Samuel found it particularly special hearing Weddell Seals ‘singing’ and listening to the sound of moving ice. Elsewhere many of us noticed a smiling garden gnome with a wheelbarrow perched on a rock, which David suggested should be named after the Super-continent Gondwana, from which present landmasses such as Australia evolved.
Many skuas (more than last season) were perched on boulders along the ridge and several well-developed chicks close to fledging was seen. The skuas tended to resent our presence and respecting their territory, we retreated when necessary then maintained a safe distance. As we walked up a ridge marking a boundary for our excursion, the large South Korean container ship Maasgrachtregistered in Amsterdam and supplying South Korea’s new Jang Bojo Station, came into view. The station named after a military leader to whom the present Korean culture is attributed, following it being split form the Chinese culture around 900 AD.
Two American scientists from the station, Terry Bullet and Justin Maby, were pleased to see us and following their communication with the station (Nathan had made prior contact) we were invited to take a short tour. Here the Safety Officer met us and after a short walk, we gathered outside the impressive blue complex which has outstanding facilities and was opened a year ago. The two American physicists had erected four high frequency radar towers, within which was a mile of wiring. This was part of a programme to examine the interaction of ionised plasma (aurora) between the sun and earth’s magnetic field and will be one of the important areas of science undertaken here. Although arriving at short notice, the station leader kindly welcomed us and group photographs were taken in front of the main building. Nathan also presented the station leader a copy of the beautiful book ‘Galapagos of the Antarctic’ by Rodney Russ and Alex Tarauds. Of interest to us were various plaques including marking placement of a time capsule, when the station was opened on 2 December 2014 and the overall tidiness and orderly layout. The South Koreans were very hospitable and with lunch on board scheduled for 1.15 p.m., we soon made our way back over the ridge to the landing place.
Back aboard the ship there was little time for resting however as Nathan had already arranged with the station leader at Italy’s Mario Zuccelli Station at Baia Terra Nova, for us to have a visit beginning at 3.30 p.m. The weather was still excellent and after a fine lunch with pumpkin soup and garlic bread, we back on the Antarctic continent once again.
Staff allocated to look after our four groups visiting Italy’s 30+ year old scientific station gave us a very friendly welcome, then took us on a nice walk around the complex. Amazing walls supporting roads had been made using huge granite erratic boulders and many of the facilities utilised former shipping containers, such as for geology and marine biology. An elevated room on top of the main block served as an operations facility from which all flights and field activities were handled. An ice cave near the station has a temperature of -20oC and is used for storage of food.
The active science programme includes tagging of Orca where a transmitter is attached to the dorsal fin so location and depth data can be sent directly to Genoa University via the French Argos satellite system. One interesting fact was the Orca which feed on species of ice fish, penguins and seals can go as far as New Zealand and back in a month. One transmitter has been operating for three years. Experiments are also being undertaken with fish to examine the effect with changing pH on the condition of fish gonads from changing ocean acidification. Preliminary work is done at the station and the fish are then sent to Genoa. Another interesting project concerned minute fragments of glass ejected from molten rock of meteorites and collected from glacial ice and sandy areas. The meteorites are travelling so fast that they compress and heat the air ahead and this melts the rock with molten material spreading thousands of kilometres outwards.
At the conclusion of our tour, hospitable station staff invited us to afternoon tea in their recreation room where Agnes arranged for the stamping of our passports. By 4 p.m. we were back on the Spirit of Enderby and with departure from the area, Nathan advised that a helicopter pilot mentioned, after the visit to Inexpressible Island, the katabatic wind off the polar plateau was blowing at 40 knots.
It had been a truly outstanding day for our expedition. All thanks due to Nathan, Captain Dimitry, the leaders of Jang Bojo and Mario Zuccelli Stations and of course, we were blessed with excellent weather, for making the landings possible. After an splendid meal and a few minutes on deck enjoying the soft light illuminating dark blue tints on the mountains and ice, we all moved wearily to bed for a good rest.
Day 16 Monday 26 January – Australia Day
Ross Sea, Drygalski Ice Tongue
Noon position: Latitude 74o 574.88’ South; Longitude 165o 47.333’ East
Air temperature: -2oC Water .9oC
Last evening the Spirit of Enderby drifted without engines off the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Today we rose to a beautiful sunny morning and were greeted at breakfast by Don in his ‘Australian shirt’ with various motifs. These included cans of beer with unusual brands such as ‘Ukelele Lager’. Allan appeared with a special head piece to which was attached a small umbrella displaying the Australian flag, while the flag was also worn as a cloak. Keri and Wendy each had the flag proudly displayed on their headbands. It was hard not to notice Australia Day!
At 8 a.m. we were in Latitude 75o18.335’ South, Longitude 163o59.80’ East. The air temperature on the bridge window recorded -4.5oC although David’s thermometer indicated that in shade (meteorological records are normally taken with thermometers within a Stevenson screen) this was more likely a degree lower. The sea water was .8oC. Before us was the edge of the great Drygalski Ice Tongue with its sculpted surface and various caves and fissures in shadow. In one place the surface snow covered slopes down towards the sea and as much as twice the height of the ice face visible above the sea surface was below. Excellent photographs were captured and Don gave an interesting commentary on the ice, in which he made reference to similar sites observed during his considerable experience of travel in Antarctica.
Of great interest was an extensive area of ice that appeared to have at least partially calved from the ice tongue and may have been grounded. This also appeared to be so from a satellite photograph received today. Because of the exceptional weather, we could see the primary sources of the ice. This had come from the David Glacier (named for the ‘Prof’ – Professor Edgeworth David, who with Mawson and Mackay, were first to reach the South Magnetic Pole in 1909) and also the Nansen Ice Sheet fed from behind by the Reeve Glacier. In the Reeve Glacier, we could clearly discern the Teall Nunatak (an Inuit term for a mountain protruding above ice), that was named for eminent geologist Sir Jethro Justinian Harris Teall, Director of the Geological Survey and Museum of Practical Geology London 1901-1913.
Beyond these glaciers was the Prince Albert Mountain Range. Don and David, who like Nathan, have enjoyed numerous visits to the region, had never enjoyed such good viewing of the Drygalski Ice Tongue. The morning will certainly be a memorable highlight of our time in Terra Nova Bay and Antarctica.
By 9.30 a.m. we had left Terra Nova Bay and were heading into the central Ross Sea. David’s lecture was temporarily postponed as by 10 a.m. the ship was rolling from the influence of katabatic wind off the polar plateau. This however did not prevent Frank from baking beautiful cinnamon rolls for lunch. He then went on deck to enjoy the freshness of a fine Antarctic morning and to photograph “the blue water and crystal clear mountains”. As we left Terra Nova Bay and proceeded north and then south, we avoided an area of pack ice and by now the katabatic air flow had dispersed. The mountains to starboard continued to look beautiful. On the deck Andre the Bosun assisted by Oleb a sailor, serviced the starboard anchor chain.
Our chefs today provided an excellent Australia Day lunch with steak, hot wholemeal bread rolls, salads and Frank’s special buns. By now we had lost the katabatic wind and the sea was calm again so David gave his ‘signature lecture’ to a good audience. The lecture dedicated to his friend the late Richard (Dick) Richards, last survivor of the expedition, was considered appropriate since we will soon visit the historic huts last occupied in the 1916-1917 summer. It began with him singing the first few lines of ‘Walzing Matilda’ which the audience joined in. He said four Australians lived in the Ross Island huts erected by Scott (1902), Shackleton (1908) and Scott (1911). We look forward to visiting some of these huts and although the Ross Sea party was the main focus, reference was also made to the Weddell Sea party led by Shackleton, which had hoped to make the first crossing of Antarctica during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916. Although Shackleton failed in this venture, he saved all his men whereas the Ross Sea party, who laid the crucial depots for Shackleton, lost three of their number. David considered it unlikely that Shackleton would have achieved his goal.
The afternoon continued to be fine and during a spell of travel through pack ice, Steve reported seeing Snow Petrels, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, South Polar Skua, Adelie Penguins and an Emperor Penguin. A Crab Eater Seal was also seen and at 4.30 p.m. as we headed in an easterly direction, the south end of Coulman Island was seen on the port horizon. Coulman Island was named by James Clark Ross in 1841 for his father-in-law Thomas Coulman. The island is 4.8 km long and the highest point is 1998m (6555ft).
Many of us returned to the lecture room to view the excellent production entitled ‘Ice Bird’ which covers the life history of the Adelie Penguin and answered many of our questions. Although produced some years ago, the film is still well worth viewing. Before the bar opened at 6 p.m. all 21 Australians stood in the bow for a team photograph by the three photographers standing on a hatch cover. By the end of the day we were all fairly tired and with the possibility of an early morning landing at Franklin Island, most of us decided some sleep was in order.
Day 17 Tuesday 27 January
Ross Sea, Franklin Island, McMurdo Sound, Cape Evans
Noon position: Latitude 76o 35.5’ South; Longitude 167o59.78’ East
Air temperature: 4oC Water -1.8oC
147 years ago this day, James Clark Ross discovered Franklin Island, Mounts Erebus and Terror
At 2.40 a.m. Agnes woke us with an announcement that we would indeed be landing on Franklin Island and weather conditions were perfect. We had been through a little ice in the night and this meant a change in course. The staff had earlier checked the suitability for a landing on the island and at 3 a.m. Nathan assembled us in the lecture room for a briefing. David arrived in full rig for a landing prompting Nathan to ask “Are you going somewhere David?” We were then told by Nathan that today would be ‘Adelie overload’. We were soon washing our boots and by 3.30 a.m. the landing was underway with all passengers going ashore. It was a beautiful crisp morning, with a little cloud and numerous Adelie penguins swimming near the ship.
On the horizon in the distance was from the left, the dormant volcano Mt. Terror (3230m) and the active volcano Mt. Erebus (3795m) both on Ross Island and named in 1841 by James Clark Ross, after his two expedition ships. Further to the west was Mt. Discovery (2680m) named for Scott’s ship during the National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition 1901-1904. Franklin Island at Latitude 76o05.4’ South, Longitude 168o19’East, was also named by Ross in 1841 to recognise Sir John Franklin, the noted Arctic explorer, who was at the time Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and had entertained the expedition on its way south from Hobart in 1840. The island is volcanic in origin and has an ice cap over much of its summit.
The beach chosen for our landing consists of old beach ridges (with swales or low areas between) which rise in height to the south and is known technically as a cuspate foreland. Chris, one of two geologists in our group, noticed the basalt was rich in the mineral olivine. On the beach ridges of rounded basalt pebbles and cobbles, the large Adelie penguin colony has become established and some penguins had even moved to the high areas of talus on the slopes below the summit of the island. Ridley Beach at Cape Adare is similar although on a much bigger scale. To assist us with our landing, Nathan had organised a series of steps up the ice foot, along with a rope to help gain the level surface on top. As we landed we received a short briefing from Bob on where we could go and reminded us of the five metre rule for all wildlife.
We were soon enjoying the many antics of life in a large penguin colony. Downy chicks were chasing parents and demanding a meal, which we observed being given; other penguins were sleeping and there was a continual sound accompanied by the strong odour that is present in these places. South Polar Skuas hovered in close vicinity to nest sites, which is why they are often called the buccaneers of the south. They were always vigilant and prepared to take advantage of any chick or even adult that strayed beyond the relative security of numbers. Nathan said when they inspected the site for landing, around 35 skuas were seen. Off-shore scores of birds were ‘porpoising’ and feeding and at least one Leopard Seal was seen cruising close to the shore, extending its head above the water from time to time to observe the penguins gathered along the edge of the ice foot. We also enjoyed seeing penguins leap from the water and displaying their shiny wet plumage. Small groups and lesser numbers of penguins were making a continual procession from the colony to the ice foot with younger birds emitting guttural sounds and the occasional “aark”. If for some reason we became too close to a younger bird, it would emit a deep growling sound.
Near the southern end of the ice foot Weddell Seals could be seen amongst huge boulders of ice thrown up by waves. These were festooned with long icicles on the lower surfaces as they melted and also of interest were the well-worn tracks made by penguins as they commuted between the colony and sea.
The first Zodiac returned to the ship at 5.30 a.m. and by 7 a.m. we were all back aboard enjoying a hearty breakfast. Although contested at the time, Don considered David had taken his slice of toast. This heinous crime was denied and the only witness was Agnes who could not recall Don putting the toast in the toaster. Don who then ended up with David’s well toasted slice of toast, decided as a matter of principle to then retain this along with a second slice to have with cheese for his morning tea. The ship now continued on course for Ross Island with the first waypoint being Cape Bird 128 km away. Many of us decided to have some shut-eye, however Samuel announced that a beautiful tabular ice berg and a Minke Whale were nearby. Those who got up to view this spectacle were rewarded with a fantastic iceberg on a very calm sea. We also had a good view of the north end of Franklin Island before most of us returned to our bunks. At noon some of us rallied and were on the bridge to observe the magnificent panorama before us. Away to port was Cape Crozier then westward, Mt Terror, Mt Terra Nova (2130m) which we had not observed from Franklin Island then Mt Bird (1800m) on Ross Island. Ahead was Beaufort Island, also with a penguin colony on the south end. The sea was very calm and lunch with fish cakes, garlic chicken legs and potato salad, followed by an excellent cake with chocolate topping was good fuel for our next landing.
Samuel announced over lunch that it was 147 years ago to the day that James Clark Ross discovered and landed on Franklin Island and Mounts Erebus and Terror. He wrote “some land which had been in sight since the preceding noon, and which we called the ‘high Island’; it proved to be a mountain twelve thousand four hundred feet in elevation above the level of the sea, emitting flame and smoke in great profusion.”
The 21 year old botanist Joseph Hooker referred to Mt. Erebus as “a fine volcano spouting fire and smoke” while the ship’s blacksmith commented “this splendid burning mountain was truly an imposing sight”.
At 3.30 p.m. we had rounded Cape Bird with an excellent view of the ice cliffs and Adelie Penguin colony. We could also see the green huts of the New Zealand research field station, known as the Harrison Laboratory. Beside the penguin colony the ice cap extended down to the sea and had a high cliff. We now slowly worked our way along the side of Ross Island with excellent views of the Shell Glacier, Quaternary Icefall and the crevassed slopes that Mackintosh and McGillon had crossed in 1908. We passed Horseshoe Bay followed by Cape Royds itself and had a glimpse of Shackleton’s hut. Dominating the skyline to port was the impressive bulk of Mt. Erebus.
The wind was really blowing now and the sea rather rough, so plans for a landing were postponed until better conditions prevailed. We then continued to Cape Evans and the captain anchored the ship in 60m of water directly opposite Scott’s 1910-13 winter quarters hut. Other huts we could see were the refuge huts near Cape Evans itself and those of the Antarctic Heritage Trust near Scott’s hut. Nathan called us to a briefing at 7.10 p.m. where he informed us of the visiting guidelines for entry to ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 155). After dinner the landing got underway at 9 p.m. with Derek having the honour of being first to enter the hut, his prize for winning the iceberg spotting competition.
After landing near the Antarctic Heritage Trust containers, we walked along the beach to Scott’s hut and were amazed at the many interesting fragmented artefacts of various materials, in the grey Kenyte scoria around the hut. Interesting artefacts such as parts for the tracks of Scott’s three Wolsely motor tractors and a pony sledge were beside the hut, as were reels of corroding aluminium telephone wire used in 1911 and the small latrine hut in front of the stables.
Nathan and Bob had already unlocked the hut and placed boot brushes outside. This is important as scoria has been shown to damage the flooring. Inside David was already waiting to show us around and explain the many features of the hut erected in 1911 for Scott’s expedition and later occupied by stranded members of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party.
Most of us inspected the stables first and saw the small Shacklock stove modified for burning seal blubber and which Captain Lawrence Oates had used to heat mash for the ponies. The stables in the following year housed Indian mules and we saw some of the names such as Abdulla and Pigaree stencilled on the hut wall. When the Ross Sea party was in residence in 1915-1917, the stables also became a garage for the motor tractor and a cache of Emperor Penguin bodies was also seen along with pony and mule feed boxes and bamboo snow shoes.
Only 12 of us including the guide were permitted to be in the hut at any one time and on entering, we soon saw as David suggested, that it was like an Edwardian time capsule. At first we were speechless and reverently walked about taking care to keep a safe distance from the artefacts, as David spoke of the former occupants who have long since passed away. We saw the bed occupied by Scott and later by Mackintosh the leader of the Ross Sea party then following his death, by Dick Richards when he was ill. The acetylene lighting system, Ponting’s photographic darkroom and the science laboratory were all of interest not only to us but also some of the crew.
After our time in the hut each of us left retaining our own impression of what we were most privileged to view. Some felt the presence of Scott and his men. Many of us absorbed with our thoughts, then walked about the surroundings and viewed a dog skeleton, the memorial cross on Wind Vane Hill and other points of interest, including Mt Erebus dominating the view in one direction and various islands in the vicinity. By now the sea had quietened down and most of us were back aboard before midnight.
Day 18 Wednesday 28 January
McMurdo Sound. Cape Royds, Ice edge, Furthest South
Noon position: Latitude 77o 31.5’ South; Longitude 166o 04.2’ East
Air temperature: 1oC Water 1oC
Expedition Staff members Samuel and Agnes became engaged
During the night the Captain took the Spirit of Enderby on a course with conditions checked by Nathan every two hours. We had a leisurely 8 a.m. breakfast and then assembled in the lecture room for a briefing concerning a potential landing at Cape Royds. This duly got under way by 9 a.m. and boots, cameras, clothing and packs were all discussed as wave splash was expected.
We landed on what is known as Black Sand Beach which has very little of the ice foot left and once ashore most of us changed from our rubber gumboots to hiking boots or walking shoes. Before setting out, David who would again be our guide in Ernest Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908, gave us a short talk on the many features of interest surrounding the hut, including the pony stables, garage for the 9-12 hp Arrol Johnston motor car and the various caches of stores, along with comments on some of the interesting geology we would see.
The group set off over an undulating volcanic ‘moonscape’. Rocks containing feldspar crystals sparkled in the sun, some ‘pillow lavas’ that had erupted under water and numerous granite and other ‘erratics’ being rocks which had been deposited by advancing ice, then left perhaps 10,000 years ago when the ice receded. The morning was beautiful and during our 20-30 minute walk, we had excellent views of Mt Erebus with a wisp of smoke being emitted from the crater and of the Transantarctic Mountains across McMurdo Sound. It was a most stimulating walk. We soon reached a valley then headed down to the small hut restored and cared for by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Our New Zealand Government Representative Bob along with Nathan placed outside a frame with boot cleaning brushes from which we walked onto a strip of vinyl. This ensured we did not take gravel into the hut and further damage the floor. Only eight were allowed in the hut at any one time and of course everyone wanted to see Shackleton’s signature, his cubicle and to know where the whiskey and brandy was stored. David explained some of the activities that went on within the hut, where everybody slept and we were amazed at the extraordinary selection of food – particularly the canned meats and pates. We recognised brands of products familiar to us including Wiltshire hams and Colmans baking powder which are still being produced. Other products such as Capt. Cookesley’s Consolidated Pea Soup described as ‘flesh forming [and] for the soldier, sailor, explorer and travelling’ were unfamiliar. The Price’s candles labelled as ‘expressly for hot climates’ caused amusement. We had enjoyed our excursion immensely and many preferred Shackleton’s hut as it was smaller, more compact and some considered very orderly.
Near the hut the Adelie Penguins were well advanced with their moulting and many of us walked about the perimeter of the ASPA. Soon we were retracing our steps and by noon most of us were on board and had the thrill of viewing pods of Orca and Minke Whales as we moved along the ice edge. Those with an interest in the various landforms of the region thought the panorama from Castle Rock to Observation Hill, then of White Island, Black Island, Mount Discovery and across to the Royal Society Mountain range outstanding. The highest peak on this range, Mt Lister (4025m), was named for Lord Josef President of the Royal Society London 1895-1900.
About 5.30 p.m. we also had a great view of the USCGC Polar Star WAGB 10 icebreaker as it departed from the shipping channel recently cut and passed by with Mt. Erebus providing a great backdrop. The icebreaker which has a sister ship USCGC Polar SeaWAGB 11 had undergone a major refit. The ship is 400ft long, has two helicopters and is powered by six diesel electric railway engines and three gas turbines which can produce 60,000 shaft hp. At 6.20 p.m. we attained our most southerly point for the expedition. This was 77o48’ South 166o06’East. Before dinner however a few of us were treated to the magnificent sight of 10-12 Orca all at the same time ‘spy-hopping’ beside the ice edge.
After an excellent meal, the ship was placed close to the ice edge and many of us took the opportunity to ride a few metres in a Zodiac to the ice. Here Agnes with help from the kitchen, Don, Bob and others, had a table set up on drums with hot cocoa and cake. We had a wonderful time strolling about the ice at leisure and some of us took part in a soccer match with three members of the crew. On the passenger side two players, Robbie and Robin, each managed to kick the ball with Robin managing to score a goal. After this the Russian crew team kicked a goal and another was declared then disallowed and considered a foul. In the end there was no agreed outcome, although the passengers considered they had won the game by one goal. It was an enjoyable diversion even though there were no goal posts at the start of the game and the attention of players occasionally wandered owing to the ball nearing the large spectators on ice edge – namely Orca Whales.
There was also a great opportunity to photograph the Spirit of Enderby with Mt. Erebus in the background, to enjoy wind patterns on the snow and admire the soft Antarctic evening as the sun slowly set over the Royal Society Range. Many of us also spent time observing a pod of Orca with one or two in their midst ‘spy-hopping’. Understandably a group of Adelie Penguins kept their distance until after the fine Orca display when the pod, which was perhaps the same one we had seen earlier, left us.
Around 11 p.m. those still out along the ice edge saw another Orca display and a large male surfaced right beside Don’s Zodiac. A little later several of us participated in an invigorating ‘Polar Plunge’ held off the Zodiac landing platform. Nathan supervised the activity which was a lot of fun with support from those watching from decks above. Nancy even wore a penguin suit and was briefly concerned that she had let go of the rope. She said she was surprised how salty the water was. There was more to come however. Agnes and Samuel agreed to cement their long and happy relationship on the ice and announced their engagement. This exciting news was then celebrated in the traditional manner with flutes of Champagne De Castelnau from Reims in France.
Day 19 Thursday 29 January
McMurdo Sound. Cape Evans, Zodiac cruise, Ross Ice Shelf, Ross Sea
Noon position: Latitude 77o38.04’ South; Longitude 166o 24.20’ East
Air temperature: 4oC Water +0.8oC
During the night we moved back to Cape Evans and this morning we got up to a beautiful sunny day with a calm sea. Nathan announced that for those who wished, a further visit could be made to Scott’ hut and many took the advantage to retake or obtain further photographs of the hut and surroundings. David was again in the hut to explain various aspects and later he too was able to walk around the ASPA when many interesting things were found.
This began with the second anchor from the Aurora which appeared to have only been exposed today (it was previous covered by snow); the entrance to the former ice cave used for gravity observations by Charles (later Sir) Wright in 1911 (next year he did his observations within Ponting’s darkroom where a hole was cut in the floor and a large rock placed); the side from one of the crates which a motor-sledge had been transported in and a small window in the side of the entrance to the Officer’s end of the latrines.
We were all back aboard by 11 a.m. and soon after had the opportunity to enjoy what turned out to be an amazing Zodiac cruise along the ice edge from near Cape Evans to where it was joined to Inaccessible Island. The bulk of us on board set off around the rocky point of Cape Evans and then had a great ride around four grounded ice bergs after which, we continued to the edge of the fast sea ice with a large gathering of Adelie Penguins along the edge of the ice, only 40cms or less above the water. Many were swimming and others were clustered in a tightly packed group near the ice edge. David had an interesting moment when kneeling to photograph whales. A penguin leapt from the water, landed on the tube in front of him, looked at him briefly, then reversed sideways and backwards into the water.
It was not long before a whale blow indicated the penguins had company. Before long about six Minke Whales including at least two large animals were blowing and surfacing sometimes three at a time. Nathan and Don had outstanding albeit sudden views, of a large whale that surfaced within five metres of their boats. We spent some time enjoying the once in a lifetime chance to observe these huge creatures at such close quarters and many photographs were taken. A Weddell Seal with blue tags on the hind flippers was also seen nearby.
From here we reluctantly began our journey back as a Borek Air Twin Otter aircraft made its descent to the runway. During the cruise we had excellent views of all the Dellbridge Islands (Inaccessible, Tent, Big Razor back and Little Razorback) named by Scott during his 1901-1904 expedition, for James H. Dellbridge the Second Engineer; the Erebus Icefall and a distant view of Turk’s Head and the 10km long Erebus Glacier Tongue. We could also see the direct route taken by heroic-era sledging parties from Cape Evans or Hut Point over a century ago.
We now followed the ice edge around to Inexpressible Island where there was an opportunity to enjoy the yellow, red and black volcanic rocks and also observe a solitary Emperor Penguin. From here we returned via the icebergs to secure some nice photographs of icicles and were back on the ship by 1 p.m. Frank meanwhile had prepared a superb lunch of chicken korma with rice and naan bread.
