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, Aucklands, 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, 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 1-2. Saturday 11; Sunday 12 January – Invercargill, Bluff and at sea
Noon position: Latitude 46o36’South; Longitude 168o.31’East
Positions and other data are taken from the Deck Log Book.
Air temperature: 14oC. Intermittent sunshine and light rain during day.
Over two days we arrived in New Zealand’s southern most city, Invercargill. Having settled in at the Kelvin Hotel, we enjoyed our last dinner ashore for some time and the opportunity to meet fellow expeditioners. Heritage Expeditions Operation Manager Nathan Russ welcomed us and gave a brief outline for activities next day.
In the morning David, Marcus and Max met us at the hotel where our luggage was checked, cabin numbers noted on labels and the luggage was loaded on a truck for transport to the Spirit of Enderby. David then took us to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, although a few of us had visited here yesterday. Tuatara reptile curator Lindsay Hazley, who had a 23 year old male tuatara named Gunther resting on one arm, provided a very interesting explanation related to the biology of the animal. Henry the oldest Tuatara is estimated to be over 110 years of age and has a vicious bite that could take off a finger. Lindsay informed us that the earliest Tuatara in Invercargill was in the Athenaeum during the 1870’s. The creature was kept in a shower and was found by the cleaning lady who was bitten. This unfortunate creature was then killed and preserved in a glass jar. Working with the Department of Conservation (DoC), Lindsay’s goal is to see the animals released on islands on Fouveaux Strait, but only once the islands are rat-free. Some of us touched Gunther and were surprised how soft the leathery looking skin and spines along the top of his back felt. Most of us then enjoyed a look at the outstanding Roaring Forties exhibit on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. The film was excellent and interesting artefacts associated with the shipwreck and castaway era, farming and World War 2, provided a perfect introduction to some localities we hope to visit.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed an excellent lunch and then boarded a coach for Bluff and the Spirit of Enderby. Our documents were inspected by a security officer who boarded the coach and at the ship, Agnes and other staff showed us to our cabins where we were reunited with our luggage and familiarised ourselves with the ship. At 3.30 we assembled in the lecture room where Rodney welcomed us and introduced staff. Agnes then provided a very useful introduction to various aspects concerning the ship. Rodney followed with a white board demonstration on the two ship alarms (General Emergency and Abandon Ship) along with life jacket use. We left on schedule at 4.30. It was interesting to see the Bosun (Yuri) and crew working at the bow including putting in a case, the ship’s bell. Preparations were now made for the two Pilots to leave the ship. With little effort they boarded the Takitimu 11 which at times as it approached our ship, was surfing on big waves.
Because the sea was a little rough and to make life easier for the chefs, Natalia and her staff, the ship was put in a ‘holding pattern’ by the Shelter Islands off Port Adventure. The practical life boat drill, which by international law must be held within 24 hours, took place at 6.30. We then enjoyed a convivial hour in the Globe Bar and Library followed by a superb dinner, with baked salmon or venison stew, roast vegetables or salad served at 7.30. Course was set at 9pm for the Snares Islands where we hoped to arrive about 7am. To Starboard the coast of Stewart Island was visible through mist and steady rain. This evening some New Zealand Fur Seals were seen and bird life included Cape Petrels; Stewart Island Shags; Sooty Shearwaters and a Royal Albatross. With sea conditions expected to be a little rough, we were advised to retire early in preparation for an interesting morning.
Day 3. Monday 13 January – Snares Islands
Noon position: Latitude 48o20.41’South; Longitude 166o34.30’East
Air temperature: 10.4oC.
The ship rolled and pitched during the night, however most of us managed a few hours sleep. In the morning we woke to a busy sea with white horses and those on the 300 level, being close to the waterline had a good view of the sea and passing sea birds. By 8a.m we were nearing the Snares Islands with Broughton to port and North East Island and its Dampion Rocks to starboard. Through the gap between the two main islands, we could see in the distance the Western Chain consisting of five islands. Steep cliffs were topped by a dense vegetation of Olearia Lyallii or ‘white tree daisy’ and Brachyglottis stewartiae or ‘yellow tree daisy’ with a few patches of grasses. Large numbers of sea birds were wielding around the ship including Sooty Shearwaters, Diving and Cape Petrels, a Giant Petrel, Fairy or Fulmar Prions and Snares Crested Penguins. By now it was clear we would be unable to do a Zodiac cruise and this will be considered on the homeward leg. The Captain again placed the ship in a ‘holding pattern’ which enabled us to enjoy breakfast and rearrange our cabins.
Rodney provided an excellent commentary from the bridge. The Snares Islands were discovered in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton (who had previously sailed with Captain James Cook). He later went on to discover the Chatham Islands. Sealing took place from around 1700-1800 with this activity decimating the population. Fortunately no rodents or other species established themselves. Today the Sooty Shearwater population is now estimated to be up to six million birds; more than all the sea birds combined around the British Isles coast. The birds live in burrows beneath the forest cover with the honeycombed ground hindering foot travel. We had a good view of ‘Penguin Slope’ which has been used by commuting Snares Crested penguins; perhaps for centuries. With the islands predator free, no one is able to land without a permit. There is just a castaway hut and a former Canterbury University hut (now used by DoC) on the Snares. At 10am we rounded Dampion Rocks and set a course of 140 nautical miles for Enderby Island. Sea conditions were then predicted to worsen along with reduced visibility.
After lunch, swells were getting up to around three meters and we had 13 hours to run until Enderby Island. By early afternoon, we were doing 8.8-9 knots and the swell had risen to 5m+ with wind gusting to 60 knots. Many of us lay down as it was becoming difficult to move around the ship. By the end of the afternoon, there was some superficial damage and the bar did not open as usual. Chefs Bruce and Michael did a superb job to ensure we had an evening meal. With the ship rolling and pitching it was far from an easy job, although was helped by a course change for 40 minutes. Margrit was fascinated with the view from the bridge saying the sea had ‘fifty shades of blue and green – I don’t have words to describe it.’ When the ship resumed course towards Enderby Island most of us retreated to our cabins.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 4. Tuesday 14 January – Off Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o.32.5’South; Longitude 166o13.5’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We reached our waypoint at Port Ross around 7am. A 10.4 knot wind was blowing and the sea had a generous coating of white. In places waves were shooting up the cliffs. As the sun came out the dense Southern Rata (Metrosideros umbellata) forest with some trees in flower and Dracophyllum scopoarium (Turpentine tree) looked beautiful in the early morning light. We assembled in the lecture room at 9am for a pre-landing briefing. This covered a number of important topics, all applicable to our landings. Rodney who has been venturing south since 1972, said the voyage from Bluff to the Auckland Islands, was one of the more difficult he had experienced. He then discussed the life jacket to be used for all landings, the tag board system, Zodiac embarking and disembarking procedure (there are five on board) and finally, the all-important quarantine measures. The landing on Enderby Island was postponed until the next day when more favourable winds of around 20-25 knots were forecast. Later in the morning Rodney gave a fascinating insight into the history of the Auckland Islands, as preparation for a visit to the site of Charles Enderby’s Hardwick Settlement (1849-1852) and nearby Terror Cove which was linked to the unsuccessful German Expedition (1874) to observe the Transit of Venus.
Lunch with a fine ravioli and parmesan dish was followed by Zodiac operations, with shuttles to Erebus Cove and Terror Cove. We alighted on a beach with basalt boulders, various species of seaweed, remains of large crabs with carapaces about 7cm across and numerous friendly sand flies. A stream flowing from beneath the Rata forest was stained black from trickling through peat and Samuel and some passengers obtained good photographs. The remains of a stores hut and a more recent boat shed stood nearby. From here we hiked up a board walk through Rata and Dracophyllum, to the lonely cemetery with poignant memorials such as those marking graves for Isabella Younger (died 1850) when just three months old; of Janet Stove (died 1851) when four weeks old, along with John Mahoney(died 1864)from starvation. The small cemetery has a nice picket fence and is surrounded by Dracophyllum and Rata with many trees in flower attracting Bellbirds. One pondered over whether any relatives were alive and knew of the lonely resting place. Returning to the shore, we then walked along the site of the Hardwick settlement road passing a quantity of bricks, perhaps indicating the site of a building or chimney, to inspect the Victoria Tree. The ancient Rata stump still has some of the original inscription carved in 1863. In due course the inscription will be lost and given the condition of the wood, probably little can be done to ensure its survival unless it is removed. It is perhaps better left.
Operating a shuttle system, from here we took a short trip to nearby Terror Cove and alighted on a similar boulder beach with wave-cut notch in the cliff of conglomerate. On a low terrace was the original instrument plinth of brick that once supported scientific instruments used by the German expedition in 1874, along with brick bases for other equipment on a low terrace beside the beach. While there many of us heard a Yellow-eyed Penguin calling. Soon after 5pm we were back aboard the Spirit of Enderby enjoying a convivial hour in the Globe Bar. Our chefs produced an exceptional meal with roast venison or John Dory fish, followed by pavolva with summer berry compote and Chantilly cream. The forecast for the following day was good so we hoped to have a full day on Enderby Island before moving south to Carnley Harbour on Auckland Island.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 5. Wednesday 15 January – Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.46’South; Longitude 166016.85’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We had an early start today which began with a wake-up call from Agnes at 6.15. This was followed by breakfast at 6.30, a briefing at 7.30, then lunch making with an excellent selection of fillings at 8.15. The weather did not look promising as we started our day in a persistent drizzle along with a light westerly. However by 9am the landing operation began and as waves broke on the beach at Sandy Bay, we were put ashore. Two huts used by parties which annually record the New Zealand (Hookers) Sea Lion population were on high ground nearby. Rodney outlined the way we would spend the day. The focus was on two walks – one across the island; the other that would take the more agile of us around the end of the island and back to Sandy Bay. We could expect to see perhaps 15 species of birds during our time here.
Simon Childerhouse of Blue Planet Marine, the organisation contracted by DoC, told us what his team would be doing over the next few weeks. About 270 pups have been born here this season to 250 females. This is the lowest tally since the 1980’s with a 50% reduction over the last two years. Males totalled 140-180 with the large dominant ‘beach-masters’ around 12-15 years old.
Participants on the long walk left before us, while the remainder had a leisurely walk along the high ground behind the Sea Lions and viewed their antics. Pups were often congregated in crèches with one gathering estimated to have 50-60 animals. Near the start of the excellent board walk across the island, was a magnificent Southern Rata covered in crimson flowers. Cassinia bushes were also in flower with the leaves emitting a distinctive aroma. About midway along the board walk, a male Southern Royal Albatross was sitting on its nest, a raised mound of soil with vegetation. Ron made it possible for Christine along with her determination, to see the nesting Albatross. Bones of two Albatrosses along with Auckland Islands Shag were also of interest. Rodney told us that there are 60 pairs of Southern Royal Albatross on Enderby Island. Those of us on the island crossing party only were taken for a short walk across the hummocky surface of grass and mega herbs. By walking in a line, an Auckland Island Snipe was flushed by David from grass along with a tame Pipit. By now the yellow Bulbinella rossi had finished flowering but we were treated to a large area of purple Anisotome antipoda. At one stage Rodney said, only two plants remained on the island but since eradication of cattle and rabbits, the mega herbs have rejuvenated. We then waked back to Sandy Bay where time was spent enjoying the Sea Lions.
Those who had walked around the end of the island were treated with some wonderful bird life. Red-crowned Parakeets were seen along with two having yellow in the head plumage, although these were likely to be hybrids. Other species seen included Yellow-eyed Penguins, a juvenile Brown Skua, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, Teal, Dotterels, Snipe, Tui in the Rata forest, Tom Tits, Bellbird and Auckland Island Shags. Near Teal Lake, the remains of a number of Prions probably represented a ‘Skua larder’. On the rocks near Derry Castle Reef 20-30 New Zealand Fur Seals were seen. The plant life was also of great interest. Jane identified four flowering ground orchids which included Thelymitra; Chiloglottis and Pasophyllum, along with a Gentian Centiana Iiilum from a summary of plant life compiled by noted botanist, the late Dr David Given. Unfortunately three non-endemic Milk Thistles were recognised. As with those on the shorter walk, the New Zealand Sea Lions were of interest with Brown Skuas (‘angels of death’) hovering as they waited for a young pup to stray from the crèche. Many of us saw the Derry Castle plaque. The original wooden plaque now displayed in the Southland Museum, was replaced by a photometric plaque placed in 1973 and later souvenired. The present plaque made by a monumental mason, was carried to the site a few years ago by Eric Roy (Member of Parliament for Awarua) and placed by Rodney.
All agreed that the day had been a most rewarding experience. When it came time to leave however the timing for boarding the rear of the Zodiacs had to be carefully judged. Although a few gumboots were filled, this did not match Rodney who although encapsulated in his wet/dry immersion suit, was often up to his shoulders as he steadied the Zodiac bow. Later drums of helicopter fuel were taken ashore by Zodiac and with assistance of the shore party were rolled up the beach. The chefs produced another excellent meal and at 9pm Katya began the interesting daily discussion as a list of bird species seen during the voyage was compiled.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 6. Thursday 16 January – Auckland Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o48.80’South; Longitude 160o04’East
Air temperature: 12.1oC
Water temperature: 11oC
About 3am the Spirit of Enderby left Port Ross and by 7 am we were entering Carnley Harbour, which is the caldera of the ancient Carnley volcano. The westerly wind made the sea choppy and we were treated to seeing large numbers of Shearwaters. Although partially cloudy, by 7.30 the sun had lit up the hillsides and vegetation with Rata on the lower slopes turning olive green leading to the yellow-brown of the grasses above. Bands of volcanic rock stood out and one could imagine some of these perhaps with icefalls, during the last glaciation around 10,000 years ago, although there were multiple glaciations prior to this. As we proceeded at eight knots up the harbour toward Tagua Bay, the Captain had his radar going, along with an echo sounder which registered nearly 80 meters of water below and in places a rocky bottom. We then anchored in Tagua Bay off Musgrave Peninsula (the centre of the volcano), opposite Adams Island and the Bosun raised a black ball on the foremast, signifying the vessel was stationary.
From the human history perspective, this is an interesting locality. Historic sites include the remains of the Grafton (1864) along with remains of the rock-walled hut (Epigwaitt the ‘house by the sea’); near the southern end of Coleridge Bay, the site of a castaway hut linked to the Anjou (1905); finger posts for directions to castaway depots; at the head of North Arm, the ‘Erlangen clearing’ where Rata was felled for fuel by crew of the Erlangen (1939) and coast-watcher huts from the Cape Expedition (World War 2).
Rodney called us together in the lecture room at 9am when the plan for the day was outlined. We were fortunate to have good weather as poorer conditions were expected on the 360 nautical mile voyage to Macquarie Island. According to the forecast, winds of about 35 knots from the south-west could be expected. However having a day at Auckland Island meant with favourable conditions, landings at Macquarie Island were more likely.
Two parties went ashore today. Twenty two led by Rodney prepared to bush-bash and wade through tussock and fell fields to the summit of Hill 360(m). This was the first group to depart and left at 10am. The hill was surveyed by coast watchers during World War 2 and Rodney mentioned that some years ago, he had found the original chain. The other group took the less strenuous option, by hiking from the landing place to visit the remains of the coast-watchers No.2 station; the first of three to be abandoned, then to continue to the restored look-out a short distance higher up. From here is a commanding view to the entrance of Carnley Harbour.
About noon the weather deteriorated with wind gusting to 15-20 knots (later 30 knots) along with rain and spells of light hail. Those who visited the coast watcher huts arrived back at 1pm having enjoyed their time ashore and settled into excellent salad and nachos for lunch. The huts they found very interesting along with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets, Bell birds, also a green-flowering orchid Thelymitra longifolia and a club moss Lycopodium varium. No sightings were made of introduced pests such as mice, cats or pigs.
The hill climbing party also had a rewarding trip. It took around four hours to reach their objective with five nesting Gibson’s Wandering Albatross seen at the top. On the initial climb through bush and without a track, they were rewarded with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets. One participant reported that on this part of the climb “one had to be a contortionist, as you clambered over and under bush”. However on reaching the tussock the going was no easier with Stephen saying “because of the peat beneath the tussock, it was a challenge to find suitable foot placement”. Once past the tussock, low scrub was encountered and on arrival at the top, the excellent views included the site where the Erlangen crew cleared Rata forest. In addition to encountering nesting albatross this group also saw Yellow-crowned Parakeets and experienced excellent botany with plants including the following also identified by Jane - Damnamenia; Helichrysum bellidioides; Bulbinnela rossi; Astelia subulata along with orchids Lyperanthus antarcticus, Aporostylis bifola and Corybas spec. It only took two hours to descend and all were back on the ship by 4pm.
This evening our chefs provided a superb meal starting with an entreè of antipasto which included fresh salmon, mussels, prawns, cheese, olives and sundried tomato. For the main course we had the choice of pork belly or lamb rack both of which were superb. The desert was a coconut pancetta with fruit compote. Katya held the species list meeting then everyone retired to prepare themselves for possibly two days of rough seas.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 7. Friday 17 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 51o13.226 South; Longitude 165o49.090 East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 11oC
When Agnes gave us a wake-up call at 6.15am most of us had enjoyed a good rest. We arose to a bleak day with rain and the sun trying valiantly to shine through. The anchor was lifted at 7 and by 8am with breakfast over we were heading away from Carnley Harbour. Once we had left the shelter of Adams Island the sea became very rough and as Rodney predicted, this worsened as we made our way towards Macquarie, a journey of 360 nautical miles. By mid-morning we were experiencing 7-8m high waves which often broke over the bow and bridge windows. The horizon came and went as the Spirit of Enderby handled the viridian coloured sea at 7 knots in a 20-35 knot south-westerly. It was worth being on the bridge to see the magnificent albatrosses, one of which a large Wanderer which stayed around the ship, as it took advantage of the air currents to glide with its wing tips gently brushing the surface. The galley provided a fine butter chicken on rice dish along with excellent fresh salad for lunch which was a great feat under the circumstances. Although many preferred to stay in the cabins, others spent some time on the bridge and about 1pm a pod of dolphins was sighted. By 7p.m we were over 4000m of water. The evening meal at 7.30 featured diced beef cooked with a splash of Moa Noir (a dark beer) along with a good serving of fresh broccoli, baby carrots and peas, rounding off the day perfectly. In his evening announcement, Rodney said he expected the wind to turn to the south about midnight, die down and then turn to a north or nor-west blowing 20 knots.
Day 8. Saturday 18 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o 13.207 South; Longitude 161o 29.9 East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 10oC. Fog, with occasional light rain.
We had a good rest and in the morning arose to a moderately calm sea below a blanket of cloud with a lone Wanderer keeping us company. With better conditions the ship was doing 11.2 knots. At 8am we were over the Emerald Basin with a water depth of 3700-4000 meters. Our position was Latitude 53o03.857’S Longitude 162o 17.969’E. The origin of the name is a little obscure. A ship named the Emerald reported what may have been a green iceberg in 1821 and the ‘island’ was so-named. The present name Emerald Basin probably followed although who named the locality has not been established. We had 146 nautical miles to go and Rodney announced, we should reach Macquarie Island at 9 pm (7pm local ie Australian time) and that the latest ice map indicated clear water which should benefit our entry to the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound. Another vessel, Kerry Packer’s Arctic P from Hobart had just left Macquarie and would be ahead of us. That vessel carries 12 passengers and has a crew of 25.
There was not a lot of bird life around, apart from the Wandering Albatross which was still with us. Other bird life up until that point had included (in addition to several species of albatross), Northern Giant, Cape (Pintado), White-headed, White-chinned and Mottled Petrels. Some Hourglass Dolphins were also seen off the bow. We were still over the Emerald Plateau with water about 4000 m deep and the ship rolling to 10 degrees. At noon we had 104.4 miles to go. After some of Bruce’s excellent bacon and egg pie for lunch, the afternoon was passed quietly. A few albatrosses and petrels were about and about five more Hourglass Dolphins were sighted. At 4.30 Rodney gave an excellent lecture on Macquarie Island. This introduction covered the history, geology (the island sits on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary), wildlife, pest eradication and the landings we hoped to do over the next few days. Fortunate to have Jane with us, we received further information on the origin of the iron and magnesium rich (ultramafic) rocks that had formed about six kilometres under the Earth’s mantle and have been pushed up.
Given the forecast, it was predicted that the wind on arrival should be from the west and 30-35 knots. The Spirit of Enderby would be on the east side of the north-south orientated island and we should stand a good chance of having perhaps two landings at the isthmus where the Australian station is located and further south at Sandy Bay. After a convivial gathering in the bar/library we sat down to an excellent meal after which we joined Katya for discussion of bird and mammal sightings today.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 9. Sunday 19 January – Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 54o33.97’South; Longitude 158o55.72 East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 8oC
The ship arrived off Australia’s Macquarie Island at 30 minutes after midnight and at 8am we were positioned roughly mid-way down the island and opposite Mt. Law, one of several high points on the Macquarie Island Plateau. The westerly blowing as predicted, was whipping over the top and from around the southern end of the island, creating a choppy sea with white caps. A beautiful Light-mantled Sooty albatross was cruising around the ship. The vessel now moved back to Buckles Bay. By 10am there were spells of rain, the sea was still rough and in places spray was shooting up rock faces. We assembled in the lecture room for a briefing and met four staff who had been brought to the ship from the ANARE Station. They were Chris Howard a Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service ranger; Vicki Heinrich from the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne; Josh Tomasetti the station plumber and John Hodgson the station electrician.
By 11am and in better sea conditions, the first Zodiac was heading for Sandy Bay. This was a wet landing and Rodney again stood waist high as he helped the driver manoeuvre the Zodiac for stern disembarking. For three hours we enjoyed the groups of Elephant Seals with many sparring and attempting to bite, while others were content to lie on the beach and put up with others sprawled on top of them. There were the usual ‘trouble makers’ initiating sparring matches. We all enjoyed the experience of viewing the large Royal Penguin colony with 11-14,000 breeding pairs. Some of the birds had young chicks and the noise and smell was extraordinary, as birds entered the territory of others during their commuting to or back from the narrow stream that took them to the beach. The other large colony further north along the beach, was inhabited by many King Penguins. Not a lot of ground space here either and they too were maintaining a continual noise. A few chicks were visible with others or under the brood flap of vascularised tissue that folded down and over the young or un-hatched eggs. The birds did not take too kindly to an Elephant Seal moving through the colony to the water’s edge as we watched. A hut once used for field work with its roof covered in grass, appeared to be built from an early aircraft crate.
Back on board, Bruce and Michael had a wonderful selection of pizzas ready for our lunch. This set us right for the next part of our visit at Macquarie Island. At 3.30 we had a briefing in readiness for our landing at Buckles Bay. Again it was a wet landing requiring sliding over the rear of the Zodiac tubes and onto submerged, smooth rocks. The Macquarie staff met us at the landing place and kindly gave up a few more hours on their day off. In two groups we were taken for a walk along the western shore of the isthmus, where we saw Gentoo penguins, nesting Cormorants and Antarctic terns. Elephant Seals slumbering in clumps of tussock took exception to the intruders, snorting or grunting as we walked past. Many of us now know what an Elephant seal’s breath is like! We very much enjoyed our visit to the station and the hospitality extended to us. We were treated to scones with cream and jam, along with a cup of tea or coffee. Most of us had our passports stamped and the postmaster took delivery of our post cards. On the way back to the landing there was an opportunity to see some of Joseph Hatch’s steam digesters with excellent photographic displays mounted around the viewing platform.
When we reluctantly began our departure for the ship the wind had fortunately turned to the north and the sea was much calmer. Back on board we enjoyed a hot shower and a superb dinner with a choice of fish or rump of lamb. By 9pm we were passing the large King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay where two steam digesters could be seen in the middle of the colony. As Rodney said in his lecture, the digesters were set up to process the penguins for their oil, however the day will come when they have corroded away and the penguins will again be in charge. By 10pm we were passing Hurd Point and on the next stage of our expedition that would see us traverse the Southern Ocean to the Ross Sea. As we left Macquarie Island, a pair of Orca was sighted along with a large number (perhaps 100+) of Antarctic Prions. Conditions now became a little rough again and following the daily discussion on bird sightings, most of us decided to have an early night to dwell on our marvellous time on Macquarie Island.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 10. Monday 20 January – the Southern Ocean en-route to the Ross Sea.
New Zealand’s Scott Base 56 years old today
Noon position: Latitude 56o48.38’South; Longitude 161o39.121’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 5oC
The ship rolled occasionally during the night and in the morning we got up to a nice sunny day with scattered cloud. We were now on the Southern Ocean, en-route to the Ross Sea and Antarctica.
During the morning we made steady progress at 11.5 knots over water nearly 3700m deep. By noon we were in the region of the Antarctic Convergence (a temperature and salinity boundary of the Southern Ocean) about 90 nautical miles south of Macquarie. As the sea temperature falls 4-6oC (winter 1-3oC) to 2-3oC we expected to observe more oceanic birds owing to the upwelling of nutrients, then as we moved further south new species would appear. Before lunch we were shown a video relating to the pest eradication programme on Macquarie Island. This was an excellent production and complimentary copies were made available. Later Samuel delivered a lecture entitled ‘Seabirds of the Southern Ocean’. The well-structured pesentation was excellent and as a result we felt better informed about the various species of albatrosses, petrels, prions and other birds that we had already encountered, or would become familiar with during the expedition.