As we began our journey back along the Ross Island coast, past Cape Royds and the glorious landscape below Mt Erebus, plans were made for a landing at the Cape Bird Adelie Penguin colony which has about 30,000 birds. Unfortunately however the local wind picked up and the landing party that had checked the site retreated when waves became larger than hoped for. The party had an interesting ride back to the ship and after loading the two Zodiacs on board, we continued around Cape Bird on our 60 nautical mile journey towards the Ross Ice Shelf.
The weather continues to hold and the evening today was especially beautiful. As we journeyed along the Ross Island coast over a calm sea, we had excellent views of Mts. Everest, Terra Nova and Terror with their slopes of snow and ice in the beautiful evening light. One could see the slope at the back of Lewis Bay where the Air New Zealand ended its DC10 flight around 500m above sea level, on 28 November 1979. The polar landscape continued to keep us spellbound and many took the advantage after dinner of viewing the panorama to starboard.
Following dinner, Nathan assembled us in the lecture room to convey plans for the remainder of our time in Antarctica. The latest ice map had been received and with nearly 352 nautical miles to go to Cape Adare, we hope to spend time in that region. Most of us snatched a little sleep before Nathan roused us with an announcement shortly before midnight, that we were approaching the Ross Ice Shelf. This vast feature of floating ice about the size of France and explained by Samuel, has a front edge a staggering 800 km long along its seaward face and 750 km back towards its source; the giant glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains. It varies in in thickness from around 330m to 700m and has only 1/7th of the ice above the waterline. At our point, Don using a sextant obtained one estimate of 30m above the sea.
When James Clark Ross discovered the ice shelf in January 1841 he wrote “…a perpendicular cliff of ice between one hundred and fifty feet and two hundred feet above the sea, [was] perfectly flat and level at the top and without any fissures on its seaward face”. Ross also stated “There is no more chance of sailing through that than through the cliffs of Dover.” Decades later, the Ross Ice Shelf attracted explorers of the famed ‘heroic-era’ along with later men such as Admiral Byrd’s expeditions. Although the Spirit of Enderbyhas a good vantage point on the ‘monkey’ or ‘flying’ deck above the bridge, we were still well below the top of the ice face. We were amazed at the overall beauty of the feature with the surface appearing as if sculpted by an artist, while below a wave-cut indentation emitted a sucking sound from the waves. An overhang had the shape of a ships bow and places where shadow was created were beautiful shades of turquoise. High above three Antarctic Skuas were almost motionless as they took advantage of the cool wind and Bob our New Zealand representative, photographed one skua that even attempted to land on the point of a radio aerial. Soon it was time to return to the cabin. We left Latitude 77o24.472’ South, Longitude 170o13.070’ East and turned north towards Cape Adare.
Day 20 Friday 30 January
Noon position: Latitude 75o19.4’ South; Longitude 171o42.26’ East
Air temperature: 0oC Water -1.8oC
As each day goes by we cannot believe our good fortune with such fine weather and with it calm seas. Most of us slept well and Nathan advised we have an ETA of about 8.30 a.m. at the ice edge off the Adare Peninsula.
Don began proceedings for the day with an inspirational presentation compiled from analogue video shot in Antarctica. Entitled ‘Two Below Zero’, the documentary told the story of the year Don and Margie had spent at Cape Denison in 1995. Many of their experiences were no different to some documented in diaries of early explorers. We had considerable admiration for their achievement and also the way in which the expedition had been planned including numerous observations undertaken for Australia’s Antarctic Division at Kingston Tasmania and more importantly the emergency plan should anything go wrong. ‘Two Below Zero’ can be downloaded off YouTube from the web site www.mcintyreadventure.com
Before lunch the 6th part of the series on Scott and Amundsen was screened and attracted a good audience. Now we have visited Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, the series will enable us to have a better understanding of Scott’s last expedition. By 12.30 p.m. the day continued to be fine with a calm sea and bright sun and very little cloud. We were over 530m of water and doing a comfortable 12.4 knots on both engines. After a leisurely lunch with excellent fresh fruit slice, most of us rested or enjoyed the fresh air on deck.
At 3 p.m. David gave the presentation ‘Preserving Icons of Exploration’ which focused on historic site conservation and was of particular interest since we have been able to visit and see the fruits of labour for Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and Scott’s hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island. The work began in 1957 and was accelerated by a major restoration programme in 1960-1965 followed by volunteers from the New Zealand Antarctic Society in 1969 and has continued under the auspices of the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Apart for a solitary iceberg seen this afternoon at Latitude 74o17.887’ South Longitude 172o18,914’ East, Steve mentioned that the only birds sighted were three Wilson’s Storm Petrels and one South Polar Skua. At 5.30 p.m. Nathan gave a lecture which outlined the physical aspects of the Spirit of Enderby including the vessel’s history, details of its construction and management by Heritage Expeditions and even of the food expected to be consumed by the close of our expedition. The very impressive numbers included 2,500 eggs at 80 per day and 300 kg of ‘spuds’ (potatoes) from which 7,200 meals would be cooked. Even beer would amount to 520 cans. The lecture closed with comments on requirements concerning reports and the wonderful long service by many staff members including Natalia who has served on the vessel for 11 years and Andre who has worked his way up from sailor to carpenter and now has the rank of Bosun.
Today closed with an excellent dinner consisting of a fine entre of salmon and salad, a main of either Blue cod or slowly roasted beef followed by a New York style cheese cake. It will be difficult coming down to earth when we return home! By evening the sea had returned to calm conditions and many of us decided to have an early night. Soon we will return to the pack ice, through which we had a couple of weeks ago entered Antarctica and in doing so, achieved a goal. By 10.30 p.m. small pieces of ice were about the ship.
Day 21 Saturday 31 January
Ross Sea. Admiralty Mountains, Cape McCormick, Downshire Cliffs, Adare Peninsula, Cape Adare
Noon position: Latitude 71o20.1061’ South; Longitude 170o 41.6233 ’ East
Air temperature: -1oC Water 0oC
The morning began with calm seas, an overcast sky and some fog. The water was clear of ice and light powdery snow was falling with an air temperature of just under 3oC. By 9 a.m. we were nearing the Adare Peninsula of black volcanic basalt along with the Downshire Cliffs on the coastal edge. The cliffs were named by Ross in 1841 for the Marquis Downshire. To the south lay the Fenwick Ice Piedmont and Cape McCormick. The sea remained ice free and when cloud lifted, we had an excellent view of three peaks on the Admiralty Range. These were Mt. Minto (4165m) named by Ross for the Earl of Minto, then First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, an unnamed peak, then Mt Adam (4009m), named after Vice Admiral Sir Charles Adam, a senior naval Lord of the Admiralty. Mt. Minto was first climbed on an Australian expedition led by noted mountaineer Greg Mortimer. A further high peak, Mt. Sabine (3714m) named by Ross after Lt. Col. Sabine of the Royal Artillery and Foreign Secretary for the Royal Society, can be seen when approaching the Ross Sea from the north and was a landmark for ‘heroic-era’ expeditions.
Cape Adare on the end of the Adare Peninsula and marking the western entrance to the Ross Sea, was yet another landform named by Ross. This was for his friend Viscount Adare, MP for Glamorganshire in the UK. The highest point on the peninsula is Hanson Peak (1255m) named by a New Zealand Alpine Club expedition and commemorates 28 year old Norwegian biologist Nicolai Hanson, who died during Carsten Borchgrevink’s British Antarctic (Southern Cross) Expedition 1898-1900. By 10 a.m. as we steadily made our way towards the cape, the beginnings of a southerly swell were felt, with the Spirit of Enderby rolling slightly. We made a slight course change and received waves and scattered pieces of ice, off the port bow. This did not deter many of us from being on the bridge and enjoying the coastal panorama, with the reddish to yellow-brown and dark grey rocks on the Adare Peninsula clearly visible. It was however mostly cloudy with just occasional spells of blue sky and during the morning Steve observed a large flock of Antarctic Petrels.
By late morning we were plugging though scattered floes and nearing Cape Adare. There was an element of excitement on board, with fingers crossed in anticipation that we may make a landing. Here men including Carsten Borchgrevink, had landed from Henryk Bull’s whaling ship Antarctic in January 1895, this being one of the first early landings made in Antarctica. Borchgrevink had then returned in 1899 to lead the first party that spent a winter on the continent. The bird watching enthusiasts were as usual on the bow and in addition to a few skuas, a Crab Eater Seal and three Minke Whales were also seen. Off the end of Cape Adare and further beyond, we counted around 30 icebergs, many of which were grounded, as the Bridge chart indicated the water was only 100-150m deep.
Following a discussion with Nathan, the Captain carefully took the Spirit of Enderby, around the end of Cape Adare where the one remaining rock stack of the former ‘Two Sisters’, ‘Gertrude’ and ‘Rose’, stood although it is now on a lean. The ship then rounded Von Tunzelman Point named after Alexander von Tunzelman who landed here in 1895 and claimed till his dying day that he was the first ashore. The point marks the division between the north and south areas of Ridley Beach. The beach was named as such by Borchgrevink after his mother’s maiden name. Around 2 p.m. Nathan, our New Zealand Government Representative Bob and Samuel, made the customary initial reconnaissance by Zodiac to locate a suitable landing place. There were only two options, as swell from the fast moving Robertson Bay current and the belt of winter push ice and later ice along both beaches, limited places for access. A briefing was then held and the landing was underway by 4 p.m. We had no wind and enjoyed a calm sea, with conditions improving as the afternoon wore on.
After one group had been put ashore, Don was returning to the ship by Zodiac when he saw two Leopard Seals taking Adelie Penguins. Three headless corpses were left floating in the water where presumably the seals would later return for their meal. The landing continued until 7 p.m. and there was much for us to enjoy. Creches of Adelie Penguins with many in down stood in huddled groups while others chased a parent demanding food. A number of freshly killed chicks were evidence of skua predation and Steve estimated 100+ skuas were present in the area. Other predatory birds were 15 Giant Petrels including five White Morphs on the end of von Tunzelman Point. Meanwhile in the background, there was the continued incessant chatter of adults. We continued to carefully observe the five metre rule and all obtained further photographs for our expedition record.
In Borchgrevink’s living hut, David who has spent over two months here on three expeditions (1981–2013) undertaking remedial conservation and scientific observations, pointed out features of interest. With only four in total permitted to be in the hut at any one time, some also of us enjoyed a second inspection. We appreciated the confined area with bunks (two high) for the ten men and saw where Colbeck set fire to his curtain and nearly burned the hut down; the bunk where the 28 year-old Norwegian biologist Nicolai Hanson had died; the cramped galley area with stove and the beautiful pencil drawing above the bunk of scientific assistant Norwegian Kolbein Ellifsen (23) who slept above assistant zoologist and Canadian Hugh Evans (24) the last surviving member of the expedition who retired in Vermilion Alberta.
Kolbein expressing his sentimental feeling for home for a lady friend, perhaps his wife or a family member, wrote in Norwegian
Alle klokker ringer fjernt All the bells ring far away
Bud fra gamle dage With chimes gone by
Alle blomster venfer sig All the flowers turn their heads
Og ser med suk tilbage To look back with a sigh
Soon with support from Norway, major restoration will be commenced by the Antarctic Heritage Trust on these huts. The ruins of the Scott Northern party hut (1911) were also seen with the base of Campbell’s chart table still in-situ. The remains of this hut were overwhelmed by penguins. The attractive book entitled ‘That First Antarctic Winter’ by Janet Crawford and David Harrowfield was published in 1998 to mark the centenary of the expedition. This publication is available from Heritage Expeditions.
Unfortunately time did not permit an ascent of the steep track of loose and frozen pebbles along with rock bluffs up the 300m cliff behind Ridley Beach to view Hanson’s grave. This is located in roughly the centre of the of the west sloping peninsula and is often difficult to find. Hanson was buried here at his request and David was last there in 1990 when he made numerous climbs to check his wind recording anemometer. With the aid of Nancy’s Swarovski telescope from the deck of the ship, we were able to see an automatic weather station placed on the peninsula above Ridley Beach.
This evening dinner which included tender belly pork, beef and desert of rice pudding with peach topping, was delayed until 8 p.m. After dinner we enjoyed cruising past the most spectacular icebergs we had seen during the expedition. One particularly huge tabular berg was surrounded by floes reflected in the still, inky-black to deep Prussian blue water of the Southern Ocean. Another berg of great interest had considerable gravel and large boulders on the top, which may have originated from glacial moraine. The Captain did a fine job ensuring that we not only cruised between two giant bergs, but also managed the fast currents. At this time the soft evening light was beautiful and many of us obtained a great photographic record of what was undoubtedly a major highlight of the expedition if not in our lives, but there was more to come. As the sun dropped below dark cloud and lower in the sky, the most wonderful light descended on the Admiralty Mountains. These were transformed into a pale, cold-looking and exquisite blue, with the sun reflected on the ocean between floes in Robertson Bay, transformed into a cloth of gold. Away to the west, the mountains merged into the Australian Antarctic Territory which makes up 40% of Antarctica and is the largest of the national claims in place although now frozen. Our view of this part of the beautiful and vast landscape of Antarctica which is twice as large as Australia will long be remembered “and so it should be” said Don our Australian lecturer and driver!
We had enjoyed yet another very special day and most of us were in the bunk well before midnight. About midnight the Polish 72ft Oyster Class, fibreglass yacht Kutharsis, which left Hobart a few days ago was sighted.
Day 22 Sunday 1 February
Steve H. birthday celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 70o 04.654’ South; Longitude 171o 46.162’ East
Air temperature: -1oC Water +1oC
During the night we passed through a belt of pack ice with some large floes and this morning, the ice continued although this was beginning to open out and a slight swell was felt. We have now effectively left the Ross Sea region and Antarctica. There are three prominent islands named Sturge (in the south), Buckle and Sabrina (in the north), along with several smaller islands including the well-known Monolith. The islands were discovered by John Balleny on the sealer Eliza Scott in February 1839. They were named in his honour by Captain Beaufort Hydrographer to the Admiralty. A sister vessel the Sabrina after which one of the islands is named was lost in a storm. Sabrina Island named after the sealer has a colony of chinstrap penguins and has been an ASPA since 1966.
At 10 a.m. our course was changed to a more north-west track and at 10.30 a.m. the final episode of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was screened. This was attended by many who have carefully followed the series. This morning was spent quietly as we passed through occasional belts of ice floes and by noon we were moving at 9.1 knots over 1820m of water with to starboard the Adare Seamounts on the Southern Ocean floor. These ranged in height from 1420m to 1920m and are similar to mountains on land. By 2 p.m. we were near the edge of the pack ice and once clear of this turned to the west towards the Balleny Islands with 250-270 nautical miles to run. Scattered pieces of floes and small bergy bits were visible on a nice calm sea and the weather forecast suggested we may have a tail wind to Campbell Island.
Bird life sighted today included several Wilson’s Storm Petrels, one Snow Petrel, two South Polar Skuas and a White Morph Giant Petrel. Four or five Crab Eater Seals were also sighted when in the ice, although others are likely to be seen in the vicinity of the Balleny Islands, along with Weddell seals. At 3 p.m. Samuel gave a lecture entitled ‘Icebergs, Cathedrals of Ice’. This excellent lecture was very timely given what we saw last evening. Samuel began by referring to the three classes of ice – glaciers; sea ice and permafrost. He followed with reference to 14,000,000km2 of ice in Antarctica, formation of ice, icebergs, ice shelves (Ross Ice Shelf covers 472,960km2 with 70-80% floating), the reasons and rate of melting and drift of icebergs. Samuel concluded with discussion focused on 3% of the Earth having fresh water and the Frenchman George Moudin’s proposal to tow icebergs for fresh water. As always many questions resulted.
The final presentation of the day was the screening of ‘Solid water, Liquid rock’. This was another of Natural History New Zealand’s Antarctic Wild South series. An excellent film compiled by award winning photographers Mike Single and Max Quinn the documentary again extended our knowledge of where we have been in the last few days. In his evening message, Nathan said the present sea and weather conditions are the best he has enjoyed in the Southern Ocean. We will continue our present course north until we are clear of the pack ice and then add a change to the west. An ETA of around 3.30-5.30 p.m. tomorrow is anticipated for arrival at the start of the Balleny Islands. Wildlife was pretty sparse today and with exception of species already mentioned. Others included Mottled Petrels, another Crab Eater Seal and this afternoon, two Minke Whales. After dinner the first three Antarctic Fulmars were sighted behind the ship.
Day 23 Monday 2 February
Noon position: Latitude 66o 39.6934’ South; Longitude 167o 56.5901’ East
Air temperature: 0oC Water 0.7oC
Early this morning we were experiencing an easterly swell and with it fog and light snow with the latter persisting for much of the day. Birds sighted during the morning were Antarctic and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Antarctic Prions and a raft of six Antarctic Fulmars. At this stage we were at the bottom of a low and would probably pass the Balleny Islands then continue northwards to Campbell Island. At 10.15 a.m. we assembled in the lecture room where David introduced the film ‘Race to the Pole’ with Don adding comments relating to pioneer aviator Harold Getty of Tasmania who with a Vega aircraft had contributed to the development of aerial navigation. The film focused on Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition in 1928-1930, when Byrd’s Station ‘Little America 1’ was established on the Ross Ice Shelf. From Little America, Byrd accompanied by pilot Bernt Balchen, relief pilot and radio operator Harold June and photographer Ashly McKinley, completed the first flight to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole on 28-29 November 1929. This was achieved in a Ford Trimotor aircraft taking 18 hours and covered 1600 miles. Byrd also took two further aircraft, 95 dogs including his own dog named Igloo and 50 men.
Late in the morning Steve saw what was thought to be a Sperm Whale from the Bridge, along with a flock of Antarctic Petrels, a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Antarctic and Fairy Prions, Antarctic Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels and several Mottled Petrels. At 12.57 p.m. we again crossed the Antarctic Circle and at 1.30 p.m. enjoyed salads and excellent sausage rolls and vegetable fritters for lunch. Light snow continued to fall, the sea remained reasonably calm and we were moving at 11.8 knots planning to turn north when off the Balleny Seamounts with one only 60m deep. David gave his last Antarctic history lecture at 3 p.m. This was entitled ‘Douglas Mawson – A stalwart of the heroic-era: from the BAE 1907-1909 to ANARE (from) 1947’. Mawson who had served in Antarctica alongside his former Professor Edgeworth David, is known to most Australians. He has appeared on the A$100 bank note, enjoyed during his full life a prominent career in science and academia both as a field geologist, physicist, lecturer, administrator and supporter of ANARE.
Although reference had been made to Mawson’s participation in Antarctica during Shackleton’s Nimrod 1907-1909 expedition, this was touched on again, followed by the two BANZARE (British Australia New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions) expeditions using Scott’s former ship Discovery in 1929-1933 and the development of the present ANARE (Australia National Antarctic Research Expeditions) from 1947 including the establishment of Mawson Station, the first base Australia had on the Antarctic Continent. Mawson was a pivotal figure in Australia’s claim of 47% of Antarctica. There was a good attendance and the usual lively discussion followed.
The final item in the programme for the day was a screening of ‘The Last Ocean’. This focused on the tooth-fish industry in the Ross Sea. Dissostichus mawsonii is named after Sir Douglas Mawson and is popularly termed the Giant Antarctic Cod. The fish is a member of the Family Nototheniidae and are termed Notothenioides. A similar species called the Patagonian Tooth-fish is caught by ships operating from South America. There is a need for greater knowledge of the physiology of the species and for creation of a Marine Reserve, which is being strongly promoted by New Zealand with support from other countries. Following the documentary we enjoyed a continuation of our usual pre-dinner gathering in the Bar/Library which gave an opportunity to continue discussion on the various activities of today.
Day 24 Tuesday 3 February
Noon position: Latitude 62o 32.0552’South; Longitude 166o 29.7794’ East
Air temperature: 4oC Water 0oC
Several icebergs were still seen this morning even though we are progressing steadily north from latitude 63o18’ South 166o32’East. Outside the air temperature was a cool 1oC and the water 2oC. Samuel began the day with a lecture at 10 a.m. on a subject which is of great interest to him. Entitled ‘James Clark Ross - the greatest polar explorer?’, Samuel’s lecture focused on Ross’s career in the Arctic and Antarctic, briefly mentioned in David’s first lecture.
The well balanced lecture began with Ross having joined the Royal Navy when just 11 years old. He then had his first taste of Arctic travel at 18 with his uncle John Ross, Captain on the Isabella. James Ross went on to make many trips which included nine winters and 17 summers in the Arctic and three summers in the Antarctic. Samuel’s lecture was well researched and his use of early lithographs including maps and watercolour paintings along with the ability to present information by way of Mackintosh technology, kept us interested throughout. It was fitting that the lecture ended with a media release from YouTube, concerning a significant archaeological discovery on 9 September 2014, north of O’Reilly Island in the South Victoria Strait of Arctic Canada. Following the find on 1 September of further artefacts from Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated Northwest Passage Expedition of 1848 when all 128 men died, the remains of HMS Erebus were located on 9 September in just 11m of water. This was made possible by use of side-scan sonar and a remote submersible vehicle and there is now hope of finding HMS Terror. The Northwest Passage was first navigated by Antarctic veteran Roald Amundsen, on the 29 year old sloop Gjoa in 1902-1906 with the vessel now preserved with the Fram in Oslo. There is a dining plate from HMS Erebus on display in the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. This was received by David from his friend, a direct descendant of Lieutenant Bird of the Erebus, the late Miss Betty Bird of Auckland. Betty also presented other artefacts to the Museum, including a gold snuff-box belonging to her great, great uncle.
At 11.30 a.m. we returned to the lecture room to view the documentary ‘Blackfish’, the name given by fishermen to the Orca. This focused on the catching of Orca with several then kept and later bred in captivity. Establishment in the United States of the corporate tourism facility Sea World, which has been very expensive with management issues, also provided rich financial rewards for the company. Unfortunately it has also cost the lives of two trainers. There is still much to learn about the biology and life of these amazing whales, which are best left in their natural habitat and is it not best to allow them to remain as such?
The sea remained calm during the morning and the day was sunny with scattered thin cloud as we continued towards Campbell Island. Birds recorded this morning included two Campbell Albatross and Cape Petrels. When on the bow, David and birders Steve and Paul were startled when the bow dipped before a wave and with a bang, water shot up the port anchor hawse pipe. On deck was deposited a live whelk-like gastropod, which they considered had been on the anchor since Robertson Bay. The mollusc was then consigned to the deep. By lunch time the sea had calmed and we enjoyed a very nice pasta dish. Snow fell during the afternoon.
At 3 p.m. Don entertained us in the lecture room with eight video clips. The programme began with an interesting discussion on China’s stations in Antarctica and on the country’s plans for their latest station in Terra Nova Bay. Two time lapse programmes on an aspect of Australia’s Antarctic resupply and the southern lights (Aurora Australis) followed; an interesting programme on King Crabs adjusting to the effect of rising ocean temperatures; footage by Frank Hurley of masts breaking on Shackleton’s domed ship Endurance followed by Mawson’s BANZARE expedition when Mawson fell from the monoplane being hoisted on board the Discovery; the collision of the Ady Gil with the Japanese whaling mother ship and finally, the rescue of French yachtsman Alain Delord, who was rescued by the Orion from the Southern Ocean.
At 5 p.m. the excellent Natural History New Zealand Wild South documentary entitled ‘Emperors of Antarctica’ was shown. This dealt with the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin and was filmed by Max Quinn during winter at the Cape Crozier colony on Ross Island. Now that we have been fortunate to view Emperor Penguins including one at close quarters from the Zodiac, the programme had a special significance. Many of us were familiar with the Emperor that came ashore on a New Zealand beach and was dubbed ‘Happy Feet’. The penguin became a favourite on the world stage before being released in the Subantarctic south of New Zealand after recovery. James Cook saw the first Emperor Penguin and a century later when a naturalist was looking at the Cook expedition sketch, he realised that it was a different species to the King Penguin. James Clark Ross took four specimens to Britain.
The number of birds increased as we neared Campbell Island. A White-headed Petrel and a Grey-headed Albatross made an appearance and two whales, one of them a Minke clearly identified by the head were seen. Nathan predicted the swell would pick up overnight however in the morning the wind should drop back to the south-south-west. With the ship rolling most of us went early to the bunk and the night was noticeably darker.
Day 25 Wednesday 4 February
Noon position: Latitude 57o 52.6830’South; Longitude 166o 30.7858’ East
Air temperature: 5oC Water 7oC
The ship rolled during the night and seas were still a little rough this morning. The day however was fine with a veil of thin cloud and occasional patches of blue and as predicted the swell had eased by late morning. At 10 a.m. David began the day’s programme with his lecture entitled ‘A Piece of Plastic – historical archaeology in Antarctica’. A history of work in the High Arctic and Antarctica was outlined, along with techniques applied by archaeologists from New Zealand, Australia and other countries, and what can be learned from the work. David stressed that once an artefact is moved it can never be placed exactly as it was before. An interesting selection of photographs included views of Cape Evans which we had not previously seen, along with artefacts excavated at Cape Adare in 1990.
The Sea Shop opened at 11.30, providing a final chance to take a memento home from the expedition and was followed at noon by a second screening of ‘The Last Ocean’. We heard today from the Last Ocean web site that New Zealand and the United States will continue to fight for establishment of a Marine Reserve in the Ross Sea. Australia however, has shown little support. Steve W. reported many birds were seen this morning and we are now well and truly in albatross territory. Of interest was the Antipodean Wanderer, Southern Royal Albatross, the Grey-back Storm Petrel and the Subantarctic Skua has returned. Later in the day a Snowy Albatross (White Wanderer) was seen and also an adult Grey-headed Albatross. Crew this morning sprayed a chemical over superstructure on the bow and after a short time this was hosed off, revealing gleaming white paintwork. At this time entry to the bow was prohibited for safety reasons however by lunch time, we again had access to the bow, from which Steve, Paul and others have done most of their birding.
The afternoon came and went quickly. The formal part began with an excellent lecture by Samuel called ‘Wintering over in Antarctica – 15 months at the French station Dumont d’Urville’. There was much interest in Samuel’s story which began with a history of France’s station including the cooperative venture with Italy at Concordia on the Polar Plateau, 1000 km from Dumont d’Urville. Samuel spoke of the banding of birds along with the attachment of small data loggers and for seals, more elaborate transmitters attached to 10 seals at the most. For the birders it was interesting to hear that the Antarctic or South Polar Skua migrates to north of Japan and some birds are nearly 20 years old. France which has banded birds since 1953 works closely with Australia on the project. The lecture concluded with an insight into life at the station and we could see why Samuel enjoyed his time there.
The final lecture ‘Who owns Antarctica?’ was given by Agnes. This well presented lecture which included excellent graphics began with a concise history of each claim and how this evolved. This was followed by details of the key Articles of the Treaty, followed by reference to SCAR (the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) and the various Conventions for the Conservation of Seals (1972), Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980) and the Protocol on Environmental protection or Madrid Protocol of 1991 which came into force in 1998. In 1959 twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 which came into force on 23 June 1961. Since then the number of signatories has increased to 50 and this is made up of 28 Consultative Members and 22 countries with acceding status.
Following the lecture most of us assembled in the Bar/Library to participate in a quiz. Don was the compare and in a play-off, Don and Elizabeth won with 127 points out of 230 with the runner up, scoring 16. The prize was a bottle of wine and a copy of the Heritage Expeditions brochure. We had a course change at 7.05 p.m. and still had 245 nautical miles to run before Campbell Island. We were now being pushed along by a southerly with the wind expected to reach 30 knots in the night. Meanwhile the ship began to roll again from a south-west wind on the starboard quarter with wind speed likely to pick up during the night. There were a few vacancies at the dining tables this evening and many of us opted for an early night.
Day 26 Thursday 5 February
Southern Ocean; Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o 16.1291’South; Longitude 168o 47.137’ East
Air temperature: 6oC Water 10.3oC
Allan and Lorraine’s Commitment Ceremony
Apart for the occasional roll, we had a good night’s rest, waking to a fine sunny morning with scattered cloud, a busy sea with 7-8m swells and a few white caps. At 8 a.m. the air temperature was a balmy 7oC and the water now 10oC. We were making good headway at a speed of nearly 13 knots and had 82 nautical miles to run to Campbell Island where our ETA was expected to be around 4 p.m.
In spite of a bumpy sea with the occasional roll by the ship, most of us attended Samuel’s final lecture on Antarctic seals, given at 10 a.m. This lecture was well supported with good photographs, many of these taken by Samuel. The lecture began with a brief overview of seals when differences and the biology and adaption of the two families, known as the Otaridae and Phocidae were carefully explained. Samuel then outlined the four Antarctic seals – Weddell, Crab Eater, Leopard and Ross with mention of the varied dentition linked to diet, securing of prey and for the male Weddell, keeping breathing holes open. This has led to starvation from the wearing down of teeth. The Ross seal is the smallest and least common of these seals. An enjoyable aspect of the lecture was hearing recordings of Weddell seals beneath and on the ice.
Following the lecture, we handed in our jackets which had served us well and soon after noon we attended a documentary on the re-discovery in 1975 of the Campbell Island Teal then thought to be extinct, on 26 hectare La Dent Island, by Rodney Russ who founded Heritage Expeditions. The island also has the endemic Campbell Island Shag and interesting botany including mega-herbs.
The many seabirds seen this morning included several species of albatross, three species of prion, all three species of storm petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and particularly interesting was the sighting of a Soft-plumed Petrel. Shona and Marion who often enjoy a few hours on the Bridge also sighted a pod of four Orca Whales. About 1.15 p.m. the island discovered by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh (or Hasselburg) of the sealing brig Perseverance in 1810, was sighted on the horizon. The 115km2 island was discovered the same year as Macquarie Island by Hasselburgh and was named for his employers Robert Campbell & Co of Sydney. The weather can be summarised as cool, cloudy, wet and windy and only receives 650 hours of bright sunshine annually and less than one hour on 215 days (59%) of the year.
The day was fine above the lumpy sea; a pale cerulean blue sky prevailed with patches of grey strato-cumulus clouds. As we watched the landscape extend before our eyes, we could see great sheets of spray from waves breaking on steep rock faces. To port we had views of Jacquemart Island from which the Campbell Island Snipe moved to the tidal Six Foot Lake, then the main island and a volcanic rock stack (one of several) named Le Boote, along with Mt. Dumas (499m). These are just two of several localities with French names given at the time of the French Expedition which called here in 1873 and again in 1874, to observe the Transit of Venus. Many sea birds were soaring over the waves. Sightings included a Great Wanderer, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross, the Campbell Island Shag, Cape Petrel and Yellow-eyed Penguin.
The human history on the island focused on several early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, farming (initially 2000 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses), the WW2 Cape Expedition, former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 and replaced with an automated system) and pest eradication since 1990. Nathan advised that most people arrive here from the north rather than as we have from the far south. By 3.45 p.m we were entering Perseverance Harbour named after Hasselburgh’s ship. Erebus Point named by James Clark Ross, was to starboard then Davis Point near which is a colony of New Zealand Sea Lions. We enjoyed excellent views of rocky outcrops, vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice-moulded landforms and olive-green scrub extending from the water’s edge, merging with tussock higher up. Lava flows were also visible on wave washed cliffs and hillsides were clothed in tussock grass and Dracophyllum scrub.
The depth of water in the harbour ranged from 30-40m with 43m at the entrance. We were near our anchorage when rain followed by sleet and brief hail greeted us and at 4.15 p.m. with the southerly beating up the harbour, we anchored in 16m. Our position Latitude 52o32.947’South and Longitude 169o10.226’East.
Concerning the huts visible over the bow, from left we could see, the old meteorological balloon launching shed; behind the wharf the generator shed and behind on the ridge-line the New Zealand Meteorological Service automatic weather station with solar panels for charging batteries. Below at the water’s edge are the fuel and supply sheds, the now unusable crane and from here rail tracks lead up to the winch, main annex, behind the meteorology and DoC sheds, fridges and freezers, then the main accommodation annex. At the right-hand end is the DoC accommodation facility for science parties. Three outer huts are at North West Bay, Bull Rock colony with Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses and at Six Foot Lake. Two now dilapidated coast watchers huts from the Cape Expedition were out of sight on Beeman Hill which rises from behind the main annex. The lookout hut is no longer visible and may have been dismantled or is obscured by vegetation.
After nearly five days at sea after Cape Adare, it was good to be in sheltered, calm, waters although Nathan pointed out that we had seen three of the four seasons, with the weather since our arrival. A raft of 40 Sooty Shearwaters was present and Nancy saw several penguins. The shearwaters amazed us with their flying as they came in at speed then peeled off in formation like fighter planes.
At 5 p.m. we attended a joyous ceremony in the port dining room. Here Allan and Lorraine from Australia pledged to continue already happy lives together. Nathan arranged the evening activities in order that all of us could gather to witness the Commitment Ceremony, at which David with a special tie featuring penguins played the role of Officiator. David made a brief speech after which he invited Allan and Lorraine to make their promises. Allan and Lorraine solemnly pledged to one another to maintain a life-long loving relationship and brass rings made by the Third Engineer and polished by Sergei the Third Officer, were produced on a red ‘velvet cushion’ held by Noelene. These were exchanged and then David said “I now pronounce you committed” which led to a few laughs from the audience. The waiting staff headed by Natalia had made a wonderful effort with white artificial flower sprays on dining tables and floral decorations in the area where the ceremony was held. Frank had made a special cake which was decorated by Connor and a fine table cloth was placed on the floor for the ‘official party’. Our New Zealand Representative Lieutenant Ross Hickey was resplendent in full dress uniform, complete with miniature military medals. Agnes arranged an appropriate insert in the menu folder, while Samuel compiled the official photographic record. We all wished Allan and Lorraine many continued years of happiness and following extensive photography, Robbie presented the happy couple with a copy of ‘Galapagos of the Antarctic’ signed by everyone to mark the occasion.
At 5.50 p.m. and in preparation for our landing tomorrow morning, we assembled in the lecture room where Nathan gave an introduction to Campbell Island. He discussed the history, natural history including birds and plants along with other aspects that focused on the options for tomorrow and Saturday. By now the weather had cleared and the sun was shining. The bar opened at 6 p.m. and as expected following the Commitment Ceremony, there was much conviviality. Dinner was at the normal time of 7.30 p.m. however since this was a special occasion, each table had a bottle of sparkling wine, adorned with a ribbon Irene had created in honour of the occasion. After a sumptuous meal with a main of chicken breast on couscous, or venison on mashed potato, a cheese cake desert was served followed by a piece of Allan and Lorraine’s special cake.
In anticipation of a big day tomorrow, most of us retired early.
Day 27 Friday 6 February. Waitangi Day, New Zealand.
Noon position: Latitude 52o 33.0572’South; Longitude 169o 09.5375’ East
Air temperature: 8oC Water 9.7oC
It was good to be on calm waters again and during the evening the ship was repositioned. Most of us slept well, however this morning a similar frontal system to that experienced on arrival yesterday, came through with a good rain shower, followed by sleet and hail which whitened the tops around Perseverence Harbour. We organised our gear and a cut lunch for the day out and the two walks planned. The North-west Bay group set out at 9.15 a.m. on their 12km walk. Those of us heading on the boardwalk for Col Lyall began our departure at 10, with staff member Agnes, followed by a second group with David and the final group with Samuel.
Although there was intermittent rain and light snow showers, those of us who hiked to Col Lyall and on the point where we could look down to North West Bay, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Several of us were fortunate to see a pair of Campbell Island Snipe, one of which may have been a chick and there were also sightings of a Campbell Island Teal which Ginny thought may have been feeding in seaweed. Robbie saw an adult teal with a ‘duckling’. Several of the exceedingly inquisitive and tame Campbell Island Pipits were also seen. We followed the boardwalk through Dracophyllum scoparium scrub, around the side of volcanic Beeman Hill (187m) and noticed the WW2 coast watcher huts in a valley inland from Tucker Cove. Although Pleurophyllum hookeri, Anisotome latifolia and Bulbanella rossii had died off, we had excellent viewing of the purple daisy Pleurophyllum speciosum. Smaller plants such as gentians including the purple Gentiana cerina and the green orchid possibly Thelymitra, were not open, but we were still able to obtain good photographs.
After an hour or so, we reached the summit and were thrilled to see Southern Royal Albatross at close quarters on their elevated nests. Some of the birds were sitting on chicks and it is likely others were on an egg. Of interest was one nesting bird ‘bill clappering’ and perhaps communicating with the chick. We were able to obtain good views without being too near the birds. Only one or two albatross were seen flying high above, however later in the day more appeared to join their mate on the nest and it was interesting to observe the ‘gamming’ behaviour of five Southern Royal Albatross. The landscape was also of interest with re-vegetated slips and rocky lichen covered crags which stood out above the yellow-brown of the tussocks. Those of us who completed the board walk to the seating area, in spite of the stiff wind not only enjoyed a great view into North West Bay with limestone and other rocks visible, but also enjoyed wonderful viewing of a hillside with the purple daisy, which appeared to be flowering earlier this year. On return to the landing we were treated with close viewing of a male and three female New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lions.
On return to the landing, (Dr) Lesley was “savagely attacked by a giant male sea lion for 25 to 30 minutes…It kept going huff and I replied huff. Then his mate kept coming up and finally got sick of it. My only weapon was my bag. In the end I tried for a tactical withdrawal as another [sea lion] lunged, but I ended up with a bite, fortunately not serious, on the leg”.
While we explored ashore the crew held two important exercises on board the ship. One involved launching the two lifeboats with the davits and other aspects being checked and late in the afternoon they also held a fire drill.
On the long walk numerous snipe and teal were seen as the group was leaving the beach at the bay. Five Elephant Seals and a few New Zealand Sea Lions were spotted including a young male on top of the limestone cliff. A Giant Petrel was also seen with two well-developed chicks. The party viewed 25 nesting Southern Royal Albatross, with many apparently on their nest. Derek commented “the views of the albatross were unbelievable” and after walking through tussocks, up a slip, then along the ridge, “rocks could be seen that had been smashed by the waves”.
Many flowers, including a large area of Pleurophyllum speciosum, were blooming. We saw 3 or 4 Snipe, a pair of Teal on the beach at lunch time and there was a possible sighting of two Long-tailed Cuckoo, a Starling and a Pipit feeding on seaweed. Apart from a few hail squalls, everyone handled the walk well and group photos were taken at the small coast watchers’ cave and the North West Bay hut where the book was signed. The track was generally good with only a short muddy stretch near the end. The walkers were collected by Zodiac and returned to the ship somewhat weary and very satisfied with their day out. The extensive photo record will be enjoyed for a long time to come. We appreciated this opportunity to have a good look at Campbell Island and all enjoyed discussing our experiences and observations over dinner. Elizabeth said she became “lost in the [Dracophylum] scrub…I was abandoned by my leader!” For Susan the walk reminded her of the south-west of Tasmania, while Steve was delighted that with the days sightings of the Campbell Island Snipe and Teal. He has now passed the record for sightings of New Zealand birds – a commendable 273 species. With our last day almost here, most of us turned in early.
Day 28 Saturday 7 February.
Campbell Island; En-route to Bluff
Noon position: Latitude 52o 04.518’ South; Longitude 169o 12.951’ East
Air temperature: 11oC Water 10.4oC
Most of us slept well and we looked out to find a foggy morning. The climb of Mt. Honey was called off because of fog, rain and wind. Plans were then made for Ross and David to take a number of people to Col Lyall while a Zodiac cruise would take others to the head of the harbour. This was not to be. The wind and sea got up and the ship began to drag its two anchors. At 8.20 a.m. Nathan gathered everyone together to explain that the weather was deteriorating to such an extent that further landings would not be possible. Following a show of hands it was agreed that the expedition should now head for Bluff. An hour later we cleared the entrance to Perseverance Harbour, turned to port to make our way as quickly as possible to Port Pegasus or Lord River at Stewart Island. This was 318 nautical miles away with a total of 345 to Bluff, where the Pilot was booked for 7 a.m. Monday. Anticipating bad sea conditions, many of us began to pack for departure.
During the morning a few of us were on the bridge enjoying the big swells of 5-6m and the various birds which included, Wanderer, Campbell, Southern Royal and Shy (White-capped) Albatrosses along with Cape and Grey-backed Storm Petrels and a dark brown Giant Petrel. At 12.18 p.m. we experienced a 40o from the vertical roll with several at 35o. At 4 p.m. Second Officer Sergei recorded a 54o roll. Doug said to the Chief Mate Aleksi, “What’s the limit?” He replied, “I don’t know”.
For lunch the chefs produced and served excellent pizza and staff did a wonderful job assisting the stewards by clearing the tables. Glyn remarked that Don looked like he had magnetic boots. The afternoon went very quietly, with many staying in the cabin although there were several good rolls and the wind was blowing at 35-40 knots. On the Bridge there was considerable laughter when further photos were taken of Frank and his ‘look-alike brother’. All they needed was to be wearing the same shirts!
To help the kitchen and dining room staff, the evening meal was scaled down with no entree and one main only available. We did however have a very nice dessert. A brief course change during the dinner hour and clean up time was much appreciated by both passengers and staff. A few of us returned to the Bar/library to read or look at photographs taken, but most opted for an early night.
Day 29 Sunday 8 February.
En-route to Bluff
Noon position: Latitude 48o 14.86’South; Longitude 169o01.395’ East
Air temperature: 14oC Water 11.6oC
This morning we enjoyed a great sighting of 15 Common Dolphins beside the ship. At 8.30 a.m. we had 80 nautical miles to run before Stewart Island with our course in line of the Traps. Our aim was to maintain 10.5 knots with an ETA at Stewart Island of 5 p.m. Once there we could enjoy a final expedition dinner in calmer waters. Today was taken up by finalising accounts, packing and resting. Another slight course change made it more comfortable during our lunch and at 12.40 p.m. four Dusky Dolphins were seen and bird life has included several Albatrosses.
We arrived off Stewart Island in the early evening. Stewart Island (Rakiura) which has several off-shore islands covers a large area and is made up of ancient basement granite rocks, with Mt. Anglem (979m) in the north-east corner being the highest point. Forest margins around Port Pegasus border beaches, sand dunes, streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries, bracken fields, tussock-grass down lands along with rock outcrops. Bird life is prolific and includes the South Island Brown Kiwi, Red and Yellow Crowned Parakeets (Kakariki), New Zealand Pigeon, Kaka and the rare South Island Saddleback. There are also New Zealand Fur Seals and Yellow-eyed, Little Blue and Fiordland Crested Penguins. Tuatara like those we had seen at the Southland Museum in Invercargill are found on the predator free off-shore islands. There is a long history of human habitation on Stewart Island, with early moa-hunter Maori going back perhaps 600 years, then European settlers and in the 1920’s Norwegian whalers serviced the whale chasers here.
At 6.45 p.m. we assembled in the lecture room for a final debrief from Nathan who said he hoped we would all be advocates for the ongoing protection of the Subantarctic Islands and the Ross Sea region. Nathan then thanked the staff and paid a tribute to all of us for a memorable voyage. We then settled down to view Samuel’s 300 photo DVD summary of the expedition which will be made available to us. We anchored off The Neck in calm waters at 9.15 p.m. Latitude 46o57.234’South; Longitude 168o 13.292’ East and at 9 p.m. enjoyed a sumptuous farewell dinner. Our chefs did us proud with rib-eye roast beef, roast chicken and hot champagne ham. Vegetables included roast pumpkin and kumara, peas, sweet baby carrots, cauliflower with cheese sauce and potato gnocchi with a pumpkin and curry sauce. Seafood and antipasto platters rounded out the offering. Desserts included Pavlova (a proven New Zealand invention – sorry Australia!) and Chocolate Brownies. It was a wonderful way to bring our expedition to a close.
With the Pilot booked for 7 a.m. in the morning and our departure by 9 a.m., the Log has now been closed off and all that remains to be done is to complete packing, clear customs and quarantine.
The author hopes you enjoy this record of our expedition and thanks all who have contributed with information including bird and mammal sightings and other items of interest, such the interesting hand-written pieces by Mary A, placed on the notice board. Ship positions will enable you to compile a map if you wish and the information should be useful for your photographic record.
We appreciated the hard work of our professional Expedition Leader Nathan and his team – Agnes, Samuel, Lesley, Don, David; New Zealand Government Representative Ross; Captain Dimitry and his Officers; along with Natalia and her hard working and capable staff making up the 22 crew. Our knowledge of the Subantarctic Islands and Antarctica has been greatly enhanced and the expedition will certainly be one we will remember for many years. In all we covered 5,085 nautical miles or 9,353 km. We hope to meet some of you again on a future Heritage Expeditions voyage.
In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton
17 January – 15 February 2014
Nathan Russ Expedition Leader
Helen Ahern Hotel Manager
Catherine Bone Naturalist and zodiac driver
Nigel Brothers Lecturer, Naturalist and zodiac driver
Lloyd Spencer Davis Historian and Naturalist
Scott Davis Photographer
Selva Dhanabalan Doctor
Ray Smith Chef
Nick Bruerton Chef
John Barkla government observer / DOC
Expedition Log written by Lloyd Spencer Davis with assistance from Catherine Bone
Day 1. Friday 17 January 2014
Against all the odds it seemed, here we all were in Invercargill, New Zealand, with our ship – the Akademic Shokalsky – tied up at the nearby port of Bluff.
The Shokalsky had become stuck in ice in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, on Christmas Day. An attempt by a Chinese ice breaker to rescue it had only made a bad situation worse, with the Chinese ship also becoming trapped in the pack ice. As the last of 2013 ticked by, the Akademic Shokalsky remained firmly mired in the thick ice and hopes of it reaching New Zealand on schedule for our expedition began to dwindle. An attempt to get to our ship by the Australian ice breaker, Aurora Australis, succeeded only in retrieving the passengers: the little ship sat stubbornly in its icy cocoon.
By the end of the first week of the new year, our prospects of going to Antarctica had looked pretty dismal. Then, miraculously, Antarctica had loosened its grip on our ship: cracks appeared in the ice and the Shokalsky picked its way to freedom, eventually arriving in Bluff on Tuesday 13 January, some eight days behind schedule.
We assembled at the Kelvin Hotel for dinner and a briefing by Nathan Russ, the expedition leader. It was as convivial a gathering of passengers as could be imagined: some old friends were reunited, many more new ones were in the process of being made. We were relaxed, we were excited. We were, without exception it seemed, in good humour.
Day 2. Saturday 18 January 2014
The morning began with checking in our bags, followed by a walk to the Southland Museum to get a foretaste of the Subantarctic islands and to learn about New Zealand’s ‘living dinosaur’, the Tuatara. There was time for some last-minute shopping for those who wanted it and time for a last latte for those who needed it. After lunch back at the hotel, we boarded a bus for the twenty-five minute drive to Bluff and our hastily prepared ship.
To be honest, the ship looked like it had seen better days. It seemed positively miniature compared to the luxury cruise ships that ply New Zealand’s coasts exuding expense with their spotless and chic all-white appearance. The Shokalsky, by contrast, wore its colours with a sort of gulag pride: a mixture of blue, white and rust. Yet, it would prove to be a comfortable ship that we would come to treat more as our home than a ship for the next month. Nathan had also been at pains to stress that the ship had undergone a rigorous inspection upon its arrival in Bluff and that it had come through its ordeal in Commonwealth Bay unscathed – which seemed a much more reassuring testimonial than having a white hull might have been.
We set sail at 4pm, right on schedule (a remarkable achievement given the circumstances and thanks to the sterling work of the crew of the Shokalsky, Heritage Expeditions and Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris). It was a glorious afternoon, full of sunshine and blue skies: many of us stood on the upper and outer decks as the ship cleared the heads at Bluff shadowed by the pilot’s vessel. As if on cue, an albatross flew close by. Foveaux Strait, a notoriously rough piece of water at the best of times and prone to even rougher fits in the worst of times, looked uncharacteristically calm. After the uncertainties of the preceding couple of weeks and the rain and cold of the preceding few days, the omens seemed especially good for the voyage that lay ahead of us.
The calm would prove short-lived. We travelled down the eastern side of Stewart Island so as to get some shelter from the winds that were building from the west. Time enough for dinner and for Nathan to announce that we would abandon plans to stop at the Snares Islands: the conditions would not permit the intended Zodiac cruise. We would try the Snares again upon the return leg. For now instead, we would batten down the hatches and make our way to the Auckland Islands: preferably in bed, he advised.
Day 3. Sunday 19 January 2014
Sea travel can get much worse than we experienced that night (think A Perfect Storm) – but it was bad enough for most of us. The wind climbed to over 30 knots and the sea conditions were very rough. We were literally tossed from one end of our bunks to the other, often being thrown against the bulkhead with force. In the morning there were the walking wounded and the non-walking wounded. Kurt had smashed his head in several places and required stitches. Jerome had dislocated his shoulder and was left wearing a sling and a grimace that only suffering through extraordinary pain can bring. Richard, our onboard QC, sported a black eye, as if one of his clients had turned on him and that client happened to be called Mike Tyson. Many of the rest of us lay confined to our bunks feeling none too well, a groan being just about all we could offer by way of conversation whether there was anyone there to listen or not. The Shokalsky was like a ghost ship with hardly anyone up as we continued on our way to the Auckland Islands.
For those capable of venturing out, Cape Petrels and various species of albatross had been pretty much our constant companions, while a pod of Hourglass Dolphins delighted for a short while as they surfed upon our bow wave. It was with much relief for pretty much everyone when we entered the calmer waters to the south of Enderby Island and eventually anchored at Port Ross Harbour at 7pm. The low lying islands that surrounded us were covered with the red of flowering Rata trees, a glorious sight, although, the way some of us felt at the time, they could have been covered in nothing but mud and they would still have been a welcome sight.