During the afternoon we enjoyed another excellent lecture in natural history with Katya’s introduction to ‘Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean’. This began with the origin of whales from land animals, followed by the various groups and different species. It was surprising to see what a wide variety we were likely to encounter. This lecture was followed thirty minutes later by the first of David’s lectures on the exploration of Antarctica. This focused on Sir Douglas Mawson and his first expedition to the establishment of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) including the founding on the continent of Mawson Station, later followed by Davis and Casey. Australia now claims 47% of the Antarctic continent. The sea was fairly calm with just an occasional roll. Of interest was the sighting of several King and Royal Penguins at Latitude 57o41’S 162o53.64E; a long way from home although Katya said this is not unusual for these penguins. After the excellent evening meal, the bird sightings were discussed and most people had an early night.
Day 11. Tuesday 21 January – the Southern Ocean.
Crossed 60o South and entered region of the Antarctic Treaty
Noon position: Latitude 60o22.943’South; Longitude 166o46.905’ East
Air temperature: 6oC
Water temperature: 5oC
We had a relatively calm sea during the night as we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, still evident in the morning with a little fog indicating the change in water temperature. At 8am we were at 59o 47.513S and 165o53.608E, and the fog was beginning to lift. A 25 knot south-easterly was blowing and the temperature outside was 2.8oC. Inside the ship we had a comfortable 22-23oC. There was not much colour to the sea today, which was a pale grey and only a Campbell Island Albatross along with a few Prions were about. At 8.28am we crossed our waypoint Latitude 60oS, a significant point as we were then in the region of the Antarctic Treaty. We were however still over deep water of about 4600m and during the day expected to pass over seamounts (mountains on the sea floor) with some rising to 201m, 264m etc below sea level.
To the south at Latitude 66o55’South Longitude 163o20’ East are the five Balleny Islands. Of volcanic origin and glaciated, these islands are north-north-west of Cape Adare. They were discovered in February 1839 by John Balleny commander of the vessel Eliza Scott and named in his honour by Captain Beaufort, Hydrographer to the Admiralty. With the most recent ice map (19 January) indicating little or no ice in the Ross Sea, Rodney planned to turn south at 165o East then continue southward at 175o with about 300 nautical miles to run before we reached McMurdo Sound.
Before lunch Part One of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, a film based on Roland Huntford’s book, also entitled ‘Scott and Amundsen’, was screened. From the bridge several albatrosses including Campbells, Grey-headed and Southern Royal were seen along with Shearwaters, Mottled and Black petrels. The best sightings of the day were three pods of 20-30 black and white Southern Right Whale Dolphins. These animals are distinguished by having no dorsal fin, a streamlined body and short beak. A pod of ten Pilot whales were also seen to starboard. During the afternoon our fine new blue Antarctic jackets were issued and these will no doubt feature in many photographs.
In the early evening Katya gave a further informative lecture on marine mammals. On this occasion the subject was the Pinnipeds (Seals) when the members of the three families were described - True Seals or Phocids; Eared Seals or Otariids and the Walruses. The Weddell, Crab eater and Leopard Seals were thought likely to make an appearance on our voyage and if we were lucky we could also see the Ross Seal. With the sea getting up from various directions, the captain turned the ship a few degrees to port to enable us to enjoy our evening meal of rib-eye steak or seared peppered fillet of salmon. At 9pm the ship moved back 10o to starboard. With a low pressure system hovering above the Southern Ocean, we took the hint from Rodney to make sure all was secured in the cabin and as usual, to have ‘one hand for the ship and one for your-self’. After a relaxing and interesting day we retired for the night.
Day 12. Wedesday 22 January – First icebergs and ice floes;
Denise’s birthday celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 63o 49’South; Longitude 172o 05’ East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 2.5oC
We had a very comfortable night and arose to a calm sea, with a patch of sunlight emerging from cloud to shimmer on the Southern Ocean. We had been crossing the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge with shallower water depths, including the sea-mounts mentioned yesterday. At 5.20 am Valeriy the Officer on Watch, picked up an iceberg on the radar. This was soon visible as two towers and a beautiful deep blue band above the water-line, eight nautical miles to starboard. The first passenger to see the berg was Tim and Margrit, who was also on the bridge, was able to obtain a nice photograph. Last year, the first iceberg was sighted on 17 January at Latitude 62034.35’E Longitude 172o41.2’ E. On the second voyage the first iceberg was sighted on 16 February at Latitude 62o 41.2’ South and 169o 29.05’East. At 8am we were over 1370m of water and at Latitude 63o09.036’S Longitude 171o15.989’E. A number of Shearwaters and a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were seen. This morning our day began with Bruce’s excellent pancakes, then Part 2 of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was screened. By 11 am further icebergs were visible from the bridge and a pod of 10-12 blowing Orca were also sighted off the stern.
Samuel started the lectures for the day, telling us all about Sir James Clark Ross. This was a very appropriate topic, since we would soon be entering the Ross Sea first navigated by Ross in 1841. We received an excellent background to Ross’s Antarctic expedition by way of his early Arctic journeys and finally after Antarctica, participation in the search for Sir John Franklin. Ross’s two 32m naval ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror used by Franklin have never been found, although remains of his men along with equipment were.
By noon some of the crew reported seeing more Orca as we sailed under sunny skies. At 1.30 two icebergs were still visible at a distance and for those with good lenses, they provided an opportunity for further photography. The afternoon programme included a lecture and briefing by Rodney. This focused on the present ice situation and our route south; the Antarctic Treaty System and its governance; IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators) obligations; along with what he hoped to achieve during our visit to the Ross Sea region. This was followed by the excellent documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ on the tooth fishing industry and the need for a marine reserve to be established.
During the afternoon three large Rorquals and ten Orca were seen and later a large male Sperm Whale accompanied by two other whales, was blowing as it moved along the surface. By late afternoon the weather was still fine with a little scattered cloud over the calm blue sea and we had good views of a few ice floes along with three large tabular icebergs. We passed a large berg to port, with a cave which had the most beautiful deep Prussian blue colour. The bar opened later than usual as the iceberg had precedence, and at dinner we celebrated Denise’s birthday, followed by the regular species list discussion which covered the last two days. By 11pm a superb sunset unfolded and together with a bright half- moon off the end of an iceberg, this presented a magnificent sight for the few people up and about.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 13. Thursday 23 January - Antarctic Circle 66o33’ S
Noon position: Latitude 68o02.514 South; Longitude 175o50.695’East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
At 3am the crew sighted 10 Orcas and we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 03.43. It was appropriate that last evening the first Snow Petrels were sighted along with three Minke Whales. The temperature fell to -10C over night and in the morning the bright half-moon was high in the sky. This was a classic beautiful still Antarctic morning, with the sun out and a gentle swell perhaps due to a depression further south. The swell caused scattered ice floes and bergy bits, to rise and fall as if to music from an unseen orchestra. Ahead was a large ice berg tilted as if on the verge of capsizing.
Part 3 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and then we headed outside to view another large tabular berg with its upper surface harbouring numerous snow-filled crevasses to port. By now the floes had left us although we still had Snow Petrels along with the occasional Antarctic Petrel about the ship. Rodney advised that we hoped to be off Cape Adare at 8am in the morning. At 11.30 and in our newly issued jackets, we assembled on the bow for a special ceremony to commemorate crossing the Antarctic Circle. There was even a ‘hybrid Emperor Penguin’ present, although while the head was obscured, the body profile tended to give it away! Rodney dispensed a mug of mulled wine for each of us then 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.”
The Mark of the Penguin was then bestowed by Agnes. Ron then gave a moving tribute to his wife Christine who five years ago suffered an accident when scuba diving and against the odds, has proved she had the courage to bounce back and achieve a life-long dream of visiting Antarctica. The ceremony now over, some of us lingered on deck to enjoy the freshness of the weather with a 10 knot south-east blowing, before retreating inside. We then continued on our southerly course.
At 3pm David presented his lecture on the Southern Cross Expedition (1899-1900). This was the first expedition to winter-over on the Antarctic continent. Although a complex character, Borchgrevink had a team of competent scientists that left a remarkable record of observations. That ‘First Antarctic Winter’ the beautifully presented diary of Louis Bernacchi was available from the Sea Shop on board and makes compelling reading. The lecture was followed by the excellent documentary on the Adelie Penguin entitled ‘Icebird’ and a further two Minke Whales were seen at 3.45 pm. The bar opened earlier than usual and the evening meal with an entree of excellent prawns, a main of roast beef or Gurnard fish followed by a delightful desert was enjoyed by all. The bird list only contained a few species after which we prepared for a possible landing in the morning.
Day 14. Friday 24 January - Cape Adare, Robertson Bay, Possession Island
119 years ago today a landing was made on Ridley Beach (24 Jan.1895) from the ship Antarctic, during Henryk Bull’s whaling expedition
Noon position: Latitude 71o15.632’South; Longitude 170o17.427’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 0oC
We made an early start this morning in anticipation of a landing on Ridley Beach at Cape Adare. Cape Adare on the northern tip of the Adare Peninsula was named by Sir James Clark Ross for his friend Viscount Adare MP for Glamorganshire, Wales. We awoke to a slightly rough sea from a stiff westerly and were soon passing through scattered areas of brash ice, bergy-bits and floes with occasional Adelie Penguins. By 6.30 am the sun was breaking through and the supply vessel Italica en-route to Italy’s Mario Zuchelli Station was briefly sighted. An hour later peaks of the Transantarctic Mountains were sighted with between peaks, great glaciers descending below cloud. As we neared the Adare Peninsula we could see it was capped by a ‘whale-back’ cumulus cloud and Rodney drew our attention to many prominent landmarks beginning with Cape McCormick in the south along with the Downshire Cliffs of reddish brown volcanic rock. We also had an excellent view of dramatic Mt. Herschel(3335m) near the Hallett Peninsula, first climbed by the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition on 27 October 1967. The mountain was named by Ross after John F W Herschel the noted English astronomer.
Soon after rounding Cape Adare, we entered Robertson Bay in 40-50m water. It was a beautiful sunny morning, the westerly had dropped and around us were nearly 50 icebergs of various sizes, many of which were along the coast and further north. On floes Adelie Penguins were also enjoying the outstanding Antarctic morning. As one floe passed and the obligatory penguin photo was taken, a passenger announced “Put there by the tourism board”. Great photographs were also captured of a hovering South Polar Skua. As the cloud base lifted great peaks on the Admiralty Range manifested themselves in all their glory. Mt Minto (4165m) named by Ross after Earl Minto First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, and with Mt Adam (4009) named after a senior Naval Lord to the right, both peaks were prominent against the pale blue sky. Mt Minto was first climbed by an Australian expedition led by mountaineer/geologist and prominent Antarctic personality, Greg Mortimer on 18 February 1988. Other peaks of interest included Mt Sabine (3718m). Unfortunately ice had built up from the westerly along the north and south shores of Ridley Beach, preventing a Zodiac landing. However Rodney was able to point out to us the historic huts on the edge of the large Adelie Penguin colony, along with the location of Nicolai Hanson’s grave which he and David had visited on various occasions. Sarah, Samuel, Dr Eric and others were able to obtain excellent photographs of the huts, which we hoped to be able to visit on our return north.
Many on deck were interested in the blue ice within small caves of a berg. The reason for the colour can be explained as follows. Firstly, snow appears white because air trapped between ice crystals making up the snow scatters, 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, retaining small ice bubbles which scatter light allowing the penetration of sunlight in particular, deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light as 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 be rewarded.
We left Robertson Bay and rounded Cape Adare at 11.40 and continued southwards off the Adare Peninsula, towards the Possession Islands where a message post was placed by Henryk Bull’s expedition 24 January 1895. As we progressed a belt of pack ice could be seen to the west. Late in the afternoon Rodney called us together for a briefing when he discussed the possibility of making a landing on historic Possession Island with its large colony of Adelie Penguins. There is some doubt as to which is Possession Island and which is Foyn; as charts vary. By 6pm two Zodiacs driven by Samuel and Katya, were shuttling us to a boulder beach on Possession Island. We had an interesting wet landing on the rounded shingle cobbles that rolled beneath our feet and on departure one of us had a rather unusual way of boarding the Zodiac. This was a most interesting landing and gave an opportunity to observe and photograph penguins along with their chicks at various stages of development and to enjoy the interesting volcanic islands and landscape. Cast high up on a beach ridge of the spit, was a wrecked wooden US landing craft still with its engine. This was lost from USS Edisto during a storm in the 1960’s and was rediscovered by Rodney in 1995.
Back on board we had a most convivial time in the Globe Bar, before enjoying a sumptuous dinner. The chefs really did us proud at a later hour, with seafood chowder, venison on rice/pork belly followed by a gorgeous desert with Black Doris plums, crumble and ice cream. The reading of the bird list was postponed, however there was some discussion over dinner at the non-appearance of the Southern Fulmar. Very few were seen last season. Late in the evening HMNZS Otago on fishery patrol was sighted. Although the early hours of the morning were particularly beautiful, most of us having enjoyed a special day turned straight after dinner.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 15. Saturday 25 January - Ross Sea – Terra Nova Bay – Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o06’ South; Longitude 169o 01’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Before breakfast (with eggs benedict made by Trudy) the Spirit of Enderby was passing volcanic Coulman Island. This large island was named by Ross in 1841, for his father-in-law Thomas Coulman. In 1902 Scott at the beginning of his National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition, left a message post for the relief ships the following summer. The ice-capped island is three miles (4.8km) long and the highest point is 1998m (6555ft) while at the northern end is a point at 640m. A beautiful icefall was seen near Cape Anne at the southern end and talus cones had formed below steep couloirs. A large tabular berg perhaps 30 metres high, gave an approximation for the height of the island above.
We were passing over water 340 metres deep, the sea was very calm and two Minke Whales were seen. There was extensive brash ice with patches of water having an oily appearance in some places. To the west in Wood Bay lay extensive pack ice. We had some 120 nautical miles to run before we entered Terra Nova Bay later in the day. At 10am Part 5 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and Samuel followed this with a lecture entitled ‘Sea Ice – the eighth continent’. The lecture was well illustrated with easy to follow explanations which in addition to the present situation in both the Arctic and Antarctic, also covered such aspects as the importance of sea ice to indigenous peoples and wild life. By 2pm we were moving over a calm sea, a pale grey colour with reflection from the overlying cloud layer. To the west the coast and mountains were very bright and we could make out the beautiful volcanic cone of Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross after the British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. The volcano is not active though there are areas of warm ground along with fumeroles (chimneys of ice) near the summit. A long tongue of land extending to the entrance of Wood Bay terminates at Cape Washington.
During the afternoon many of us worked on our photographic collections or read in the excellent library. By 2pm Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross for then British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, became more prominent along with Cape Washington(275m)named for Captain Washington R.N., Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (1836-1840). Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard seals were also spotted. At 4.30 David gave the first of his two lectures on Scott’s expeditions. Today’s lecture focused on the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904 with the ship SY Discovery, led by Commander R.F.Scott RN. The lecture emphasised the extent of science and geographical discovery achieved, including discovery of the Polar Plateau; the first Dry Valley, the Emperor Penguin colony at Cape Crozier and the farthest south journey at the time, to Latitude 82o11’South.
The weather outside was beautiful when Rodney called us for a briefing in preparation for a landing at Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay. The anchors were lowered and our position was latitude 74o90.759’ South Longitude 163o45.8’ East. The landing got underway at 9.30pm and was a dry landing from the Zodiac in a small cove with large granite boulders we could step directly onto. From here we had about an 800m walk to the site of one of the most historic locations associated with Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) indeed part of the ‘heroic-era’ of Antarctic exploration(1998-1917). Here following the winter spent at Cape Adare in 1911, the six-man Northern Party led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell RN, was forced in 1912 to excavate a cave in the ice as an emergency shelter when the Terra Nova was unable to collect them because of pack ice. After negotiating a way through granite erratic boulders left by retreating ice, we walked along the edge of an inlet where Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals were seen. The rocks were of great interest and soon we arrived at the site of the ice cave which ablated away a few years ago. At least ten seal skeletons with skulls cracked where they were killed, an Emperor Penguin with parts of skin and some plumage and a rusty provision tin (perhaps Hunter’s oatmeal) were poignant reminders of some of the privations the Northern Party suffered when incarcerated for nearly 200 days. In the spring the men then sledged down the coast and arrived at Cape Evans. Before the end of summer two members of the party took part in the second ascent of Mt. Erebus. To cap the evening off, many of our party returned via the hill nearby from which a great view was enjoyed of the Priestley Glacier named for Sir Raymond Priestley geologist with Shackleton’s 1907-1909 expedition and of the Northern Party. Many had photographs taken with the midnight sun. Although it was a very late night, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the historic site.
Day 16. Sunday 26 January - Australia Day
Terra Nova Bay – Gondwana Station; Ross Sea – Drygalski Ice Tongue
En-route to McMurdo Sound
Noon position: Latitude 74o42.415’ South; Longitude 164o 20.69’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 2.4oC
During the night the Spirit of Enderby relocated to Gerlache Inlet. The day began with a 7.30 am breakfast where Eleanor and Robyn proudly displayed a tee-shirt with Australia’s flag, along with another on a stick in a glass, as they enjoyed vegemite (from a tube) on toast. Later several of us sang Waltzing Matilda. Breakfast was followed by a briefing for a landing in Terra Nova Bay. By 9am we were ready to begin our next outing which would also see us make a landing on the Antarctic continent. Nearby was the Korean supply ship BBC Danube and along the side BBC Chartering. The ship registered in St. John had a Russian crew.
We were soon enjoying the chance to photograph several Weddell Seals beside the beach and many of us walked up the hill to view Germanys summer only Gondwana Station. This was a tidy complex first established in the 1970’s with the initial hut on metal poles and beside the hut, containers and the main station building. A meteorological screen was nearby. An easy walk over gently elevated ground of granite and gneiss rocks and finer material, all products of freeze thaw weathering processes, provided an opportunity to photograph two Emperor Penguins. Although not with the bright colouration about the head, they were nevertheless still attractive and kindly posed for the many photographers – what would we do without digital cameras? We continued to the top and over a ridge from which nesting Skuas showed us their resentment at our intrusion. We then had an excellent albeit slightly distant view, of South Korea’s fine new Jang Bo Jo Station. This was a large complex and this year will have a winter-over party of 40. Sadly the quiet we had been enjoying was shattered when a Korean helicopter flew overhead to the ship. There was certainly much to see, including a rich array of plant life with red, yellow and grey lichens, mosses and algae requiring careful walking to avoid damaging the plants.
By 11am it was time to depart and after photographing a second Emperor Penguin, we made our way to the landing place. On the ride back to the Spirit of Enderby, a lone Adelie Penguin was seen sitting midway up the steep side of an iceberg. Some of the bergs were the most beautiful light turquoise, with one near the Italian Station, a deep ultramarine indicating that is was comprised of very old ice.The landing was certainly a highlight on our expedition as there was something of interest for everyone. It was also good to have a chance for a walk over the interesting natural landscape. Christine too was able to land and enjoy seeing the Weddell Seals, the nearby German station, the interesting geology and numerous icebergs from her wheelchair. As it was Australia Day, Richard who viewed from a distance in a look-a-like 1920’s balaclava pretended to be Mawson raised their National Flag and proclaimed:
‘I hereby proclaim Buxton Land. All land one kilometre north and south of 74 degrees 42.8 minutes South Latitude, of Terra Nova Bay, together with the Low Water Mark, to Longitude 163 degrees 54 minutes East, is hereby proclaimed Buxton land, this land being ideally suited for a retirement village in 2064, when the mean average water temperature is predicted to rise to 20 degrees Celsius and the air temperature to 25 degrees Celsius owing to Global Warming. God Save the Queen!’
The Captain had us moving southward while we enjoyed a lunch of hot chicken curry with coleslaw and cinnamon doughnuts. We then took an opportunity to have a rest and enjoy our photographs. After lunch we watched episodes 5 and 6 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. By early afternoon we were well off the coast however looking at the landscape it made one think of the Northern Party and their long sledging trip back to Cape Evans, only to learn of the loss of the Polar party. Because of heavy pack ice built up against the south side of the Drygalski Ice Tongue and a light fall of snow, we only had a partial viewing of this vast floating glacier. The Drygalski Ice Tongue which is nourished by the David Glacier (after Prof. Edgeworth David), features in the South Magnetic Pole journey made during Shackleton’s expedition in 1908-09. After the evening meal when Australia Day was again marked with the National Flag on display, toasts and an excellent bottle of Main Divide pinot noir, the day ended quietly with the bird and mammal list discussion and preparation for our next landings.
Day 17. Monday 27 January – Ross Island – Cape Bird; Cape Royds; Cape Evans
Noon position: Latitude 77o33.586’South; Longitude 166o11.584’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2oC
We arrived in Backdoor Bay on another fine morning with Mt Erebus standing majestically to port. The summit had a cap of cloud which gradually dispersed during the day. Other peaks, including Mt Discovery to the south, were concealed by cloud although the Western Mountains were clear, with viewings of the Ferrar Glacier, the entrance to the Taylor and Wright Dry Valleys along with Marble Point clearly visible. After a briefing the landing began at eight o’clock with us being dropped on the ice-foot at the head of the bay, where Rodney had previously broken off over-hanging ice with a spade. Here we saw four Weddell Seals including a pup from the latest breeding season and a number of Adelie Penguins from the Cape Royds colony; the most southern in Antarctica for this species. We had an enjoyable 25 minute walk over fresh snow and the dark scoria to Antarctica New Zealand’s green field wannigan (hut) where David had spent many enjoyable nights and devoured two Christmas dinners. We assembled at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially protected Area) and then 40 of us (the maximum allowed in the area at any one time) walked 100 metres down to Shackleton’s hut.
The hut was erected in 1908 and after brushing out feet, seven of us were able to enter the historic hut at a time. Inside David answered our many questions and provided interesting anecdotes acquired during the course of his research. Of particular interest was Shackleton’s signature on a label attached to a crate used as the head board on an improvised bed once occupied by Frank Wild in the area where the book Aurora Australis was printed. A total of 15 men spent the winter here. It was fantastic that Christine was able to visit the hut and by 10.30 having completed our visit including a walk around the edge of the ASPA and the Adelie colony, we were on our way back to the landing place. Of interest here was a young well-developed Weddell Seal born perhaps last October, that was using its teeth in addition to its flippers to enable it to reach the top of the ice where our group was assembled. Michael took a video and one could hear the rasping noise of the seal’s teeth on the ice.
While we were having lunch the captain repositioned the ship eight miles south, passing the Barne Glacier. A further briefing was held followed by our next landing at Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans, named for Lieutenant Edward Evans, second in command. The term ‘hut’ is a perhaps not appropriate for the prefabricated building erected in 1911. To enter this hallowed place from which Captain Scott left for the South Pole destined to never return, was a real privilege. The darkened interior had a unique ambience and unnerving tranquillity. We quietly conducted our own exploration of the many areas linked to Scott and other famous names who occupied the Wardroom, along with his men from the lower ranks who lived on the Mess Deck. Glenda found the place ‘sad but inspiring’; Tony was taken by the ‘magnificent conservation’ while Sherrel considered the hut ‘thought provoking’. Again David answered questions and we found the plan of the interior showing where the 15 officers (including scientists) and 9 men (including two Russians) spent the winter of 1911. For the second winter over, some staff left and new people arrived. Many artefacts such as two anchors from the Ross Sea Party ship Aurora, left on the beach in 1915 and the memorial cross on Wind Vane Hill to Mackintosh, Hayward and Spencer-Smith of the Ross Sea Party were seen and photographed. All too soon it was time to leave. Anchors were raised and we departed on the next stage of our expedition.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 18. Tuesday 28 January – Ross Ice Shelf; Ross Island – Cape Bird; McMurdo Sound ice edge. Chef Bruce’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 77o13.004’South; Longitude 166o24.780’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2.6oC
At 1.30am Rodney made an announcement that we were approaching the Ross Ice Shelf. The sun low in the sky was very bright however, as we neared Cape Crozier and the vast ice cliff, it was less of an influence and by 2am we were busy taking photographs. The rugged landscape of windswept Cape Crozier was interesting. We glimpsed the location near The Knoll, where Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry- Garrard, built their ‘rock igloo’ during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’ in July 1911. The large Adelie Penguin colony still has a message post from Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-1904). The vast floating Ross Ice Shelf discovered by Ross in 1841 which is the area of France certainly attracted our attention. At 2am we were positioned at 77o25’S 169o33’E. In winter a series of ‘ice canyons’ provide comparative shelter for Emperor Penguins breeding here on the sea ice. The face of the ice shelf appeared to have been sculpted by a giant artist’s pallet knife while below the 50m high face, wave cut ice was a beautiful turquoise colour. With wave action a sucking and crashing sound could be heard from beneath the over-hanging ice. The average thickness of the ice is 330m or 1100ft - to 700m or 2300ft with about 1/7th below the surface.
By the time we woke for breakfast at 9am the next morning the Spirit of Enderby had moved to Cape Bird and we were positioned just off the research station of Antarctica New Zealand; the second hut on the site. The morning was beautiful when we landed on the beach below the field station. Here two enjoyable hours were spent viewing and photographing Adelie Penguins and seals. Some of us walked up the well-constructed steps to the terrace where we saw the two field huts which sat below an automatic meteorological station with solar panels. We did not enter the ASPA which is an area with significant vegetation. Unfortunately the swell meant the ‘Polar Plunge’ had to be cancelled and in the afternoon the ship departed for the west side of McMurdo Sound. By 3pm we were crossing McMurdo Sound and making our way towards the ice edge. The ice breaker USCGC Polar Star could be seen amidst a cluster of icebergs. An Emperor Penguin was sighted amongst the delicately coloured blue ice floes where the snow had been washed off, while the sea was a deep aquamarine. It was still sunny but the moderate breeze had a bite to it. We really enjoyed our views from the bridge and bow. Beyond the ice floes the Western Mountains, glaciers and Dry Valleys were clearly visible. Jane was very helpful with identification of landforms, familiar from her own geological research in the region. The afternoon passed quickly and we had an excellent meal with baked salmon or Coq au Vin (chicken) as main choices. It was Chef Bruce’s birthday so we made certain he enjoyed it. Michael made a cake decorated with a few candles and ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung in the galley. The ship moved to a new position from which we had a clear view of Observation Hill and the three Meridian wind turbines. At 10 pm we were positioned at 770 48.894’S 165o 28.422E. The meeting to discuss bird and mammal species seen was held, then with a long day expected tomorrow, the evening drew to a close.