Day 4. Monday 20th January 2014
Blue skies greeted us in the morning and the mood on board was very buoyant. While we had slept, the Shokalsky had weighed anchor and travelled down to Erebus Cove where we would make our first landing at the site of the failed settlement of Harwicke. The Zodiacs ferried us across to a small bay with a rocky beach. From there we trooped up through the Rata forest to the small graveyard, where a white picket fence surrounded a small collection of half a dozen crosses and gravestones. The most poignant was for a child who had died on 22 November 1850, aged just three months. Her father had manufactured the gravestone from a wheel intended to sharpen his implements.
We retraced our footsteps before following another path, this time one that hugged the shoreline to the east. Brilliant green moss carpeted the boughs of the Rata trees and a kaleidoscope of fallen leaves in greens, browns, reds, yellows and golds made up the ground cover between the trunks of the trees. We seemed to be walking through a magical forest that could have been conceived by Disney. Our path ended at the twisted stump of a tree that had been felled one and a half centuries earlier. Known as the Victoria Tree, it was engraved with the words, ‘H.M.C.S. VICTORIA, Norman, In Search of Shipwrecked People, October 13, 1865’. It was essentially graffiti left by the men of the Victoria, under the command of W.H. Norman, when it had gone to the New Zealand Subantarctic islands to search for castaways from shipwrecks and to release such animals as pigs, goats, rabbits, geese, and guinea fowl to hopefully establish breeding populations that could provide sustenance in the event of any future shipwrecks. It is probably true to say that some of us felt a deal of sympathy for Norman and his men – despite not normally sanctioning either graffiti or the introduction of foreign species to such a precious environment. Our passage to the Auckland Islands had taught us that Norman had been right about at least one thing: shipwrecks in the Subantarctic islands were not so much a possibility as they were a certainty.
Back on the beach, many of us took photographs of the curve of the bay capped with the colourful Rata trees as we waited for the Zodiacs to take us back to the ship. It may have been a tough place to eke out a living in the 1850s, but as we stood there in 2014 with the sunlight warming us and the views enchanting us, it felt more like a Sunday picnic. However, as if to underline just how far we were from civilization – even in 2014 – and just how quickly lives could be put at risk, Wynona fell ill. We were pretty much at the outer limit for getting a medical evacuation to New Zealand via helicopter and the decision was taken to evacuate Wynona and her husband, Vernon, while we could.
That afternoon the ship moved around to Ranui Cove and while most of us went ashore, Wynona and Vernon were transported to Enderby Island to meet up with two helicopters that had been despatched from New Zealand. The waters of Ranui Cove were tranquil, save for the presence of a somewhat curious and bellicose sub-adult male Hooker’s Sea Lion. There we were able to see the living quarters and observation post that had been established in the Second World War with the intended purpose of keeping an eye out for German raiders and any other potential enemies that might seek safe harbour in the Auckland Islands. The living quarters were somewhat dilapidated but, even so, they seemed more like an idyllic tramping hut, as far removed as it was possible to be from the trenches and beaches of a war being fought elsewhere. And it pretty much was, as no enemy vessels were ever sighted from the observation hut that sat just below the highest point at Ranui, offering unsurpassed views of the entrance to Port Ross that we had travelled through the night before.
The track to the top of the hill followed a wire that was used for communication between the observation hut and the living quarters. The views from the top of the hill afforded a 360° panorama of the Auckland Islands. If the Subantarctic islands have a centre or heart, then surely we needed no other evidence that we were standing upon it than to look around. We made our way back to the cove, with tomtits flitting through the trees. John Bakla, the Department of Conservation observer on our voyage, pointed out an ancient little plant that was thought to be millions of years old, quite possible considering these volcanic islands were formed about 12 million years ago but rest on older granites and sedimentary rocks, some dating back about 100 million years. At the cove, Tui gathered in the trees, their calls as musical as any in the animal kingdom. Back aboard the Shokalsky, we moved over to anchor near Enderby Island’s Sandy Bay in preparation for the next day’s activities.
Day 5. Tuesday 21st January 2014
The day that greeted us was perhaps more typical of the Subantarctic islands than the previous one had been: drizzle, mist and howling wind. We landed on a kelp-covered rock platform at the southern end of Sandy Bay. Yellow-eyed Penguins congregated in small groups of one, twos and threes at this end of the beach – with some venturing into the surf and some trekking inland. They appeared unperturbed by the multi-coloured herd of photographers that stood on the banks of the bay, their motor drives going off like a battalion of Gattling guns that had somehow snuck into the Auckland Islands undetected by the lookouts at Ranui Cove. Further up the beach we saw fawn-coloured female Hooker’s Sea Lions and their pups which had formed into groups overseen by big dark brown bull Sea Lions.
We followed a boardwalk over to the other side of the island. It passed over and through low-lying shrubs that covered the hillside with a palette of autumnal colours – reds, golds, browns and greens – like some sort of tapestry. The vibrance of the ground cover was enhanced by the disparity with washed out skies and mist inhibited views. At a certain point we had to step off the boardwalk to go around a Southern Royal Albatross that was sitting on a nest within pecking distance of the wooden walkway. If the penguins were sanguine about our proximity and the sound of a thousand shutter actuations, this albatross seemed positively disinterested in our presence. The contrast between its white feathers and the dark background made for great portraits, encouraging even more clicks of the shutters.
On the western side of Enderby, the wind didn’t just batter us, it blew some of us off the path and even blew one or two of us over. We sat for a time taking in the wild vista as best we could. Waves crashed into the rocky platforms below while wind and rain lashed at us atop the steep cliffs. Following the path a little northwards, we stopped on a flat area that afforded a view of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross hunkered down on their nests on a narrow ledge.
At this point the party split, with some of us returning down the boardwalk to observe the Sea Lions and penguins at Sandy Bay, while the rest of us opted for a longer walk around the circumference of Enderby Island. Initially the path took us through fields of megaherbs looking like something out of Jurassic Park. Once we entered the tussock, the going became considerably harder. But we were rewarded with fine encounters with Sea Lions, penguins and Auckland Island Shags. After a brief stop for lunch, the weather improved and the sun made an appearance for the first time that day. More Yellow-eyed Penguins and Hooker’s Sea Lions provided excellent photographic opportunities, but we also encountered many of the brilliantly coloured Auckland Island Parakeets looking like they would be more at home in Australia than a windswept Subantarctic island. We saw Brown Skuas feeding their young and a Giant Petrel seemingly pretending to nest under a Rata tree. Auckland Island Teal sat beside what appeared to be a small creek, and some of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Auckland Island Snipe as they scurried out of our way. The Pipits on the other hand, seemed attracted to us, seeking us and then darting about. The walk ended on the northern edge of Sandy Bay where we had to negotiate our way through large slumbering male Sea Lions. Many of us spent the next hour or so simply sitting on the dunes watching the soap opera unfold in front of us as Sea Lion mothers, pups and bulls went about their business, which invariably entailed growling at or biting one another.
Once back on board the Shokalsky, we headed down the eastern side of the Auckland Islands and rounded the immense cliffs of Adams Island. Wandering and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were among the many big-winged birds that tailed us out to sea. Ahead of us lay the open ocean and, further ahead still, Macquarie Island.
Day 6. Wednesday 22nd January 2014
Rare and favourable conditions (a following sea) pushed us rapidly towards Macquarie Island. Many stayed out on the decks, cameras at the ready, observing the albatross and petrels that accompanied us for parts of the journey. The first serious session of lectures occurred on this leg, with Nigel giving a beginner’s guide to the identification of all those birds flying about the ship and an introduction to Macquarie Island, a place he and Catherine had lived on for long periods of time. John told us about the botany of the Subantarctic islands and Felicity gave a rundown of the geology of Macquarie Island. To make sure the ‘at sea’ days were even more memorable, the chefs, Nick and Ray, kept a constant stream of beautifully prepared and presented meals coming out of the galley, including a delicious cake to celebrate Joan’s birthday.
Day 7. Thursday 23rd January 2014
We arrived at the northern end of Macquarie Island in the early morning and anchored in Buckles Bay. The sea was a glassy calm. Deep blue, it contrasted perfectly with the lighter blue of the sky, with just the odd little cloud to disturb what otherwise would be a perfectly colour-coded vista. The long swathe of green that was Macquarie Island stretched from left to right like some sort of irregular racing stripe. Most noticeable was the bump of Wireless Hill which sat at the far northern end and looked for all the world like some sort of green-clad version of Ayers Rock poking up from the sea, as if to emphasize that Macquarie Island really should belong to Australia. Despite this, Felicity’s lecture of the day before had clearly demonstrated that from a geological point of view it was more Kiwi than Kangaroo. At its base sat the Macquarie Island Station buildings that housed the staff that live on the island.
Despite the apparent calm, the swell was deemed too great to land passengers safely so Nigel went and picked up four Macquarie Island field staff, who joined us on the Shokalsky as we headed down the length of the island to Lusitania Bay. There we launched all five Zodiacs and cruised close inshore to the King Penguin colony, which contained an astonishing number of birds. Literally hundreds of thousands of King Penguins were seemingly packed cheek-by-bill onto the beach and up a cleft in the valley. In the midst of them sat three large rusting metal cylinders: the digesters used by Joseph Hatch’s men from a time when it was deemed not only profitable but also ethically permissible to boil penguins to extract their oil. They sat there like a scar on the landscape – a monument of Man’s inhumanity to other creatures and disregard for the environment. A small group of Rockhopper Penguins was visible standing on the rocks at one end of the beach. Giant Petrels – of both the dark and white colour morphs – paddled lazily out of the paths of the Zodiacs, but by no more than was necessary. Meanwhile all about us, King Penguins, the odd Royal and Rockhopper Penguin, and cormorants swam by as unconcerned by our presence as it was possible to be.
If the wildlife extravaganza that was Lusitania Bay was impressive, we were about to be treated to more. After returning to the Shokalsky, we headed north for a landing at Sandy Bay. For some this would be the highlight of the whole trip. It was a wildlife lover’s Mecca, a photographer’s paradise. Elephant Seals arranged themselves along the stony beach like small groups of logs discarded by the tide – but logs that seemed to find it necessary to belch and snort and argue with their neighbour at every opportunity. White-faced Royal Penguins, with their crazy bright yellow hairdos, and the more regal orange-accented King Penguins tramped past the seals, turning the beach into a penguin highway. It was impossible to stay 5 metres from the animals as the guidelines suggested. If one sat down, they literally walked right up to you. It was not uncommon to look about and see a penguin investigating another passenger closely, then to look down and realise that a King Penguin was pecking at your boots.
Up a walkway, there was a dense colony of Royal Penguins where, from a lookout, we had an excellent view of their behaviour, which often seemed to mimic that of the Elephant Seals in the way they treated their neighbours and fellow penguins. At the northern end of the beach there was a small colony of King Penguins – well, small by Lusitania standards anyway – where some penguins could be glimpsed with eggs. It is doubtful there was a single person who wanted to leave when ‘time’ was eventually called and we were shuttled reluctantly back to the ship.
Day 8. Friday 24rd January 2014
We left our anchorage off Sandy Bay to return to Buckles Bay by 7.30am. Fortunately the conditions were now favourable for a landing and two hours later most off us were ashore and being given a guided tour by the station staff. Green tussock adjoined the stony shore and one had to be careful where one walked because Elephant Seals enjoyed lying in the vegetation and surprisingly, given their size and penchant for making disgusting noises backed by even more disgusting breath, they were not always easy to notice. We climbed a walkway that afforded excellent views over the northern parts of Macquarie Island. Then it was down to Hasselborough Bay on the western side of the island where we got to spend time with a group of Gentoo Penguins, a few moulting King Penguins, the odd tern and some boisterous Elephant Seals.
Afterwards, we were invited into the mess room of the station where we were treated to some of the best scones you’ll ever find south of the Subtropical Convergence and north of it too! A photo of a hirsute Nigel, taken in 1976, looked down at us from the mess wall. On our way back to the Zodiacs we walked past the remains of more of Hatch’s digesters. These were a timely reminder, if any of us needed it, that places like Macquarie are best left to the animals and plants that belong there and that we humans, should we live there at all, are best to concentrate on cooking scones rather than penguins.
We bade farewell to Macquarie Island at 1.30pm and pointed the bow of the Shokalsky south towards the Ross Sea and Antarctica. An hour later and Macquarie had completely disappeared into the mist on our stern. Lloyd gave a lecture on how crested penguins are bizarre enigmas of the biological world, something most had already figured out from their experiences of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island.
Day 9. Saturday 25th January 2014
For those of us with sensitive stomachs, the mere thought of spending the next four days or so at sea in the notoriously inclement Southern Ocean on a small ship – which if it had any stabilizers at all were apparently missing in action – had been a daunting prospect. We needn’t have worried. The weather gods were kind to us and once again we had a following wind. The tail wind of 25-35 knots helped the ship make good time and, even if rolling about a bit, the journey was more comfortable than we really had a right to expect. Joan gave a lecture on the history of Macquarie Island while Nigel talked about the effects of human impacts on the island. This was followed by a film about the eradication of introduced pests from Macquarie, particularly the cats and rabbits. Later Scott gave a lecture on digital photography and JJ started a ‘community collage’ on the wall of the bar using the printed outputs from our own efforts at digital photography.
Day 10. Sunday 26th January 2014
In a move that received universal approval, the cooks opted to forgo breakfast and have instead a Sunday brunch at 10.30am when they produced a memorable meal of pancakes and eggs benedict. Again it was a day of lectures to fill the spaces between looking at the waves (since leaving Macquarie, there had been just the odd Black-browed Albatross, petrel, prion and Cape Petrel accompanying us). Joan talked about the early discovery of the Ross Sea and Cape Adare. Felicity followed up with the geology of Antarctica. Geir gave an insightful lecture that provided a lot of detail about Amundsen’s successful attempt to reach the South Pole, and Nigel followed up by demonstrating the importance of zooplankton, such as krill, to Antarctic ecology. As if to underline Nigel’s message that the big creatures of Antarctic waters can only exist because of the bounty provided by the small creatures, a krill-eating Fin Whale came right alongside the port side of the ship about 6pm. This was one of the few whale sightings so far.
Day 11. Monday 27th January 2014
At 5am the first iceberg was sighted, with Grace winning the competition to guess when that would occur. Two hours later and we were at 66°S and encountering scattered bergs, big and small, and even the occasional snow squall. The Antarctic Continent felt palpably nearer.
Wiebke gave a lecture about whales – interrupted when Nathan announced our crossing of the Antarctic Circle. Afterwards, Lloyd gave a lecture about the Northern Party, Cape Adare and the first ever detailed study of penguins by Murray Levick. Levick went on to found the Public Schools Exploring Society, which aimed to “provide young people with an intense and lasting experience of self-discovery in wilderness environments”. During this talk Tony (one of our passengers) was invited by Lloyd to share his experiences as the first non-public school boy to go on one of its expeditions.
In the afternoon, Nathan gave a compulsory briefing about environmental guidelines and regulations for visiting the historic huts in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. This was followed by a lecture from Nigel on the wildlife to be seen at the ice edge. A lone Chinstrap Penguin was sighted on a small berg. While Chinstrap Penguins do not breed in the Ross Sea as such, this one had probably travelled from the not so distant Balleny Islands to our west. Speaking of intrepid travelers, Joan gave a lecture on Scott’s Discovery expedition that demonstrated the bravery of the men involved and just how remarkable were their achievements.
Although satellite imagery showed that the Ross Sea was clearer of pack ice than anytime Nathan had known over the previous 20 years, at this stage the Shokalsky was pushing its way through a light band of sea ice. On the ice could be seen the occasional Crab-eater Seal, while Colgate-white Snow Petrels and Antarctic Fulmars welcomed the ship as it made its way into the Ross Sea. That evening we were entertained in the bar by Wiebke (stage name: Vebka) as she played guitar and sang a suite of her original songs that had just been released on CD. Felicity joined Wiebke for a ‘sing-along’ as they sang some old favourites in remarkably good voices while the rest of us joined in to varying degrees with voices that were sometimes not as musical. It may have been a consequence of the G&Ts, but by then it did not matter and a fun evening was had by all who attended.
Day 12. Tuesday 28th January 2014
We had been heading for Cape Adare in moderate seas, with 15-20 knots of wind coming from the south and a dull, completely overcast sky. The prevailing conditions and all the data the Captain and Nathan had available suggested that a landing there would not be possible and that we would be best to try further down the coast so we changed course and headed instead for Cape Hallett.
We settled into another informative lecture from Joan – this one on Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition and later watched a film about Amundsen and the Fram which was provided by Geir.
This part of the Ross Sea was remarkably clear of ice and only one or two small bergs were sighted during the day. At 5.45pm we passed to the east of Possession Islands – spectacular pinnacles and towers of rock. This may have been near the ends of the Earth, but it looked like some computer-generated imagery from Middle Earth. At 11pm we got close to Cape Hallett, but it turned out to be as close as we would get as ice had been pushed into the cove, blocking our access. However, nights do not come much more beautiful than this one. There was an eerie stillness to the ice-encrusted water and the sun – more glow than bright light – highlighted its gently undulating surface. Behind, the cliffs and massively pointed peaks that surround Cape Hallet provided us with a wonderful first-glimpse of the Antarctic Continent as we eased our way further south.
Day 13. Wednesday 29th January 2014
By now we were almost at 76°S with a brisk southerly wind and complete cloud cover. Nigel noted what might be the most southern record for an albatross when a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross cruised by unexpectedly. Scott imparted his tips on how to improve wildlife photography, while Lloyd gave an account of The Worst Journey in the World using the words of Apsley Cherry-Garrard to underscore just how tame was our journey in Antarctica compared to the deprivations suffered by Cherry-Garrard, Wilson and Bowers. It was enough to almost put some of us off our dessert at lunchtime.
After lunch, Joan regaled us with tales of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party and Felicity, in anticipation of our seeing Mount Erebus, talked about volcanoes associated with the Antarctic. If we needed even more to get us in the mood, after dinner there was a screening of an episode from the BBC’s Frozen Planet. As we continued our way south towards Cape Royds, we encountered the Antarctic Bee, a converted tugboat, heading north.
Day 14. Thursday 30th January 2014
At 3am, the Shokalsky arrived at Cape Royds but the winds were too strong to contemplate a landing so we proceeded onwards to Cape Evans, where we anchored half an hour later. By 5am we were ashore for our first Antarctic landing and what a place to begin! A cold 20 knot southerly wind could not deter the sense of wonderment to be standing before the very hut used by Robert Falcon Scott and his men when they had marched to the South Pole just over a century beforehand. Behind sat the smoking cone of Mount Erebus, the one constant in this area of shifting ice and snow, and humans that come and go. The sea lapped much closer to the hut than one might have expected from photos, because this was such an unusual season in which all the sea ice had broken out, leaving a small stretch of black sand beach a few metres wide being all that stood between the hut and the Ross Sea. This was waterfront property in a way that perhaps its original inhabitants had not experienced.
The hut itself had recently been carefully restored by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust and it looked pretty much as solid and as secure as when it had been built. We were allowed in only a few at a time and only after our boots had been given a thorough clean to remove dirt, stones and penguin guano (while Adelie Penguins do not breed that far south, a few were hanging out on the beach where we landed). Inside it is as if time has stood still. If Scott himself had walked through the door, it seemed like we should only have been surprised by his survival, not by his being there. It seemed like he and his men had just left; that we were the ones who had gone back in time. The sense of being in some kind of church or hallowed place was accentuated by the natural light filtering through the windows. There were no artificial lights nor anything to say we were in the 21st Century save for ourselves. Everyone spoke in whispers.
Attached to the main part of the hut were the stables where Oates, especially, had looked after the ponies. At the far end of the stables, a skeleton of one of the dogs lay still chained up, parts of its skin preserved in the dry cold, as if it had continued to wait for Oates even though he’d said he’d be some time. In that sense, Cape Evans was more abandoned graveyard than church as the spectre of death hung over it. It wasn’t just the dead dog. It was there in the emptiness of the stables and the beds, it was there in Scott’s sleeping bag that lay turned back still awaiting his return, It was also there in the cross that sat upon the nearby hill in memory of two members of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party who had lost their lives when attempting to get from Hut Point to Cape Evans and one who had died even earlier on the way to Hut Point. And another five Antarctic explorers – it hardly needed repeating – had never made it to the Cape Evans hut either. Somewhat incongruously – because it is essentially a creature of the snow and ice – an Emperor Penguin wandered over the black lava headland behind the cross to Mackintosh, Hayward and Spencer-Smith as if to highlight what it took to live in this environment. Many of us sat there photographing it, aware that it belonged there and we did not. The Antarctic is no place for the unadapted or the ill-prepared, we now knew that with certainty.
By 8.30am we were back onboard and steaming out to sea. A landing at Cape Royds was still not possible so we headed to the ice edge in search of wildlife. McMurdo Sound was so clear of ice that we were able to travel further south than would be normal be possible and at 4.45pm, we arrived at the ice shelf and our maximum southerly position for the whole trip of 77.54°S. At the ice edge we saw Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals, and the Captain brought the ship up close to three obliging Emperor Penguins that were quite happy to pose for photographs even with the Shokalsky looming over them. They were less sanguine about a Leopard Seal that popped its head out of the water to investigate them however. Minke Whales and a couple of Killer Whales were also seen before we travelled across to anchor offshore from McMurdo Station at 8pm.
Day 15. Friday 31st January 2014
McMurdo Station is the support base for the American Antarctic programme in the Ross Sea. It was established and essentially maintained by the US military (Navy), so it was especially appropriate that we went ashore in four groups in an operation controlled with military precision. Exactly fifteen minutes apart, our groups were guided through the town-like McMurdo to the science hub, the church, the air traffic control, the store, and the coffee shop: the latter for a welcome coffee and freshly-made cookie.
Initially it had been planned that we would travel by vehicle to nearby Scott Base, the headquarters of the New Zealand Antarctic programme, but after returning to the Shokalsky for lunch, it was announced that the ice in front of Scott Base had just that morning broken out sufficiently to allow for a Zodiac landing there – a rare event indeed. The Captain parked the Shokalsky against the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf a few hundred metres opposite the green buildings of Scott Base. Emperor Penguins and Minke Whales were feeding under the ice and coming up nearby to catch their breaths before going back in search of whatever was there.
Once ferried across to Scott Base in the Zodiacs, we were again divided into groups for guided tours, albeit this time with more casualness as personnel with names like ‘Grumpy’ took us to the store, the hut used by Sir Edmund Hillary, and finally to a luxurious mess, with scones to rival those from Macquarie and an expresso machine. Heaven for some. We were no sooner back aboard the Shokalsky than a pod of Killer Whales came swimming up the lead of open water, right in front of Scott Base. Disappointingly for some, we were unable to go over to them as we had an appointment with those Antarctic Heritage Trust members who were now in the process of restoring Scott’s Hut Point hut as they had at Cape Evans. As it turned out, our insistence of keeping to the schedule was thwarted by the controllers at McMurdo who insisted that we move away from the area while the supply ship, The Green Wave, berthed.
Eventually we were allowed to anchor on the northwestern side of Hut Point and visited Scott’s Discovery Hut at 8pm. The hut was largely bare of its original contents as they had been removed by the Antarctic Heritage Trust workers so that they could be properly catalogued and conserved over the coming winter at Scott Base. In the meantime, two workers from the Trust were repairing the structural aspects of the hut. They pointed out the ‘kit-set’ nature of the way the hut had been designed. Joan gave a potted history of the comings and goings in the hut: for although it was used mainly for storage by Scott during his initial expedition (when the men had lived on the Discovery moored alongside the hut) it was used for shelter at significant times by some members of all the expeditions that were to follow during the Heroic Age. A cross was erected by Scott’s men in 1902 at the very end of the point to honour George Vince, who became disorientated in a blizzard when returning to the ship, slipped down the cliff and drowned.
Late that evening a large party of us went back onshore at McMurdo to climb to the top of Observation Hill. The views over Scott Base, White and Black Islands, Mount Discovery, the Royal Society Mountain Range, McMurdo Sound and McMurdo itself were breathtaking in every sense of the word. Some of us had expended so much oxygen on the way up that it really was a case of needing to suck in air. Perhaps ‘inspiring’ views would be a better word?! We celebrated midnight up there beside the memorial cross erected to commemorate the deaths of Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans. Carved into it were the words from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” It seemed as fitting a eulogy as could be imagined under the circumstances. As we made our way back to the Zodiacs on the landing beach at McMurdo, an Emperor Penguin padded its way down a gravel road. If the Emperor at Cape Evans had made us look out of place in that environment, here it was the Emperor Penguin itself that looked out of place: a beautiful creature seemingly somewhat bemused and befuddled before a backdrop of machinery, buildings and disturbances to the landscape that we humans have a knack for creating. This was not so much March of the Penguins as it was evidence of the march of so-called ‘civilization’.
As we climbed the steps up the gangway of the Shokalsky for a well earned rest, some of us could be forgiven for wondering whether there was no place on the planet not touched by the hand of Homo sapiens. Whether you thought that was a good thing or not probably depended upon whether you preferred the penguin at Cape Evans or the one at McMurdo.
Day 16. Saturday 1st February 2014
We left McMurdo in the early hours of the morning and steamed up to Cape Royds, arriving there at 3.15am, to find that the conditions were worse than those we had encountered two days earlier with the wind blowing at 35-40 knots. The Captain took us out to sea again and we waited. By 7.30am a dramatic change occurred and with the wind down to a paltry 5 knots, we anchored gratefully on the south side of Cape Royds. Even then, the amount of ice in the bay posed some problems for a landing. However, the ice also offered an unexpected bonus: two Leopard Seals were hauled out, side by side, on the largest of the ice floes, while a third was cruising the shoreline looking for penguins. It had snowed overnight and the normally dark lava rocks of Cape Royds were partially covered with a white coating that made the outlook especially picturesque. It was a winter wonderland, except that this was summer. No matter, we traipsed through the snow to Shackleton’s Hut with a spring in our steps.
Once more there were the obligatory line-ups as only eight persons could be in the hut at any one time. Many chose to sit and watch the Adelie Penguins in the nearby colony before coming to the hut. Although it was overcast, it was bright and clear with visibility easily extending across the sound to the base of huge mountains. It was immediately apparent that Shackleton had a good deal of taste when it came to selecting real estate. The setting for the hut was as picturesque as any could be in Antarctica or, for that matter, anywhere. It was nestled beside a small frozen lake with the penguins breeding beyond and further out across the open water of McMurdo Sound could be viewed the regal and hence aptly named, Royal Society Mountain Range.
The inside of the hut itself was more homely than Scott’s had been. Socks hung from a line drying. Leather and canvas boots sat beside the stove. Light from the windows streamed onto the beds. A framed pair of photographs of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra looked down from one wall. In the shelves there were Sunlight Soap, Colman’s Corn-flour and tins of roasted mutton and Irish stew. While Scott’s hut at Evans had seemed dark and cavernous and sprinkled with death, this one seemed cosy. If given a choice there’d be no choice: this would be the hut nearly everyone would pick to stay in. We left the hut with a good deal more reluctance than even the degree of anticipation with which we had arrived. One of the Leopard Seals was still stretched out on the floes when we returned to the landing spot, so Nigel and Catherine took the Zodiacs in for some close-up views of the innocent looking killer.
We departed Cape Royds at 2pm and arrived at Cape Bird three hours later. The light was gorgeous – dark and ethereal. To the left were the sheer ice cliffs of the Mount Bird Ice-cap and the land here too, had received a dusting of snow. Only in the penguin colony itself was the snow mostly gone, so that it showed up as a dark brown swatch of colour in what was otherwise a largely whitish landscape. There was open water right up to the penguin colony and the push-ice had largely gone from the beach, but the steepness of the beach, the 1.5 metre surf break and the scattered lumps of ice along the beach made for a tricky landing. The Northern Colony at Cape Bird is home to some 60,000 pairs of breeding penguins and it seemed like just about every one of them was walking along a pathway near the beach – a sort of penguin highway and with much more traffic than the one we had encountered on Macquarie. It was impossible not to be enthralled by these iconic creatures of the Antarctic. As well as the black and white adults, there were a lot of large chicks near to fledging, many sporting a top-knot of down. We set about either photographing the penguins to our hearts’ content or simply observing them. Further down the beach towards the ice cliffs, a Weddell Seal lay hauled out trying to sleep, its head within hearing distance if not pecking distance of the cacophonous penguins. If their noise bothered the seal, it did not show any signs of that. It seemed as uninterested in its surroundings as we were interested.
We would have gladly stayed there for hours more but suddenly we were called back sooner than expected. The swell had increased and we needed to evacuate the beach while we still could. The Zodiac drivers did a sterling job getting us back to the ship in a heaving sea without getting too many of us wet or too much of us wet. Nevertheless, as we set sail at 8.30pm, many of us were very sad to go. It is hard to pick favourites in an expedition full of delights but, if forced to, Cape Bird would be high up on just about everybody’s lists.
Day 17. Sunday 2nd February 2014
We arose at 3am for a cruise along the face of the Ross Ice Shelf. The Adelie Penguin colonies on the eastern end of Ross Island, at Cape Crozier, were clearly visible in the background, backlit by the sun. The irregular cliffs of the Ross Ice Shelf with their regular, straight-as-a-die flat tops were relentless and it seemed, never ending. We cruised along them for one-and-a-half hours and they still stretched as far as the eye could see and truth be told, much, much further than that too. It is a journey that names like Scott and Shackleton, Amundsen and Pennell have made, but very few Antarctic travellers of the modern era get that opportunity, be they scientists or tourists. We passed by a small piece of ice covered with penguins and then, as if to emphasize that this untouched and seldom travelled part of Antarctica belonged exclusively to the penguins and whales, a group of three Minke Whales surfaced briefly between us and the ice shelf. We left it to them and headed north: destination Franklin Island.
We passed by the western shores of Franklin Island at 11am. The blue skies and fluffy white clouds made it all look rather benign, but even from one kilometre away we could see from the heavy surf break onto the black sand beaches that conditions for landing were unsuitable. Much of the island is covered in a large ice cap that ends in steep cliffs, but at the south-western end the exposed volcanic cliffs revealed a large colony of Adelie Penguins breeding at their base. We headed on towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue until our progress was slowed somewhat at 4pm at 75.41°S, 165.55°E when we encountered pack ice. This eventually halted us altogether an hour-and-a-half later when we were not far from the southern side of the Drygalski Ice Tongue. At this point we were treated to an impressive hunting display by a group of Killer Whales which spy hopped from one ice floe to another in search of prey.
Lloyd had given a lecture on penguins and Wiebke gave one on filmmaking but this was interrupted, first by power failures and then by the excitement evinced by the Killer Whales. Undaunted by our failure to reach the Drygalski on its southern side, we retreated to the east to get to more ice-free conditions, intent on taking the Shokalsky to the northern side of the ice tongue and on to Terra Nova Bay. Ray and Nick had prepared a Sunday roast of lamb and chicken followed by banoffee pie – a delicious way to end the day.
Day 18. Monday 3rd February 2014
We were woken at 7am to check out the Drygalski Ice Tongue as we sailed by its indented edge. Its cliffs of ice were more gnarled and tortured looking, with less regular geometric shapes than those of the Ross Ice shelf had been. Bergs that had been carved off the glacier floated nearby. After breakfast we headed over to a blue berg with four Adelie Penguins resting on its rounded and irregular curves. We circumnavigated the berg twice for the sake of the photographers onboard and then at 9.45am we began our journey towards Inexpressible Island.
Unfortunately the closer we got to the island the rougher the sea conditions became and it was clear the area was being subjected to katabatic winds exceeding 50 knots. The wind chill was exceedingly cold even though the temperature was a relatively mild -8°C – or at least it would have been mild without the wind. From the warm confines of the ship’s interior it seemed hard to fathom how the members of the Northern Party could have possibly coped with spending a winter there in a snow cave with few provisions. As a consequence of the wind, we continued on to the unoccupied German station of Gondwana at the base of Terra Nova Bay.
At 2.30pm we landed on a small sandy beach amongst 10 nonchalant Weddell Seals. We were free to wander over the moonscape-like rocks where to the left sat the neat orange buildings of the German base. A moulting Emperor Penguin and a recently fledged Adelie Penguin sat as awkwardly as each other on the rocks of a nearby headland. Skuas swooped and dive-bombed those intent on walking over the ridge to the right to get a view of the Korean base that is being constructed – a scar on the landscape in front of the symmetrical and perfectly formed Mount Melbourne. We left the beach three hours later and took a Zodiac cruise along the nearby Campbell Glacier. An Emperor Penguin on a small iceberg posed for more photographs than most of us will ever have taken of ourselves during our lifetimes. The light, the penguin, the setting: it was all perfect. If a picture can tell a thousand words, then that penguin had just produced the avian equivalent of War and Peace.
We motored back to the region of Inexpressible Island to find that the katabatic winds still persisted. During the night we would take our little ship backwards and forwards as we waited and hoped for the winds to drop.
Day 19. Tuesday 4th February 2014
By 8am, the call was made by Nathan that we could wait for the winds to abate no longer. Sadly, we left the unvisited Inexpressible Island on the horizon as we turned for Cape Hallett. We encountered a 40 knot southerly and rough seas, but as the day wore on the wind dropped, the seas calmed and conditions became merely foggy. We settled into our ‘at sea routine’ with lectures from Nigel on seabird by-catch, and Joan on Scott’s race to the pole, to complement the one Geir had given earlier about Amundsen. That evening Wiebke and Felicity entertained us again with their singing in the bar, with Wiebke performing memorable covers of songs by Janis Ian and Ed Sheeran as well as her own songs.
Day 20. Wednesday 5th February 2014
By 6am we were a little over a nautical mile from Cape Hallett, but the ice that had prevented us from landing there on the way down was even more impenetrable. We opted instead for a bitterly cold Zodiac cruise along the pack ice edge in winds that had increased to 25 knots by the time it was over at 9.30am. We did see the odd Adelie Penguin resting on the ice and for those in Nigel’s Zodiac there was a slightly tense moment when we became completely hemmed in by the pack ice and the thought of doing a ‘mini Shokalsky’ entered our heads. However, Nigel deftly manoeuvred the craft and we pushed our way to freedom and the very welcome hot showers aboard the real Shokalsky. Actually, that is something that deserves recording somewhere, and here is as probably as good as anywhere. The showers on the Shokalsky were excellent with plenty of really hot water and enough pressure to take your skin off if you weren’t careful.
The decision was taken to press on to the Possession Islands but unfortunately, the landing conditions there were also unworkable. There was nothing else for it but to continue on to Cape Adare with the slightly uncomfortable feeling in our stomachs that the Antarctic Continent was simply not going to let us get close to it again. We rounded the spectacularly severe Downshire Cliffs about 5pm and were blown away (literally and figuratively) by the truly magnificent sight of Cape Adare. It had what Leon Uris might have called a ‘terrible beauty’. It was windswept, cold and barren and – save for a small spit of flat ground (Ridley Beach) that jutted into Robertson Bay – it was a place of verticals. Stretching from the point we had just come around was a large 180° arc of sheer cliffs, mountains and glaciers. The winds were coming down from those mountains and glaciers at between 30 and 40 knots. It was easy to appreciate why Scott’s Northern Party had effectively been marooned here on Ridley Beach: there was really nowhere else one could go.
Cape Adare is the site of the largest Adelie Penguin colony in the world and while many of them it seemed had crammed into every spare space on Ridley Beach, it was amazing to see just how far some of them were prepared to climb up the cliffs and mountainside in order to breed. The huts of Carston Borchgrevink (whose expedition was the first to overwinter in the Antarctic), with the dilapidated remains of the Northern Party’s hut nearby, were clearly visible on the far side of the spit of beach, completely surrounded by penguins. We anchored on the eastern side of Ridley Beach and there was much excitement amongst the passengers in anticipation of our landing at such an historically significant site. Unbeknownst to most of us, a Zodiac bearing Nathan, Scott (the photographer) and John (the DOC observer) landed them on the beach and they got to see the huts and photograph them. However, upon their return, Nathan deemed the swell on the beach to be too dangerous and he took the decision to cancel the proposed landings for others.
At nearly midnight when conditions had improved, we were woken and offered the consolation of a Zodiac cruise along the ice-encrusted shore of Ridley Beach. Virtually every vantage point was packed with fledgling penguins seemingly building up the courage for their first swim. Flocks of adult penguins porpoised to and from the beach, with one or two jumping into the Zodiacs – perhaps in the mistaken belief that we represented some hitherto unseen black ice berg or, better still, dry land. The chicks that did venture into the sea, flapped their flippers frantically, sitting high in the water, not yet used to their new environment. That was Ridley Beach really: the sheer number of penguins onshore, the frantic nature of those in the water, the smashing surf, and the shifting ice. It was chaos, but from our perspective, an enjoyable chaos to behold. On the way back to the ship we circled an ice berg shaped like Old Mother Hubbard’s shoe with a group of Adelies and one out-of-place Emperor Penguin nestled into what would have been the tongue of the shoe.
Day 21. Thursday 6th February 2014
The day dawned reasonably fine but still the conditions were deemed not suitable for a landing. At 11.45am we took to the Zodiacs and had a memorable cruise that took in large ice bergs, Killer Whales and most spectacularly of all, a Leopard Seal leaping onto an ice floe and catching a terrified and slow-moving fledgling Adelie Penguin chick. The seal then proceeded to slap its unfortunate victim from side to side and as far as we could tell, devour most of it.
Although we theoretically had the whole day up our sleeves to wait for a landing (the Captain wanted to depart by midnight), Nathan took the decision that the deep and persistent southerly swell was not likely to allow conditions to improve sufficiently in that time and that we had better set sail for Campbell Island – over 1,100 nautical miles away – and have more time to play with in the Subantarctic islands. At 2.30pm we set off, leaving the Antarctic in our wake with just its Snow Petrels to accompany us. By 5pm we had reached 70.53°S and encountered our first albatross: one of the Light-mantled Sooty kind.
Day 22. Friday 7th February 2014
Our way was largely clear, except for a band of ice we encountered for some 15 minutes or so at 9am when at 67.57°S 169.57°E. Seven-and-a half hours later we crossed the Antarctic Circle. We began to see our first Cape Petrel – after many days absence – and other more northern seabird species such as Sooty Shearwaters, White-headed Petrels, Mottled Petrels and Antarctic Prions.
In the morning, Lloyd gave a lecture about seals that featured his son Eligh as a Weddell Seal pup, and Joan gave a lecture that featured much of what the Americans had done in the Ross Sea following the Heroic Age. In the afternoon it was Nigel and JJ’s turns to inform, with the former explaining why population monitoring was important and how to do it, and the latter telling and showing us about her project on faces of the Southern Ocean. The day was finished off with a screening of Ponting's film The Great White Silence, which was filmed during the Terra Nova Expedition and originally released in 1924, before being restored and re-released three years ago by the British Film Institute.
Day 23. Saturday 8th February 2014
This turned out to be a day given almost completely to the Southern Ocean. By 7am we were already at 64.40°S and making good time as we headed more or less due north in 25-30 knot westerly winds. The sea was rough, the sky dull and overcast.
The rough conditions meant that the morning’s lectures needed to be postponed and most took to their bunks or the library. In the afternoon Bob Mossel entertained us with stories of his travels through Papua New Guinea and his epic walk (Bob was the first person to walk across Australia). By 6pm the seas and winds had moderated slightly. The evening film was an episode (summer) from the Frozen Planet.
Day 24. Sunday 9th February 2014
The rough conditions persisted, but we were making good time and averaging about 11 knots. By 7am we were at 59.11°S and still on a trajectory close to due north. Over the course of the day, the 15 knot westerly increased to 40 knots. Again we missed out on the sun with complete cloud cover present for the whole day. By 7pm we had moved a whole two degrees further north, despite the turbulent seas. Nigel had been able to deliver his lecture on the life histories of albatross and petrels in the morning, but the worsening state of the sea in the afternoon had caused the cancellation of Felicity’s lecture. Once more an episode of the Frozen Planet occupied the evening film slot.
Day 25. Monday 10th February 2014
We were greeted by the same dull cloud cover when we got up in the morning. Now at 54.45°S, however, it was joined by misty rain. We had been seeing seabirds consistently but in relatively small numbers. That all changed at 4.45pm when we encountered a vast flock of feeding seabirds at 52.30°S. It contained thousands upon thousands of Sooty Shearwaters, at least five species of albatross and Cape Petrels. The photographers amongst us had a field day and the ship circled the area several times to allow us to take it all in, whether we were using a camera or not.
A film about the rat eradication programme on Campbell Island – the largest undertaken anywhere in the world – had been screening when we came across the feathered feeding frenzy. It was not long before we got to see the real thing. At 5.10pm we had our first glimpse of Campbell Island and a bit over a couple of hours later we had entered Perseverance Harbour, with excellent views of the island and its wildlife on both sides of the ship, as we travelled to our anchorage. Some commented that the rugged hills covered with stunted vegetation reminded them of Scotland. By 8pm we had come to rest and soon after that we were celebrating Curtis’ birthday with a cake made for the photographic enthusiast by Ray and Nick in the shape of a camera.
Day 26. Tuesday 11th February 2014
After a briefing, we ventured ashore at 9.45am, landing at Beeman Cove amongst a cluster of disused buildings that had once been used primarily for the meteorological station that had been maintained there since 1958. Nathan led a group of 14 on a hike to Northwest Bay (the ‘long walk’) while the majority of us ascended a boardwalk that took us some way up Mount Lyall to a group of breeding Southern Royal Albatross (the ‘short walk’, albeit, some commented it was longer than they imagined a short walk to be). The ‘long walkers’ had a magnificent day, also encountering many albatross, but seeing the Campbell Island Teal and the Campbell Island Snipe as well. The highlight for some, however, was the group of big adult male Elephant Seals they came across on the beach.
The rest of us had a more relaxed day, observing the Australasian Pipits and the albatross. To be sure it was windy and misty but that somehow added to the atmosphere – this was the Subantarctic after all. An albatross sitting on a young chick received the most attention, with many sitting and waiting patiently for an hour or more just to get a glimpse of the fluffy white bundle and the opportunity to see it being fed by its parent. Higher up the boardwalk were large tracts of the purple-flowered Pleurophyllum speciosum or Campbell Island Daisy as it is often called, a megaherb native to Campbell Island and the Auckland Islands. They looked both incongruous and stunning in the mist, as if some gardener had planted a field of these flowers in the most unlikely of places. Unfortunately the mist and cloud prevented views down onto the beaches on the western side of the island, but many of us sat for a while at the top of the cliffs just to experience the full force of the wind on our faces. This was the Subantarctic after all!
The ‘long walkers’ ended their journey at 5pm when they were picked up from Tucker Cove. This was about the same time that those ‘short walkers’ who had remained up on the boardwalk were treated to displays between the albatross that involved much clacking of bills and head bobbing. A group of Hooker’s Sea Lions entertained us as we boarded the Zodiacs at Beeman Cove and by 7.15pm we were all back aboard the Shokalsky. After a hot shower we adjourned to the bar, where an auction was held of items brought by the passengers. This was to raise funds for the Last Ocean – a coalition of organizations battling to have the Ross Sea made into a marine protected area. Considering where we’d been, it seemed like an especially appropriate cause and with Lloyd acting as auctioneer, we managed to raise over $3,000 USD and have the odd laugh along the way even though the objective of the auction remained a very serious matter.
Day 27. Wednesday 12th February 2014
Three of us were scheduled for a hike up Mount Honey departing at 6am, but a quick look out the porthole revealed a dense low fog and total cloud cover. The hike was cancelled but at 9.30am we all boarded the Zodiacs and cruised the shores of Tucker Cove and Camp Cove. This afforded us excellent views of cormorants, teals and a Giant Petrel eating greedily from a dead Sea Lion. A bunch of Sea Lions that were very much alive seemed to enjoy tailing the Zodiacs and leaping from the water acrobatically. Mike, Ray and Wiebke did their best to capture the underwater action with Go-pros, while those of us with more conventional cameras concentrated on the above water images.
We had a brief landing to inspect what is known as the Loneliest Tree in the World. The Sitka Spruce is the only tree on Campbell Island (the island is otherwise covered in low-lying shrubs and bushes). For many years it was used as the source of Christmas trees for those living at the nearby meteorological station. It is thought that the tree was planted by Lord Ranfurly, the onetime Governor General of New Zealand, when on an expedition to the island in 1907. An inquisitive (and some might say aggressive) Sea Lion initially blocked our return to the Zodiacs but we were soon back aboard the Shokalsky for lunch.
After lunch many of us jumped at the chance to go back up the boardwalk to see the albatross. It was even mistier than the previous day but the albatross were more active too, with some walking right up to us as we stood or sat on the boardwalk. It is only when they are literally within spitting distance that one can truly appreciate their enormous size. It is a wonder they can fly. But fly they can and the albatross put on an aerial display for us to rival that of any air show. Further down the boardwalk a few of us were lucky enough to see and even photograph the elusive Campbell Island Snipe and a Yellow-eyed Penguin with a chick. At 11pm the Captain ordered the anchor to be raised and we began our journey to the Snares Islands, the place that had been the first of this voyage’s proposed destinations, but which had to be abandoned because of the foul weather soon after we had left Bluff nearly a month earlier.
Day 28. Thursday 13th February 2014
The conditions approaching the Snares this time could not have been more different. We were travelling comfortably northwards in a light southerly breeze with a moderate southeasterly swell. By 7am our position was 51.25°S 168.36°E. Nigel gave a lecture about the Sooty Shearwaters on the Snares and one on ways of mitigating seabird by-catch in fisheries. Nathan gave a lecture introducing the Snares Islands and Scott completed the series by giving a workshop on how to use Photoshop and the like to enhance digital images.
At 7pm a pod of Killer Whales tracked us for 30 minutes (or was it us tracking them?), streaking towards the ship through the waves before coming right alongside. Oftentimes they could be seen quite clearly under the water, swimming close to the hull of the Shokalsky and looking up at us. With Lois and John both having birthdays, there were plenty of celebrations in the bar that evening and cheese platters all round before dinner.
Day 29. Friday 14th February 2014
Daylight at around 6.30am revealed that we were within striking distance of the Snares Islands, with the silhouette of Broughton Island nearby. The skies were filled with massive numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and petrels as they made their morning exits from their burrows onshore.
Despite extremely gusty winds, the sea conditions allowed us to undertake a Zodiac cruise up the eastern coast of Snares Island. We were able to get in really close to the rocky shore, drifting in the still waters of inlets where we got terrific views of New Zealand Fur Seals, Hooker’s Sea Lions, and Snares Penguins. We were even able to see some of the small land birds, such as Fernbirds and the beautiful black Snares Tomtit. We also saw one lone and presumably quite lost Fiordland Penguin. Where the sea met the rocks, attractive gold-coloured kelp swayed gently in the currents. The only place it did not was at the so-called ‘penguin slide’, where the comings and goings of thousands of penguins keep the rocks free of kelp as they somehow managed to scramble up an astoundingly steep slab of rock en route to their nests. From their own pedestal-like nests perched on the sides of the cliffs, Buller’s Albatross looked down at us. Of all the places we’d been on our remarkable voyage, the Snares Islands seemed the most pristine. The islands positively dripped with wildlife. It was a delightful way to end the voyage. We left the Snares at 10.30am and by 2pm, with Stewart Island in sight and sunshine all around, we assembled on the bow of the Shokalsky for a group photo.
Nestled in the lee of Stewart Island, we gathered eagerly in the lecture room as Scott played a short film of the journey made by Wiebke, then a long slide show of his stunning photos, followed with a marvellous collection of photographs taken by the passengers. Every one of them had captured beautiful, beautiful memories: moments to treasure from a journey that we’d all taken together and which had, in virtually every way, exceeded our expectations. The chefs had prepared a delicious roast as a farewell dinner and it was washed down with wine and cheers and a lot of good spirits of the non-alcoholic kind.
Day 30. Saturday 15th February 2014
In the early hours of the morning, the Shokalsky had been met by the pilot at the entrance to Bluff Harbour and escorted to its berth on the high tide – so that when we awoke, we found we were tied up exactly in the same place we had departed from on the 18th of January.
It proved to be a quick and orderly disembarkation. A final breakfast with bags packed and left outside cabins so that they could picked up and transported where they needed to go. A customs and immigration check. Then it was time to say goodbyes to all the newly made friends, crew and passengers alike, before boarding the bus for the city and lives that would be hard pressed to seem as exciting as the previous 30 days.
Voyage 1370 on MV Spirit of Enderby/Professor Khromov
Click here for Species List
Noon position: Latitude 45o 47.21’ Longitude 170o 47.26’
Positions are taken from the Deck Log Book
Air temperature 18oC
Concerning readings for air temperature, the thermometers outside a Bridge Port chart room window, are alcohol and mercury filled. For all readings, these are only an approximation. When the sun is out the thermometers receive direct sunlight. Unless mentioned readings need to be reduced by about 2oC and in some instances probably more. A reasonable approximation can be gained from surface water temperature.
On our way at last, with 50 of us about to experience magnificent Subantarctic Islands followed by the wonders of Antarctica, in the Ross Sea region south of New Zealand. We arrived yesterday in the Scottish city of Dunedin and stayed overnight in the Southern Cross Scenic Hotel, meeting up for the first time over dinner.