Day 19. Wednesday 29 January – Ross Island – Furthest South for Spirit of Enderby
McMurdo Station, Scott Base, Observation Hill, Hut Point – Discovery Hut
Noon position: Latitude 77o 51.145’South; Longitude 166o38.527’East
Air temperature: -5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
As we neared Winter Quarters Bay in McMurdo Sound at 5.30am, many landmarks that feature in Antarctic history came into view. Mt Erebus was largely obscured, however visible in a clockwise direction were:Turtle Rock along with on the Hut Point Peninsula, Danger Slopes, Arrival Heights, Castle Rock, The Gap, Observation Hill and Cape Armitage followed by the McMurdo Ice Shelf which links into the Ross Ice Shelf, White Island, Black Island and Mt Discovery (2680m). Further to the west the low morning sun lit up the snow and the pale brown slopes at the entrance to the Taylor Dry Valley. In the foreground we were confronted with the massive infrastructure comprising the US McMurdo Station established here as AIROPFAC (Air Operating Facility) in 1955 for the USN Operation Deep Freeze One. To port was Hut Point with Scott’s Discovery Hut (1902) and on a nearby promontory Vince’s Cross; both almost lost and dwarfed by the fuel tanker Maersk Peary at the artificial ice pier. This had carried super refined diesel fuel all the way from Greece. On Crater Hill above ‘The Gap’ which leads to New Zealand’s Scott Base, sat the three wind turbines which have contributed to a substantial energy cost saving for the NZ and US programmes.
We anchored in Winter Quarters Bay at 6am in 63 metres of water and prepared for what would be a busy day. Rodney had gone to a considerable effort making arrangements with the cooperation of both McMurdo Station and Scott Base in order that we could visit the bases. The timing was excellent as the fuel tanker had discharged and a container ship was still two days away. We also hoped to climb Observation Hill and visit Discovery Hut. It was a cool -5oC and a brisk wind was ruffling the sea. Following an early breakfast we set off in Zodiacs in small groups 20 minutes apart. The sea ice had gone out and to land we nosed into a bank below the US station, with the permafrost clearly visible at around 30cms depth. Then it was a simple matter to carefully step from the bow onto land. There we were met by Kimbly, an IT specialist, who led us on a walking tour. Our first stop was at the Crary Laboratory (Albert P. Crary 1911-1987) and Eklund Biological Centre (Carl Eklund 1909-1912) opened 4 November 1991. The tour of this impressive building began in the marine science lab where live fish are usually held in the large tanks. Beverly explained the research being undertaken on tooth fish and invertebrates. Various informative posters were viewed along with glass display cabinets housing seal skulls, marine invertebrates and assorted artefacts including a ship’s kerosene lantern ca.1930-1950 found in 15 metres off Hut Point.
Liz then met us at the NSF (National Science Foundation Division Programs) Chalet where we viewed the Felix de Weldon bronze bust of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, beside which were plaques commemorating the US Navy and 50th Anniversary of Operation Deep Freeze. The next stop was Building 155. This contained the Mess hall, some accommodation, offices and ship’s store or PX where a few souvenirs could be obtained. Other accommodation was in three large three-storey blocks with such names as Mammoth Mountain Inn and Hotel California. A short walk led us to the Chapel of the Snows. A peaceful building with beautiful stained glass window and outlook across the Sound, it had the altar allegedly from the former St. Saviours Church at Lyttelton, where Scott had worshiped. In a cabinet was the Erebus chalice thought to be linked (by the Hallmarks) to Scott’s last expedition. This is stored in Christchurch Cathedral each winter then handed over at the start of the new Antarctic season. At one stage David, a friend of the donor Miss Betty Bird of Auckland, had the silver-gilt chalice in his possession. Summer Chaplin Mike Beyer of the Air National Guard, provided a commentary on the use of the Chapel; the most southern in Antarctica.
The final places visited were Mac Ops where Shelley discussed pre-field trip communications; Mac Centre (air traffic control and not a job for everyone), where JT (Jerry) said three flights were due from Christchurch, five were being flown to the South Pole today and ‘texting’ can even be done from the aircraft. At present the Pegasus blue ice runway for wheeled aircraft had over a meter of water on it; hence the use of ski-equipped LC130 Hercules, one of which we saw from Cape Evans and now using the snow ski-way at Williams Field. We also met Sandy the Helo Ops Controller, then moved on to Mac Weather where Arthur with computer screens, carefully explained climate modelling and problems with forecasting in Antarctica. We had a coffee and cookies (it was ‘Mexican Day’) in the coffee shop/wine bar with movie theatre that occupies the oldest building on the station. Finally after a photo shoot at the McMurdo Station sign we said goodbye to the very friendly and hospitable staff. They had given up their time to assist us and extend our knowledge of the United States Antarctic program (USAP). We then returned to the ship for lunch.
During the afternoon our time was largely taken up with a visit to New Zealand’s Scott Base – our furthest south. The same landing was used and here we were taken in two vehicles over the hill to the station three kilometres away. From The Gap we could see the sea ice had largely broken out. A science team was busy observing whales of which pods of to 30 Minkes have been reported and Rodney said a helicopter had observed 100 Orcas. At Scott Base we were welcomed by Julie Patterson, Antarctica New Zealand’s HR officer. Staff then took us on our tour of the complex. This began at the TAE/IGY Hut which for David’s group was led by Anna Ryder one of the base Domestics. The prefabricated building was the first erected at Scott Base and was opened in January 1957. Hut A as it was then known, then contained the mess/lounge, galley, radio-room and the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s bunk (which he had built himself) and office. Later the hut was used for additional accommodation. David who allegedly said “Well it’s great to be home”, briefly explained to his group the history of the building. This is about to be taken over by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and a new Conservation Plan, edited by Conservation Architect Chris Cochran was recently compiled. The base staff, who are expecting supplies from the cargo ship made us very welcome. We enjoyed seeing the gallery of winter-over photographs then, in the salubrious new dining room, we enjoyed afternoon tea cookies baked by Bobby’s, who is the winter-over chef and a former Spirit of Enderby chef. Off this area is the Tatty Flag Bar along with a comfortable lower-level lounge area. Our tour of Scott Base concluded with a visit to the retail shop operated by the Armed Forces Canteen Council Burnham Military Camp, then a photo shoot beside the “pou” (Maori carving) and sign in front of the base.
On leaving the base we were taken up a side road that once led to the former US nuclear power station and from here, were able to join the walking track up the 230m Observation Hill, named during the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904). While here the USCGC icebreaker Polar Star WAGB10 after escorting the tanker out, pulled up by the ice pier. We then returned to the ship which required an interesting boarding of the Zodiacs as the tide had lowered the sea level. At 7pm some of us were able to visit Hut Point. This visit was courtesy of Al (‘Fast Owl’) Fastier from Glenorchy, iconic Programme Manager for Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Ross Sea Conservation Project. Only the hut is within the SPA. Although many artefacts have been packed away to enable essential carpentry to be done, sufficient remained for us to appreciate the history of this historic Australian building. Inside David explained that each of the huts we have seen is quite different. This hut in particular has ‘layers of history with the main focus the Ross Sea Party 1914-1917 and the privations of the men who lived here in the dark days of early winter 1916, including the loss of Mackintosh and Hayward who had been saved and then needlessly gave their lives away. The three post-Discovery expeditions all used the hut as a staging post before heading south.
The bar was a focus for many of us after such an interesting, albeit long day for which we were grateful to Rodney for making it so special. It was fitting that our capable chefs should provide a sumptuous meal of Monkfish or Southland tender rack of lamb. What a day! Christine had not only visited McMurdo Station but also joined us on our visit to Scott Base. An early to bed night followed.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 20. Thursday 30 January – Ross Sea
Noon position: Latitude 75o40.129’South; Longitude 167o57.93’East
Air temperature: -1oC
Water temperature: 2oC
A light fall of snow occurred during the night and in the morning we woke to a gentle rolling of the ship caused by a south-east wind. No birds were about. At 8am we were at 76o17’South 187o84’E. The temperature was -3oC and water at +1oC. To starboard although not visible, was Franklin Island named for Sir John Franklin Governor of Tasmania while to port was the Mawson Glacier leading into the Nordenskjold Ice Tongue that feeds to Oates Piedmont Glacier. Our next rendezvous was Cape Ann at the end of Coulman Island and there a decision would be made on our future movements. During the morning we watched the final episode of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ and then Samuel gave us a lecture about Penguins. This well-illustrated, well-presented presentation gave us a further insight into these birds which have adapted from land animals millions of years ago to a life in the sea. They only live south of the Equator and Samuel presented an insight into the biology of these special birds. By early afternoon it was snowing steadily.
At 3pm David presented his lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Ernest Shackleton’s second expedition to Antarctica. The achievements were considerable with the first discovery of the South Magnetic Pole and the furthest south yet achieved for the South Geographic Pole. This lecture was followed by a very useful lecture from Katya regarding the ‘World of Contrasts’ which looked at the differences between the Antarctic and the Arctic, supported by excellent illustrations. The bar was rather quiet in the evening and after an excellent dinner, with no bird or mammal discussion following (only a Giant Petrel, a Snow Petrel and some unidentified whales seen) we called it a day. Rodney advised we had 135 miles to go to reach Possession Island which would take about 12 hours and because of ice build-up, it would not be possible to visit Cape Hallett. A decision would be made in the morning about our future plans.
Day 21. Friday 31 January – Ross Sea; Southern Ocean
Philippa announces her engagement
Noon position: Latitude 71o 16.18’South; Longitude 172o02.8’East
Air temperature: 2oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Last evening all the ice went out from in front of Scott Base so Rodney announced that the passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy following a week behind us would be landing from the Zodiac in front of the base. We had a relatively calm night but in the morning woke to a fairly rough sea with thin layers of foaming white and white horses on the larger waves. A 35 knot southerly was pushing us along and we were doing nearly 11 knots. Below a layer of grey cloud, we had a good view of the two island groups making up the Possession Islands; including the beach we landed on below the Adelie Penguin colony. More seabirds were seen than yesterday, mostly giant petrels including a White Morph, several Antarctic Petrels and a Wilson’s Storm Petrel. Doing 10.6 knots, we followed the Downshire Cliffs that were away to port and Rodney advised the ice was moving west and that by necessity we had to continue north. Still we were very grateful for a visit to Robertson Bay from which we viewed Borchgrevink’s huts (1899) along with remnants of the Northern Party Hut (1911) with information supplemented by David’s lectures. We must also not forget that we have already landed on the Antarctic Continent.
At 10am David gave his lecture entitled ‘Triumph and Tragedy – Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913’. This was a very complex expedition with various field parties, the Northern Party that wintered as well as at Cape Adare, on Inexpressible Island along with reference made to Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian Expedition and Nobu Shirase’s second Japanese Antarctic Expediton. Having visited Cape Evans hut the lecture reminded us of what we had seen along with further information. The next gathering in the lecture room was to view a documentary called ‘Blackfish’. This focused on the Orca and the how corporate business has been reaping rich financial rewards at the expense of keeping and breeding the whale species in a captive situation. In the meantime lives have been lost and it was admitted that little is still known about the biology and other aspects concerning these magnificent creatures. One must ask how many have seen the Orca in the natural habitat.
By this time we were heading for Campbell Island and were looking forward to the natural history of this amazing place, which had already been introduced by Rodney’s lecture. The sea was beautiful when seen in sunbursts which made it look like burnished metal as we made 12.3 knots across the Southern Ocean. Lunch today was in the form of a buffet where we made our own sandwiches while Philippa announced her engagement. At 3pm Jane gave a lecture regarding ‘Antarctic Geology – Field Mapping in South Victoria Land’. In this excellent lecture Jane began with a description of the five main rock units for the region – Basement of metamorphosed sediments (480-650 m.yrs); Beacon sedimentary rocks 200-420 m.yrs); Ferrar Dolerite sills (180 m.yrs); McMurdo volcanics (0-20 m.yrs)and the ‘Cover’ or ‘Drift’ consisting of glacial, freshwater and marine deposits (also 0-20 m.yrs). This was supplemented by wonderful photographs and a description of life in the field.
The final lecture of the day was provided by New Zealand Government Representative Trudie Baker. She gave a good overview of Antarctica New Zealand, its structure and functions along with reference to international collaboration in logistic support and science. To conclude the presentation she showed James Blake’s (son of the late Sir Peter Blake) wonderful videos with time-lapse photography done at Cape Evans and other localities along with a tour of Scott Base which we had enjoyed in person just a few days ago. After a superb dinner Rodney indicated that we had 1034 nautical miles to go before Campbell Island. At a speed of 11.5 knots an ETA was expected on 4 February. During the evening the wind was expected to ease and we hoped it would remain benign for the last few days of our expedition, which was rapidly coming to a close.
Day 22. Saturday 1 February – Southern Ocean – last iceberg
Noon position: Latitude 66o 33.3’South; Longitude 172o37.3’East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 1oC
Today the supply vessel for McMurdo Station and Scott Base was scheduled to arrive at the Winter Quarters Bay ice pier.
We enjoyed a comfortable rest during the night and by 8am were well past Cape Adare and at 67o28.209’S 172o35.163’E.
It was a fine day with a small amount of cloud and a few more birds were beginning to appear. This included a large number of Snow Petrels, Campbell Island Albatross, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, a few Antarctic Petrels and the first Southern Fulmar although this was debated amongst the group. To port was a large iceberg and several fragments of ice were scattered over the ocean. Mid-morning, Karen managed to capture a photograph of a large gathering of birds on an iceberg. It was decided that these were probably Antarctic Petrels due to the overall brownish colour. There seemed to be thousands of them. This morning David gave his last lecture on the ‘heroic-era’ of exploration. This was one was called ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes’ and focused on the generally little known Ross Sea Party of Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (1914-1916) with most people familiar with the saga of the Endurance. David was co-author of the book Polar Castaways (taken from a BBC Interview with expedition member Alexander Stevens) which was compiled over 30 years. He had the great joy of knowing several expedition members including Richard Richards who became a close friend.
The second lecture before lunch was an outstanding presentation by Samuel regarding his 2005 winter-over at the French Station Dumont d’Urville in Terre Adelie, East Antarctica. Samuel described the long history of France’s involvement in Antarctica, the station and its composition along with the environment. His own work as a naturalist focused on ornithology and the Weddell Seal. He told us about his work environment, special celebrations including France’s National Day, Midwinter Day and of course the long travel including the one week sea voyage from Hobart on L’Astrolabe (nicknamed L’Gastrolabe). The day continued to be beautiful with the deep Prussian blue sea and more birds about, whale sightings and a large number of ice bergs. The latter included a tabular berg calculated to be three and a half to four nautical miles long.
Our blue Antarctic jackets were handed in after lunch following which we viewed part one of the documentary ‘Longitude’. This film focused on John Harrison’s obsession to construct the first chronometer to aid mariners and after 40 years earning him a prize, with Harrison dying soon afterwards. In the early evening Rodney presented a most interesting lecture which he called ‘Pelagic whaling in the Ross Sea 1923/24-1932/33; A decade of shame or ignorance’. This very appropriate lecture began with a biography of the pioneer of whaling, the Norwegian C.A. Larsen. From his research including interviews completed with whaling men while undertaking university study, Rodney gave us a good insight into the overall origins of whaling in Antarctica, but more so that in the Ross Sea. Along with the whaling were political aspects which also involved New Zealand, the setting up of a New Zealand company, the station set up at Kaipipi on Stewart Island and statistics concerning whales taken. The latter included for the Ross Sea a total of 10,487 whales processed by the James Clark Ross and C.A. Larsen in the 1923-33 decade, with perhaps 9161 whales taken by other companies.
By 9pm we were under the influence of an easterly and beginning to roll a little. Our speed was still 11.5 knots with 750 nautical miles to go to Campbell Island. The weather forecast looked good for the next two days although was expected to swing to the west. We had an interesting bird and mammal meeting - two Fin Whales and three Minke were seen today. To finish, the following quotation was found in The Last Explorer, an excellent biography of the great Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins by Simon Nash (Page 314). It is attributed to Apsley Cherry-Garrard of Scott’s last expedition.
‘Exploration is but the physical expression of the intellectual passion”.
Day 23. Sunday 2 February – Southern Ocean – Antarctic Convergence
Bosun Yuri’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 62o14.485’South; Longitude 171o18.621’East
Air temperature: 4oC
Water temperature: 3oC
We had a comfortable night with the ship rolling a little and got up to a calm sea and 8/8ths of light grey cloud; a spell of light rain; fog coming and going and air temperature at 3oC. We were doing 11.9 knots and at 8am were at 62o57.963S and on our course of 171o28.974E. A few birds seen included numerous Sooty Shearwaters, a Grey-headed Albatross and a prion.
At 10am David gave a lecture entitled ‘Icons of Exploration’. The main focus was the run-up to the formation of the Antarctic Heritage Trust previously discussed by Trudie; work achieved; conservation problems along with the work by Australia’s Mawson’s Huts Foundation and other work by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust; Chile; Argentina and the United States at other sites. By 11am the fog had become quite thick and the sun was trying to break through but not doing very well. At 11.30 the film ‘With Byrd to the Pole’ was screened and focused on the first flight made to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole by Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd during his United States Antarctic Expedition 1928-1930. The Sea Shop opened at 2.30 then the final episode of ‘Longitude’ was screened. This film was very enjoyable with excellent acting by Jeremy Irons and others. We assembled in the Globe Bar at 6pm for Rodney to hold his Antarctica quiz. This was a lot of fun and was won by a group scoring 29 our of a possible32. A great achievement which netted them two bottles of wine. There was no team leader and as Andrew said “we were very egalitarian - it was all for one and everyone to himself”! Following dinner and the bird and mammal discussion most retired early as Rodney predicted the ship may roll in the night.
Day 24. Monday 3 February – Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 57o48’South; Longitude170o16’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 7oC
Very few of us had a comfortable night. With a westerly air flow, the ship rolled, pitched and we surfaced to a grey morning on a rough sea. Some of us braved breakfast, however most then retired to the bunk and then resurfaced for a light lunch. By early afternoon the sea had begun to calm, although this did not necessarily mean we had a good afternoon. Many of us continued to catch up with sleep, looked at our photographs and read or played cards in the library. The calmer sea provided an opportunity to sort luggage in preparation for our landing on Campbell Island and disembarkation on Saturday. Time had moved quickly and it did not seem like nearly a month since we departed Bluff. We were however making good progress at just over 11 knots and passing over the South-west Pacific Basin with water depths approaching 5304 metres. The day passed quietly and at 8.45pm we had a mere 216 nautical miles to go before our arrival at Campbell Island. By now the wind had picked up from the north although Rodney expected it to swing to the west. The final gathering of the day was to discuss the species sightings where Katya refused to accept a change of name from Grey-headed Albatross to Pensioner Albatross and similarly to accept a new species named after its finder Albert Ross. We then prepared for a restless night at sea.
Day 25. Tuesday 4 February – Southern Ocean – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o’50.897’South; Longitude 169o30.280’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 8oC
Occasional light rain earlier
Many of us had an uncomfortable night and at 7.40am the Spirit of Enderby was at 54o28’ south 169o37’E with our expected arrival at Campbell Island around 7.30 in the evening. A small pod of perhaps three Long-finned Pilot Whales was seen by David, Andrew and crew, off the starboard bow as an occasional light rain was falling. This morning the ship occasionally rolled as by now we were encountering waves from the north-west so we looked forward to finding calmer waters once we arrived in Perseverance Harbour. Some of us had already been to Campbell Island, including Bob who made frequent visits with the New Zealand Meteorological Service and was on occasions taken there by Rodney. The volcanic island has a magnificent natural history along with a rich human history. With the sea becoming rough, only a few observers were on the bridge this morning. Bird species were increasing including six species of albatrosses (White-capped or Shy; Campbell (a mollymawk); Black-browed; Southern Royal; Wandering and Grey-headed. All of these species, plus the Antipodean Albatross (not seen today) breed on Campbell Island and some of the smaller outlying islands. Petrels included White-chinned, Cape and White-headed. A few shearwaters were also seen. Chris was a great help with identifying the species observed. It was a great pleasure to watch these magnificent birds as they soared at times with a wing-tip just a few centimetres above the water surface, then rising with the occasional wing flutter, before swooping, rising, changing direction and gaining height, as they picked up speed to soar on air currents about the ship.
With the sea getting rather choppy with scattered white caps due to the westerly conditions, many of us rested after lunch. Our speed at noon had slowed to 8.5 knots over water around 470m deep. The occasional wave broke over the bow. Just before 6pm Rodney announced we had 21.7 nautical miles to reach our way-point at the entrance to Perseverance Harbour, followed by 40 minutes to the anchorage. We had been doing 9.8-9.8 knots and the wind had been dropping. We had the first visual sighting of the main island as it loomed in the mist, at around 6.15pm when Mt. Honey the highest point (558m) was seen with Mt Dumas (500m) beyond. On the bridge Andrew asked Rodney “Are there any teal here?” As Rodney replied “Yes!” some teal took flight right in front of us so there were laughs all round. At 7pm we had an interesting view of a Sea Lion just below the surface with something in its mouth. By now on a heading of 346.8o, we were at the harbour entrance at a speed of 11.7 knots. On the bow the Bosun was preparing the anchors and used a hand crank to release the ‘Devil’s claws’ which hold back the anchor chains. We were escorted into Perseverance Harbour by a pair of Southern Royal Albatross along with numerous Giant and Cape Petrels. We turned into the harbour with Erebus Point to starboard and South Point to port with good views of vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice sculptured landforms and olive-green scrub reaching up from the water’s edge and merging with tussock higher up. Rodney pointed out a ‘haul out’ area to starboard, on which were three Sea Lions lounged. The anchors went down in 22 metres of water and dinner began with a vegetable and meat Borsch (soup), followed by a main with fillet steak or chicken, then a desert of Tiramisu (Greek/Italian), a cake soaked in coffee and Kahlua.
There is very little on this island that Rodney is not familiar with. He has spent a lot of time here over many years. In 1975 with New Zealand’s former Wildlife Service, he re-discovered the Campbell Island Flightless Teal on 26 hectare La Dent Island on his first visit there. This small bird was at the time thought to be extinct. Campbell Island is important for the breeding or presence of several species of albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Shag and very important species of ‘mega-herbs’ that have flourished since the pest eradication programme. The human history has included early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, farming (initially 2000 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses), the World War 2 Cape Expedition, former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 then replaced with an automated system) and pest eradication since 1990. It was good to be on calm waters again and following the compilation of the species list, we retired and prepared for a 6.30 am wake-up call.
Day 26. Wednesday 5 February – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o32.991’South; Longitude 169o09.577’East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Most of us had an excellent sleep on calmer waters. It had rained a little in the night and we got up to a generally fine day, with scattered cloud and the sun appearing from time to time. A good breakfast set us right for the exertions of the day. At 7.15 am we assembled in the lecture room for the first time for a few days. Rodney gave a superb, well-illustrated introduction to Campbell Island and before setting out for our landing we were instructed to adhere to quarantine requirements with special emphasis on clothing including footwear and back packs. The day’s activities were then discussed. A total of 14 opted to do the ‘Samuel Safari’- a 14km all-day walk from Camp Cove, with an ascent of 200m taking us across the island to Capstan Cove, followed by the inevitable 200m descent and return to the ship. The remainder of us chose the interesting Zodiac cruise to Tucker and Camp Cove. This focused on the history with a return although no landing, via Garden and Venus Coves. After lunch, those of us who did the latter, then selected the shorter boardwalk journey to view nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses and mega herbs at Col Lyall (named after Lyall on Ross’s expedition) with a view down to Northwest Bay, the site of early whaling.
Passengers on the long walk were the first away and reported seeing five Campbell Island Snipe, two Antipodean Albatross with low flights of about 300m, an amazing field of purple Pleurophyllum speciosum along with other vegetation on the glaciated landscape. Those in the Zodiacs enjoyed calling at Camp Cove and Tucker Cove, with the rusting Shacklock Orion stove the only visible remnant from the farm homestead, attracting most attention. Birds seen included a Giant Petrel, Campbell Island Shag and gulls. The visit to Tucker Cove was significant as it was near here that flightless Campbell Island Teal were seen. The hike up the board walk from the former meteorological station began with us being confronted by an arrogant bull Sea Lion who was jealously guarding his harem of three cows. Bob then explained what the various buildings had been used for. After passing through flowering dwarf Dracophyllum scoparium scrub in the Sub-alpine Vegetation Zone below Beeman Hill (187m), we entered the Lower Alpine Zone with interesting ground cover. From Col Lyall we looked across to Northeast Bay and back to Perseverance Harbour. The highlights were nesting Southern Royal Albatross including some paired birds among the tussocks, flowering Pleurophyllum and for those who briefly battled the gusting nor-west wind, a view to Northwest Bay. It had been a great day and after a convivial hour, we enjoyed as always a wonderful meal from Bruce, Michael, Natalya and Zoya, followed by an often humorous discussion on the bird and mammal sightings.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 27. Thursday 6 February – Campbell Island - en-route to Bluff
Waitangi Day in New Zealand
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.072’South; Longitude 169o09.617’East
Air temperature: 10.8oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Heavy rain and fog prevented a climb of Mt. Honey today. Instead after breakfast we gathered in the lecture room to consider options for morning activity. These included a further trip to Col Lyall; a muddy walk to the old Coastwatchers’ huts; Zodiac cruise in the outer harbour and tours of the galley and engine room. By late morning the sun endeavoured to brighten the day and Bill was delighted to find his wedding ring; on the cabin floor under a suit case. Those in the Zodiacs had a very interesting trip. Emma very much enjoyed viewing a Rockhopper Penguin, along with the other species that included three Yellow-eyed Penguins, two Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross chicks on nests and two New Zealand Fur Seals. Old lava had flowed over sedimentary rock and volcanic basalt columns, some vertical and some curved. They were coloured yellow, white, black and brown. A dyke was examined with caves at the base. The party which visited the remains of the Coastwatchers’ hut and a red-painted meteorological hut followed a muddy track through Dracophyllum scrub and Bracken. The met hut was in good repair and had furniture along with beer signs on the walls. An unusual stove or boiler was marked ‘UNIQUE’. A stop was made at the memorial to the three who died (Capt. Hasselburgh, a young woman and a sailor) and an aggressive male Sea Lion was carefully avoided on the way back to the ship.
Samuel’s party trekked up to Col Lyall. It was very foggy, blowing hard and a few Antarctic Terns were sighted. Because of the time of the day, the albatross were less active compared to yesterday, although there was still much to enjoy. Mike for example considered the hike to the top of the board walk enabled one to gain “a good cross section of Campbell Island from bottom to top, including the landscape and vegetation”. On board Bruce provided an interesting tour of the galley including storage areas, food preparation and cooking appliances. Rodney showed two groups through the immaculate engine room with green painted floor and the two bright yellow, six cylinder 1400 hp locomotive engines. Every five years the engines which are each connected to a ‘Ka me wa’ (now part of Rolls Royce) gear box, are stripped down. There are three generators.
The chefs produced a variety of excellent pizzas for lunch after which we prepared for a quiet afternoon with cabin effects secured. At 1.10 pm we departed for Bluff with 360 nautical miles to go and wind expected from the west, likely to cause a roll on the beam. Unfortunately it would be not possible to do a Zodiac cruise at the Snares Islands. It took little time to leave the harbour and we were soon beginning to roll. Many still found the library a good place to sort photographs and to catch up on the last month. Following the usual excellent evening meal, the bird list, a rather varied one for today, was compiled. At 9pm we were maintaining a good speed and were at Latitude 51o24.316’ South Longitude 169o967’ East. The sea was still lumpy, however Rodney suggested conditions may improve by tomorrow.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 28. Friday 7 February - en-route to Bluff.
The Penultimate day of our expedition. Stephen’s birthday.
Noon position: Latitude 48o52’ South; Longitude 168o38’ East
Air temperature: 15oC
Water temperature: 12oC
After a comfortable night with pale grey sea now calming, we rose to a cloudy day with a pale sun. Of interest this morning was a dead seal being eaten by numerous birds. At 10am two excellent documentaries on Campbell Island were screened by Dr Eric. With 42 species of New Zealand birds now extinct and many on the endangered list, ‘The Battle for Campbell Island’ focused on the eradication programme of an estimated 50,000+ Norway rats in the winter of 2001. Rats had been released by sealers and soon became a natural history problem. The second documentary entitled ‘The Impossible Dream – the Campbell Island Teal’ with the rediscovery in 1975, led to a subsequent successful release by the Department of Conservation in 2004. Progeny of ‘Daisy’ a female captured on La Dent in 1984 (she died in 2002) re-appeared at Beeman Station the following year. These programmes were followed with an excellent presentation by Katya about ‘The Russian Far East – The Wild Frontier’ and focused on the human and natural history, from the Kuril Islands in the south to Wrangel Island in the far north. This is another fascinating and beautiful area, where Heritage Expeditions operates a range of itineraries. The pictures of indigenous peoples, villages, wild life, botany and landscapes, were outstanding with many photographs taken by Katya herself who spent a lot of time with her parents on Wrangel Island, a World Heritage area with Arctic diversity.
By afternoon the sea was very calm with some dolphins sighted and bird life including a Back Bellied Petrel feeding on the surface. We enjoyed a quiet day which included packing and a passenger de-brief, with crew and staff already preparing for the next voyage. This evening as we passed Stewart Island to port, Bruce and Michael provided a sumptuous farewell dinner. This included a ravioli entrée, main course with hot ham and roast beef carvery, chicken fricassee, roast potatoes and assorted vegetables, a seafood selection with salmon, prawns and salads and deserts including lemon curd and chocolate cheese cakes, mini-Pavlovas and a cheese board. After travelling 4675 nautical miles (8658 kms) the final de-brief was held in the lecture room when Rodney and staff farewelled the group and thanked them for contributing to what has been a highly successful expedition. Samuel then screened his superb 22 minute slide show and made copies available to all who wanted them. We then retired with just a few hours remaining on board before departure in the morning.
Day 29. Saturday 8 February – Bluff and departure
Latitude 46o35.630’South; Longitude 168o20.35’East
The pilot boarded at 6.30am and our time aboard the Spirit of Enderby was fast drawing to a close. We breakfasted together for the last time and New Zealand Customs and MAF Quarantine officers boarded at 7.45am. After a group photograph was taken to record this momentous journey, we said final farewells. This expedition may have ended but we will take with us enduring memories of so many wonderful experiences in both natural and human history, relating to our extraordinary time on the Subantarctic Islands and in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. As compiler of this Log, the author very much appreciated receiving pictures for his personal archive following the loss of his camera while swimming at Macquarie Island and for what he has learned. Best wishes to everyone for happy travels in the years ahead. Who knows, some of us may meet again some time, somewhere in the future. Thank you.
Click here for species list for this voyage.
Noon position: Latitude 46°35.82’S Longitude 168°20.67’E
On our way at last, with 49 of us about to experience magnificent sub-Antarctic Islands administered by New Zealand and Australia, followed by the natural beauty and links with the extraordinary human history of the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, south of New Zealand.
We arrived yesterday in the southernmost city of Invercargill. Here we stayed at the Kelvin Hotel and had a beautiful meal. This morning we were assisted with our luggage by Heritage Expeditions to the ship and it was placed in our cabins.
Many of us visited the excellent Southland Museum in its beautiful garden setting. Of interest was The Roaring Forties New Zealand Subantarctic Islands video and exhibition of historic artifacts and Maori artifacts.
After lunch we were conveyed by coach to Bluff a small coastal town and port about thirty minutes from Invercargill and famous for Bluff Oysters. Here we boarded the Spirit of Enderby, and were shown by staff to our cabins and cleared by Customs.
We left on schedule at 4pm with a Little Blue Penguin swimming beside the ship. Following escort with the Pilot we were then on our way. At 4.45 we assembled in the lecture room for our first briefing - introduction to the ship and safety. A practical demonstration as required by international maritime regulations, took place with the two lifeboats.
By 9p.m the sea was up a little although this did not prevent a few of us from enjoying the sun going down about ten minutes later, the sunset and view of Stewart Island to starboard. By now the ship was beginning to “dance” and we preferred to head for the cabins.
Noon position: Latitude 48°56.72’S Longitude 166°32.28’E
Rodney advised soon after 5a.m that we were off the Snares Islands and some of us went up to the bridge. Although still fairly dark, we were able to see hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters in “rafts” or flying about, before heading further afield to feed.
With the ship rolling, a day of rest was declared and many took the opportunity to catch up with sleep, read or visit the Bridge. At noon the sea was still rough with “white horses” from the westerly swell, along with a good 30 knot northerly.
From the Bridge several species of albatross and Cape Petrels could be seen. A few Shy Albatross were on the water and environmental scientist Roy reported a Giant Petrel killing a Cape Petrel while in flight.
At 7.50p.m we were at 50°20.57’S 166°24.50E. Although the sea was still, our progress was good with 11-12 knots being maintained. Not so many sea birds about although it was a good day for sighting birdlife. A Shy Albatross and a Black-bellied Storm Petrel were seen to take small fish.
By 8.20 Enderby Island appeared through the murk off to Starboard and soon we were entering Port Ross Harbour, with considerably calmer waters. We anchored at Port Ross at 9.07pm. Once again we enjoyed an excellent meal and the birthday celebrations for a passenger, complete with cake.
With our first day now concluded, we prepared for what promises to be a most interesting landing and full day tomorrow.
Historic Event! At 2a.m 100 years ago today (then a Monday) the SS Terra Nova hove to off Oamaru, New Zealand. Two Officers were landed to dispatch a message to London via Christchurch, advising the deaths of Captain R.F. Scott and his party.
Noon position: Latitude 50°30.46S Longitude 166°16.7E
We all benefited from a comfortable night and arose this morning to a beautiful day with just a light breeze stirring the sheltered waters of Port Ross.
We had a briefing at 8.15a.m where Rodney gave an excellent introduction to the Auckland Islands. This included a précis of the geology and human history including phases of settlement along with the diverse natural history.
While the Zodiacs were prepared for landing, we carried out mandatory quarantine measures including vacuuming of clothes and back packs and boot scrubbing with a bio-control liquid.
The day was beautiful with just a light breeze and all of us were ashore at Sandy Bay by 10.30a.m.
Of interest was a “finger post” with inscriptions perhaps by WW2 coast –watchers, giving direction to the castaway depot; the “Stella Hut” in Rata and primeval-looking Dracophyllum trees and stunted Rata nearby.
Rodney gave a brief talk before Katya led us over a grassy sward, thence through Casinia bushes and red-flowering Rata to an excellent NZ Department of Conservation board walk. This eventually saw us on top of the island and crossing an extensive area of seedling Rata and other plants.
The Southern Royal Albatross observed last month on a nest beside the board walk was still in residence and is one of 60 pair on the island. Also seen was a New Zealand Falcon being chased by a Skua.
Once across the island, time was spent enjoying the wild surface of the sea as waves crashed into cliffs far below. We had good viewing of Shags and a group led by Rodney, set out to try and find an Auckland Islands Snipe, being successful with one sighting.
Katya took a further group along the cliff top, to view three adult Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, with four large chicks. A keen northerly was blowing, although this did not in any way hinder activities.
Rodney, Brent and Konrad with around 33 passengers, set out on the eight mile hike around the eastern end of the island. On the way they passed the reef where the Derry Castle was wrecked in 1887, then continued past Bones Bay. A mass grave is in the vicinity and the original wooden marker is exhibited in the Southland Museum, Invercargill.
The remainder of us headed back via the board walk, to once again enjoy the beauty of the extraordinary, natural environment. In the Rata forest we were treated to the superb sound of a Bellbird chorus, as several birds fed on nectar of Rata flowers in the canopy. Many of us obtained good photographs of the birds. Also observed in the same area were Red-crowned Parakeet, Tomtits, Pipit and a Blackbird.
Some seals had tags on each fore-flipper along with a white or yellow disc on the head. A small number of immature bulls were making their presence known, while a large grey bull Elephant Seal lay nearby and was probably preparing for moulting.
The long walkers enjoyed the trip immensely. Birds seen included Yellow-eyed Penguins, a Snares Crested Penguin, Erect Crested Penguin, Banded Dotterels, Red-crested Parakeets, three Snipe, two New Zealand Falcons along with New Zealand Fur Seals. Konrad particularly enjoyed his first visit, saying that the highlight for him was recording a Bellbird’s song with the bird barely a metre away.
By late afternoon we were all on board after a wonderful first landing in the Subantarctic islands. Needless to say, discussion continued in the bar and library area. After a splendid dinner Katya convened the first bird and mammal meeting for the voyage.
Noon position: Latitude 50°78.8’S Longitude 166°04’E
The anchor was lifted at 3a.m and the ship relocated via the east coast of Auckland Island to Carnley Harbour. Here numerous seabirds including Sooty Shearwaters, Auckland Islands Shag and albatross were present. With a choppy sea and mist shrouding the hillsides, the landscape seemed a fairly forbidding place.
After breakfast the Spirit of Enderby was moving up North Arm and by 8a.m had passed Musgrave Peninsula and a number of historic sites including shipwrecks.
A pre-landing briefing was held at 9a.m and we were told of the background to the World War 2 Cape Expedition No.2 Coastwatcher huts at Tagua Bay. We then prepared for our last landing while at the Auckland Islands.
By 10am we were on a beach consisting of basalt and limestone boulders, Rimu and Dracophyllum scrub. One Rimu tree was exceptionally large and probably several hundred years old. Some sighted a New Zealand Falcon. A Yellow-crowned Parakeet was briefly sighted, as a second bird was heard calling nearby.
We trekked up the narrow track, until we reached derelict buildings from the Number 2 Coastwatcher Station. The main complex had most of the roof and walls missing and was in a very decrepit state. The brief stop enabled photographs to be taken.
Continuing on, it was not long before the former Coastwatcher aerial mast was seen, followed a little higher up by the restored lookout hut. Inside were a few artifacts including an old shoe, some tins and a tattered sheet of meteorological instructions including the Beaufort scale for estimating wind speed. From here there was a commanding view east through the trees toward the entrance to Carnley Harbour. We spent a few minutes taking photographs of the hut and its contents, along with a delicate mauve orchid nearby, which Rodney said is one of several species on Auckland Island. We then trekked back down the hill and a buffet lunch was enjoyed.
At 1.30 the anchor was raised and we were on our way in a stiff 20-25 knot nor-west sea and on a south-westerly course toward Macquarie Island. By 3p.m we were passing windswept Adams Island with its forbidding partially mist shrouded landscape. From the Bridge one could observe numerous albatross and other birds.
Following the evening meal and Katya’s bird/mammal discussion, the small number of attendees also had the opportunity to see outstanding photographs of the New Zealand Falcon and video of a singing bellbird.
A hundred years ago the SS Terra Nova arrived Lyttelton New Zealand
Noon position: Latitude 53°16.85’S Longitude 161°30.66’E
The Spirit of Enderby danced during the night. At midnight we passed over water sounded as 4444m deep on the Emerald Basin. The naming of this feature on the sea floor has not been established. By 8a.m we were still on our south-west course.
The ship was very quiet this morning, as we continued to make good progress with an average speed. A few Shy Albatross were accompanying us although with the deep water of around 3840m, bird numbers tend to drop off dramatically. It is also unusual to see mammals in this area.
This afternoon the seas seemed a littler calmer. Credit to our chefs who along with the waitresses continue to produce and put high quality meals on the table irrespective of the conditions.
By 7p.m the wind had eased and the calmer sea was a deep cobalt blue with a few scattered “white horses”. We had our bird and mammal meeting when lists were up-dated and items of interest were discussed.
Noon position: Latitude 54°34.027’S Longitude 158°55.925’E
The Spirit of Enderby arrived at Macquarie Island just before Midnight and anchored off the ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) Station at Buckle’s Bay, in about 30m of water. The position here was 54°30’S 158°57.09’E
Macquarie Island is approximately the same size as Adams Island in the Auckland and Campbell Islands, and is located approximately mid-way between Tasmania and Antarctica. It is a ‘young’ island centered on an underwater ridge known as the Macquarie Ridge, which is part of a fault zone marking the Australian-Pacific Tectonic Plate Boundary. This started forming 30-11 million years ago.
After breakfast a Zodiac was sent ashore and returned with resident rangers from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. We then relocated to Sandy Bay. Rodney assembled us in the lecture room at 9.45 for our briefing and by 10.30, we were being shuttled ashore. The morning was sunny although a brisk breeze blew. To greet us on the shore was a hunter who is part of the pest eradication programme (rabbits), along with his two dogs.
We had a memorable morning with time spent at the King Penguin colony, where a ranger and scientist answered our many questions. There were developing chicks in light brown down along with many penguins with eggs or very small chicks on their feet beneath a warm fold of vascular tissue.
We were fortunate to be able to obtain good photographs at close range. The gorgeous colouration of the head ranged from cadmium orange “ear patches” down to burnt sienna on the throat, then fading into a deep to pale lemon-yellow. We also obtained a record of amusing incidents such as a Brown Skua being challenged by three King Penguins probably because the Skua wished to remain on a certain mound of grass.
Along the beach were groups of moulting Elephant Seals. Younger Elephant Seals were occasionally sparring and chest-butting as if to show who was in charge. Some of the bulls were huge and showed little respect for smaller animals as they launched themselves on top. A few in the water roared and made half-hearted attempts to bite one another as they exerted a challenge for retention of the particular area of water.
Most of us walked up to the viewing platform, which over-looked the vast number of feisty Royal Penguins. These were also moulting and the Station Leader was very helpful at the lookout by answering numerous questions. Moulting was well advanced and there was a continual procession of birds moving from and to the sea by way of Finches Creek. At least one Royal Penguin fell victim to a Brown Skua as we watched.
About midday some of us who were at the Royal Penguin viewing platform felt a short, sharp jolt from beneath. Trevor said ‘it lasted about three seconds and was a sideways shudder.’ Earthquakes are not uncommon here, with one being recorded last December. The island began emerging some 600-700,000 years ago.
Other birds sighted, included Northern and Southern Giant Petrels including a white morph, with these birds making up 10% of the southern species. We also saw the Macquarie Island Shag and albatross. As often happens at Macquarie, a squall with sleet came through and a short time later the sun was again shining. Most of the days of the year there is some rain.
Once back onboard we prepared for our next excursion to the ANARE Station. With time moving on, Rodney called us together for a briefing before the next stage of our visit to ‘Macca’ as the island is affectionately known to ANARE expeditioners.
By 4.30p.m the landing for Buckle’s Bay was underway. On shore we were met by Wildlife Service Rangers who took us in groups by way of the excellent board walk up the side of Razorback to a viewing platform. Birds sighted from here included Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with a pair giving a brilliant display of formation flying, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Brown Skua and the non-endemic Redpoll. A few large bull Elephant Seals in wallows created in tussock grass, gave the occasional grunt from their resonating chamber in the large wrinkled proboscis, forming part of the nose.
During the remainder of the afternoon short-lived squalls with hail and sleet moved through and after being taken along the beach beside Hasselborough Bay named after Captain Frederick Hasselborough who discovered the island in July 1810, we enjoyed seeing numerous Giant Petrels, moulting Gentoo Penguins followed by a look at various facilities.
The ANARE staff made us very welcome in their Mess Hall. Here we were treated to fresh scones with cream and jam along with a nice hot cup of tea. Many of us bought postcards from the friendly station postmaster. Proceeds from these went to those suffering from the recent Tasmanian bush fires. Our tour was concluded with a further look at other facilities including large iron try-pots associated with early whaling. Unfortunately a large bull Elephant Seal on the board walk meant we were unable to view an excellent display of pictorial panels beside two steam digesters! These were associated with the infamous entrepreneur Joseph Hatch who in the 1890’s, rendered down penguins for their oil.
A brief visit was made to the small Rockhopper penguin colony located on a cliff below the former ANARE ‘ham radio’ hut. Back on board we had a very convivial hour in the Globe Bar and Library before enjoying a late meal at 9.15p.m. So ended a most interesting and educational day on Macquarie Island. We now prepare for the next phase of our expedition.
Noon position: Latitude 54°31.25’S Longitude 158°57.81’E
We had a good, well-needed nights rest, rising this morning to a cool 3°C at 8.15a.m, along with a light coating of snow on the higher points of Macquarie Island. The wind was up and sea had scattered “white horses”. At 8.45 an announcement was made that a pod of 20 plus Broad-finned Pilot Whales, was off the stern of the ship.
We assembled in the lecture room for a briefing by Rodney on what we can expect for the next stage of our expedition. Ice maps indicate conditions for entering the Ross Sea are in our favour. He outlined three reasons: the Ross Sea current, the high pressure system and melting of ice over the summer months. Our course will probably be from about Latitude 70°, then along the 160° Meridian. Rodney also mentioned that the fuel tanker for McMurdo Station re-supply is presently discharging at the ice pier, and the icebreaker chartered by the US National Science Foundation is working in the channel.
In his second lecture, Rodney provided further useful information on Macquarie Island. This included the geology, human history and natural history, which because of the remoteness of the island, includes 40 species of vascular plants, 80 mosses, 100 lichens, 23 sea birds (12 pair of Wandering Albatross are highly protected) along with four species of seals. This lecture was followed by an excellent presentation, ‘Ocean Wanderers – Southern seabirds’ and will assist considerably in identification as we proceed south on the expedition.
By 1.20p.m the wind had increased to 35-40 knots and a confused sea was covered with “white horses”, sheets of spray off the wave crests and patches of foam.
Noon position: Latitude 55°10.20’S Longitude 159°24.69’E
Soon after breakfast, we proceeded west and enjoyed an excellent view of the large King Penguin colony spread along the coast. From a distance one could make out three rusting steam digesters, now surrounded by tens of thousands of penguins. Large numbers of them were swimming and calling in the vicinity of the ship. Yesterday Rodney remarked that having been almost wiped out by Joseph Hatch’s operation, it is fitting that the penguins will outlast the steam digesters. With the maritime environment, these will eventually continue to corrode then disintegrate. Some Royal Penguins were also seen in the water by the ship.
Once past Hurd Point the second engine was engaged. Our ship has two 1500h.p two-stroke engines, linked to a Swedish gear box with variable pitch propeller. We now headed for Longitude 180 and the Ross Sea. By 9.45 the ship was away from the comparatively sheltered lee of Macquarie Island and started rolling. With no programme in the lecture theatre today, few were about the ship and many took the opportunity to rest. Fortunately this afternoon the sea calmed and the bar was the focus for the usual convivial discussion.
Once again the chefs and kitchen staff did an outstanding job with the evening meal. The bird and mammal list was completed with recorded bird sightings including three penguin species, four albatross species along with six petrel species. Antarctic prions have been recorded on seven out of the eight days. As the setting sun painted the sky we called it a day. Beneath mauve-grey clouds, the sky turned gold with broad corpuscular rays and sea birds added to the Southern Ocean splendour.
Noon position: Latitude 58o55.95’S Longitude 164o07.5’E
Thanks to a much calmer sea, we had a good rest last night and rose to a fine day with high cloud.
This morning the first Wilson’s Storm Petrel was sighted, this being an indication that soon we expect to encounter a new range of sea birds.
This morning we have been making steady progress at 12.5 knots, helped by a calmer sea and lunch was enjoyed by all. We were at this time passing over about 4200m of water. There is usually interesting discussion often of a serious nature at tables over meals, along with occasional humorous banter.
After lunch David H. gave his first lecture titled ‘Douglas Mawson: Stalwart of the Heroic-Era’ which examined Mawson’s Australasian Expedition 1911-1914 on which four New Zealanders (two on Macquarie) were included. On board a number of passengers are from Australia and there was keen interest in David’s presentation along with discussion of scientific and geographical achievements. Sir Douglas Mawson paved the way for Australia’s claim for 47% of the Antarctic continent.
Just before 3p.m a small pod of Broad-finned Pilot whales was seen some distance away and the presence of albatross indicated the whales may have been feeding. Katya’s excellent presentation ‘Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean’ was enjoyed by a full house at 4p.m when she outlined the evolution from a coastal living, hooved carnivore 35-40 million years ago, the various orders, species and main features, that will assist with identification.
Not many species were recorded at the evening meeting with this doubtless to do with the great depth of water we are passing over. This is expected to improve over the next two days, when the Convergence is crossed at an angle. This evening as we progress south, the sea is reasonably calm with a few “white horses”.
Noon position: Latitude 62°46.22’S Longitude 169°29.05’E
We had a very comfortable night and rose to a calm sea, although unfortunately with 35 knot winds from the south-west on the beam forecast this evening and a low pressure area of 961m, the calm conditions may not continue. The day began with blue sky, patches of low level strato-cumulus cloud and cool air temperature of 3°C. About 8.30a.m the first iceberg was sighted at 62°S from the Bridge to Starboard with the 'first iceberg sighting' competition winner announced also. A few Black-browed Albatross were about. At 9a.m Rodney advised that we had 490 nautical miles to run to the Way-point on 180° latitude.
This morning David H. presented his second lecture entitled ‘Forerunner to the Heroic-era – from Ross to Borchgrevink 1841-1900’. This lecture began with the early voyages of D’Urville, Wilkes and Ross, with the latter discovering the Ross Sea in 1841. The first landing on the Victoria Land coast according to the log book appears to be from Captain Cooper’s sealer Levant in 1853. This was followed by a landing from the whaler Antarctic at Cape Adare in 1895. The first winter spent by an expedition on the continent took place in 1899. The same year on Adrian de Gerlache’s Belgian expedition, his ship Belgica wintered-over off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Before lunch the first part of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ based on Roland Huntford’s controversial book Scott and Amundsen (the title is from the US edition) where comparisons are made of the two explorers. Of interest was that Frank in 1966-69 served as an AB on the Hvaler a passenger/cargo vessel and that Amundsen’s wooden home is outside Fredrikstad, where most of the whaling ships were maintained.
Steve gave an excellent, beautifully illustrated lecture, entitled ‘Feathered fish or Flippered Fliers” when he outlined the evolution of penguins, including the ancestral bird ‘Waimaunu’ having been 1.4m tall and with fossil remains found in New Zealand. Penguins were originally named by Thomas Cavendish after the Welsh Pen Gwyn. Today there are 17+ species ranging from 1-38kg. The middle of the lecture was interrupted for a short time by announcement of a whale sighting. Many converged on the deck although by now the whale of an unidentified species was some distance off. Fog was over the sea beyond the stern and about this time, we were crossing at an angle the Antarctic Convergence, having come out of the southern side.
Just before 5p.m an estimated three Fin whales were seen about 100m off the bow. A few seabirds including Pintados were about and the water depth was according to the chart 260m. The sea was now up with increasing “white horses”. Most retired to the cabin and prepared for what promised to be a rough night.