It rained in the night and the morning was cloudy and calm. Expedition staff members Katya and David assisted with luggage and we soon boarded our ship the Spirit of Enderby, which had arrived in port yesterday following the completion of an expedition to sub-Antarctic Islands. At 10am as we were fare welled by the somewhat reduced Taieri Pipe Band, which today consisted of three drummers, a guitarist, accordion player and a piper (many members were on holiday). The ship departed on schedule and with the pilot on board, proceeded up the channel towards Port Chalmers and the open sea. On the way out of the port we passed the large passenger liner Celebrity Solstice; which was visiting Dunedin for the day. The pilot left us at 11.35am as we passed Taiaroa Head with its Royal Albatross colony, and headed south past a largely treeless landscape.
Rodney, who founded Heritage Expeditions over 25 years ago, assembled everyone in the lecture room where we were introduced to the expedition staff and received the all-important safety briefing. After lunch the abandon ship alarm (seven short, one long) was sounded three times and a compulsory lifeboat drill was held. We then spent a few minutes in our allotted lifeboats while the engines were briefly started.
At 4pm we again assembled in the lecture room for a final briefing of the day. This covered Zodiac inflatable boat travel, followed by an introduction to New Zealand’s Snares Islands, which lie south of Stewart Island. The lounge area with the Globe Bar seems to be a convivial place to get to know our shipmates. In the evening, chefs Bobby and Lindsay provided an excellent meal in the Ice Culture Restaurant, with venison or Thai curried fish offered for the main course.
Noon position: Latitude 48o 24.33’S Longitude 166o 36.44’E
Air temperature 19oC
During the night the sea became moderately rough and although we woke to a fine day, conditions were not suitable to do the planned Zodiac cruise. We did however have excellent viewing of the Snares Islands situated about 209km south-west of New Zealand.
The island group was discovered by Captain George Vancouver from the vessel HMS Discovery in 1791. The main island is named North East Island and the second largest is Broughton Island, which was named after Lieutenant William Broughton, commander of HMS Chatham. To the south-west is a group of five small islands known as the Western Chain; each with a Maori numeral name. Until 1830 the islands were visited by numerous sealing parties from Australia, which almost wiped out the New Zealand Fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) colonies. Despite their rugged rocky coastlines, no ship wrecks have been recorded.
This morning we had excellent viewing of white lichen encrusted sea cliffs of mica-rich granite, topped by stunted vegetation with two ‘tree daisies’ - the pale green Olearia lyalli and the darker green Brachyglottis stewartiae. Numerous seabirds sighted included Snares Crested Penguin, Sooty Shearwaters, Buller’s and Salvin’s Albatross. A south to south-west swell came up and when lunch was held at 1pm a course change was made to help both chefs and diners. As the sea was becoming rough, lectures were cancelled and most preferred to remain in their cabins. A course change was again taken to enable enjoyment of the evening meal and most retired in the early evening.
Noon position: Latitude 50o 30.46’S Longitude 166o 16.75E
Air temperature 17oC
When struck by large swells during the night, the Spirit of Enderby bucked and shook occasionally requiring a further change in direction. This took us 33 nautical miles west. Rodney said that in over 100 visits to the Auckland Islands he had never had to make so many course changes here. At 7am we anchored off Port Ross, opposite Sandy Bay on Enderby Island, the most northern of the volcanic Auckland Island group, formed 16-24 million years ago. The sea was now considerably calmer, despite a persistent 25 knot westerly.
We had an excellent view of the island with its stunted vegetation and to left and right of Sandy Bay, cliffs comprising volcanic columnar basalt encrusted with white and yellow lichen. These cliffs rose above an intertidal platform. After breakfast we assembled in the Lecture Room where Rodney gave an excellent introduction to the natural and human history associated with the Auckland Islands and suggested we should read some of the books available. We then made our lunch and prepared for the first landing on the expedition.
Before departing we were required to vacuum our clothing to prevent unwanted seeds being distributed on the island and to disinfect our footwear with ‘Virkon’. The Zodiac operation began at 9.15am and we landed on the rocky, kelp-covered shore platform, above which was a small collection of huts owned by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.
Rodney pointed out a castaway ‘finger post’ which provided directions to an early supply depot. He then gave an interesting commentary on the large colony of New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lions on the beach. Large bulls guarded their harems and a large number of pups were congregated in creches. Apart from one early squall of hail and rain, it was a nice sunny morning. This added to the pleasure of taking the 45 minute walk across the west side of the island by way of an excellent walkway.
The windswept vegetation had a variety of plants in flower including young Southern Rata with red flowers, Casinia vauvilliersii with white flowers and the small endemic mauve and white Gentiana cerina. Unfortunately the large yellow-flowered megaherb Bulbinella rossii had finished flowering by this time. Beside the walkway we were privileged to have an excellent view of a nesting Southern Royal Albatross with other magnificent birds scattered over the landscape and either resting or in flight. On the west side of the island, Katya led many of us to see a Wandering Albatross chick and Rodney took others to search for an endemic Auckland Island Snipe (Coenocorypa aucklandica) with some of us fortunate to see one. Rodney then led 33 of the party on a five hour trek around the island. The party was rewarded with observing Snipe, a few Auckland Island Teal (Anas aucklandica), Red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae), and fortunately no domestic animals. The removal of rabbits and other introduced animals has led to a dramatic recovery of flora and fauna in this beautiful place.
Back at Sandy Bay a few enjoyed lunch in the Rata forest, where in the peaceful shaded environment they observed Bellbirds, Tui and the endemic Auckland Islands Tomtit. All had the pleasure of viewing at close quarters the sea lions and Yellow-eyed Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome).
By 5pm we were back on board after a superb day of natural history and dramatic scenery. In the evening Katya discussed bird sightings, this enabling an update to our Southern Ocean Species List. Many continued relaxation in the lounge where the library provides a good selection of titles.
Noon position: Latitude 50o51.30’S Longitude 166o02.88’E
Air temperature 9.5oC
During the night while at Enderby Island, several Giant Petrels apparently visited the ship. By 6.45am we were anchored in Carnley Harbour with Adams Island visible to port. It was a rather bleak morning with low cloud, a light nor-west and light rain; not unusual for the region. After breakfast we anchored inside the entrance to the North Arm of Carnley Harbour. About 20 of us headed ashore in Zodiacs to the inspect remains of the Grafton wrecked in 1864 and also remnants of a rock hut named Epigwaitt, an Indian word meaning ‘house by the sea’. Here survivors from the Grafton eked out a miserable existence for 18 months and even constructed a boat to facilitate rescue. Apart for four ‘ribs’ from the hull, little remains of the ship and only the rear wall remains of Epigwaitt. After constructing a boat with improvised tools Captain Musgrave along with two others reached New Zealand then returned to collect the other two men.
As we stood in dripping, open Rata forest with a ground cover of nettles, ferns and other plants, Rodney narrated events concerning the wreck of Captain Musgrave’s ship and the later rescue. This was in many ways comparable to other great open ocean voyages such as Captain Bligh’s voyage in the Pacific and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s voyage in the James Caird to South Georgia in 1916. The Grafton rescue was in stark contrast to the wreck of the Invercauld on the other side of Auckland Island and we left with perhaps a better appreciation for the conditions the Grafton crew experienced. Also of interest on this adventure were female sea lions, two Auckland Island Shags, a Tui and various marine shells including blue mussels, limpets and pipis.
Before lunch David gave his first lecture entitled ‘Bleak Outposts in Stormy Seas’. This general lecture followed Rodney’s introductory lectures and focused on the exploitation of seals and penguins, shipwrecks and castaways, attempts at farming and scientific expeditions. There are several good books describing the privations of the castaways in particular. At 1pm we departed for Macquarie Island. As we left Carnley Harbour, we were treated to the impressive sight of a ‘raft’ of hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters. Cloud was now lifting and rounding the mouth of the harbour we viewed waterfalls and streams cascading over grassy slopes and cliffs formed by volcanic eruptions.
Course was set at 230o with 341 nautical miles to go before we reached Macquarie Island about midnight (ship time) Sunday evening. For those on the Bridge many seabirds including Wandering, Gibson’s, Salvin’s, Shy and Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross were seen. One of the greatest and most beautiful pleasures when at sea in these regions is seeing a large albatross gliding on air currents and sweeping low over the waves with a wing tip almost brushing the surface. We can all now appreciate Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ along with the comment by ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy who stated ‘I have seen the Albatross’.
Other species seen today included Yellow-eyed Penguins, Northern Giant, White-headed, White Chinned, Storm, Diving and Cape Petrels, Red-billed Gulls, Auckland Island Shags, Brown Skua and one South Polar Skua which was seen in Carnley Harbour. Mammal sightings included a Sei Whale and a small pod of Hour Glass Dolphins. Also seen today and identified by two fins, was possibly a sleeping Basking Shark, measuring about three metres long. New Zealand Blue Cod or Moroccan Lamb (on plates) helped round off an excellent day. Chefs Bobby and Lindsay with help from Natalia, Albina and the ship staff have done an excellent job looking after our daily needs.
Noon position: Latitude 53o18.6’S Longitude 161o26.28’E
Air Temperature 12oC
We enjoyed a blissfully calm sea last night and at 9am today were over the Emerald Basin and about 4300m of water. We have now completed about half our sea miles to Macquarie Island. Many enjoyed a restful morning in the library/lounge including at 10.30am an excellent brunch with fruit, bagels, smoked salmon, bacon and all the trimmings. With the calm sea some of us enjoyed time at the bow enjoying good viewings of albatross gliding above the waves with an occasional wing beat to maintain speed. Although there was some high cloud, the sun shone determinedly and it was a very pleasant change to being inside. On the Bridge the Officer on Watch is always very helpful with any questions concerning our progress. One bird which made an early appearance this morning was the beautiful Southern Fulmar.
At 12.30pm Steve presented his lecture ‘Ocean Wanderers: Southern Seabirds’. The information given will be very useful in the days ahead and make more meaningful the sightings and records of new species seen and recorded in our logs. Steve’s lecture was followed by Rodney’s introduction to Macquarie Island and Australia’s Station, with reference also made to his beautiful book, ‘Galapagos of the Antarctic: Wild islands south of New Zealand’ compiled with biologist Aleks Terauds. Two further books worth reading on this subject are ‘Castaway on the Auckland Islands’ by Thomas Musgrove and ‘Wrecked on a Reef or Twenty Months in the Auckland Islands’ by Francois E. Raynal. The lectures were followed by scones and other delectables along with tea or coffee in the restaurant.
By 4pm the sea was rising a little and low cloud had appeared. This did not prevent an interesting debate over an albatross sighting however. Katya using binoculars noticed the yellow eyes and a debate on the Bridge was duly settled with identification of a Campbell Island Albatross. After dinner the bird observation discussion included five albatross species and numerous petrels including the Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. One cetacean seen may have been a Beaked Whale and Katya identified a Royal Penguin. By 9pm Macquarie was visible on the horizon below a band of apricot sky interspersed with streaks of pale grey cloud. Rodney contacted Macquarie which is now about 34 miles away and it was interesting to hear field parties checking in, their plans for tomorrow and to receive the weather report. The rest of us prepared for an interesting day tomorrow and wrote diaries.
Noon position: Latitude 54o 34.16’S Longitude 158o 55.96’E
Air temperature: 12oC
About midnight (ship time; Australia two hours behind) we dropped anchor at Buckle’s Bay and today were blessed with superb weather. To greet us were King Penguins swimming and calling beside the Spirit of Enderby. At 8.15am it was a warm 7.5oC outside with the promise of a fine day. At 9am Rodney collected six personnel from Australia’s ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) Station. Activities began with a briefing by Rodney at 9.30am. Before he could begin however, he was advised he was late. Unbeknownst to him, the minute hand on the lecture room clock had been advanced to catch him out, which caused much amusement amongst the group. Rodney enjoyed the joke and we settled down to the business of the day.
We were introduced to staff from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service – Richard the last winter-over Officer in Charge; Cameron a rabbit hunter; Maria the station chef; Andrew of the Meteorological Bureau who advised, we may possibly have no rain, possibly sunshine and possibly wind; Paul a summer Ranger and Simon a summer scientist.
We began the landing at Sandy Bay at 10.30am. From the swell there was reasonable surf on the beach and at times Rodney and Dan were in water up to their chests steadying the Zodiacs. Once ashore Richard outlined further instructions and we were then left to enjoy ourselves. Many were soon taking photos of grunting, moulting Southern Elephant Seals, which lay like large brown logs of wood, occasionally grunting like pigs or hippos, along with younger animals, which resembled large grey slugs. An excellent board walk took us to the large Royal Penguin colony. This was a hive of activity with commuting, sleeping, fighting and the preening of chicks, some of which were clustered in crèches. The noise from the birds was extraordinary and the odour left a lot to be desired. A juvenile Brown Skua, perhaps three weeks old, was also seen along with scattered penguin eggs taken by adult birds to feed Skua chicks. Also of interest was the extent of flora rejuvenation since rabbit eradication.
Taking care not to slip on kelp and maintain a five metre distance from wildlife, a short walk enabled us to view other elephant seals and the King Penguin colony a little further on. Here many birds were moulting and some chicks were like large rugby balls covered with brown down. These penguins although emitting a different call, were noticeably quieter. We passed an old hut linked to the early days of ANARE, but links to the sealing era have now been swallowed by sand. All too soon it was 2.30pm and time to return to the ship and Lindsay’s superb fish chowder, breads and salad for lunch. In conversation with Richard, some of us learned that last year on 333 days, rain exceeded 2mm a day and that 50,000km has been covered by hunters in two years of rabbit eradication with many covering 20-30km by foot per day.
The ship now relocated to Buckle’s Bay and in preparation for landing a short briefing was held at 3.45pm. After surfing in a Zodiac through a channel devoid of kelp and alighting on a boulder beach, we were split into groups, each being accompanied by an ANARE Station staff member. From here we saw a Gentoo Penguin with a pair of chicks, then took a track past elephant seals sprawled among clumps of course Poa anua grass. There we joined the excellent board walk with viewing platforms, leading to the top of a rocky ridge known as the Razorback. The ridge provided an excellent view north towards the Station and across the isthmus to the west side and east from which we had come. We were fortunate to view Light- mantled Sooty Albatross, Giant Petrels and a few Redpolls, which arrived independently many years ago.
The walk along the coarse grey sand beach on the west side of the isthmus was interesting. Here we saw a number of Gentoo Penguins and at least 50 Giant Petrels, including a White Morph. Rocks were covered with bright yellow crustose, a salt-tolerant lichen. The tour then continued to the Station where very hospitable staff provided scones, tea and coffee. The Postmaster was kept busy selling stamps and postcards, proceeds from the latter making a contribution to those affected by the Tasmanian bushfires. Some of us enjoyed meeting the Station Leader Narelle Campbell and the Station Doctor John Cadden. After ‘smoko’ (afternoon tea) we were shown around some of the buildings including one of the oldest, a ‘donga’ (sleeping quarters). Iron ‘try pots’ used to render blubber from elephant seals and steam digesters used for rendering penguin oil showed links to the island’s sealing days.
By 8pm it was time to say goodbye to our hospitable hosts. After a brief detour to view Rockhopper Penguins, we were soon back aboard the ship. After a quick shower and a drink in the Globe Bar it was time for a sumptuous dinner at 9pm. All agreed that we had been very fortunate to have such a beautiful, albeit long day, with something of interest for everyone.
Noon position: Latitude 55o28.35’S Longitude 160.0584oE
Air temperature: 13oC. Water temperature (until stated otherwise, refers to surface): +7oC
Today well rested, we had quite a different start compared to yesterday. Heavy fog had descended when Rodney made his 6am announcement. This meant we were unable to take the planned Zodiac cruise further south at Lusitania Bay to view the extensive King Penguin colony with rusting steam digesters in the centre of it. Course was then set for Antarctica and by 8.15am we were doing 10.9 knots and heading south-east to Longitude 180o66’ near Scott Island in the outer Ross Sea. A recap meeting held in the lounge gave an opportunity to recall our wonderful day yesterday. Everyone, including those who had visited the island before, had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Many spoke about how much they appreciated being able to get so close to the wildlife and amazement at the recovery of vegetation. Others paid tribute to the expedition staff with special recognition given to Rodney, Dan, Katya and Steve, along with the dedication and hospitality shown by the ANARE Macquarie Island Station personnel.
There were light-hearted moments, particularly with remarks about elephant seals; the largest seal in the World:
“I did not expect to find a clone of my boss, and such a big mouth! I took a photo.”
“Makes you want to go on a diet.”
“Their personality defined three words for me – Fart, Belch and Snort.”
“I now know what an Elephant seal’s breath is like.”
“Elephant seals have come to bed eyes.”
Other comments of note included:
“My highlight was seeing Rodney ‘arse up’ in the surf!”
“The Royal Penguin colony reminds me of Beijing.”
Expedition staff briefly outlined aspects of interest with David speaking on Macquarie Island history, Steve on penguins, Katya on seals (fur and elephant) along with Rodney on Conservation issues. The fog gradually cleared by mid-afternoon and was gone by 4pm, yet only one seabird was reported. We will soon pass over the Antarctic Convergence (a temperature and salinity boundary of the Southern Ocean) about 90 nautical miles south of Macquarie. The sea temperature will then fall and we should observe more oceanic birds owing to the upwelling of nutrients, plus new species as we move further south.
At 3.30pm Rodney outlined plans for the second stage of our expedition. This was very informative and great interest was shown in three satellite photographs showing ice conditions, particularly one received from his office this morning. Several key events will be marked over the coming days, including the Convergence; first iceberg, Antarctic Circle crossing (Latitude 66o34’S) along with the pack ice, before we enter the Ross Sea proper. Later in the day discussions continued in the bar and lounge, an excellent facility for using a laptop, reading an e-book, browsing the on board library books (carefully reorganised by David and Bernd), or to discuss the expedition. The evening meal was up to the usual high standard with chicken and pasta or lamb shank with kumera (New Zealand Maori sweet potato) mash.
At the regular bird identification meeting, yesterday’s sightings included four species of penguins. Rodney thinks Heard Island is the only other locality where these are all found together. Sightings also included Wandering (Exulans) and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and six species of petrels plus an unidentified whale seen during ‘bar time’.
Noon position: Latitude 59o06.2’S Longitude 166o12.3’E
Air temperature: +9oC [Light rain-drizzle] Water temperature: 6oC
After a very calm night and complete darkness between 2 and 3am, we rose to a fine day with scattered cloud and an outside temperature of 7oC. At 7.25am a Right Whale was sighted near the bow by Maxim the Second Mate. During the night our run was 52.8 miles with an average speed of 13 knots. About 10am three Minke whales were sighted. These were named after a scientist named Meincke and the name means ‘winged whale with sharp snout’. Steve, wearing a special penguin hat, gave another of his interesting and informative presentations. This was entitled ‘Penguins: feathered fish or flippered fliers?’ He mentioned the last camera he owned was a Kodak Box Brownie received when aged about 10 with no film in it and paid a tribute to many who lent excellent photos for his lectures. We received numerous facts including the origin of the name penguin; perhaps from the Welsh ‘Pen-Gwyn’, given to the Great Auk extinct since 1844 and that 30-40% of penguins change their partners in the first year; this no doubt contributing to a divorce rate of 90%.
After ‘retail therapy’ (shopping) was concluded, many made their way to the Bridge to participate in bird and whale-watching. Small flocks of 5-10 Antarctic Prions darted erratically above the gentle swell around the ship, followed by a much larger flock of about 50 seen later in the day. Following lunch there were still a few birds about in the intermittent light rain. David and Vicki reported the unlikely sight of a truck tyre floating past. In the afternoon David discussed exploration of the Ross Sea region from Ross in 1841 to Borchgrevink in 1899 as a lead in to the start of the ‘heroic-era’. This lecture was followed by Katya who talked about the various families and species of cetaceans. Statistics quoted for whales taken in the 20th century were 725,000 Finn, 360,000 Blue and 200,000 Humpback whales.
At 6.10pm we crossed Latitude 60oSouth and entered waters governed by the Antarctic Treaty (1959). Rodney told us that last September the sea ice extended to this point. The bird and whale sightings were recorded and more of each category may be repeated in the next few days. During the evening we pushed through a north to north-west swell which rocked us to sleep.
Noon position: Latitude 62o 34.35’S Longitude: 172o41.2’E
Air temperature: 7o Water temperature: +5o
After another comfortable night, we continued in an easterly direction and at 8am were doing 12.3 knots and over 4600m of water. Overnight Rodney had received an updated satellite map which he said showed dramatic changes in the Ross Sea ice conditions which will happily be to our advantage. During the morning the first part of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, a film based on Roland Huntford’s controversial, well-researched and well-written book on Scott and Amundsen was screened. David then gave a lecture entitled ‘Antarctica Unveiled’ in which he discussed Robert Falcon Scott’s National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition 1901-1904 with the emphasis on scientific and geographic achievements.
We are still waiting for the sight of our first iceberg, although Toni and others claimed to have seen one at 10.30am which turned out to be a hoax. At 3pm Katya talked to us about the three families of Pinnepeds (Seals) – True Seals or Phocids; Eared Seals or Otariids and the walruses. In Antarctic waters we expect to see the Crabeater (most numerous), Weddell, Leopard and perhaps the Ross Seal. At 4pm there was great excitement when the ghostly shape of the first (albeit weathered) iceberg appeared on the horizon. Alec was closest to the time in the competition predicting this momentous event. Soon afterwards the blows of two Fin Whales were seen as they passed us at a good pace. Katya suggested they were perhaps feeding near the surface.
When we crossed the Convergence there was a dramatic drop in the noon surface water temperature of 5oC to 3.5oC. Rodney gave an excellent presentation on the Antarctic Treaty and the usual convivial hour was spent in the lounge and bar. For dinner Lindsay’s samosa starter was followed by a tasty Indian dish of lamb or chicken curry accompanied by fresh vegetables. By 8pm fog over the sea indicated we were still crossing the Convergence and by 9pm the water temperature had dropped to 3oC.
Noon position: Latitude: 66o12.42’S Longitude: 179o43.62’E
Air temperature: 3oC Water temperature: 2oC (Antarctic water is generally accepted as -1.86oC although depending on the region there are variations)
Our ship rocked occasionally in the night and the cabins were noticeably cooler, but we woke to find that the fog had left us and at 8am the air temperature was 2oC. This afternoon we expect to cross the Antarctic Circle at 66o33’S and ice is not far away. In the morning Katya gave a very useful presentation on photography, outlining important aspects relating to the camera itself and also for the photographer. She covered points such as composition with the two thirds rule, along with perspective, motion direction, to watch the horizon and to think before you shoot.
Light snow was falling by 11am when we were each issued with a handsome blue insulated jacket for the colder conditions we would soon experience. By 1pm we were almost due east of the Balleny Islands, just north-north-west of Cape Adare. At 2.15pm and rugged up in our newly issued jackets, we assembled on the bow. With light snow falling, Rodney dispensed a mug of mulled wine to each of us and we prepared for the signal from the Bridge that we had indeed crossed the Antarctic Circle. On hearing the ship’s horn, Kayta awarded each of us the ‘Mark of the Penguin’ this being a rubber stamp applied to the forehead. Rodney then read the following:
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion, as very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance. Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us the courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility. A responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy. So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the ‘Mark of the Penguin’ as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [put own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the ‘Mark of the Penguin’ will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the ‘Mark of the Penguin.”
The ceremony now over, some of us lingered on deck to enjoy the freshness of the weather before retreating inside. We then continued south on a heading of 181o.
Part 2 of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was screened and by 4.30pm pieces of ice had started passing the ship. These small pieces became larger ‘bergy-bits’ which with the swell, rose up and down in unison to the sea’s orchestral accompaniment. Soon there were larger ice floes, some having the most beautiful blue hues, along with patches of brown algae beneath which nourish the krill.
The ship was no longer on auto-pilot with Daniel the helmsman hand-steering on instructions passed from Maxim (Max) the First Officer. Now in the ice, the birdlife changed and included several new species such as Antarctic Petrels, Southern Fulmar and the beautiful Snow Petrel. These were joined by other petrels, prions, albatross and a Southern Giant Petrel. Mammals seen included one Minke Whale in the morning and four Crabeater Seals in the afternoon. We passed Scott Island a few miles to port but were unable to make it out through the icy haze surrounding the ship.
A sumptuous meal included a sushi starter along with blue cod and chips, followed with the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Natalia who then cut her cake. After the festivities many returned to the Bridge to watch the passing ice parade.
Noon position: Latitude: 68o18.79S Longitude: 178o36.38W
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 2oC
We enjoyed a comfortable night with the ship in open areas of water (polynas) at times as we skirted the northern ice edge. We crossed 180o briefly then re-crossed. At 8.15am we were at 68oS and 179oW. Light snow fell in the night and sightings of wildlife included more Crabeater Seals, Adelie Penguins and a Minke Whale. We were now following a course determined by the ice floes while enjoying the brisk fresh air in bursts of bright sunshine which made sunglasses a necessary accessory. Many of us took advantage of the bow and ‘flying bridge’ where we had good visibility. Toni sighted another Minke Whale and some ‘porpoising’ Adelie Penguins were observed. On the Bridge it was interesting to watch Captain Zinchenko studying the ice with his binocular and radar, occasionally relaying a course change to the Helmsman and manually adjusting the throttle for one engine.
Many of us saw Part 3 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ and by 11am we were in loose pack ice with the water as calm as a millpond. The calm sea gave us the opportunity to study two large icebergs as we slowly passed between them. At noon the air temperature was a balmy 10oC and we were moving slowly through the ice at 5.5 knots on a course of 104o and a little later at 148.5o. We helped ourselves to lunch today and at 3pm enjoyed Steve’s informative lecture presented with his usual good humour, entitled ‘Frozen Garden - Antarctica’s coolest secrets’. He showed numerous beautiful images and supplemented these with key information from his research. Given our present position, the lecture was very timely.
Back on the ‘flying bridge’ interesting sightings included a Southern Fulmar and a Snow Petrel – the latter alighting on the sea, presumably to forage for food. Another pair of Snow Petrels were heard calling as they flew overhead. By 6pm several icebergs, some of them tabular varieties, were seen on the horizon and as we pushed our way at 4 knots through the floes, they appeared to grow larger as each hour passed. After dinner we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Thomas, a member of the German film crew. The daily summary of wildlife sightings listed several Emperor and Adelie Penguins, Snow Petrels, Southern Fulmar, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, two Minke Whales and many Crabeater Seals. We were now in 24 hour daylight and had much pleasure watching the passing parade of icebergs. Carolyn and Ian were amused to see three seals (possibly Crabeaters) endeavouring to board an ice floe, only to change their mind when the Spirit of Enderby pushed past. An unnamed photographer was overheard to say “I got a great shot there!” only to have pointed out that the lens cap was still on the camera!
Noon position: Latitude: 69o29.95S Longitude: 177o44.44W
Air temperature: 7oC (here on, mercury thermometer readings also); Water temperature: 2oC
We enjoyed another comfortable night, lulled to sleep by the semi-regular bumps from floes against the hull. Those with good cameras have already obtained some beautiful images including one taken by Lyn of an Antarctic Petrel running over the water surface before taking flight and one of a Snow Petrel taken by Katya. The Snow Petrel had taken a fish that appeared to be too large for it, and although it was not known if the fish was eaten, the bird was later seen rolling on snow and preening itself.
Rodney held a briefing before Part 4 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ where he outlined the current ice situation, explaining that a problem with the ice map is that it is usually 24 hours old when received on the ship. At that point we were on a south-south-east course towards open water and managing 4.8-5 knots abeam of Cape Adare. A strong south-south-east wind of up to 35-40 knots was blowing along the west side of the Adare Peninsula and further south, so we may have to head straight to Ross Island and attempt our other landings later as we tracked north.
Just as some of us sat down to lunch, Katya announced a Ross Seal was off the port bow. This led to a rapid exodus from the dining room, where we were rewarded with excellent views of this beautiful seal. The animal displayed features such as its bulbous throat with stripes and Alec managed to obtain images of the head and whiskers with his long lens. Although the ship was close, the seal was apparently undisturbed and merely gave us a glance before it settled down to continue its rest. This was a rare sighting of a Ross Seal which because of its preferred habitat in the pack-ice is seldom seen. These animals can attain a length of 2.4m and a weight of 200kg.
David later gave his lecture entitled ‘Icons of Exploration’ to an appreciative audience. This talk focused on the work of countries active in the preservation of historic huts. As a forerunner to our site and hut visits, there was an emphasis on work by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. He then touched briefly on his own field work and research during three expeditions to Cape Adare 1982-2003. In the afternoon as we entered a large area of open water with scattered floes there was a sighting of an unidentified whale. At 5.15pm we passed Latitude 70o South.
For the evening meal our chefs provided a superb Sunday roast with a choice of lamb or chicken, roast potato, parsnip, fennel, broccoli, peas and corn on cob. A fine trifle rounded out the tasty meal. During dinner we struck open water on a south-west course for Beaufort Island at the entrance to McMurdo Sound. The ship was again on auto-pilot and our speed picked up to 10.15 knots. In the evening Katya showed her excellent slides of the Snow Petrel and Rodney confirmed that the Ross Seal we had seen today was an adult. He mentioned that he had only seen between 10-20 Ross seals before so today’s sighting was quite rare. He also advised that New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Key, is presently visiting Scott Base.
‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ was the featured movie shown in later that evening and it attracted quite a good crowd. Those who chose to stay out of deck however saw a Minke Whale blowing and breaching close to the ship and a few penguins surface feeding. Around 11pm we were again confronted with ice floes and once more our speed had to be reduced while the Captain considered the best route through leads in the ice.
Noon position: Latitude: 71o21.32S Longitude: 179o14.84E
Air temperature: 4oC (alcohol); 3.5oC (mercury)
Water temperature: 2oC
The fog which enveloped the ship overnight was gone by morning, but the sun had also disappeared. Although floes were reasonably concentrated, the ice appeared to be thinning as we made our way towards Beaufort Island which lies just north of Ross Island. This morning we saw a variety of birds including numerous Adelie Penguins and the occasional Emperor Penguin. The biggest excitement however was the sighting of our first Weddell Seal. Those not out observing wildlife viewed Part 5 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. By lunch time we were about mid-way down the Adare Peninsula, although it was too far distant to be seen. Our next significant seal sighting was made by Lyn who spotted the second Ross Seal of the voyage.
At 3pm Katya gave another of her quality lectures, this one entitled ‘The World of Contrasts – Antarctica and the Arctic’. This well-illustrated presentation focused on the physical differences and natural and human history of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. As the day wore on we sighted our first Leopard Seal with Katya saying “this must be a record – all four seal species in one day!” On hearing this comment David swiftly replied with “I presume this gives the seal of approval for wildlife sightings?” Later we enjoyed seeing seven Crabeater Seals on one floe with another two nearby, followed by a second sighting of a Weddell Seal. Throughout the day we watched the beautiful formations of ice glide past until we were once again in open water at 71o44.12’S; 178o36.41’E. The second engine was then engaged and we continued southward at a steady 12 knots.
There was a lively gathering in the bar as we celebrated leaving the ice, and after the social hour we dined on steamed mussels followed by either blue cod or belly pork and a desert of apricot crumble. After the bird and mammal discussion, a few of us went to the Bridge where we enjoyed observing several Antarctic Petrels as the evening wore on and looked forward to finally landing in the Antarctic.
Noon position: Latitude: 74o21.33’S Longitude: 173o42.09’E
Air temperature:-2oC (alcohol);-2.5oC (mercury)
Water temperature: +1oC
We had a fairly comfortable night, but in the morning the ship was rolling a little and the sea scattered with white horses. There were just a few Antarctic Petrels hovering above the ship and Rodney commented on the low numbers of the Southern Fulmar. The open sea was a nice change from the ice we looked forward to visiting the historic huts of Shackleton at Cape Royds (1908) and of Scott at Cape Evans (1911-12). The sea was fairly rough at times and when the ship buried the bow in the troughs of big swells, large waves broke over the foredeck and Bridge windows. It was interesting to see how the two special rotating, heated glass discs on the Bridge windows maintained clear viewing even when this happened. Several Antarctic Petrels and a Snow Petrel circled the ship and Florian from the German camera team photographed a Minke Whale surfacing in foaming water near the bow.
In the morning Part 6 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened, but many lay low, finding the cabin bunk the best place to be and there was not a large attendance at lunch. At 3pm David presented his lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition 1907-1909. He covered achievements of the expedition which whetted our appetites for a hoped visit to Shackleton’s hut. The Antarctic Heritage Trust summer party apparently departs from Cape Evans tomorrow.
By mid-afternoon the sea calmed a little and the sun tried to break through the cloud cover. At 5pm Rodney presented an important mandatory lecture on preparation for landings in Antarctica. This mostly focused on IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) which was formed in 1991 to promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector activities in the Antarctic. The lecture was followed by a complimentary ‘Russ Sea Roughy’ cocktail during enthusiastic participation in the Antarctic Quiz with Rodney acting as Quiz Master. Gary’s birthday was celebrated over dinner and he was asked where the Irish flag was. We had the regular bird and mammal discussion at 9pm in brilliant sunshine as we looked forward to what promises to be an interesting day tomorrow.
Noon position: Latitude: 77o 27.14’oC Longitude: 165o59.75E
Air temperature: 12oC (mercury) 15oC (alcohol)
Water temperature: +1oC
Rodney roused us at 5.15am and soon many were on icy decks enjoying the magnificent vista before us. To Port were the volcanic peaks of Mt. Terror 3230m, Mt. Terra Nova 2130m and Mt. Erebus 3794m, with Abbott Peak 1793m and Mt. Bird 1800m on the skyline. Gazing at the sunlit slopes where the DC10 aircraft went down 34 years ago, reminded us of that tragic day when people left their homes hoping to enjoy the majesty of the Antarctic landscape and did not return. Numerous icebergs were scattered across the ocean and far beyond we could make out the Transantarctic Mountains with the Royal Society Range west of Ross Island prominent. To Starboard the steep volcanic cliffs on the east side of Beaufort Island were varied shades of brown to yellow ochre, grey and black. As we rounded the southern end of the island, the Adelie Penguin colony could be made out on talus slopes along with the edge of the ice cap that is prominent on the west side.
Attired in our insulated jackets, warm headwear and gloves we made the most of the bright sunshine in the brisk cold southerly. This is what we had come for. There was plenty of scope for photography and wildlife including a Minke Whale and Weddell Seal. The Captain took the Spirit of Enderby through a narrow belt of floes past the south end of Beaufort Island to open water as we continued south past Cape Bird towards Wohlschlag Bay north of Cape Royds. By 9.45am we were passing Cape Bird where the New Zealand biological field station (formerly the Harrison Laboratory) is located. Off the bow Mt. Discovery (first climbed in 1959) was outstanding while to the west, there was good viewing of the Bowers and Wilson Piedmont Glaciers, the Ferrar Glacier, the location of the Taylor, Victoria and Wright Dry Valleys and the peaks of the Transantarctic Mountains.
At 1pm Rodney called us together in the lecture room for a pre-landing briefing. We were now positioned off Cape Barne and had excellent views south to the Delbridge Islands off Cape Evans. With a sense of great excitement we were shuttled to Black Sand Beach about a mile north of Cape Royds. A thirty minute walk over a ‘lunar landscape’ with the grey volcanic rock feldspar crystals sparkling in the bright sunlight, soon had us passing a US field station. From here Dr David Ainley’s group is monitoring the southernmost Adelie Penguin colony. We grouped near the green New Zealand refuge hut at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially protected Area). With only 40 allowed in the ASPA at any one time (including eight in the historic hut) we were able to enjoy views of the environment and the southernmost Adelie Penguin colony.
When we arrived at Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908, we went through an elaborate boot brush process before approaching the entrance along a vinyl mat. Actually visiting this place we had all read and heard so much about made history come alive and was quite a unique experience, even for those few who had been here previously. It was interesting to see the extent of restoration by work teams from the organisation responsible for preservation, the Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT). Even timber used for a replica external door was weathering and appeared similar to Baltic pine elsewhere on the hut. About 5pm we began walking back to the beach. Some of us enjoyed a spell on a knoll with great views of the Western Mountains and Pearl proudly unfurled China’s national flag. Our chefs again produced a sumptuous dinner with very fine lamb and Chatham Islands monkfish, then after a further briefing we prepared to land at Cape Evans.
We landed at a site outside Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut from which he left for the Pole on 1 November 1911. At this time the great Norwegian Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen was already well on his way to the South Pole; this being his only visit to Antarctica. This fairly large hut was later occupied in 1911-13 and by the Shackleton Ross Sea Party in 1915-17. The AHT has undertaken considerable work on this hut which is undoubtedly the most important historic hut in Antarctica. We landed about 9pm to be greeted by a young Weddell Seal loafing in snow outside. The ASPA here is similarly restricted to 40 although the much larger hut could have 12 at any one time. On entering the porch we proceeded to walk quietly about the interior where David explained aspects related to the occupancy by Scott’s party in 1911-1912 along with Ross Sea party members in 1915-1917 and features in the adjoining annex and stables.
Some of us visited the Trust’s summer complex which included a purpose-built conservation laboratory and there met Artefact Conservation Manager Lizzie Meek and three members of her specialist team. Others enjoyed a short walk up Wind Vane Hill to the Memorial Cross erected in 1917. This commemorates the loss of Mackintosh, Hayward and Spencer-Smith the previous year. As with Shackleton’s hut, each person gained something special from their visit. This may have been a memory of a famous photo by Herbert Ponting and viewing his photographic darkroom; quietly playing Waltzing Matilda as a lament on a harmonica (Andrew) in Griffith Taylor’s cubicle; posing beside the beds once occupied by Irishmen Tom Crean and Patrick Keohane (Gary) or enjoying the peaceful ambience with subdued lighting from a small window above Scott’s bed. Toni said she felt the presence of someone close to her. Brian who had visited the hut previously said “as soon as I saw the wardroom table the hair came up on my neck – it made a difference being one of the last in the hut”. Valerie from Canada also on her second visit remarked “when I saw the (recreated) bulkhead, I felt that any moment I could look over my shoulder and think someone was coming in”. Such is the effect a visit to Scott’s Terra Nova hut has on people.
By 11pm we were back on board after an extraordinary day blessed with the most perfect weather. Discussions about all we had seen today continued long into the night.
Noon position: Latitude: 77o16.120S Longitude: 166o12.30E
Air temperature:-08.50C (Merc)-1(Alc) [at 08.15 -0.3oC bridge computer – not always on]
Water temperature: +1.4oC
This morning Rodney called us at 7.20am and we surfaced to a most beautiful morning with bright sunlight and a light breeze creating a ruffled sea. With no icebreaker having arrived to cut the channel essential for access to McMurdo Station, we enjoyed a cruise along the edge of the fast ice which was broken up by wind, wave and tides. At about 8am we reached what would ultimately be the furthest south for this expedition at 77o38’S. Along the ice edge we saw pods of Orca along with some Minke Whales. In the distance we could see Observation Hill which has the Memorial Cross to Scott and his four men who died in 1912, Cape Armitage below and on Crater Hill, the Meridian wind farm which has greatly reduced the need of diesel fuel to run the generators for both Scott Base and the US McMurdo Station. Part 7 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and we gradually made our way north past the Delbridge Islands, Cape Evans and Cape Royds toward Cape Bird where the New Zealand research summer station is located.
Following a briefing we were landed in beautiful weather on the beach near the southern colony of Adelie Penguins. Here two glorious hours were spent observing and photographing adults and chicks. By 3.45pm we were underway for the Ross Ice Shelf. We had a good view of the Cape Bird field station, Beaufort Island and again of the volcanic peaks seen yesterday morning. Karen was ecstatic. “I got a wonderful photo of a whale – but it was just a fluke!” she said. Soon after 8pm we neared Cape Crozier where we could make out snow patterns which indicating the path of violent winds sweeping over the landscape and also the location of the ‘rock igloo’ to right of The Knoll. This was built by Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’ in July 1911. We could also make out the large Adelie Penguin colony, where a message post from Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-1904) still stands.
It was however the vast floating Ross Ice Shelf which is the area of France that attracted our attention. We were now positioned at 77o25’S 169o24.9’E. This huge feature butting against Ross Island at Cape Crozier has a series of ice ‘canyons’ where in comparative shelter, Emperor Penguins can breed on the sea ice in winter. The face of the 50m ice shelf appeared to have been sculpted by a giant artist’s pallet knife while below the sea was a beautiful turquoise colour. There was a sucking and crashing sound from the wave action beneath the over-hanging ice, while a few ‘growlers’ (water-worn pieces of ice barely on the surface) floated by. From the ‘monkey deck’ or ‘flying bridge’ as it is known, a shout of “thar she blows!” was heard, as a pair of Orca briefly surfaced.
Rodney gave us some fascinating facts about the ice shelf, such as the average thickness is 330m or 1100ft to 700m or 2300ft and about 1/7th is below the surface. He also told us the story of its discovery in 1841. We pondered what it must have been like for the early explorers who trudged for weeks or months on end, over this great white ‘desert’. At 9.15pm we turned north for Franklin Island about 90 nautical miles away. What a day!
Noon position; Latitude: 75o59’S Longitude: 167o52’E
Air temperature:-5oC (both thermometers)
This morning we arrived off the east coast of Franklin Island on another glorious morning and minus 2oC at 6.15am. Our position was 76o09.46’S, 168o18.69’E. After breakfast Rodney introduced the island and its history. The latter included the naming by Ross after Sir John Franklin, then Governor of Tasmania. By 8.30am we were ashore at the Adelie Penguin colony, enjoying a further photographic opportunity with adults and chicks about three to four weeks old (some moulting), Skuas and a Weddell Seal. David was particularly interested in the evolution of the coastal geomorpholgy, while Dan compiled a map of the area. On the ice cliff along the back shore we saw weird freeze-thaw formations and ponds along the edge of a melt-water stream. Even Alec’s Polar Bear stuffed toy named Con (after Scott’s family nickname), enjoyed being photographed with a penguin as he lay on the cold, stony surface. Con who was born on the Equator (Singapore) had previously visited the Arctic. Off-shore were several icebergs, one of which had a tunnel and another was a beautiful deep blue, indicating old ice. By 10am we were back on board and en route for Terra Nova Bay and Inexpressible Island. We spent the rest of the day logging photos and viewing the film ‘Ice Bird’, a Natural History New Zealand production on the life cycle of the Adelie Penguin.
Before dinner the 2732m volcanic cone of Mt. Melbourne came into view as we neared the west side of the Ross Sea. The volcano is not active although there are areas of warm ground and fumeroles near the summit. Preparations were then made for a possible landing in the morning on Inexpressible Island.
Noon position: Latitude 74o44.96S Longitude 164o15.6E
Air temperature: +1.5oC (Alc. & Mec)
Water temperature: +1oC
With the exception of a few of us who spent the night enjoying magic views from the ship, the remainder were woken by Rodney on the PA at 2.30am. Thirty minutes later we were in the lecture room for a briefing on our landing on Inexpressible Island. There was little time for much else as the area is notorious for the sudden arrival of the katabatic wind that can become quite violent. By 3.30am the landing operation was underway and soon most of us were assembled on an area of large granite boulders, in preparation for a walk of about one and a half kilometres to the site of the ice cave we had come to visit. This is beyond doubt, the holy grail of historic sites associated with Scott’s last expedition. Here six men comprising the Northern Party were incarcerated for nearly 200 days, including the 1912 winter. A beautiful sunrise was appreciated along with the interesting hike over undulating glacial moraine. Along the way we encountered eight Weddell seals. One of these had a beautiful silver-grey pelt with white and dark grey blotches and was vocalising as if singing, while another was described by Katya as “chirping like a bird”. This means of communication is also used when in the water. We also saw a few Adelie Penguins from the nearby colony, South Polar Skuas, interesting rocks of various colours and at least three species of ‘crustose’ lichens with black lichen being the most prominent.
It was a great thrill for us to arrive at the site of the cave which had ablated away within the last five decades. A bamboo and some seal bones were visible along with the four Antarctic Treaty plaques (English, Russian, French and Spanish) and a much weathered earlier wooden plaque placed a few decades ago. Many of us climbed an adjacent low hill from which men of the Northern Party perhaps kept watch for their ship which never arrived to pick them up because of the heavy pack ice. Very interesting moraine debris exhibited weathering from freeze-thaw, salt action and foliation. From the top we enjoyed a magnificent view down to Evans Cove and back to Hells Gate Moraine, including the Priestley Glacier named for Raymond (later Sir Raymond) Priestley, a geologist with the Northern Party and the earlier Shackleton Nimrod expedition at Cape Royds. The Terra Nova left a cache of food and equipment including a Nansen cooker on the moraine in 1913, although this was removed a few years ago by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, to ensure preservation. It seemed incredible that the Northern Party had to drag their supplies from Hells Gate to the site of the ice cave, then after roughing it for over six months, trekking down the coast, only to receive news of the loss of the Polar Party.
With the sky turning dark to the south, we were all back on board by 6am. Soon the weather had turned and two days of bad weather from the south-east was forecast. Many had a couple of hours rest and during breakfast a group which would charitably be called a choir, launched into “Advance Australia Fair” over the PA system. By 10am we were approaching the site of Germany’s small occasionally occupied summer station named Gondwana located at Gerlache Inlet. The Captain was continually watching the radar and echo sounder as we navigated several bergs and ‘bergy-bits’ through the murk with only brief views of land ahead. With snow driving in from the south, Rodney and Katya set out to check the possibility of making a further landing, but decided that conditions made it too hazardous. We then moved on and with wind and seas getting up, we were asked to keep clear of the Bridge where the Captain and officers were busy with navigation. This request was possibly what led to the snow fight on deck, which took place between a combined Australia/New Zealand team versus English passengers, with the main instigators being Vicki and Lyn. Brian G declared the Anzacs the winners!
During the afternoon David gave his presentation ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ which focused on Scott’s ill-fated 1910-1913 expedition including reference to the Northern Party along with the expeditions of Norway’s Roald Amundsen and Japan’s Nobu Shirase. In the evening the bird and mammal list was postponed until tomorrow and the amusing Australian movie ‘The Castle’ was screened. And so another great day with Rodney and Heritage Expeditions had come to an end. What an adventure!
Noon position: Latitude 73o52.85’S Longitude 171o14.7’E
Air temperature: +1oC (Alc and Merc)
Water temperature: +1oC
Our day began with a dramatic change in the weather. The Spirit of Enderby rolled a little in the night however by morning we were 240 miles from Cape Adare and the wind and sea were gradually easing. At 10am the Natural History New Zealand production of ‘Solid Water, Liquid Rock’ was screened. This excellent production filmed by renowned Dunedin photographer Max Quinn centred on Mt. Erebus. The DVD was followed by David’s final lecture covering the ‘heroic-era’ entitled ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes’. His presentation focused on the generally little known Shackleton Ross Sea Party of 1914-1917 during World War I, with reference to several Australian expedition members David was privileged to have known. By 1pm we were over 500m of water and far to the west could be seen rugged Coulman Island, with two peaks of 940m and 640m, along with talus cones formed by debris from steep rocky cliffs above. In 1902 the Discovery expedition left a message post here and an Emperor Penguin colony is also on the island. With the sea much calmer and a fine day developing, the crew took the opportunity of opening and washing Bridge windows. A relaxing day with an opportunity to read, play cards or attend documentaries and lectures unfolded. As the afternoon continued the sky cleared to a pale blue with light scattered cloud and Victoria Land to the west became much clearer. The second documentary screened for the day was ‘The Last Ocean’. This programme concerned the harvesting of tooth fish (popularly termed ‘Antarctic Cod’) in the Ross Sea and concern for the species future, including the need for further knowledge on the physiology and a possible Marine Reserve.
At 5pm we enjoyed an interesting lecture by Rodney entitled ‘Pelagic Whaling in the Ross Sea 1923/24-1932-33’ when we learned that in the 1930/31 season alone a total of 2482 Blue and 310 Fin Whales were taken with a total of 2908 whales from the Ross Sea. Rodney mentioned that he had been privileged to meet and interview several New Zealand whalers for an oral history university project and that he had never seen a Blue Whale. After dinner Katya showed her video with recordings of Weddell Seal vocalisations she recorded yesterday.
Despite a thin veil of evening cloud, we admired Mt. Herschel (3335m) and Mt. Minto (4165m), both named by Ross in 1841. Doing a creditable 13.26 knots, we passed the Emperor Penguin colony on Cape Roget, the Possession Islands (two of which had a volcanic pillar at one end) and later Cape McCormick where a few Giant Petrels paid a visit. As the evening proceeded, the Adare Saddle at the head of Robertson Bay came into view followed by Adare Peninsula, with its high snow covered peak of 2083m at the south end and the Downshire Cliffs. Much further along the peninsula could be seen Hanson Peak (1256m) named after the 1899 expedition biologist Nicolai Hanson.
The sea was beautifully calm and the evening too nice not to spend even a brief spell on deck or the Bridge enjoying the magic vista unfolding before us. With pack ice appearing to the west and north-west as shown by the satellite map, our course was altered to open water with speed reduced slightly to 12.27 knots. High hopes were held for a landing in the morning.
Noon position: Latitude71o46S Longitude 173o48’E
Air temperature: 20oC (Alc); 14.5oC (Merc)
Water temperature: 0oC
At 02.40am in the morning Rodney announced that after two hours of trying, it would not be possible to land at Cape Adare. Although disappointed, we had had some warning that this may be the case as the satellite ice maps showed that last year had been an extremely heavy year for sea ice in the Ross Sea. Cape Adare is well known for severe weather and ice conditions with the ice foot along the shore sometimes even preventing access to the beach. Such conditions were well known to the early expeditions of Borchgrevink and Campbell and indeed in more recent decades, a reason why comparatively few parties have landed by sea. However we were lucky enough to experience a calm sea and a fine day as we headed south-east for about 10 hours to access the track we had when we first entered the ice on the way south. Rodney said it would take about 9-10 hours to cover 107 nautical miles, after which we would turn north en route to Campbell Island.