Noon position: Latitude 66°37.49’S Longitude 170°51.82’E
As expected, the ship rock n’ rolled during the night with this increasing by early morning. Today we got up to find port holes iced over and a temperature at 8.15a.m of -5°C. Only a few were at breakfast, with many laying low in the cabin. By late morning the sky was beginning to clear as the low pressure system moved off to the east. The sea was very disturbed and flecked with “white horses”. At 11.30 we crossed the Antarctic Circle (66°34’S) although the planned celebration was postponed. At this point, the sun does not set on the longest day of summer. Occasional squalls with snow passed by, while the crane, rigging and other fixtures had an icy shroud.
At 12.30 the first Southern Fulmar was seen and by 1p.m an interesting iceberg. This had several components above the sea and was seen as it passed to Starboard to be a delicate pale blue colour.
By mid-afternoon with calming seas, quite a few sea birds were present. Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were present and more Southern Fulmar appeared. The Antarctic Petrel also made its initial appearance. The chefs once again did us proud with a beautiful meal topped off with rum truffles and lemon sorbèt. The bird and mammal discussion meeting was followed by a debate as to the species of one bird photographed. In spite of the excellent library reference books, along with the combined on-board knowledge, the matter was not resolved and the photograph was simply noted as a bird species.
With the nice evening light many took the opportunity to take photographs of icebergs and also of ice that had accumulated on the rear deck including the Zodiacs festooned with icicles. By this evening we had turned to the south-east and were making our way toward the 180°meridian. We should reach this by noon tomorrow. The wind is dropping and the ice edge is not far away.
Noon position: Latitude 68°01.44’S Longitude 179°08.71’E
This morning now in clear seas, we began passing ice floes with a large belt of pack ice off to Starboard. In the gentle swell were scattered floes, ‘bergy-bits’ and the occasional ‘growler’(blocks of ice barely visible on the surface and about one metre tall). Numerous seabirds included Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Sooty Shearwaters.
At 10a.m we assembled in the lecture room where Rodney used the whiteboard to give an interesting and useful description of where we were and what we hoped to do in the days ahead. Mention was made of the low-pressure system of 940mb with the expected arrival about 2p.m on Wednesday 20th. The ice left McMurdo Sound three days ago and at this stage it looks good for landings at Capes Royds and Evans (Scott’s Terra Nova Hut 1911-13), along with further south, Hut Point (Scott’s Discovery Hut 1902-04), Observation Hill with a memorial to Scott erected January 1913 and perhaps New Zealand’s Scott Base. Unfortunately US authorities have advised a tour of McMurdo Station is not possible because of dangerous ship unloading/loading operations. No word has yet been received concerning a visit to Scott Base but we remain hopeful of a visit. From Ross Island we will then begin our way north.
David H presented his second lecture on early exploration of the Ross Sea region entilted ‘Antarctica Unveiled - Scott’s National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition 1901-1904’. In this lecture he outlined key events of the expedition and introduced Ernest Shackleton, the subject of his next lecture. Of interest was reference to David’s contact with Reginald Ford, steward on the ship Discovery and of Edward Wilson’s early interest in the life cycle of the Emperor penguin.
Part 2 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened with a pause to spend time on the Bridge that was rewarded with 15 Humpback Whales, five Orca and a Crabeater Seal. A Humpback Whale appeared to have had the top edge of the dorsal fin chewed off and a calf had unusual white markings. For those on the Bridge there was more to come. We were treated to a superb display of 15 Fin Whales blowing. Also seen were three flocks of 50+ Sooty Shearwaters.
By now patches of blue sky were appearing, although much of the sky had extensive stratus cloud. Rodney gave a very informative lecture ‘The Antarctic Treaty System with reference to tourism’. This was very appropriate as we were now south of Latitude 60° , and under the governance of the Treaty.
The origin of the Treaty, Consultative Members along with those with observer and non-voting status, Claimants, Articles of the Treaty and duties required by such organisations as Heritage Expeditions was carefully explained.
Katya presented another very interesting lecture entitled ‘The World of Contrasts-Arctic versus Antarctica’. Many interesting comparisons including ice and permafrost, plant and animal life, human inhabitants, political differences and why people have in historic times travelled to the polar regions of the world, was artfully explained. By 5p.m after a break from the ice, we again had floes of varying shapes and sizes, along with a few icebergs passing the ship. The wind was up and there was a noticeable increase in the swell.
Noon position: Latitude 71o33.35’S Longitude 179o56.0’E
Another comfortable night as we began heading south although we were too far away to see Scott Island. We did however cross the International Date Line into Wednesday then today at 11.45a.m today crossed back into Tuesday. By 8a.m we were passing through a thin belt of ice floes and had sighted six Crabeater Seals. Several Antarctic Petrels and the occasional Southern Fulmar were accompanying the ship.
David H. gave his presentation entitled ‘A Charismatic Hero- Shackleton’s 1907-1909 Antarctic expedition’. This was of interest as Shackleton had been a member of Scott’s Discovery expedition a few years previously. The lecture began with further discussion concerning the problem of dogs on Scott’s long journey in the 1902-03 summer, then focused on the establishment of Cape Royds and scientific accomplishments including the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and long sledging journeys to near the Geographic South Pole, attainment of the Magnetic South Pole along with a western geological expedition. The Sea Shop opened and many of us bought books, garments and other interesting items.
By noon intermittent snow was driving in from the south. The sea continued to be relatively calm with scattered “white horses” with ‘bergy-bits’ and ‘growlers’. More Crabeater Seals were reported, also a whale, possibly a Minke. Some penguins were observed enjoying a free ride on a ‘bergy-bit’ and at 1:30p.m we had a distant view of the South Korean research support ship Aaron.
At 4.30 Steve gave his presentation ‘Frozen Gardens: Antarctica’s Coolest Secrets’. This lecture focused on ice of both freshwater origins via snow over the continent, the frozen surface of the sea, the importance of the ice, along with the many forms and great beauty some of which we have already enjoyed. An indication of perhaps an early autumn appeared today in the form of some frazil or ‘grease-ice’. By early evening we were still in open water with ‘bergy-bits’ riding on a swell as if to the direction of an orchestral accompaniment.
The bird and mammal discussion was a fairly short one although now we are getting further south, we can expect to see more seals and hopefully increase the species list for sea-birds. As we turned in for the day, the sea was calm with only an occasional ice flow and we looked forward to seeing new places in the days ahead.
Noon position: Latitude74°09.90’S Longitude 173°34.65’E
Last night was mostly calm however we were in for a further reminder that in Antarctica the weather can change very quickly. We have also begun to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the Ross Sea which including the Ross Ice Shelf, is a giant embayment on the coast line of continental Antarctica, along with its continental shelf.
A Snow Petrel was sighted on the water where the wind speed is lower and under such conditions, the sea surface is favoured by birds. No mammals were seen. At noon the sea had some very large swells with water freezing on the bow and deck equipment. Large patches of sea had foam and “white horses” had sheets of spray streaming off their crests. Icicles were forming along the top of the Bridge windows.
The bird meeting this evening was not a long one, with only four birds with three species – Snow Petrel (1); Antarctic Petrel (2); Wilsons Storm Petrel (1). The sun set below the horizon at 11.45.
Noon position: Latitude 77°32.6’S Longitude 166°02.5’E
Had a pleasant calm night and those who rose about 5a.m when the ship was near Franklin Island, were treated to a glorious sunrise. At 5.30 two or three Humpback Whales (and later one Minke Whale) “were enjoying what seemed like their first sun rise with blows transformed to a gold colour”.
At 7.30a.m a large tabular iceberg from the Ross Ice Shelf lay off the Port bow while to Starboard, we could make out Beaufort Island near the entrance to McMurdo Sound. Recent snow had dusted the eastern slopes since our visit last month, leaving steep volcanic ridges in relief and valleys prominent. On the southern corner is an Adelie Penguin colony. Far to the west were the vast Trans-Antarctic Mountains.
We were now in open water with occasional ‘bergy-bits’ and moving at a steady 12 knots. The air temperature was -1°C. As cloud moved off the summit we had an excellent view of Mt. Bird (1800m). Patches of rock, small volcanic cones along with a distinct shallow crater rim, were visible in the soft morning light. Ice cliffs around the northern coast also had areas of rock visible at the base. It was a beautiful morning and as Rodney said, “this is what you have come here for”. At last, a darkened sky beyond the stern indicated that we had left the Ross Sea weather system and were now enjoying better weather over McMurdo Sound. A light wind was present and the sea a little choppy. Two small green New Zealand refuge/science huts became visible as we moved along the coast from Cape Bird, and soon Mt Erebus (3974m) reared its massive summit with a cloud of steam issuing from the active crater. Along the coast features such as the Shell Glacier and Quaternary Icefall presented a totally different appearance to that seen in January because of recent snow.
Rodney called us together in the lecture room at 10.30 when he explained the landing procedure for Cape Royds and for other visits today and tomorrow.
We began the landings for Cape Royds at 1p.m. With an opening found in ‘push ice’ along the beach, we were soon assembled on Black Sand Beach, a short distance north of Cape Royds. The weather was beautiful and we began our 35 minute walk up a short snow and ice slope. Soon we were passing the site of the American penguin research camp which was all strapped up for the winter.
We walked down a track where we assembled at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area No.157) then with 40 allowed in the area at any one time we proceeded down the gentle slope to Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908. This has been conserved by the Antarctic Heritage Trust which also looks after the artifacts within and outside the building. 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.
All of us had a marvellous time and the visit was definitely a dream come true. Some passengers gave a special toast with replica whisky from a silver flask to the memory of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Near the hut were Adelie Penguins well advanced with their moulting and many of us walked about the perimeter of the ASPA. Pony Lake had a thick deposit of snow on the surface along with melt water channels. Beyond over an almost white-coloured calm sea, were the beautiful Transantarctic Mountains while behind the hut was an ice-free Backdoor Bay, then beyond lay the great bulk of Mt.Erebus.
All too soon it was time to leave and retrace our steps up the slope down which Shackleton’s motor car had been driven and ponies led 105 years ago. Back on the ship, Rodney took advantage of the good weather to hold a briefing at 8.30p.m for a landing at Cape Evans. Here Scott’s Terra Nova Hut was the place from which he and his men departed for the South Pole in 1911 and were destined never to return. The hut then became in 1915, home for members of the Ross Sea party supporting Shackleton’s 1914-16 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
The ‘wet landing’ was soon underway and again with only 40 allowed in the ASPA (No.155), some of us were landed near the camp and laboratory hut complex of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. A total of 12 including a guide were permitted in the hut at any one time. The visit here meant a great deal to all of us. One passenger remarked “the hut left a strong impression of the people who had been here.", and all passengers came away with their own precious, yet shared memories of the visit. The Cape Evans visit was concluded about 10p.m. Many had enjoyed a second look in the hut and also taken the opportunity to inspect other historic features including the cross on Wind Vane Hill, erected in 1916 to the memory of the three Ross Sea Party members. By 11p.m we were ready for a good rest after a great day and looking forward to tomorrow.
105 years ago today, Ernest Shackleton’s expedition was left at Cape Royds and the Nimrod departed for Lyttelton New Zealand.
Noon position: Latitude 77°49.8’S Longitude 166°21.6’E
We awoke to a cloudy, cool morning. Many of us visited the Bridge after breakfast to enjoy the beautiful new ice forming on the surface of the sea with ’pancakes’ in some places resembling lily pads with up-turned edges. On one ice floe were two Emperor Penguins, the first seen on the expedition and here the water was about 70m deep. The Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk was in the ‘turning circle’ of Winter Quarters Bay and the cargo ship Ocean Giant was at the ice wharf. Beyond could be seen the sprawling (albeit tidy from our distance) US McMurdo Station with not a sign of life anywhere. The three Meridian wind turbines on Crater Hill had two gently turning in the breeze. At 7a.m we were at 77°51.1503’S 166°38.0388’E. On Observation Hill (230m) the memorial cross to Scott and his party could be seen. We assembled in the lecture room at 7.15 for a briefing, when the first group was told to be ready for departure at 8a.m. Although Scott Base was pleased to assist and provide transport, US authorities were unfortunately unable to allow a visit to the station. Soon after the briefing the wind had got up and the bay where we had hoped to begin our landings became filled with ice. All we could do was accept the situation and hope that perhaps this may change and that we could at least visit Hut Point.
At 10.30 David H. gave a lecture entitled ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes – Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party 1914-1917’. By noon we had moved a little further north. The ship was again surrounded by new ice with floes fragmented around the edges from colliding with one another. An Orca was sighted in a lead. Further contact was made with New Zealand’s Scott Base and at 2.30pm the first of four groups each with staff members, began to shuttle ashore. A good landing site was seen at the ice foot below the US helicopter hanger. Here we were met by two hospitable and friendly staff from New Zealand’s Scott Base and driven around the base of Observation Hill, through The Gap and down to Pram Point on which Scott Base is located at Latitude 77°51S Longitude 166°45’E. About the pressure ridges were an estimated 400-500 Weddell seals. After viewing the unusual Ngaitahu Maori carving recently unveiled by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, we briefly inspected memorials to New Zealanders who have died during service with the New Zealand programme in Antarctica and were then taken into the base.
Here we met the Winter-Over Base Leader, had an opportunity to shop, view the spacious kitchen, dining and bar facilities and in the vast new Hillary Field Centre, meet four conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Trust, working on 1500 artefacts from Cape Evans. Those undertaking the specialised work have come from several countries including the UK, Holland and France. Of interest was a conservation carpenter using timber from Norway to replace pieces missing in a Colman’s flour box. Other artefacts were on display.
The afternoon slipped by very quickly and soon we were in the Globe Bar. By 8.30p.m Rodney advised conditions were suitable for a landing at Hut Point. The landing was underway by 9p.m with us alighting on the ice foot, beside a low cliff of volcanic basalt cracked by freeze-thaw action. We made our way up a low icy incline to Scott’s Discovery Expedition hut (ASPA 158), dwarfed against a backdrop of the sprawling US logistic support and science station. The container ship Ocean Giant was busy nearby. About 30 of us had the history explained by David who pointed out many features linked to the ‘heroic-era’ expeditions. For example, we saw where gravity measurements were taken in 1903-04; the window left open by Shackleton’s men in 1908; the blubber stove made by Scott’s men in 1911 and on this, a frying pan with pieces of seal blubber, cooked by the Ross Sea party members in the winter of 1916.
The hut, an important staging point for all the early sledging parties, was surprisingly warm inside although we had been advised to wrap up warmly and by doing so kept any cold out. By 10.15p.m with light snow driving in from the South and a temperature of -9oC we were back on board. It had been a great day.
Noon position: Latitude 77°16.4’S Longitude 166°12.0’E
This morning we were woken about 5.15a.m by Rodney on the PA suggesting that anyone who wished to climb Observation Hill to get ready for departure. At 7.15a.m the ship moved briefly further south of Observation Hill to 77°51.47’S 166°38.16’E. This point can be taken as our ‘furthest south’ during the expedition. About 30 took up the challenge and were driven by Steve and Katya to the ice foot. On return to the ship, Steve said as a result of spray, they were each covered with a sheet of ice. It was very cold with a 30 knot wind at the top, which took about an hour to reach over a very icy track surface. About eight walkers reached the summit. Others in the party were about ten metres lower, when a message was received from the Captain that the ship was dragging her anchor. With the cold, strong, wind, the decision was made to retreat. Nevertheless it was a rewarding experience for all.
At 9.10 we departed from our anchorage of the last few hours and headed for Cape Bird and the Ross Ice Shelf. The morning was declared a time for rest and an opportunity to catch up with diaries, letter writing and reading. Soon we were passing the Erebus Glacier ice tongue, Dellbridge Islands, Turk’s Head visited by Griffith Taylor with his bicycle (in the Cape Evans hut) in 1911, Cape Evans, the Barne Glacier, Cape Barne and Cape Royds. By 10.45 it was bleak and snowing.
As we approached Cape Bird the sea in spite of its roughness, was very beautiful and made more interesting by the contrast of the forbidding landscape beyond. Because of the conditions there was no possibility of landing at Cape Bird where we could have seen further clusters of moulting adult Adelie Penguins. Instead we continued past the New Zealand refuge and science hut, this clearly visible on the post-glacial terrace, along with ice cliffs tinted a subtle light blue. After rounding Cape Bird the sea became much calmer. We proceeded over Lewis Bay below slopes which were the setting of the Air New Zealand Erebus tragedy and thought of those who had lost their lives.
The imposing bulk of Mt. Erebus (3974m) along with the companion peak of Mt. Terror (3230m) made for a lovely sight.
At 5.15 as we passed Cape Crozier with the site of the large Adelie Penguin colony, Rodney drew our attention to the presence of a message post placed by the crew of the ship Discovery during Scott’s first expedition in 1902. He also pointed out the Knoll beside which although not visible is the rock ‘igloo’ built during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’.
The mist cleared to give a good view of the vast Ross Ice Shelf. This is about the area of France and varies in height with the ice shelf here being about 30 metres. Rodney said that on one occasion his expedition followed the ice shelf as far as the former Bay of Whales, with the journey taking three days. A Minke Whale was seen. During the bar hour David H. became a salesman for MacKinley’s replica Shackleton 1907 whiskey. To help create an appropriate atmosphere, Katya put on music from a pipe band. Several of us including some staff, sampled the pale golden spirit with the shot glass bearing Heritage Expeditions logo as part of the cost. Proceeds will go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust for purposes of artifact conservation.
The bird and mammal list was shared for the past three days, and then most of us retired for an early night. With an improvement expected from the weather, we retraced our route west to Cape Bird where the evening will be spent and an assessment made in the morning for a possible landing. A very nice sunset appeared over the summit of Mt. Bird, with the sun’s rays reflected in the sea.
Noon position: Latitude 77°07.11’S Longitude 166°18.74’E
Once again we had a very good night's rest. This morning we rose to a nice sun rise with the sky tinged pale apricot, a calm sea and with our ship lying off the New Zealand Cape Bird field station. To the north Beaufort Island looked magnificent.
Most of the penguins had left and clustered, fat, moulting Adelies, were in places along the beach or the largely vacated northern colony area. Numerous Skuas soon to leave for the north, always on the lookout for food, were wheeling overhead. From the ship one could not fail but smell the odour of guano from the now almost vacant, extensive main colony area.
After breakfast we had a briefing then at 8a.m began our landing. We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to stroll about the idyllic locality, with close views of the penguins and Skuas, along with the icecap entering the water nearby. Some of us walked around the refuge/science hut where considerable science has been undertaken since the 1960’s, or viewed the automatic weather station, along with the red box of survival equipment below the terrace. The Cape Bird landing made a special impression on to all who landed this morning. On return to the ship a small number became elite members of the ‘Polar Plungers Society’. About 20 women and men in various stages of dress braved the waters! The water temperature was 0°C and the brave souls were rewarded with hot chocolate and time in the sauna beside the lecture room.
It was a great morning and Rodney summed it up by saying “the weather played in our hand again”. Before lunch the anchor was lifted and having completed this part of our programme, we said goodbye to Ross Island.
At 4.30p.m Rodney gave us an update on what we could expect for the remainder of the trip. Heavy ice has unfortunately ruled out any possibility for Terra Nova Bay, with the ice increasing all the time due to the current moving north.
David H. gave his final presentation entitled ‘Triumph and Tragedy-Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913’. This was of interest to all present and concluded the lecture series on the ‘heroic-era’. The Globe Bar had a special feature this evening, a large ball of ice retrieved by Steve from Cape Bird.
Noon position: Latitude 73°36.35’S Longitude 171°26.06’E
We had a good rest last night and continued our voyage northward. This morning at 8.15a.m we were at 74°S 171°E, with an air temperature of -1°C. The sea was up a little and the occasional “white horse” was present.
The weather was overcast with no land visible to the west. Marieke arranged a full programme for the day with the first item Part 4 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. An Antarctic Petrel was found near the bow and taken to the Bridge - although released the petrel returned and for some time maintained a presence in the vicinity of the bow. Other birds seen this morning included Mottled and Snow Petrels along with the South Polar Skua, which indicated we are now encountering a greater diversity of species.
Before 2p.m Rodney accompanied by the Captain had us in the lecture room for a briefing where the present situation was explained. It seemed a possible landing at Cape Adare is for the second time this summer was not possible. While yesterday there was a degree of optimism, the forecast for wind is not good with about 40-45 knots from the S-SE. A low pressure system in the outer Ross Sea was important to consider, not only the ice and exit from this, but also the fact that being further north, darkness is setting in. The Captain stated the ice was “very dangerous” along with the fact that Robertson Bay where Ridley Beach with Borchgrevink’s huts is located, has a 4-7 knot current. Both Rodney and the Captain wanted us to be aware of the situation with the result being that Cape Adare would not happen. Instead a course change would be made to 72°/180°, thus ensuring we can reach open water with the added possibility of having wind behind us. The Captain concluded his remarks by stating “this is not the Bahamas”.
By late afternoon it was still bleak outside. We saw the excellent documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ which focuses on tooth fishing along with the need for creation of a marine reserve in the Ross Sea. Rodney then gave his lecture on Pelagic Whaling in the Ross Sea during the 1920’s - 1930’s when we were astonished to see figures for the numbers of various species taken; in particular the Blue and Fin whale species. Of special interest was that Rodney when a student at Otago University, interviewed several former whalers as part of an oral history project. These men led a hard life and the information Rodney recorded is already a valuable archive of New Zealand and whaling history.
Noon position: Latitude 71o37.9’S Longitude 179o38 ’E
Another very comfortable night and by breakfast, the ship was passing through ice. Light snow had fallen during the night and continued intermittently during the morning. Antarctic and Snow Petrels were about the ship and mid-morning a Minke Whale was seen along with further sightings later.
During the morning Marieke arranged for us to view the ‘Last Place on Earth’ Part 5, followed by ‘With Byrd to the Pole’.
It was not very warm about decks with the light coating of snow though by lunch time the sun was trying to break through. At 2p.m a large iceberg was barely visible. At 3p.m Steve presented his fascinating lecture ‘Golden Door of Adventure - The life and crimes of Australia’s Photographer/Explorer Frank Hurley - a candid focus on the man behind the camera’. Hurley is well known for his photography including cine film on Mawson’s 1911-14 expedition along with Shackleton’s 1914-16 expedition.
We left the beautiful ice about 4p.m when at 71°22’S. The sea now became a little choppy with a few “white horses” and Rodney recommended we made sure all was firmly stowed in our cabins. After yet another beautiful meal, the bird and mammal meeting was held with species of birds now beginning to increase. A few ‘bergy bits’ were about.
We entered heavy floes with some above the surface of the sea, a good two or three metres thick and occasionally piled up. A large rounded ice berg was passed and many of us who ventured on deck could not get over how dark it was outside. The berg astern was absorbed by the darkness along with an estimated 80 Adelie Penguins on a floe nearby. One passenger said “now I know what the berg must have looked like at night from the Titanic”. To obtain photos of floes by the ship many used flash. The ice lasted until about 10.30 when again we were over a largely ice-free inky black sea.
Noon position: Latitude 67°28.73’S Longitude 179°56.29’W
With the exception of a few small pieces, most of the ice appeared to have left us in the night. This morning we rose to a cloudy day with a fairly calm sea along with only a few white caps. At 8.15 our position was 68°S and the air temperature 0°C. During the afternoon Katya gave an excellent lecture entitled ‘Adaptions of Marine Mammals’ This was followed by the film ‘Ice Bird’ which portrayed the life cycle of the Adelie Penguin. Numerous bird species including a Blue Petrel were seen today, along with a Humpback Whale. Having sighted Scott Island we had now entered the Southern Ocean. By this evening the ship was starting to move about on a rising sea.
Noon position: Latitude 63°46’S Longitude 176°55’W
Most of us had an uncomfortable night and at 9a.m we were doing 9.5 knots into a north-easterly airflow, with around 740 NM to go to Campbell Island.
During the day we watched the final episode of ‘The last Place on Earth’, ‘Solid Water, Liquid Rock’ centered on Mt. Erebus and ‘90° South’, Herbert Ponting’s film on Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913. The ship was pretty quiet for most of the day with passengers resting in cabins or having clandestine meetings to discuss ‘The Great Enderby Review’ production planned for early next week. A pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales was sighted. They were not very close and estimates ranged from 5-20 mammals. Feeding very close to the whales was a group of albatross in the middle of which was a solitary Grey Petrel.
The swells continued to make life uncomfortable with only a few out and about. Dinner was followed by the bird and mammal discussion and we retired hoping for a better night.
Noon position: Latitude 60o37’S Longitude 174o05.5’E
The ship put on a great dancing performance in the night due to a strong westerly airflow catching us on the beam and disrupting our north heading. Our chefs continue to do an outstanding job producing beautiful meals under very difficult circumstances.
The Captain then effected a course change, breakfast was split into two sittings and crew closed the 300 Level porthole covers. To make life more comfortable, we were now running 30° to Starboard with big swells four to five metres and making around 8.5 knots. The weather outside was overcast. Little happened during the day and unfortunately lectures or documentaries were not possible. A hardy core however, was checking the skies and ocean for birds and mammals and some managed photography by braving the ‘monkey bridge’.
By this evening we had 455 NM to run for Campbell Island with a little improvement forecast for the ‘albatross latitudes’. Tomorrow the wind is expected to turn to the south-west with a speed of 25-30 knots.
Noon position: Latitude 57°49’S Longitude 170°45.8’E
Very little sleep for anyone and we made the best of the day confined to cabins although a few of us played card games or prepared for ‘The Great Enderby Review’. At 8.50am Rodney advised we had made good time overnight although wind from the west was expected to ease tomorrow. Around 345 NM is left to run for Campbell Island which we expect to reach late tomorrow evening. At noon we were passing over water 4755m deep with the chart indicating 5607m and the Campbell Plateau expected this evening. Some of us on the Bridge were intrigued with sighting a New Zealand Fur Seal swimming off the bow.