At 10am a full theatre enjoyed the Paramount production ‘With Byrd to the South Pole’. This told the story of USN Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s first expedition to Antarctica from 1928 to 1930. His ships were the City of New York (a wooden sailing ship named as a compliment to the city fathers) and Eleanor Bolling (a small steamer named after Byrd’s mother). This expedition established a base they named ‘Little America’ at the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf. During the expedition Byrd made an 18 hour flight of around 1600 miles in a Ford Tri-motor named Floyd Bennett to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole.
The DVD was then followed by Katya’s very interesting talk on the ‘Evolution and Adaption of Marine Mammals’. Katya focused on Cetacea and Pinnipeds (Eared and True Seals). We learned how the cetaceans evolved from a species of toothed carnivore around 53mya then diverged and split following the opening of the sea around Antarctica. The Pinnipeds appear to have evolved around 20mya with an ancestral animal found in the Northern Territory of Australia. Many interesting aspects of adaption considered anatomy, physiology, thermoregulation and echolocation.
We returned to the theatre at 3pm for Part One of ‘Shackleton’ starring Kenneth Branagh. This excellent production focused on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition Weddell Sea (Endurance Party) of 1914-16. At the conclusion of the viewing, Bernd presented a summary of Frank Hurley’s career and drew attention to books in our ship-board library. After an excellent dinner of either oxtail casserole or cod the bird and mammal list for the day was discussed. Numerous Adelie Penguins, Giant Petrels (including a ‘White-morph’ seen by Lyn) and a few Snow Petrels were recorded.
About 8.25pm we encountered heavier ice so had to begin a rather erratic course as the Captain directed the helmsman to manoeuvre through leads. Rodney announced that the wreck of the missing Canadian Twin Otter aircraft was found today. It appears the aircraft may have flown into a mountain during bad weather, 56 miles south of the Beardmore Glacier. A beautiful sunset developed around midnight with a horizon of gold, merging into orange, mauve and finally a dark purple. Numerous Adelie Penguins were seen in the water and on floes along with a solitary seal, that Pearl said “poked its head out of the water”.
Noon position: Latitude 71o09.92’S Longitude 179o20’W
Air temperature: 3.6oC (Merc); 4oC (Alc)
Water temperature: +1oC
This morning we passed by a large moulting Emperor Penguin in an area with heavy ice floes. Rodney pointed out that there had been little movement in the ice since a week ago so the ice belt may be in this area for a while yet. The sea was very calm throughout the morning with just a slight ripple from an almost negligible breeze. At times it was quite foggy although this cleared after a while, leaving a heavy cloud cover. Adelie Penguins and several Snow Petrels obligingly appeared, enabling the bird enthusiasts to capture further images before we left the ice floes. At 10am Part One of the outstanding documentary ‘Life in the Freezer’ narrated by Sir David Attenborough was shown, and then our history lecturer David gave his presentation entitled ‘Douglas Mawson – Stalwart of the Heroic Era’. This was of particular interest to the Australian contingents, some of whom were very knowledgeable on Mawson or had a connection with the family. Afterwards we sat down to Lindsay’s excellent seafood chowder with fresh buns for lunch.
During the afternoon some people took advantage of the calm sea to enjoy circuits of the deck, while others opted for the ‘vertical’ workout on the stairways. With the excellent food and beverages on board it is important to work off a few kilojoules! The second part of ‘Shackleton’ screened at 3pm was well attended, while others enjoyed seeing a pod of Orca near the ice edge, along with a flock of 20-30 Snow Petrels with several resting on an ice floe. There was also a pair of Minke Whales near the ship with Neil obtaining an excellent photograph. The bar was well patronised in the evening and we enjoyed the usual sumptuous evening meal preceded with antipasto, before attending the bird and mammal sighting discussion. At 9pm we were at 70o15’S 176o42.78 W and treated to a passing parade of magnificent icebergs and ‘bergy-bits’. One berg seen to Starboard resembled a fairyland castle with another almost identical iceberg seen later to Port, while a further two resembled a large ship and a rhinoceros. Far to the east an enormous tabular berg hovered on the horizon.
Noon position: Latitude 68o53.0’S Longitude 177o36.4’W
Air temperature: +1oC (Alc); +0.9oC (Merc)
Water temperature: +1oC
Part 2 of ‘Life in the Freezer’ was screened this morning, then at noon Steve gave an excellent presentation he called ‘Licence to Krill – Antarctica’s Web of Life’. In his lecture the significance of phytoplankton (diatoms) and zooplankton (e.g. a euphasid popularly termed krill) was explained. He particularly emphasised the significance to other animals in the ocean along with flying birds and also the role of climate and ocean circulation.
By 1pm we were heading in a north-westerly direction and Rodney considered it would not be long before we left the ice. During the afternoon we saw two Crabeater Seals as a swell was beginning to create larger openings in the floes. We returned to the lecture theatre in the afternoon for Part One of ‘Longitude’. This documentary concerned the 40 year struggle to win a £20,000 prize to prove a mechanical clock was the solution for accurately measuring longitude.
During the afternoon Katya alerted us to an iceberg with beautiful deep blue colouring nearby, which began a discussion about differing colours. Firstly, snow appears white because air trapped between ice crystals making up the snow scatter, reflecting all wave lengths of sunlight back into our eyes. This is seen by us as white, however compacted glacial ice from which many icebergs are derived, retain small ice bubbles which scatter light, allowing the penetration of sunlight deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light at the red end of the spectrum as at the blue end. Since the ice absorbs most of the red light, only the blue end of the spectrum is reflected back at us to see. The best viewing is normally very old multi-year ice, although under certain conditions including with no sunlight present, the observer can also be rewarded. The deck soon had a number of keen photographers braving the cold temperatures. We were still in the ice during the evening, although going by the movement of the ship after dinner, open water was not very far away.
Day 23. Thursday 31 January – Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 65o71.8’S Longitude 177o45.2’E
Air temperature: +3oC (Alc) +2.4oC (Merc)
Water temperature: 0oC
After a comfortable night we woke to a calm sea with an occasional prion flying above. At 00.30am Paul sighted Scott Island to the west and compiled a quick sketch. We had not seen this elusive island on the voyage south and Paul had captured this glimpse between the sun setting about an hour earlier and imminent sunrise. He also completed a sketch of Haggitt’s Pillar, another feature of volcanic origin. This morning Steve reported passing a beautiful berg consisting of old glacial ice, and seven Humpback Whales were reported. Brian G said the blows, with one whale breaching with its head out of the water, were a magnificent sight. Rodney suggested we must be crossing the edge of the Continental Shelf where whales returning from breeding in the Pacific come south to feed. Although we had left the ice, there was still much to enjoy.
We continued to travel at about 12.5 knots and had around 848 nautical miles to run before our expected arrival at Campbell Island on the 3rd of February. More whales including Humpbacks and two Fin Whales were sighted during the morning but with a cold wind blowing, not many ventured out on deck. After the opening of the Sea Shop, which enabled us to purchase various mementos as reminders of this remarkable expedition, the final episodes of ‘Life in the Freezer’ were screened. The sea was a little rough, keeping many in their cabins as we headed into a broadly spaced swell on a north-west track. Birds seen included Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Antarctic, Mottled and White-headed Petrels, Shearwaters (perhaps drawn to scraps stirred up or left by feeding whales) and South Polar Skuas. The last penguins, notably an Emperor and some porpoising Adelies were also seen.
This afternoon photographer Herbert Ponting’s film donated by Brian G under a new title ‘90 Degrees South’ was screened. This excellent film was introduced by Scott’s Second in Command Lieutenant Edward Evans (later Admiral then Lord Mountevans) and Herbert Ponting. The photography of the Terra Nova and wildlife was particularly impressive. We had a very enjoyable evening in the bar with a ‘Whodunnit’ contest organised by Steve, where passengers had to identify a staff member linked to a particular experience. This provided much amusement, but details are perhaps best left out of this record! After dinner the bird and mammal sightings were recorded and the rest of the evening was spent playing cards or relaxing.
Noon position: Latitude 61o06.95’S Longitude 174o34’E
Air temperature: +6oC (Alc and Merc)
Water temperature: +2oC
The good ship Spirit of Enderby rocked and rolled a little in the night, but the day began with reasonably calm seas and light rain. At 9am we had 573 nautical miles to run before reaching Campbell Island about lunchtime on Sunday. With occasional large sheets of spray coming over the bow, this area was closed for the morning, as was the ‘monkey bridge’. During the morning we turned the passageway on Level 3 into a bowling alley using a ball made from gloves and paper cups as pins. Brendon emerged the victor of this bowling contest. Later Lyn and Vicki had a quoits competition throwing the tops from small rubbish containers over paper cups. Now that showed initiative! Later the second part of ‘Longitude’ was screened and during the afternoon Katya gave an excellent presentation entitled ‘Marine Mammals and Sound’. This focused on how sounds are produced, the unique process known as echolocation and how various mammals such as whales react to these sounds. One example given was of two Humpback Whales communicating from opposite ends of the Atlantic Ocean.
In the evening the wind came up and chefs Lindsay and Bobby along with some willing helpers did a magnificent job preparing and serving dinner. Rodney told us about problems being encountered by ships on the Antarctic Peninsula, with one having Bridge windows damaged and a large cabin window being broken on another. One ship was forced to turn back when faced with terrible weather just 13 hours out of Ushuaia in Argentina.
By early evening the wind from the north to north-west quarter began gusting to 30-35 knots and we were advised to stay away from the Bridge and if out and about, to “keep one hand on the ship and the other to oneself”. As the seas became rougher we looked forward to seeking shelter in the lee of Campbell Island. These conditions certainly gave us a good understanding of the experience of mariners in the 1800s who were wrecked on the rugged coastline of Auckland Island.
Noon position: Latitude 57o12.27’S Longitude 171o53.17E
Air temperature: +9oC (Alc and Merc)
Water temperature: +5oC
We certainly rock n’ rolled last night and at some stage, we passed over the Convergence. The wind was true to form and many of us did a ‘dance’ on the bed, as we went from one end to the other and back again, for much of the night. Chairs and bags waltzed up and down the cabin floor and cupboard doors opened and shut in orchestral fashion. Katya said she found a camera memory chip which she lost three weeks ago! This morning the skies were clearing and with the wind subsiding, so most of us managed to catch up on some sleep. Once the sea was a little more benign it was good to be out in fresh air on the deck. A fine sight was a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross gliding above the waves while at the same time, maintaining distance between them. Most of us took advantage of a rest today and few decided to have lunch.
At 4.30pm Rodney gave a presentation on Campbell Island ahead of our proposed landing tomorrow. This lecture outlined both the human and natural history of this volcanic island, along with his own personal reminiscences of extensive time spent there. The human history focused on early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, farming (initially 2000 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses), the World War II Cape Expedition, former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 and replaced with automated system) and pest eradication since 1990. The natural history information included reference to Rodney having discovered on his first visit, the Campbell Island Flightless Teal in 1975 on La Dent Island when this small bird was thought to be extinct. The island is also important for the breeding or presence of several species of Albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Shag and very important species of ‘megaherbs’ that have flourished since the pest eradication programme.
Light rain fell during the evening and the bird and mammal meeting reported for the last two days, observations of six species of Albatross and the departure of various Antarctic species. Also of interest was a New Zealand Fur Seal sleeping on the surface with one flipper and the tail flippers raised. The seal appeared to remain asleep for some time after the ship had passed and then woke and swam away.
Noon position: Latitude 53o16.98’S Longitude: 169o38.92’E
Air temperature: 10oC (Alc) 9.5oC (Merc)
Water temperature: 8oC
The ship’s speed slowed to 6-7 knots overnight due to a strong northerly wind. By the time we started the day however, the ship was rolling under westerly conditions. At 9am we still had 78 nautical miles to go with arrival at Perseverance Harbour scheduled for about 4pm. Many seabirds were now about the ship and we had excellent views of albatross soaring on the breeze. The sea gradually calmed with the ship giving an occasional roll. Nevertheless many enjoyed a chance to rest up before our proposed landing. Some sighted what we thought was a Rockhopper Penguin far from home (or was it ‘Happy Feet’?) The prions with their characteristic brief flapping of wings and short glides were also of interest. Steve did a fine job of assisting in the galley and making a stir-fry for lunch. Others including Dan have helped with peeling potatoes or during rough conditions, by clearing tables and serving meals.
At 2.30pm with only 16 nautical miles to go, Campbell Island began to appear through the mist. Far to Port we had views of Jacquemart Island; one of several volcanic rock stacks named Le Boote; and Mt. Dumas (499m). These are just a few of several landmarks with French names given at the time of the French Expedition which called here in 1873 and again in 1874, to observe the Transit of Venus. As we neared Campbell Island, many seabirds were apparent with sightings of albatross, the Campbell Island Shag, Antarctic Tern, Cape Petrel and Yellow-eyed Penguin. We also noticed large purple and brown jellyfish ranging in size from dinner to bread and butter plates around the ship. By 4pm we had entered Perseverance Harbour with lava flows visible on wave washed cliffs and hillsides clothed in grass and Dracophyllum scrub. As we anchored in 28m of water, Rodney called us to the lecture room for a pre-landing briefing and by 4.45pm we began to go ashore.
We landed on a slipway upon which a rubber mat had been placed, and once assembled Rodney led the way along a board walk past the New Zealand Meteorological Service buildings past Beeman Hill, to the site of the Southern Royal Albatross colony. Here scattered over the landscape are around 7,000 birds on nests. Also of interest were magnificent flowering Pleurophylum speciosom with clusters of bright purple flowers and very tame Campbell Island Pipits, with one landing on Margaret’s head while another took a fancy to David’s feet. Unfortunately a front came through as we walked and with the rain, a strong gusting wind. A number of the group decided to turn back, while others including Bernd enjoyed reaching the junction to the new board walk where we could observe two albatross on nests barely a metre away. In spite of the weather change, the visit to the albatross colony was very satisfying. Rodney was able to tell us that probably all the birds were sitting on eggs which should hatch in about one month. After fledging, the one-year old birds depart and do not return from the sea for three to five years. On return, the adolescent albatross develop their relationship with a partner they choose for life. Today we saw young birds pair bonding with some elegant hovering over the partner on the nest, then landing and greeting by ‘bill-clappering’ as the wonderful pair-bonding process took place. The chick when hatched eventually returns to the locality to nest and have young. Steve told us that this has enabled species such as the Campbell Island Albatross to develop in isolation. We were indeed privileged to witness this important part of their life cycle.
On return to the landing a few had the pleasure of seeing a pair of large Yellow-eyed Penguin chicks that emerged from bushes, along with a pair of New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lion females that were most interested in the gallery of human faces staring down from the landing. Back on board a hot shower never felt better! While many of us exchanged our individual experiences in the bar, our chefs did a great job by making dinner (lamb or chicken curry) available by 9.15pm. Later in the evening a presentation was made by Ann and Andrew to Brian Gofton. An elaborate art work created by Andrew in the form of a scroll with red wool tie awarded the ‘Wooden Spoon Award for Meritorious Service in Fellow Passenger Stirring’. About 20 attended the impressive ceremony.
Noon position: Latitude: 52o33.035’S Longitude: 169o09.011’E
Air temperature: 10.9oC (Merc); 11.5oC (Alc)
Water temperature: 10oC
Marieke roused us at 6.50am and we rose refreshed from a good night’s sleep to a beautiful calm morning. After breakfast Rodney announced plans for the day. As conditions were good, about 20 opted for the return walk to Col Lyall and a further opportunity to view the magnificent Albatross, Pleurophyllum and other aspects of nature on this wonderful island. Others preferred to catch up on expedition records and the take one of two Zodiac rides to various historic sites around Carnley harbour. It was interesting to see crew take part in a lifeboat drill when the two lifeboats were lowered.
Three Zodiacs operated by Katya, Steve and Marieke with 18 passengers on board left at 10am with the second cruise scheduled to depart at noon. There was a notable sighting of a flock of around 50 Shearwaters near the former meteorological station buildings, along with female sea lions amongst the kelp which extends a short distance offshore around the coastline. The first stop was at Camp Cove where we enjoyed photographing inquisitive sea lions, one of which breached totally from the water. At the head of the bay we landed on a small beach with shells of Blue Mussel and Limpet along with a few small top shells amongst the Ulva (sea lettuce). An historic rock wall of basalt boulders and a rock ‘jetty’ were nearby and what appeared to be flint (perhaps ship ballast) was amongst beach material. We walked up a slope and there standing proudly all alone was the only visible remnant of the old farm homestead, a Shacklock Orion coal range in amazingly good condition. We could not get over the extent at which non-indigenous plants had taken hold. The ubiquitous clover, docks and Paspallum, all of which appear on New Zealand farms, along with various grasses, were well established with the occasional Bulbinella rossi scattered throughout. Of great interest was a large black Giant Petrel that appeared to have a nest nearby. From the sea we could observe where the thick Dracophyllum merged with tussock grass higher up the slope, and part of a fence line used when plans were being made to remove sheep. Rodney was involved in this work.
The next stop was Camp Cove where we photographed a pair of well-developed Red-billed Gull chicks with an adult. We walked over undulating wet ground to view the ‘loneliest tree in the world’. This Spruce, featured in the Guinness Book of Records, with its dark-green foliage, appeared to be flourishing, while a nearby stream was an indication of the high annual rainfall. Katya led a group to try and find the house site of ‘The Lady of the Heather’ although on this quest they were unsuccessful. We departed just as light rain set in and were treated to a great display by several inquisitive sea lions. On the return to the Spirit of Enderby we passed Garden Cove where Black-backed Gulls and the Campbell Island Shag were seen, and at Venus Cove we made out the site of the camp where the Transit of Venus was observed in 1874. By 11.30am we were back at the ship.
Those who re-visited Col Lyall were also pleased with their visit and the opportunity to obtain further photographs in better conditions, enhancing future memories of the expedition. Apart from a little rain at the start of the walk, conditions were good at the top. On the way back one group saw a female sea lion with a pup suddenly appear from bushes beside the board walk. It was remarkable to see the sea lions about 200 feet above sea level. Some commented that the landscape of pale yellow-brown tussock grass, olive-green Dracophyllum and grey, lichen encrusted rock outcrops on slopes about our anchorage reminded them of parts of Otago in New Zealand’s South Island.
At 2.10pm while we enjoyed leak and potato soup, the anchors were raised and preparations made for departure from Perseverance Harbour. By 2.40pm we were on our way from Campbell Island and within ten minutes we were again in the open sea. During the afternoon our insulated jackets, Zodiac life belts and any gumboots were handed in to Marieke. For those of us on the ‘monkey-bridge’ there were excellent views of albatross, Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel and the occasional Campbell Island Shag in the bright sunshine. It was fascinating to watch each of these birds appear to handle the air pocket behind and along the sides of the ship differently. David was amazed at what he achieved with his ‘point and shoot’ but said he had yet to capture an albatross. Although the sea was up and causing the ship to roll, we were very satisfied with our opportunity to take just a few more bird photographs. Once again the Captain altered course so we could enjoy an uneventful evening meal which this time was a buffet. The bird and mammal report meeting followed, after which most of us retired to our cabins and made sure all was secure for the night.
Noon position: Latitude: 48o06’S Longitude: 49o69’E
Air temperature: 11oC (Alc)
Water temperature: 10oC
We were now on the final leg to New Zealand. Yesterday 30 knot winds were forecast from the south-west and due to this the ship rolled most of the night. By 8.15am we had just 150 nautical miles to run. The morning was spent very quietly with not many out and about. At 1.20pm Rodney advised that a course change was being made, so we could make our approach to Bluff in the lea of New Zealand’s Stewart Island. Fortunately this eliminated some of the roll and enabled us to attend to packing. The Bridge advised that last evening we rolled at one stage to 55o. By 6pm we were near The Traps, a series of rocky outcrops at sea-level named by the great navigator James Cook. Stewart Island was clearly visible to Port by 7pm and at 8pm we could also see the outline of New Zealand’s South Island with just 36 nautical miles to go. We were now at Latitude 47o13.0 S and Longitude 168o24.8’E.
Our chefs with help of Natalia, Albina and the staff produced what can only be described as an outstanding sumptuous farewell dinner. Antipasto with prawns, salmon, hummus, olives, salami and pastrami for an entrée, followed by a superb meal with salmon, glazed and baked ham (carved by Bobby), roast turkey, chicken and lamb, a selection of gravies, salads, a superb selection of roast vegetables and a beautifully presented desert selection consisting of pavlova, chocolate caramel tart, along with chocolate-cinnamon cheese cake. Many of us dressed especially for the occasion and Rodney looked splendid with his South Georgia tie while Bernd had a fine bow tie and penguin badge. Many of the ladies including Marieke, Elizabeth and Pearl wore dresses for the first time on the voyage. When chef Lindsay appeared, both dining rooms gave a cheer. Numerous photographs were taken and birding enthusiast Alec managed to secure a photo of each person holding Con in various poses with bottles or food. Katya called us together for our last bird and mammal sighting discussion. Of great interest was the news that Katya on the day we sighted the first iceberg may have photographed a Blue Whale. Further confirmation will be sought on this matter. Altogether we made sightings of 74 bird species and 15 mammals.
Our final meeting in the lecture room began with the screening of Katya’s photographic power-point presentation and was followed by Gary’s movie; they had worked very hard to ensure we were able to have the ‘premiere viewing’ tonight. Rodney then spoke and the expedition staff also contributed, expressing thanks to all of the passengers along with sadness that the expedition was drawing to a close. Katya arranged for us to receive a copy of the two presentations later in the bar and this provided an opportunity to also exchange photographs and have a final drink together. A late night for some of us was a fitting finale to proceedings.
Noon position: Latitude 46o35.51’S Longitude 168o20.09’E
The Pilot arrived on schedule at 5.30am and all too soon we were tied up at Bluff, on a cloudy and still morning. At 6.15am Marieke played a special birthday song for Dan, recorded by a mixed ‘choir’ in the office last evening. Dan who was by this time getting ready for breakfast was surprised and highly amused by the lyrics. With the final breakfast over, we completed packing, cleared New Zealand Customs and Quarantine and said our final farewells as we prepared to disembark. Bobby who was also leaving the ship today has been hard at work in the kitchen, preparing a wonderful selection of cookies. At 8.25am, following a group photograph on the wharf, the group bid a sad farewell to the staff and boarded the coach for Invercargill. And so our expedition which travelled 2240 nautical miles had ended.
David our history lecturer and compiler of this Log, very much appreciated the assistance given by all passengers on the Spirit of Enderby. They are welcome to visit him in Oamaru and be shown Antarctic related historic sites linked to Captain R.F. Scott, the North Otago Museum and the Forrester Art Gallery.
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" I have been home a week now from my expedition "In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton voyage" from the February 8th voyage.
I had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were several highlights, overall the calm seas and the great weather that was put on; the time saved because we were able to do the Ross sea in just a couple of days enabled us to sail to the Balleny Islands. Rodney kept on saying "You don't know how blessed you are", and he was so right. And also to experience the historic huts and especially to go into Scott's hut at Cape Evans where my grandfather had been in 1910 to 1913, and again in 1963. Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime and memories to last for ever.
I would like to thank you for your help, advise and assistance you gave me in the months leading up to my departure.
Thank you so much. "
" With the help of the expedition log that was written by David I made a very beautiful photo text book about the trip and it still lies at my coffee table and is regularly viewed by friends and family every time they visit.
" An adventure to truly remarkable and beautiful places. The forest and mega herbs of the subantarctic islands were unexpected and stunning. It felt like time travel to see the historic huts of Ross Island and the present day bases. The Southern Ocean lived up to its reputation - roaring forties, furious fifties, screaming sixties, but NOT the silent seventies; this is where the adventure had most bite, and flexibility had to take precedence over itinerary. Flowers, whales, seals, penguins, ice, birds, huts, waves - what more could you want? All over a great trip. "
" Just wanted to post a message to say Thanks for the wonderful adventure down to the Ross Sea in January. It really was magical and a dream come true. The guides, crew, chefs and Rodney worked so hard to make the trip a success and I'll never forgot the feeling when I stepped inside Shakelton's and Scott's Huts for the first time. Once again a huge Thank-you to the entire team at Heritage and hopefully I'll get to sail away with you again sometime. "
" I have to say that it was a life changing experience for me and I could not have had a better experience at this point in my life. "
" “How do you describe seeing one’s first Emperor or Orca, sailing beside an iceberg as big as a country and making contact with immortal legends” "
" “ nothing can compare with actually being there and seeing everything as it actually is”. "
" Thank you for the excellent trip to South to Antarctica. The moment I was standing on the fast ice and an adult emperor penguin jumped up on to the ice close to me while the ship was in the background was really marvellous! "
" Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend. "
" We want to thank you all as a team and as a group of totally - focussed individuals for all you have done to make our trip safe, memorable, and ecologically thought provoking. "