Of interest was a news release advising that yesterday a three km piece calved from the Erebus Ice Tongue. This has taken place from time to time including in 1911 during a storm, the 1940’s and in 1980. Dr Tim Haskell, a New Zealand sea ice specialist, estimated each km would have five million tons of water and if five km had calved, this would supply water needs for Auckland lasting 150 years.
By this evening the wind had picked up and we had 251 NM to go.
Noon position: Latitude 54°45.04’S Longitude 171°51.9’E
Another one of those nights with rocking, the usual creaks and groans, rolling and little sleep. At 8.15a.m we were at 55°S 171°E with 174 NM still to run. The ship has been going north-east since midnight on a course of 40°with a speed of 11-12 knots and with big rolling swells from the south-west. Rodney said he could not recall a north-bound trip such as this. We have had two low-pressure systems in 24 hours, with deep lows and wind of 35-40 knots, oscillating north-west to south-west to west. By noon there were a few patches of pale blue sky, areas of mist (perhaps rain) with a little sun lighting up the horizon. The sea was very confused with large swells. There were a few albatross and smaller petrels around the ship due to the proximity of Campbell Island.
At 2.30p.m we assembled in the Starboard dining room for a briefing from Rodney with the Captain present. Campbell Island was still 150 NM away and we have been traveling east with the hope of then returning north-west to the island, although this would take two days. Rodney and the Captain were unable to recall ever experiencing two low-pressure systems in one day. We have been managing 12-12.5 knots and it is important to maintain good, straight steerage so they had taken the difficult decision that because of the big swells of nine metres we had to abandon hope of a landing at Campbell Island and instead, to run for the Port Lyttelton. As Rodney said “it would be foolhardy and irresponsible to go against a swell of nine metres, with risk of damage to the ship and people. I can only recall one other occasion like this.” Contact has been made with Heritage Expeditions office in Christchurch, with staff ready to amend travel arrangements where necessary. Now we had an indication of changed arrangements, there was a chance to begin packing or rest.
After dinner Katya called us together for one of the last bird and mammal discussions and by 8.30 most people had retired for the night.
Noon position: Latitude 50°21’S Longitude 175°03.6’E
It was much calmer last evening and this morning we got up to a sunny day with scattered cumulus clouds along with a good swell prevailing. At 8.15a.m we had a variety of birds now accompanying the ship. The weather map indicates a fifth low pressure system lies behind us with 55+ knots of wind in the vicinity of Campbell Island, so we were relieved that the right decision had been made to head north.
A variety of birds was with us today. Only a few of us were on the Bridge today to enjoy the birds and wild waves. A young albatross was seen to land on the water and investigate a Fur Seal. In addition to the albatross, Black-bellied Storm Petrels could be seen with their distinctive flight as they flew close to the sea for food and to evade predators such as Skuas.
Noon position: Latitude 45°53.57’S Longitude 174°03.54’E
The sea was certainly calmer and today we were greeted after 7a.m with a very nice sunrise that transformed cumulus clouds on the horizon to gold. Numerous albatross were accompanying us while to starboard was the Bounty Trench, a potential source of food. With return of life jackets from the landings, along with our insulated Antarctic jackets and settling of accounts and travel arrangements, the expedition really was drawing to an end. This afternoon a few albatross and smaller birds were about although nothing like the number seen earlier today and between 4.45-5p.m the 45th Parallel north of Oamaru was crossed.
The ‘Great Enderby Review’ was held in the bar. At 7p.m we enjoyed the final celebratory dinner. This was an outstanding meal beginning with a seafood entreè, followed by a superb roast meal with ham off the bone, roast beef and chicken, along with a selection of roasted or steamed vegetables; salads with fillet of salmon; a variety of desserts including apple crumble and pavlova and of course, a cheese board.
We had our final recap in the lecture room when Rodney thanked all of us. He said that nothing is pre-ordained; nothing is simple and the trip had been made possible by all of us. The expedition team was then introduced with Brent on behalf of the Department of Conservation, thanking us all for treating protected sites with respect. Wilson then spoke on behalf of us and said Rodney had put on a ‘brilliant show’. Katya’s fine power-point slide presentation was screened which will provide a lasting memory. So after traveling 5070 miles, our expedition was drawing to a close.
Noon position: Latitude 43o36.28’S Longitude 172o42.93’E
About midnight the Spirit of Enderby anchored almost opposite the City of Christchurch. After the closing activities of last evening, we had an excellent nights rest. This morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise, a small flock of Cape Petrels and two Bullers Albatross but the ‘blowing whales’ proved to be pieces of kelp and the discharge from the city’s treated sewer outfall! At 8a.m the Pilot vessel came along side and the pilot boarded for the remainder of the journey to the inner harbour of Lyttelton. We had beautiful views of the historic town which suffered considerably from earthquake damage in 2010-2011. We tied up at 9a.m and Customs had our documents checked and prepared to leave our home of the past 30 days.
We disembarked the ship and many of us went with David to the Canterbury Museum, where he was a former Curator and assisted with establishment of the then named National Antarctic Centre. The morning was warm and the city was beautiful despite what it has gone through in recent years. On the way we passed an oak tree in Ensors Road. Here is a plaque unveiled by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1917 following rescue of the men from the Aurora, who had been left on Ross Island in 1915. We then stopped at Canterbury Museum in Rolleston Avenue. Here we met Paula Granger, the Communications Manager for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions and the AHT, we were able to view the renowned Scott 1910-13 centenary exhibition, complete with a simulated lay-out of the Cape Evans hut. Many interesting artefacts included the White Ensign flown half-mast when the Terra Nova returned to Lyttelton in 1913. David then took us on a tour of the Sir Robertson Stewart Hall of Antarctic Discovery, which he helped the Museum Trust Board and fellow curatorial staff establish in 1975. Many artefacts associated with the ‘heroic-era’ expeditions mentioned by David in his lectures were explained to us. Then it was into packing and closure to a wonderful four weeks with Heritage Expeditions.
Fifty excited expeditioners from around the globe arrived at Invercargill to begin a journey in the footsteps of Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. All mustered at the Kelvin Hotel for an introductory dinner where they met their travelling companions: with whom they would spend the next 4 weeks travelling to Antarctica. Fine dining was enjoyed by all and excited introductions were made. Most voyagers retired early in the evening, in anticipation of boarding the Spirit of Enderby the following day. On board ship they would meet the remaining Heritage Expeditions staff and begin their journey south.
Following breakfast, bags were checked by security and loaded on the truck to head to the ship. Soon after this, most people made their way to the Southland Museum and enjoyed the informative Roaring 40’s display on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Shortly after lunch all guests boarded the coach to drive to the Port of Bluff; arriving on board the Spirit of Enderby, travellers finally got to see their cabins and started to settle in. All guests enjoyed an afternoon of waving goodbye to the Port of Bluff, exploring the ship and attending briefings; we then sailed south through rafts of Sooty Shearwaters with the first of many Albatross following behind. Some New Zealand Fur Seals and an unidentified dolphin were both seen not long after leaving the shelter of the port. Sailing south past Stewart Island gave some protection from the wind and it was a very pleasant start to the voyage. The bar was opened in the early evening and a good turnout proved that not too many were affected by seasickness. The first night on board was then finished with a lovely meal prepared by our wonderful chefs Nicola and Brad.
The seas had strengthened over night and as we arrived at the Snares Islands early the decision was made by Rodney that it was too rough to Zodiac cruise. The ship traversed the islands, giving all early risers on deck a good look at the geography and the masses of birdlife living there. Buller’s Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, White Chinned Petrels and Cape Petrels were just some of the species seen from the ship as the sun rose over the sea. Some Snares Crested penguins were spotted porpoising in the water, and several of the colonies on the island were viewable with binoculars. After this good look at the islands, the Spirit of Enderby steered back on course towards the Auckland Islands. The Southern Ocean gave us a taste of what she can be capable of with waves reaching approx 6 meters high - most on board travelled well and it was a good chance for everyone to test out their sea legs. Dean presented a lecture on the biology and ecology of seals and a documentary on the Roaring 40’s was enjoyed by many. This gave us a glimpse of what to expect tomorrow and we were all very excited about the thought of arriving at Port Ross early tomorrow morning, partly to see new lands, but also in anticipation of the ship being relatively still! The bar opened at 6.30pm and not long after another fine meal was served. We all retired to our bunks, weary from travel and knowing that tomorrow we would be walking the lush earth of Enderby Island.
We awoke at anchor in Port Ross, off one of the Southern Ocean’s most amazing islands: Enderby. The ship was still and we had all managed some good hours of sleep; the sun rose over flat waters and a blue sky showed promising signs for the day. After breakfast, a briefing from Rodney and making lunches we boarded the Zodiacs for our first ride, quickly assembling near the research station and moving along the beach as a Search and Rescue Helicopter came in to land for an annual fuel delivery operation. Our group headed off towards the western cliffs where Auckland Island Tomtits and pipits greeted us and were a sign of things to come: the variety and tameness of birds is one of the highlights of Enderby. Entering into a small patch of rata forest, we carried on up the boardwalk past nesting Southern Royal Albatross and through spectacular fields of flora on to the western cliffs where we could admire the nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and feel the fresh wind on our faces.
A few people returned to the beach to spend some time with the sea lions and Yellow-eyed Penguins, while the majority carried on around the island enjoying an amazing walk. Auckland Island Shag colonies were in full swing, with adults caring for chicks and rebuilding nests. Birders ticked off Red-crowned Parakeets, the elusive Subantarctic Snipe and of course the Auckland Island Shag. The terrain varied from easy on the grassy sward to challenging through the tussock grasses. Everyone had fun dodging the feisty sub adult sea lions who simply wanted to play. Many young pups could be seen grouping together as their mothers were out to sea foraging to provide them with the milk they need to grow big and strong. The scenery was always changing and dramatic; some people took time out from the coast to explore inside the haunting rata forest. Yellow-eyed Penguins nervously waddled to and from the water. At last it was time to return to the ship having had a sublime day ashore with beautiful blue skies and sunshine almost all day long. The bar was lively and full of chatter as we swapped stories of the day: we all went to bed quite exhausted after the fresh air, sunshine and a good long walk.
When we awoke for breakfast we were entering Carnley Harbour and had a scenic cruise of this haven of calm in the Southern Ocean. To our starboard was the main Auckland Island and to our port the pest-free Adams Island. The harbour was filled with seabirds: mainly Sooty Shearwaters, but also some Gibson’s Albatross, Auckland Island Shags, Yellow-eyed Penguins and also the occasional Hooker’s Sea Lion. Given the weather for the day, Rodney had decided to show us one of the more historical and significant sites in the harbour, the coast watchers hut in Tagura Bay. Here we walked along the peninsula through forests of rata and dracophyllum to one hut and up the hill line to a smaller lookout hut. It was very interesting to see them and try to imagine what the men endured during those long, cold and lonely months so many years ago. What hearty souls they must have been! Once back on board we had lunch in the calm waters and then ventured towards the exit of Carnley Harbour. We had blue skies and the sun was shining as we sailed out and many people enjoyed an afternoon on deck watching the masses of birdlife around the ship.
We awoke this morning to the Southern Ocean giving us some good rolls, shakes and shudders. A southerly wind made the ship’s journey south the roughest for this voyage yet. However, many brave souls made it to breakfast and, shortly after, Dean presented an introduction to Macquarie Island - covering historical and natural aspects of an incredible little island in the middle of nowhere. In case some of us were suffering from the inability to shop, Marie set herself up a little stall in the dining room to sell postcards - we could now send loved ones in faraway lands messages from the Furious 50s on our way to the frozen continent. After lunch, Tess gave us an insight into what it was like to live on Macquarie Island– she and Dean had lived and worked there for 12 months, researching the fur seal population. It was a great opportunity to get an insider’s perspective, and made us all want to apply for a position on the island! Later in the evening the bar opened and we enjoyed the social aspect by playing cards, sharing stories and writing postcards. Many retired early to their bunks to endure another night of rough southern seas. All were looking forward to waking at Macquarie Island the following day.
After a lie in, we ate breakfast in the calm lee of Macquarie Island. Zodiacs were launched to pick up four ranger guides from the Buckles Bay station. Once they were aboard we had a briefing about our plans as the ship sailed south the short distance to Sandy Bay and came to anchor in calm conditions about a mile off shore. A low cloud hung about the shoreline as King and Royal Penguins swam out to greet the ship. Zodiacs were quickly launched and we were all ashore after an easy landing; the welcoming committee was composed of curious King Penguins and smelly, moulting adult male elephant seals. We had several hours to spread out and enjoy ourselves surrounded by overwhelming quantities of wildlife at every turn. Elephant seals (due to their huge size) were one of the most obvious: the young males wallowed in tight groups - hard to believe that these are small compared to the fully grown adult males! King Penguins were spread about the beach; by sitting quietly with them some great encounters were had. They would often come right up and peck at our boots, as fascinated by our presence as we were by theirs. Down the north end of the beach was a colony, quite a few chicks were around and some adults were still incubating their eggs, their feet held up at a 45 degree angle to cradle the egg. The other penguin at Sandy Bay is the Royal Penguin, which is of particular interest because Macquarie is the only place on earth where this species occurs. Good numbers were coming to and from their inland nesting colony and a short boardwalk led up the hill and into that colony, passing a severely rabbit-grazed patch of Pleurophyllum hookeri enroute. The penguin colony itself was busy, with moulting adults and growing chicks all mixed in together. It was a very smelly and noisy colony, particularly when the Brown Skuas came flying over in hopes of a meal. By early afternoon it was time for us all to head back to the ship to warm up and have a lunch.
About half the group joined the shuttles back to the beach for the afternoon. The fog had lifted a little and presented us with better photographic opportunities and the weather stayed quite good for the day. It was another opportunity to sit quietly and appreciate a Subantarctic island at its finest. The last of us left the beach with the final Zodiac at 6pm, tired after a long and most exciting day ashore. After dinner a few people enjoyed the pleasant conditions on deck and got some good photographs of the King Penguins still swimming around the ship.
We awoke anchored on the eastern side of the isthmus of Macquarie Island in Buckles Bay. The wind was blowing from the south west and a lot of fog covered the island. There was a light drizzle of rain early on but regardless of the conditions we were all very excited to be at this little wonder spot of the world!
Rodney gave a brief talk in the lecture room to let everyone know about the plan for the day. The conditions were not ideal, so Rodney and his team decided to bring the Zodiacs in to Garden Cove. It was a little tricky getting people off the boats and onto the slippery beach, but the team managed to get everyone ashore safely, with only a few wet gumboots! On shore conditions were quite good and, as we wandered around the station limits with our Macquarie Island guides, we got to meet not only the human inhabitants but also more of the local wildlife. Today we added the Gentoo Penguin and the Rockhopper Penguin to our list as well as seeing many more Kings, Royals and elephant seals. It was fantastic to see this working Antarctic Station and be able to go to the mess and share a cuppa and a scone with the expeditioners that spend so much time here.
We spent many hours walking the coast, learning so much and making new friends. It was an incredible experience that we will not soon forget. In the late afternoon we jumped back into the Zodiacs and returned to the ship where we ate, drank and had a delightful afternoon and evening sharing stories and downloading photos. Another great day was had by all thanks to the fantastic rangers on Macquarie Island and everybody else that we met at the station.
We awoke this morning to a calm ship heading south east for the Ross Sea. There was blue sky and sunshine overhead and a following sea pushing us along so we were already making good time. The day’s activities began with a viewing of documentaries filmed by Dean and Tessa on Macquarie Island. After this it was time to hand out the warm Antarctic jackets that we would be spending the next few weeks almost living in. A lovely lunch was enjoyed, followed by a screening of The Last Place on Earth – a documentary about the race by Scott and Amundsen to the South Pole. This was the very expedition we were retracing.
Many of our voyagers spent hours on deck or on the bridge spotting birds and enjoying the sunshine. Outside temperatures had now started dropping and a few extra layers were needed for the adventurous ones, bird-watching on the outside decks. The first good whale sighting of the trip occurred when a friendly Minke Whale surfaced twice very close off the port side of the ship. The iceberg spotting competition was also announced and we all guessed at what time we would see the first berg. The bar opened for shenanigans and most people made it there for a drink and a chat with their fellow travellers. Another great dinner was served by the chefs, and on a full stomach, many retired early for another good night’s sleep.
The weather deteriorated late last night which caused the ship to move around and roll quite a bit. Some didn’t get a full night’s sleep but all were still in good spirits at breakfast time as they held their cereal bowls to stop the milk from spilling. The morning’s activities in the lecture theatre were postponed as the seas were still quite rough so a relaxing morning was had, with many catching up on lost sleep from the night before. After a delicious lunch, it was decided that the lecture room was now safe again as the rolling had abated quite a bit so first up was Rodney with a briefing on what our plans in the Ross Sea would be. He showed ice and weather maps of the area so that we could get an idea of what to expect over the next couple of weeks. After this, we watched a documentary called The Silence Calling, which celebrates 50 years of Australian research on Antarctic bases. The bar opened in the evening and a drink and chat was welcomed by many; the first iceberg had still not been spotted and stakes were getting higher for those that had guessed we would see it tomorrow.
It was a lot cooler this morning. Sea surface temperature was now around 1 degree and the outside temperature colder still. The wind had swung to the north and provided us with a following sea speeding up our progress south and we were now cruising at an average of 12.5 knots. All this meant another fantastic day in the Southern Ocean! Dean gave a great lecture on the biology and ecology of cetaceans and how to best spot and identify them. This sparked great interest on decks and we all went out with new knowledge to try and glimpse one of the ocean giants for ourselves. At 11:24am the ship was cruising through some thick fog when we spotted our first iceberg for the trip. Everyone rushed out to see this first sign of the frozen continent: it was a non-tabular berg, big enough to qualify for the contest (being bigger than a London double decker bus). Liz was the winner of the competition and she was awarded a bottle of wine for her good guessing efforts.
After lunch Tess provided us with an excellent talk on icebergs and the origin of ice, so we then all spent more time on deck and on the bridge spotting icebergs through the mist, using our new found terminology.
At about 6:30pm we all made our way to the bridge. A special moment was at hand. At latitude 66.33.66 is the Antarctic Circle, the true boundary for the frozen continent. Crossing this frontier was a privilege that few of us had encountered before. In a scene not unlike a New Year’s Eve party, we all assembled to watch the various GPS displays count down the minutes of latitude. 64, 65, 66.34’S Hooray! Rodney announced the news and invited us on deck where we would join a select minority of the world’s population: very few have ever gone so far south.
On the bow we all met, with mugs in our hands and warm, warm clothing. To aid in celebration Nikki and Brad had concocted a special mulled wine, steaming hot and ready to serve to us out in the cold conditions. Cups full we listened to Rodney induct us into this special group and we all made an oath that we would do all we could to protect and conserve this incredible part of our planet for future generations for with opportunity comes responsibility. We all cheered and drank our wine.
In Rodney’s words:
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion – very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each 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 Sir James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hilary and others that pioneered new routes south of the circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it a 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 the 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 rigors 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 [repeat your own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin I 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 to receive the Mark of the Penguin”
Dean was ready and waiting with the Mark of the Penguin which he stamped on each of us and we wore these badges of honour proudly into the night. After yet another incredible meal we lay to rest another day in the beautiful Southern Ocean... but this time we slept in the Antarctic!
Well, we woke this morning to fog, fog and more fog. The ship was still heading south at a good speed and even though the outside temperatures had dropped, there was less ice around than the day before.
First up this morning Rodney alerted us all to a very important issue: the illegal Tooth Fishing industry that takes place in the Ross Sea Region. It is sometimes called the ‘Last Ocean on Earth’ when in its pristine state. He showed two documentaries and we all left a little saddened with the world we live in: a world that demands a fish for our culinary pleasure, not considering where it comes from, what it looks like and what is its plight. Very enlightening! Thank you to Rodney and The Last Ocean Campaign.
In the afternoon a great documentary on Adelie Penguins was screened downstairs and then Rodney gave a briefing on Antarctica, preparing us for our imminent landing at Cape Adare.
After a delicious meal from the chefs we dropped anchor. Rodney made the decision to land this evening, as the weather was quite good, and conditions aren’t always great here. We went ashore and stepped foot onto the icy continent for the first time. Many enjoyed going through Borchgrevink’s hut and seeing all of the historic memorabilia. There were also a few last remaining Adelie Penguins wandering around so people got to get a great first look at these quirky little birds. It started getting quite dark at 11:30pm so everyone returned to the ship for a warm cuppa and bed. A fantastic first landing was had by all, and I’m sure many of us dreamed of those beautiful little Adelies that night.
Snow, snow everywhere! This morning the decks were covered in several centimetres of snow that had fallen all night, as we found ourselves now in cold, cold waters. 0.2 was the water temperature, while the outside temperature showed only 0.3, with a wind chill of approx -9.8. On decks now was only for the very brave and not to be attempted without gloves and beanie - the icy winds are quick to draw away all your heat. Out in the Ross Sea the winds picked up significantly and the waves seemed to be getting a bit bigger again. The wind kept picking up throughout the day and by about 7pm we were getting gusts of up to 50knots. Due to the strong winds there was less ice in the seas and some fog had returned.
We were now being led into the south by Antarctic and Snow Petrels, two types of beautiful birds who play around on the winds created by the ship with very little effort. They cruised past all of the windows on the ship making sure we could all see them in their habits. They were feeding all the time on tiny organisms on the surface of the water and seemed to be doing very well indeed.
Some bad news was brought to the ship this afternoon when we were notified of a large earthquake hitting Christchurch; the afternoon’s lectures were postponed and people spent time contacting loved ones in the area.
The bar was opened in the early evening and it was a nice release for some who had endured a difficult afternoon. Another delicious dinner was served by the chefs as we rolled our way south through the Ross Sea.
We awoke this morning to the ship rolling quite substantially – in the heart of a storm blowing from the south and with waves up to 8m high.
Most people braved it to breakfast but were soon back in bunks as Rodney had suggested that this was the safest place to be in seas like this. Not too long after breakfast Rodney announced over the loudspeaker that Maritime NZ had contacted us about a distress signal being released further south, near Ross Island. It seemed that there was a 14m Norwegian yacht in that area and their emergency positioning device had been activated. At this stage no one had been able to get in contact with the yacht and we had been asked to make our way to the area to assist in a search. The Steve Urwin, another ship, was also in the Ross Sea and also heading in the same direction to offer assistance. However, with the sea conditions the way they were, it was estimated that we wouldn’t get there until tomorrow afternoon sometime.
The sea conditions didn’t abate during the day so people held tight in their bunks. Due to the low air temperature, a lot of the water sprayed onto the ship had frozen onto the steel, creating a thick layer of ice on all of the outside surfaces.
Brad and Nicki did very well to serve us up a meal in these trying conditions and shortly after dinner people were back in the safety of their bunks. Rodney told us that this was the worst storm he had ever seen in this region of the Ross Sea, but I’m not sure if that made us feel better or worse!
After a very hard night’s sleep spent hanging on in our bunks due to the continuing rough sea conditions, quite a few made it for breakfast. Again it was a tricky meal, people hanging on to cereal bowels and trying not to slide off their seats at the same time. All survived though and headed straight back to their bunks for shelter shortly afterwards. The sea conditions were just as bad as the day before and now even more ice had frozen to the decks. The Spirit of Enderby was now looking like a different ship covered in this thick layer of white ice.
The search for the Norwegian yacht was still on and we were notified that the Steve Urwin vessel had now started to search in the area. They were searching by ship and by helicopter but hadn’t found anything in the ocean so far.
At around 3pm our sea conditions finally started improving and by 4:30pm it was hard to believe we had ever been in such a storm. The seas were calm enough for the crew to get out on deck and start chipping ice off surfaces. Everyone felt relieved to be in much calmer waters once again.
At about 5pm in the afternoon our ship reached the area we had been allocated to search and began a grid search between Franklin and Beaufort Islands. We searched all through the evening and night in a zig zag pattern going north to south.
After searching in vain through the night for the Norwegian yacht Berserk, our part of the search finished at 5:30am after completing our assigned search area. Nothing had been found; the Steve Urwin was to continue searching for a little longer today.
Rodney woke us this morning at 5:30am telling us about the spectacular sight of Mount Erebus. Sure enough, once we’d all managed to drag ourselves out of our warm beds and up to the bridge we soon realised it was well worth it. Wow. There it was right before our eyes, in perfect view, no clouds, nothing to stop us seeing the immense volcano. It was beautiful. We could see steam rising from its summit, and at 13000 feet this active volcano sure was impressive. We were at Cape Royds, the site of the Shackleton Nimrod expedition. This section of the Ross Sea was stunning. The Trans-Antarctic Mountains were clearly visible, running the length of our vision across the body of water opposite Cape Royds. Their sharp peaks were separated by countless glaciers. This was rugged country.
The anchor was dropped in Back Door Bay just off Cape Royds and the staff went ashore in the Zodiacs to cut some steps into the ice for our landing. It was an interesting landing, climbing off the front of the Zodiac onto a 2 meter high ice shelf. Once all were safely ashore and standing on strong ice we marched off as a group towards the historic hut. The site was a fascinating mixture of volcanic rock, Adelie Penguin colonies and the manmade relics. The hut was in good condition and had been partially restored - inside it was different to the other huts we had been into. It had a very homely feel to it with a couch and a very large living area. We explored its contents in great detail and even found Shackleton’s own signature on one of the bed heads. Once finished we marched again across the ice and back to the ship where the captain took her toward Cape Evans.
Still with beautiful blue skies and sunshine, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for the day. Ahead lay Cape Evans with a stunning backdrop supplied by Mount Erebus. After a bite of lunch we lowered Zodiacs and moved swiftly to the small gravel beach where we landed right near Scott’s Hut. This was the site of Scott’s last expedition and the hut itself was in incredibly good condition, although it has been restored to some degree. Outside was no shortage of interesting artefacts to look at and the terrain was fun to explore. Inside though was most certainly the highlight. As you walked through the doorway you immediately stepped back in time to 100 years ago, when Scott and his men mounted their campaign for the South Pole and the collection of scientific data that would help shape our understanding of this frozen continent. There were bottles on the shelves, pairs of socks on the beds, Ponting’s darkroom, Scott’s den, scientific samples and papers of the day. It really was a highlight of many of our lives to be right here in the very spot that these men had lived and worked, laughed and eaten and wintered the brutal Antarctic conditions. Dogs were to be found - long dead - but still with collars on and chained to railings; seal blubber stored for burning, stables and workspaces intact. There were some Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals scattered around the site and most people got an opportunity to spend some time with these little characters. Rodney surprised us all by helping Allegra and Adrian to renew their wedding vows right there on the ice. All too soon it was time to leave and we crossed the bay back to the ship.
Just after returning, we got a brief visit from the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Urwin as it sailed by before heading home to Hobart. Waving goodbye to them we headed up to the bar to drink champagne and celebrate with Adrian and Allegra while the ship made its way further into McMurdo Sound toward McMurdo Station. We were to stay in the turning basin here and what a fantastic place to spend the end of a truly spectacular day.
We awoke early this morning to the sound of the ship’s engines starting. A catabatic wind had blown in over night and started moving the ice around in McMurdo Sound - Rodney and the Captain decided it was too risky to stay as the risk of getting trapped by ice at this time of the year is very real. So our visit to the McMurdo and Scott Bases was cancelled for today and we steamed out of the sound as quickly as possible. Around Cape Evans we were in more safe and sheltered waters, the ship cut its engines and we drifted for a while. The weather outside was truly Antarctic with strong winds and the outside wind-chill temperature as low as -32 °C. A few people braved going out on deck for a few minutes just to feel how cold it can really get down here. After drifting for a while and assessing the weather forecasts, Rodney made the decision to start heading east towards the Ross Ice Shelf. After lunch we had made it as far as Cape Bird and the conditions here were quite a lot better than those further to the west. The staff got the Zodiacs in the water and started ferrying people to the beach to stretch their legs on this beautiful piece of coast. Along the shore of the beach were many spectacular rolled icebergs washed up. As we wandered up and down it was fantastic to be able to get such a close look at this pure glacial ice. There were quite a few Adelie Penguins around for people to look at and one very friendly one who came right over to the life jacket bins and stood with the group as they put their life jackets on. It was very curious and looked at us as if it wasn’t scared at all. There were also some Weddell Seals relaxing on the ice and many Antarctic Skuas in the air; some of the Skuas still had mature chicks with them so a few of the visitors found themselves dive-bombed and followed by these cheeky birds.
We were all back on board the ship and off towards the ice shelf again by about 3:30pm. At 4 o’clock Rodney gave a very interesting lecture downstairs covering some of the history in the Ross Sea from the last two centuries. Afterwards a lazy afternoon was spent while we made our way further east.
We arrived at the ice wall just after dinner. It was massive and stretched for many miles out to sea. Along its face were a myriad of caves and sculptures created by the violent weather conditions of the area. Off to the east were icebergs that had recently calved off. All in all it was a spectacular way to end another incredible day in Antarctica! To top it off, as we sailed away from the ice shelf a pod of Orca was spotted in the distance showing some feeding behaviour. They were viewed by many tired eyes through binoculars before people headed off to bed for the night.
We were up for an early start this morning and much to everyone’s delight found ourselves anchored back in McMurdo Sound. The weather was much calmer than the day before, though air temperatures remained low, with the outside temperature at -11°C. Brrrrrrrr chilly! After a quick breakfast and a briefing by Rodney we all rugged up in many layers and prepared to go ashore for the day.
It began with a tour around the American station, with some of the highlights being the science lab, the coffee shop, the chapel and of course the souvenir shop. After spending the morning with the very accommodating Americans we then got picked up in 4WD’s and taken over the icy hill to Scott Base where we got a taste of Kiwi culture. Some very kind guides showed us around this smaller but homely base. We got to see some historic artefact restoration underway and even visited Sir Edmund Hilary’s TAE hut which had many interesting historic stories. Back in the 4WD’s we were taken back over the hill to the famous Discovery Hut, where Shackleton and his men had spent long, cold, dark hours all those years ago. By this time it was mid-afternoon and some people were starting to feel the cold. A brisk walk back to the Zodiacs warmed everyone up before groups were ferried back to the ship for a hot cuppa and a warm shower.
Later in the afternoon, once everyone was back on board, we had some visitors from Scott Base. Some of the lovely base residents came to the ship for a tour, a warm scone and a chat in the bar.
A game - and maybe slightly crazy - group assembled at 6pm to climb to the top of Observation Hill. Rugged up in many layers and prepared for the freezing winds at the top, the group went ashore and proceeded in their ascent. The view from the top was spectacular, a 360 degree view over McMurdo Sound, the vast Ice Shelf and those mind-blowing Trans-Antarctic mountains. It was cold, and the wind chill on top was -30°C, our eyelashes formed crystals and froze together so we didn’t hang around up there for too long. A quick descent and back across the bay and we were back on the ship just after 7:30pm - a record-breaking time to the top and back.
As we ate a delicious meal prepared by the chefs, the captain pulled anchor and we started to sail further south. As soon as dinner was finished, all passengers were up on the bridge or out on decks to watch the Spirit of Enderby get as far south as it had ever been in McMurdo Sound. At 9:30pm we made it to 77°54.1166’S and 166°39.5714’E where the water temperature was -0.4°C and the air temperature was -10°C. It was only possible to get this far south because the ice in the sound had broken back further than it had done in 15 years. As we came to our most southern point, a huge group of Emperor Penguins (approx 60 birds) appeared on an ice floe up ahead. The captain slowly inched the ship closer until, on the bow, we were just meters from these majestic birds. This was a highlight for many on the trip: to see this many Emperor Penguins here at this time of the year is so rare that it was hard to believe it was real. On the ice and in the water around the Emperors were also many Snow Petrels feeding off something on the sea’s surface. Flocks of these stunning pure white birds flew around the ship and gave us a chance to really appreciate their beauty.
Conditions remained calm as we left the south of the sound and Captain sailed the ship north, on a course towards Terra Nova Bay. All were very weary from the eventful day and it was finally time to rest. It had been a spectacular evening and a perfect way to finish off another amazing day down here in Antarctica.
We all enjoyed a bit of a lie-in this morning and awoke to Marie telling us about the beautiful calm day outside. Sure enough, we were sailing through millpond conditions with pancake ice all around the ship. As we made our way north throughout the morning many photographs were taken of the fascinating ice forming on the sea’s surface. This was the beginning of the freeze! It looked like we’d timed it well, as it was obvious that the Ross Sea was beginning to freeze over for the winter. We would be north of it just in time.
The last episode of the documentary Last Place on Earth played during the morning and all watching bid a sad farewell to Scott and his three companions. After lunch Rodney gave a very interesting talk on whaling in the Ross Sea in the early 1900’s, accompanied by a short documentary. A couple of hours later and a little further north, a documentary called Solid Water, Liquid Rock screened downstairs. This was a film by TVNZ on Mt Erebus, the breathtakingly-beautiful mountain that we’d all been staring at for the last few days.
We continued heading north throughout the day and at just after 6:00pm arrived at Inexpressible Island. This was where Scott’s northern Terra Nova party got stranded and had to spend 8 months in an ice cave. You could see from the ship how harsh and unforgiving the landscape was: it gets its name because it was ‘inexpressibly uninhabitable’. The staff went ashore in the Zodiacs but couldn’t find a safe place to land so the decision was made to continue up the coast towards the Italian Base. We arrived shortly after dinner but there was a huge iceberg sitting right in the bay blocking our landing position. We cruised past the base but unfortunately were not able to go ashore. The Italians had all left for the winter time and it was an empty base so we weren’t disappointing anyone onshore.
It was another lovely evening in Antarctica, if a little chilly outside, and most people lapped up the beauty before hitting the sack for a calm night’s rest. Next stop Campbell Island!
This morning we awoke to the ship rolling a little bit, conditions weren’t too bad but it was strange being out of the dead calm seas that we had become used to over the last few days. The ship was set on a course for Campbell Island and overnight we had come far enough north that we were no longer seeing any icebergs in the water as we travelled. It was a strange feeling to be in the open ocean again, slightly lonely without those beautiful white bergs around.
In the late morning Katya gave a very entertaining lecture on the ‘Arctic VS Antarctic’ taking a look into the two polar regions, and the differences between them. It was fantastic to learn a little more about the northern polar region and compare it to what we’d been seeing on this trip.
At 12:51pm we gathered in the bar and had two minutes of silence to pay tribute to those affected by and the lives lost in the earthquake that hit Christchurch the week before.
After lunch we stepped back in time with a documentary called With Byrd to the South Pole, about the ‘Little America’ expedition party. This was an older piece of film covering the trials and tribulations of the Americans and their trip to the South Pole. Later in the afternoon Rodney gave a lecture on the Antarctic Treaty System and how it plays a role in the tourism industry in the area.
In the evening we opened up the bar and had a drink and a chat with fellow passengers. A Ross Sea recap was held, questions were asked and answered and everyone got the chance to review our fantastic Ross Sea experience.
It was a good turn out to dinner and many retired to their cabins early to catch up on rest as we continued our journey north.
Many were relieved to awake this morning to somewhat calmer seas. We were at the approximate equal latitude to Cape Adare when breakfast was served and thankfully the seas had definitely abated quite a bit. We noticed throughout the morning that there were many more sea birds around the ship this morning, including the first of our Light Mantled Sooty Albatross and a lot of petrels and prions.
First up on the programme this morning was the documentary Scott and Shackleton, Rivals for the Pole - a fantastic take on both Scott and Shackleton’s stories and the differences and difficulties they faced on their journeys south.
Later in the morning, and very fitting for today, Tessa gave us a very informative lecture on albatross in the Southern Ocean and how we can distinguish which birds we were looking at. We were all looking forward to getting to Campbell Island now, which is home to many albatross species, including the wonderful Southern Royal.
After lunch Nicki and Brad gave a tour of the galley: it was great to see behind the scenes and be able to see the space in which these two produce such delicious meals day after day.
Later in the afternoon part one of Longitude was screened downstairs – this is a series on the first reliable measurement of longitude, which changed forever how we navigate the seas.
The bar opened in the early evening and another lovely meal was shared downstairs for dinner. All expected to sleep well tonight as the sea conditions were still quite calm heading north.
We awoke at 8am to Rodney on the loudspeaker telling us that we were in a Category One storm. This meant that the sea had strengthened once again - the ship was certainly a lot more animated than yesterday. We were told that there would be no going outside at all and that all lower level port holes would be fully fastened down by the crew. But the salty old sea dogs were doing well -nowhere near the incidence of sea-sickness that we had encountered when we began our journey. Lectures and movies were out of the question today as the ship was just too active so it was another day of books, photos and movies in our bunks. I can think of worse ways to spend a day The staff put together a very comical quiz and many guests spent the afternoon in the bar/library area participating and having a good laugh. The bar was opened in the evening, and people hung on tight as they sipped their drinks. Dinner was slightly fast and furious, as it always is in these conditions, but still a good turn out considering the circumstances. We hoped that tomorrow the storm may have passed but, still, we were heading steadily north and with the wind behind us, were making good time.
This morning we awoke to slightly calmer seas. Everyone was relieved to see that the storm conditions had dropped off over night.
After breakfast, Dean kicked the morning off with a lecture on the research that he and Tessa performed while living on Macquarie Island for two summers. They lived there between 2008 and 2010 and spent 6 months each summer working very closely with the Fur Seal population on the island. After the seals were wiped out almost to extinction in the 1800’s the resident population on the island is recovering very slowly; we all learnt a lot about the work that Dean and Tessa carried out and a lot about these beautiful marine mammals.
After a delicious lunch we handed back our warm Antarctic jackets - back in the 60’s we would no longer need such heavy clothing. At 3pm the Sea Shop was opened up by Marie for anyone that needed some last minute shopping before our last week at sea.
The bar opened in the early evening for some drinks and fun and after a somewhat calmer meal, a Friday night movie was shown downstairs. The night finished off with a viewing of the hilarious Australian film The Castle. Many laughs were enjoyed by all who attended.
The seas had remained quite calm over night, which was a relief to many. As we headed further north, the sea and outside air temperatures climbs each day. This morning the outside air temperature was up to 10°C and the water a balmy 6°C.
This morning’s activities started off with a documentary on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. The story outlined the hardships endured by Shackleton and his men on an expedition that went so wrong. It furthered our appreciation for modern day sailing and all of the gadgets that go with it.
Later in the morning Katya gave a talk on the Russian Far East, another of Heritage Expeditions’ voyage destinations. The Spirit of Enderby heads north in early April and spends the Northern Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This talk perhaps inspired a few people to start planning their next big trip, maybe in the north this time.
After lunch Rodney presented an introduction to Campbell Island. This included plenty of great history and wildlife stories and we learnt about what we could expect over the next couple of days at the island. After Rodney’s lecture a short documentary called Battle for Campbell Island was screened downstairs. This is a homemade documentary on the famous rat eradication programme which was undertaken on the island in 2001. It was very interesting to learn about the eradication and to hear that the island is recovering from the removal of this pest so well.
The bar opened in the evening and we all enjoyed a drink and a chat while we could - the forecast was that sea conditions were going to ‘pick up’ overnight. After a great meal we retired to try and get some rest before we started rolling again.
Well, sure enough, the forecast was correct and we began rolling once again in the early hours of this morning. We were awoken by Rodney at 7:30am on the loudspeaker warning us to take extreme care when moving around, as the ship was getting hit by seas beam on. Breakfast was an interesting event. People managed very well as they clung to plates and cups and stayed upright all at the same time.
Because of the conditions most people spent the morning in their cabins and bunks where they could stay safe and horizontal.
We were finally able to see Campbell Island in the distance at about 11am and by 1pm were coming up to the south side of the island. Refuge at last! We ate lunch in the shelter of the east coast and then did some ‘chumming’ off the back deck. Thousands of Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island Mollymawks and other seabirds followed the ship as we cruised along the eastern side of the island.
When the chum was all gone the ship headed for Perseverance Harbour. Coming to anchor here in the sheltered waters of the harbour and just off Beaman Base, the old weather station, people felt great relief to be still at last. This afternoon, most people came ashore and stretched their legs on the wonderful boardwalk that takes one up to the Col-Lyall saddle; here we sat and watched the elegant Southern Royal Albatross. Many birds sat on chicks and the younger ones that were around showed some great displays of gamming. They truly are a magnificent bird and to be able to just sit and watch them is a very special treat.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 8pm for a late dinner and a nice calm sleep in the sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour.
Everyone awoke excited this morning as a day of great activities was ahead of us. It was a wonderful day for a tramp, a few light showers, but mostly a very pleasant Subantarctic temperature. One group of walkers covered an 8hr circuit that took them over to North West bay where they had spectacular views down the coast, saw a research hut and walked for hours along beautiful hillsides past many albatross. It was enjoyed by all even if there were a few tired legs that evening.
The other option for the day was to participate in a Zodiac cruise in the morning and to do the boardwalk again in the afternoon. The cruise took us past many historical spots including the Old Homestead, the Loneliest Tree in the World, the Lady of the Heather and Venus bay. There were some very friendly sea lions in the water this morning too, and they followed the boats for a long time, playfully swimming right up to the back of the boat and jumping high out of the water. What a display! If was truly great to see these beautiful mammals playing and having so much fun - it also made us realise just how graceful and agile they are underwater.
After the Zodiac cruise we came back to the ship to warm up for a couple of hours and have some lunch and a hot cuppa out of the wind and weather. In the mid-afternoon those that still had energy and were feeling adventurous headed back over to Beaman Base and headed back up the boardwalk to Col-Lyall. It rained throughout the afternoon, but we still got another good look at those beautiful birds - with temperatures not too cold some people hung around for quite a while taking photos and enjoying being on the island.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 7:30pm and at 8pm the sub-polar plunge took place. Ten people jumped from the ship into the icy waters of Perseverance Harbour, at approx 10°C, to help raise money for the Last Oceans fund. It was a great effort by all involved.
After such a big day most people had their dinner and then retired weary and content. Goodbye Campbell Island - we would be setting sail once again at midnight tonight.
The last leg! We awoke this morning to pretty calm seas and good conditions as we sailed north. We departed Campbell Island at midnight last night and now had about 3 days sailing ahead of us for the last leg of the journey.
This morning’s activities started of with Bruce, our government representative, showing us a short documentary and giving us a talk on the Campbell Island Flightless Teal. Bruce has been involved in a reintroduction programme, bringing these unique birds back onto the main Campbell Island after pests were eradicated there. It was a very interesting movie and talk and there were lots of questions for Bruce at the end as everyone was very interested in the programme.
After lunch another New Zealand documentary was screened downstairs, this one about the ever elusive Kiwi Bird. There was a good turnout in the theatre and all enjoyed learning more about these beautiful native birds.
Later on in the afternoon Katya gave a talk on Polar Bears and the threats that they face. It was a consuming presentation and sparked many conversations about the issue.
The bar opened early this evening as the staff had prepared a cocktail party. The bar was decorated up with snow flakes and everyone came dressed as something reminding them of their time in Antarctica. Some crazy concoctions were created by the staff behind the bar and the chefs brought up platters of tasty snacks. Dinner was served downstairs later on and many were still in their creative costumes. A good time was had by all!
This morning, during the wakeup call, Marie announced that the air temperature was up to 12°C and the water temperature a balmy 12.5°C. This showed that we were moving north at a steady speed now, and it wouldn’t be too long before we were off the coast of mainland New Zealand.
During the morning, Ridgeway gave a talk on his time spent in Antarctica. It was a great way for people to understand what it’s like to live on an Antarctic station and to learn about the logistics of living in such a remote location.
The weather just got better and better during the day: we had sunshine, blue skies and glassy seas as we headed north along the coast of mainland New Zealand. Just before lunch a Humpback Whale was spotted off the starboard side, surfacing a few times to give people a great view.
After lunch many people headed up to the monkey deck to enjoy the warm sunshine. We were approaching the Otago Peninsula and there were still some albatross and other seabirds following the boat and quite a few Fur Seals lounging on the water’s surface as we glided past. It was lovely to be outside and enjoying such nice weather.
Later in the afternoon Bruce gave a talk on the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the second rarest bird in the world and one of New Zealand’s more protected species. Bruce has spent many years assisting in the research of these birds and was able to give us a really good idea of what is happening to their local population.
After a group photograph taken on the ship’s bow, the bar was opened and it was a lovely flat day to sit and have a drink and socialise with fellow passengers. Another great meal was served by the chefs and everybody went to bed happy to be in calm waters for the night.
Well, our last day at sea. This morning we awoke as the ship sailed along the coast of the Banks Peninsula. Marie announced that the outside air temperature was up to 16°C and the water temperature up to 14.5°C, significantly warmer than anything we’d felt for a month.
In the late morning we all gathered downstairs for our final briefing. Rodney led an expedition recap and then we all enjoyed watching a fantastic visual presentation that the staff had put together. Seeing the photos of all of the places we’d been over the last month brought back so many great memories. What a way to recall all of our experiences, and what an amazing trip it had been.
After lunch Marie settled up accounts as we got to the heads of Lyttelton Harbour. We anchored with several other ships just off the heads, it was a calm day with blue skies and warm temperatures. It felt HOT to all of us, who had spent the last month south.
That evening we enjoyed a final night dinner. Once again, and for the last time, the chefs put together a delicious meal. Everybody talked of the trip and of the experiences they’d shared. Most people went to bed with a full belly and a smile, ready for the final wake-up call early tomorrow morning.
This morning we awoke to find the ship tied up to the wharf in Lyttelton Harbour. After breakfast and immigration formalities, we boarded our bus and set off on the journey home. The trip had been a great success and all will carry their own memories as they go their separate ways. You are of the lucky few to see these incredible places and it is our hope that you become advocates for their future protection. Thanks for travelling with us and we hope to see you again on a Heritage Expedition in the future!
South to Antarctica Jan-Feb 2012
Thursday 12th January 2012: Invercargill
Expeditioners from various points of the globe converged on Invercargill to begin a journey south to Antarctica in the footsteps of the great explorers, Sir Douglas Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. The travelling companions met over dinner in an Invercargill Hotel, all in excited anticipation of their four weeks together. Meanwhile at the Port of Bluff, the expedition ship the Spirit of Enderby was being bunkered and provisioned with supplies for the 4,000km return trip to the Ross Sea. Eighty people eat a lot in 30 days, so it was all hands on deck to move the mountain of supplies on board and safely stow them in the deep holds of the ship.
Friday 13th January 2012: Bluff
After breakfast our bags were security checked and loaded onto a truck to be taken to the ship. To wet the appetite for the southern adventure, we made our way to the Southland Museum and enjoyed the informative Roaring 40's display on New Zealand's Subantarctic islands. Lunch was enjoyed at the hotel before we boarded the coach for the trip to the Port of Bluff. Upon arrival we boarded the Spirit of Enderby, and were directed to our cabins to be reunited with our luggage. After meeting the remaining Heritage staff who would be joining us on the trip south, we enjoyed an afternoon settling in and exploring the ship. During the afternoon we received introductory briefings on ship safety and zodiac travel. These were followed by an emergency muster drill where we donned life vests and spent a short time in one of the ships lifeboats. Late in the afternoon we congregated in the Globe Bar for pre dinner drinks and a chat before sitting down to a delicious first meal aboard. A sign of the good things to come! From the weather forecast, conditions in Foveaux Strait looked pretty rough due to a strong easterly, so we waited at the dock for it to ease slightly before setting off. The ship slipped out with the tide after midnight when most were tucked up asleep. Sailing south past Stewart Island gave some protection from the wind and swell but the rocking was soon to build.
Saturday 14th January 2013: At Sea
The wind continued to strengthen overnight and given its southerly origin it was unlikely that we would be able to zodiac cruise at the Snares Islands. Our Expedition Leader made the decision to bypass the Snares on the southbound journey in the hope that the weather would be kinder on the way home. The ship's course was duly changed and we headed for the Auckland Islands. The dedicated birders were up on the bridge from the early hours spotting numerous seabirds as the wind and swell picked up. Royal, White-capped and Salvin's Albatross soared around the ship untroubled by the wind that was causing us so much discomfort. Sooty Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, White-chinned Petrels and Fairly Prions were just some of the species spotted from the ship as we travelled south. The Southern Ocean gave us a taste of what she is capable of with the swell reaching 6 metres with 40 knots of wind. Many on board took this time to get familiar with their bunks while waiting for their sea legs to catch up with them. The doctor diligently undertook house calls to relieve much of the suffering from the dreaded "mal de mer" and reminded us of other great seamen, such as Lord Nelson and Sir Peter Blake who suffered similarly. A reasonable gathering of sturdy sailors enjoyed a lovely meal produced by the chefs in somewhat challenging conditions.
Sunday 15th January 2012: Enderby Island
We awoke early and found ourselves in the sheltered waters of Port Ross at the northern end of the Auckland Island group. Despite disrupted sleep there were many bright faces at breakfast eagerly anticipating a day on Enderby Island. After breakfast, a briefing about the day further heightened the excitement of visiting the island's natural wonders including flowering mega herbs and rare wildlife. Wet weather gear was donned, lunches packed and boots washed before boarding the zodiacs for the short ride ashore.
Once all in the group had been safely delivered to the research station, we set off along the boardwalk towards the western cliffs accompanied by Auckland Island Tomtits and Pipits. Nesting Southern Royal albatross gazed at us as we gradually made our way across the centre of the island. The fields of Bulbinella Rossii stalks on the western side of the island indicated how impressive the landscape would have been earlier in the season when the plants were in full bloom. Purple balls of flowers were still found on some of the Anisotome Latifolia bushes and the pink and white flowers of the Gentians were bright spots of colour amongst the lush ground cover.
Along the western cliffs we admired the nesting Light-mantled Sooty albatross amongst the Auckland Island shags. One group went down to enjoy the delights of Sandy Bay where they spent some quality time with the Hooker's Sea Lions and Yellow-eyed penguins. Those who were keen to stretch their legs and explore more of the island continued north following the coast around the perimeter of the island. Nathan, our fearless Expedition Leader took the lead as he scouted ahead for any troublesome Sea Lions, while the rest of the party followed in loose groupings. Along the way we stopped to enjoy the cliff top views and take photographs making the most of the wonderful light when the sun came out in between a few rain squalls.
The terrain varied from easy on the grassy sward to challenging through the tussock grasses. We meandered past a small group of Northern Giant Petrel chicks who were starting to lose their down in preparation for fledging. Many heard or caught sight of Red-crowned Parakeets and Banded Plovers, but only a few got a glimpse of the elusive Subantarctic Snipe as it darted amongst the foliage. Some time was spent surprising and dodging feisty sub adult Sea Lions who were a little too interested in what we were doing. Many Yellow-eyed Penguins were spotted around the coast nervously travelling to and from nesting areas or just hanging out with other teenagers near the sea edge. The scenery was ever changing and dramatic. The southern Rata in full bloom gave an intense contrast between the redness of its flower and the grey and squally skies. Some people took time out from the coast to explore the interior of the amazing Rata forest which provided a peaceful refuge from the wild world outside. Upon our return to Sandy Bay, time was spent watching life within the Sea Lion harem. Young pups could be seen grouping together as their mothers went out to sea foraging. Males were continually sparing around the edges and recent mothers stood protective guard over their new offspring.
Finally it was time to return to the ship having had a sublime day ashore experiencing blue skies and sunshine as well as some rain and cloud. Back on board, the bar was lively and full of chatter as we swapped stories of the day. After another delicious dinner and we all faded fairly early as a result of all that fresh air and exercise.
Monday 16th January 2012: Enderby Island
We stayed at anchor overnight in the sheltered waters of Port Ross, and awoke to a calm and quiet ship. After breakfast we were told that one of the Expedition Staff had to leave the ship due to a medical problem, so the Spirit of Enderby remained in Port Ross while the logistics of a medical evacuation were finalised.
We made the most of this opportunity to land at Erebus Cove and see the remains of Hardwick Settlement. Originally established as a whaling settlement in 1849 by the Enderby Brothers whaling firm, ships arrived from England with skilled tradesmen and their families with the intention of establishing a settlement that would service the whaling industry as well as farm the surrounding lands. The enterprise ended in failure within three years due to the scarcity of whales in the area, poor farming conditions and alleged mismanagement of the settlement by Charles Enderby the Lieutenant Governor of the Islands. Towards what was the main part of the settlement we found the "Victoria Tree", which had the name of the ship Victoria and its captain inscribed in the trunk. The Victoria was a supply ship that visited the area a number of years after the settlement was abandoned, to search for ship wreck survivors who may have ended up on the island. Today all that remains of the settlement are some remnants of buildings and a small graveyard amongst the Rata forest.
Late in the afternoon a long range helicopter from Invercargill swooped in with a replacement team member and took the ailing staff member back to New Zealand. The Spirit of Enderby weighed anchor and we set off towards Macquarie Island.
Tuesday 17th January 2012: At Sea
Today is the centenary of Scott's arrival at the South Pole, so this was uppermost in our minds as we gathered for breakfast. After a recap of our visit to the Auckland Islands, newly arrived expedition staff member and company founder, Rodney Russ, gave a talk on the history of the area including its phases of discovery, exploitation, settlement, shipwreck and restoration. We then reviewed the wildlife seen during our visit. Although the ride was a little bumpy, the ship was still travelling at eleven knots and many had started to get their sea legs. The birders kept us abreast of the variety of birds visiting the ship throughout the day which included the Southern Royal, Gibson's Wandering, White-capped, Salvin's and Buller's albatross as well as an assortment of petrels including the White-chinned and Cape Petrels, Grey- backed Storm Petrels and many prions.
Helen, the team member who gave the introduction to Macquarie Island was well qualified for the task. She spent five years living and working there as a field researcher and ranger. Her introduction to this incredible little island in the middle of the Southern Ocean covered natural and historical features and prepared us well for the landing tomorrow. Arrival at the island presents the opportunity for sending mail to the folks back home, so the bar did a brisk trade in postcards. These kept many people entertained for the rest of the afternoon and for those that didn't get enough of the Sea Lions on Enderby Island, a screening of 'Sealion Summer' was arranged.
Later in the evening the bar opened and we enjoyed a few drinks before another delicious dinner. Many retired early to their bunks to be rocked to sleep on the southern seas, dreaming of our arrival at Macquarie Island.
Wednesday 18th January 2012: Macquarie Island
It was a leisurely start to the day due to the different time zone of Macquarie Island. We ate breakfast in the lea of the Island while zodiacs were launched to pick up our five ranger guides from the station at Buckles Bay. Once aboard, they gave a briefing prior to our first landing as the ship sailed south the short distance to Sandy Bay. Although nice and calm on shore, the swell out at the ship made for a challenging disembarkation into the zodiacs. Once ashore everyone soon forgot the challenges of the gangway as they were soon surrounded by the local inhabitants of Sandy Bay.
A welcoming committee of King Penguins stood on the beach to greet us as we stepped ashore. Bree, one of the ranger staff, gave a few final instructions and then we were free to wander among the groups of curious King and Royal Penguins and the few less welcoming, moulting Elephant Seals. Soon everyone was widely dispersed across the beach where we spent several hours experiencing what we were told was typical Macca weather -a bit of rain and wind.
Due to their vast size, the Elephant Seals were the most obvious residents on the beach. The young males were packed into tight moulting groups - hard to believe that these are only small seals compared to the fully grown adult males! By sitting quietly most people had some great close-up encounters with the King Penguins who often came up for a peck of our boots. They seemed as fascinated by our presence as we were by theirs. The King Penguin breeding colony at the northern end of the beach was jam packed with breeding birds incubating eggs. They cradle their eggs on their feet against the skin of their brood patch for eight weeks. The other penguin inhabitants of Sandy Bay were the Royal Penguins. These penguins are endemic to Macquarie Island as this is the only place they breed. Adult birds travelled up and down from the beach along a creek line to their inland colony. For us it was a less challenging walk along a boardwalk which went up the bank and along a ridgeline to the colony, passing some severely rabbit-damaged patches of Pleurophyllum hookeri and tussock along the way. The penguin colony itself was busy with adult birds and creching chicks mixed in together. It's a very noisy place, but well worth the visit to see the antics of this energetic penguin. Brown Skuas put on a good aerial display above the colony making the most of any opportunity to get a meal. All too soon it was time for everyone to head back to the ship for a warming late lunch.
The Ranger staff came aboard and joined us for dinner where they particularly enjoyed the fresh vegies and fruit they said they really missed whilst living on the island. A pod of Orcas delighted us as they appeared a number of times during the afternoon and evening while the ship was stationed off shore. Claudia, a budding documentary maker on the island, entertained us with a world premiere of her documentary on the Macquarie Island Pest Species Eradication Program (MIPEP) which documents the work undertaken over the last two years on the island.
Thursday 19th January 2012: Macquarie Island
We awoke on the Eastern side of the isthmus of Macquarie Island in Buckles Bay. The wind was blowing from the west but the conditions were looking very good for another landing. Following breakfast and a briefing we prepared for a visit to the Australian Antarctic Division Research station.
Shore conditions were quite good for our arrival at the beach where we split into groups of ten and were taken on a tour around the isthmus and station by one of the ranger staff. A hot cup of tea and a chat to one of the locals in the station mess gave us a bit of insight into station life. Along the beaches we got to see more of the local wildlife. Today we added Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins to our list as well as the Macquarie Island Shag and many more King Penguins. We were lucky with the weather yesterday, but today it was brilliant, with lots of blue sky, light wind and no rain. As we walked around the island we had to watch out for Elephant Seals that lay half concealed in the tussock. It is hard to imagine that it could be difficult to miss two tonnes of flesh lying there, but you can easily step a little too close to them, creating an uproar of growling, belching and snorting.
We spent a pleasant few hours walking the coastline, learning about the history of the island and present day life. It was an incredible and rare experience that we will not forget. Fulfilled with our morning's activities we jumped back into the zodiacs and returned to the ship for some lunch before starting to cruise down the island. In the afternoon we were treated to the exceptional sight of Lusitania Bay, the nesting and living quarters for some 250,000 King Penguins. From 2kms out at sea it looks rather like a boulder beach, but close up it is wall to wall birds. Ever curious, many of them came out to meet the zodiacs as we made our way towards the colony. Ironically, the digesters that were once used to render oil from their ancestors in the 19th century still stand in the middle of the colony. It's a sobering reminder of the exploitive mind-set that operated in the past on many of these Subantarctic outposts. We spent an hour cruising close to the colony watching all the action in the water and on land. Back on the Spirit of Enderby after a well-earned drink and a delightful dinner, the evening was spent sharing stories and downloading photos. It had been a memorable day thanks to the fantastic rangers and inhabitants of Macquarie Island.
Friday 20th January 2012: At Sea
Calm seas resulting in a good night's sleep saw most people up and about for breakfast. There was little wind and a following sea which pushed us along at a rapid twelve knots. The day's activities started with a recap of our visit to Macquarie Island where we reflected on the island's history and amazing animals. Then we all became focussed on the adventures ahead. It was time to make our bids in the iceberg tipping contest. The rules were set - the first 'berg must be seen with the naked eye and it must be larger than a London double decker bus as it passed abeam of the ship. With a flurry of anticipation everyone chose their preferred date and time. All picks had to be in by dinner time so there was little time for deliberation! Down in the lecture theatre we viewed a film based on the book by Tim Bowden, 'Silence Calling', which documents the first 50 years of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition. This provided us with an interesting insight into how things were done in Antarctica's most recent history.
After lunch we were given an opportunity to contemplate an amazing feat of survival as we watched a documentary featuring modern day explorer Tim Jarvis. In this expedition Jarvis attempted to replicate the physical exertion and conditions experienced by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson during the tragic sledging trip undertaken into Eastern Antarctic in 1912.
Continuing with the Antarctic theme, Rodney gave us a lesson on 'Ice', preparing us for what was to come. We learnt much about the terminology used to describe ice formations on land and at sea. He also gave us an overview of the ice conditions that commonly occur in the Ross Sea and presented a current ice map for the area. Following this talk many adjourned to the bridge to keep our eyes peeled for the first bit of white stuff on the horizon. Everyone was keen to start using their new found knowledge with some even requesting 'bergy bits' in their Gin and Tonics! We retired replete after another great dinner served by the tireless galley crew.
Saturday 21st January 2012: At Sea
Again we were grateful to awake to a calm sea. The day kicked off with the first episode of 'The Last Place on Earth', a re-enactment of the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen, the very expedition we are retracing. Later in the morning we learnt the important points on "How to identify a whale" as conditions for perfect for whale spotting.
The ice map was studied much more intently and with more understanding thanks to Rodney's excellent lecture yesterday. The bridge became a popular hang-out throughout the day as the earlier lecture seemed to have motivated a few whales to put in a brief appearance. Minkie's ahoy! Light snow started falling which provided the material for the construction of a small snowman out on deck, causing quite a bit of excitement for those unused to such a thing. Outside temperatures began to drop a few extra layers were needed for those adventurous enough to take a turn around the deck.
After lunch there was a flurry of shopping in the port side mess when the sea shop opened. Books, cards and souvenirs were snapped up as people underwent a bit of retail therapy. Rodney then gave a lecture entitled 'The ships they sailed to the Ross Sea 1773 - 1917'. In this talk he provided a good comparison between the vessel that is transporting us south to those that went before.
The first ice berg had still not been seen, and the stakes were getting higher for those with time slots coming up overnight. In the bar before dinner the idea was hatched for the first ever 'Enderby Choir'. Members discussed song selection and practices were scheduled for the days ahead.
Sunday 22nd January 2012: At Sea
We were awoken at 4:15 this morning to the announcement of the arrival of the first iceberg. A few keen folk leapt out of bed and ran out on deck in their pyjamas as others struggled in their cabins to don suitable attire for the occasion. Seasoned campaigners and others who preferred to pretend this was all part of their dreams, rolled over and went back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that there were likely to be a few more bergs where we were going. The winner of the competition to guess the time of arrival of this first berg was later awarded a bottle of 'Oyster Bay' chardonnay.
After our early wakeup call, we were rewarded with a sleep-in, followed by a leisurely brunch complete with Eggs Benedict, muffins, French toast and all the usual goodies which kept us going throughout the day. Polar travel certainly does give one an appetite!
Late in the morning we continued on with another episode of the Scott - Amundsen race. Attendance was low today as people found it hard to tear themselves away from the bridge and the unfolding iceberg spectacular. Following lunch, Nathan gave some good tips to the budding photographers on board. The timing for this lesson couldn't have been better as the newly schooled pupils came out of class and got straight to work. Helen's talk on the seals of the region attracted a lot of interest as people wanted to be able to distinguish between the different species we now began to see in greater numbers.
After dinner we assembled on the foredeck just before 10pm to mark the crossing of the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66.34 degrees. Wearing our newly issued super warm Antarctic jackets and with cups of mulled wine in hand we were inducted into the special fraternity of travellers who have crossed the Antarctic Circle by sea. We took this moment to remember those early explorers such as Sir James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hilary and others that pioneered new routes south of the circle. In line with their aspirations for the protection of these lands and the wildlife that inhabited them, we pledged an oath that we would all do that within our power to protect and conserve this incredible part of our planet for the enjoyment of future generations. We were then duly stamped on the forehead with the Mark of the Penguin signifying our membership of this elite club. Afterwards, all eyes looked south towards the Ross Sea, and the excitement continued to build.
Monday 23rd January 2012: At Sea and into the Pack Ice
We woke to yet another calm day. At this point we were beginning to wonder about the Southern Ocean's dreaded reputation, but none spoke of it, thinking it best not to tempt fate. Breakfast was followed by another gripping instalment in the 'Race to the Pole'. As we entered the much awaited pack ice, all eyes were peeled for the seals, whales, penguins and other bird life that we have waited so long to see. Later in the morning Rodney raised some interesting questions regarding the Antarctic Treaty System which focuses on Tourism and the future use of Antarctic. The first Emperor Penguin was spotted early in the day from the bridge, causing great excitement among the group. Many Adelie Penguins and Crab-eater Seals were seen on the ice as we delicately wove our way through some massive ice flows. Numerous sightings of Minkie whales rewarded the dedicated fauna watchers out on deck.
After lunch Nathan briefed us on the IATO code for visiting this part of the world including our responsibilities during shore visits. 'Life in the Freezer' was then screened providing some great images of this last great wilderness on earth. This film invoked some sobering thoughts as we returned to the bridge after dinner to look out for wildlife and contemplate the scenery.
Tuesday 24th January 2012: At Sea
We continued to travel through the pack ice overnight and experienced a bit of rocking as the ship navigated between the flows. Those who were up early were rewarded with the sight of a couple of Pilot Whales playing around the bow of the ship. On deck, gloves and beanie had become necessary as the icy winds were quick to draw away body heat. The ship continued picking her route south, looking for the open water that lay beyond the line of ice.
The day started with another fix of the 'Race to the Pole' followed by a lecture on the world of penguins. Who would have thought there were so many species of these intriguing birds? After lunch Rodney presented a lecture on the 'The Unknown South Land' which detailed the very early discoveries and exploration that contributed significantly to the world's understanding of Antarctica and set the stage for later exploration.
Antarctic and Snow Petrels now escorted us south, constantly playing in the winds created by the ship as they cruised past the windows. These two beautiful bird species make the continent their home. In the late afternoon we gradually escaped the clutches of the pack ice and marvelled at the skill of the crew in picking our way through the veritable maze of ice. As we enjoyed a pre dinner drink the swell started to pick up as we headed deeper into the clear water. Dinner became a lively affair as we hung onto plates as the ship started to rock. The Captain now set a course straight for Cape Adare, where we hoped to land in the morning.
Wednesday 25th January 2012: Cape Adare
A magnificent sight greeted us as we struggled up the stairs after an early wakeup call at 6am. The sun was shining in a bright blue sky as we gazed across at Cape Adare and the Downshire Cliffs. Mt Minto, a 5,100m colossus to the south, was capped with wispy cloud but the rest of the cliffs were clear. Massive tabular icebergs were strewn along the lands edge with many grounded on a shallow bank to the north. The pack ice looked thick and forbidding - an impressive first view of the Antarctic continent.
The wind had now picked up to around 50 knots and the spray from the swell whipped up to the bridge windows. The ship's captain and his crew stayed very focused as they carefully navigated us north, looking for an opening that would allow a landing at Borchgrevink's hut. Alas the ice was too dense so we made our way north west, skirting around the ice edge before continuing south. Cape Adare is the site where the first buildings were erected in Antarctica and where the first team of polar explorers wintered over on the continent. It is also the home to the largest Adelie Penguin rookery in Antarctica
Another episode of the 'Great Race' was featured before a lively lunch which saw everyone holding on to the water jugs. With lectures cancelled for the afternoon, it was time for most to enjoy a siesta in their cabins. Some hardy sailors still made it to pre-dinner drinks before heading down to dinner prepared under trying circumstances by our fantastic chefs.
Thursday 26th January 2012: Ross Sea
Conditions remained rough as we awoke on Australia Day. However, there was a good turnout at breakfast as most had well and truly got their sea legs. Still a bit too rough for lectures, so most took refuge back in their bunks, while others spent the morning up on the bridge watching the spray from the bow fly up over the windows. The ice had been building up on deck as the temperature dropped down to minus 8 degrees outside. Some of the crew had to head outside to remove as much ice as they could to trim the boat back down to its normal size.
After lunch the Italian resupply ship 'Italica" was spotted on the horizon, heading north from Terra Nova station. The captains exchanged pleasantries over the radio as the large orange and white ship slipped past. During the afternoon sea conditions improved, so Rodney continued his account of Antarctic history with descriptions of the events leading up to the Scott-Amundsen era. Tomorrow we would arrive in McMurdo Sound and all looked forward to experiencing this historic region.
Friday 27th January 2012: Cape Evans
A wake up call at 3:15 am roused a few who were treated to the sight of Orcas around the ship in the beauty of an Antarctic morning. We steamed past Franklin Island with its beautiful ice cap and several piedmont glaciers cascading down its cliffs. We slowly sailed on down the west side of Ross Island and had our first clear sight of Mt Erebus. Erebus stayed with us all day as we waited for the winds to die down so we could land at Cape Evans and take our first steps on the continent.
As is often the case in Antarctica in the summer, the winds dropped off in the early evening, finally giving us the opportunity we had been waiting for. At 8pm in calm sunny conditions reminiscent of a lazy Sunday afternoon, we boarded the zodiacs and landed near the doorstep of Scott's Terra Nova Hut. It was a very humbling experience to step onto the Antarctic continent for the first time and this feeling only increased as we visited the hut from which Scott's team made their attempt on the pole. It was to be an attempt from which five would never return.
While ashore we met a team of carpenters and metals conservators lead by New Zealander, Al Fastier, who have been working over this and previous summers on restoration of both Shackleton's and now Scott's huts. These projects, funded by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, aim to protect and conserve both the huts and their contents for the benefit of future visitors. The team was very generous with their time and were happy to discuss their work and show us around the hut. We also had the good fortune to meet Scott's grandson, Falcon Scott, who is working as part of the restoration team. The workmanship and dedication of these people is amazing and is clearly evident in the results they have achieved. A restoration expert in metal from Australia proudly told us how they recreated the complicated flues throughout the hut with only the remaining pieces and the old photos to guide their work. A furniture maker from Wellington NZ told us how they fixed the famous ward room table celebrated in Ponting's photo of Scott's 43rd birthday. The kitchen was a treasure trove of old tins and packets whose faded labels gave us a glimpse of the culinary possibilities of the time. Who could forget the aromas of seal blubber, hay and pony poo detected as we went through the stables to see where the expedition's ponies were housed? One stable still contained dried out Emperor Penguins and a crate of eggs. Another had a bicycle mounted on the wall and a Husky skeleton still chained to a post. There was much here to fuel our imagination about the life of an early Antarctic explorer. We reluctantly returned to the ship after an extremely pleasant evening ashore.
Saturday 28th January 2012: Fast Ice and Polar Plunge
Cape Royds was in sight as we awoke this morning. We had hoped for another landing, but the wind just wouldn't play the game as it kept up a steady pace all night. Instead we cruised further south to the ice edge where a channel was being cut by a Russian icebreaker that the Americans have in service. It was cutting out a channel in the fast ice to allow the refuelling tanker clear access to the base. It was intended to stay in action to keep the channel open so that the resupply ship, which was running a few weeks late, could get in when it arrived. We were entertained by lots of wildlife as we cruised down this channel. Many Orca were spotted frolicking in the leads left by the ice breaker and the ever present Adelies could be seen in good numbers along the ice.
After testing the edge of the fast ice with the bow of the ship, it appeared to be capable of holding 50 pedestrians for an afternoon walk. So with the bow of the ship firmly nosed into the fast ice we were transferred across to stretch our legs. The ice surface was surprisingly dry and covered with fine powdered snow. A few Adelie Penguins walked up to the crowd trying to work out what species we were. As we returned to the ship an Emperor penguin popped out on the ice right next to us, giving everyone a great view.
After our break on the ice it was time for the annual meet of the Spirit of Enderby Swim Club. Eight brave souls leapt into the minus 8 degree water from the gangway while the doctor stood by with the defibrillator, which fortunately wasn't needed. They didn't spend a lot of time splashing about and some nearly walked on water!
Later that day an attempt was made at landing on Cape Royds but the sea conditions made this too dangerous to proceed and we sailed on.
Sunday 29th January 2012: Cape Royds and Cape Byrd
A beautiful sunny morning greeted us as we stepped out on to the bridge after breakfast. Mt Erebus had again escaped from its shroud of cloud and the surrounding snow covered slopes are gleaming. The strong winds which prevented us from landing at Cape Royds however, were still with us. We adjourned in a sombre mood to the lecture theatre for the final episode of the 'Great Race' knowing that there wasn't going to be a happy ending.
By the afternoon the wind had dropped and permission was granted for us to make a landing on a beach to the north of Shackleton's hut. With great excitement we boarded the zodiacs and we were soon stepping ashore again. To reach the hut we headed south along a series of ridges covered in loose black scoria and rocky outcrops of volcanic origin. It was a pleasant way to reach Shackleton's Hut nestled down in a valley out of the wind. This hut was erected during the Nimrod expedition in 1907. From this location Shackleton's team achieved the furthest distance south at the time, were the first to reach the Magnetic South Pole and undertook the first ascent of Mt Erebus. This is a much smaller hut than the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, but similarly full of original artefacts, painstakingly restored by the team working for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. We returned to the ship for lunch and headed towards Cape Bird to investigate whether the landing was now clear of sea ice.
As we approached Cape Bird the wind dropped off almost completely and the water took on a glassy shine as we were treated to clear blue skies and sunshine. Some Orca were spotted off the bow making the picture even more perfect. The ice had cleared out allowing us to go ashore and visit the 27,000 nesting pairs of Adelie Penguins. Conditions were ideal for capturing their antics on our flash cards as we lounged around in the evening sunshine. This species is clearly thriving despite the attention of murderous Skuas and the recent colder conditions. Scattered throughout the colony were sunbathing Weddell Seals, untroubled by the mass of birdlife around them. All too soon it was time to return to the ship and relax at the end of yet another perfect day.
Monday 30th January 2012: En Route to Terra Nova Bay
Everyone slept very well after the busy day yesterday, despite our overnight voyage turning into a tortuous exercise in ice evasion for the Captain and crew. It became evident that continuing to head towards the ice shelf would start eating into the precious time left for exploring other locations in the Ross Sea. The decision was therefore made to change course and head North for Terra Nova Bay.
After breakfast a documentary on Mt Erebus was screened in the lecture theatre. 'Solid Water and Liquid Rock' explored the underwater marvels below the ice shelf at the foot of the mountain, and then showed the attempts to sample gas from the lava lake in the crater of the volcano above.
As we travelled north we watched 'With Byrd at the South Pole' which documents Byrd's expedition to Antarctic where he undertakes the first flight to the South Pole in 1930. In the late afternoon we entered Terra Nova Bay with Mt Melbourne to our north glistening white in the afternoon sunshine. In calm, glassy water we headed towards Inexpressible Island with the hope of doing an evening landing. Following dinner we donned our polar outer wear and prepared for a trip ashore to visit the site where Scott's northern party were forced to winter over in a snow cave when the Terra Nova failed to return for them due to difficult ice conditions. It was a truly remarkable feat for the six men to survive this ordeal, living off seals and penguins, while enduring extremely harsh and crowded living conditions. We spent the evening in sunshine amongst the granite boulders observing the seals relaxing on the ice edge. After visiting the plaque locating the site of the ice cave, many climbed the surrounding ridgelines for views inland and along the ice edge. After a couple of hours ashore the wind began to strengthen, giving us a taste of how quickly conditions can change here. A rapid departure was now effected as the ships horn hurried us back to the ship.
Tuesday 31st January 2012: Terra Nova Bay
Early this morning we passed the Italian base, Terra Nova, but weren't able to visit, as the 'Italica' which we had seen previously was in the bay and the station crew were busy packing up for the trip home. Nestled low down on the slope, the bright blue coloured station commands an impressive view out over Terra Nova Bay to Mt Melbourne in the north. We came closer to the shore to get good views of the ice cliffs of the Campbell Glacier as we worked our way along the bay.
On the northern side of Terra Nova Bay is the little German summer base of 'Gondwana'. The base hadn't been used this summer, so we decided to make a landing and explore the area. We piled into the zodiacs and landed in a beautiful bay north of the station buildings. Again the geology stood out as we wandered around the rocky terrain. We enjoyed great views out to sea from the ridgelines and a few seals on shore near the landing kept many occupied. It was a great morning ashore for our last landing in Antarctica.
As the ship cruised north we watched another episode of 'Life in the Freezer' followed by '90 Degrees' and Ponting's original footage and account of Scott's expedition to the South Pole.
After dinner the crowd gathered for the inaugural performance of the Spirit of Enderby Choir. The performers arrived looking very fetching in sparkles and bow ties. They started with an acapella version of 'My Bonny Lies over the Ocean' to warm up. They then launched into a cleverly crafted tune especially written for the voyage entitled 'In the Land of the Adelie'. The performance ended with an old ABBA favourite, 'The Winner Takes it All'. Enthusiastic calls for an encore were rewarded when everyone joined in on a reprise of the new voyage song. This set the tone for a fairly late and high spirited night in the bar.
Wednesday 1st February 2012: At Sea
Breakfast today was a sedate affair. This could have been due to people catching up on some rest after the hectic expedition pace of the last few days or to the enthusiastic celebrations following the choir's first performance the night before. Either way we eased gently into the day with another episode of 'Life in the Freezer'. This was followed by a lecture from Rodney on "Pelagic Whaling in the Ross Sea" where he covered the early history of whaling in this area and reflected on the current situation with the exploitation of Tooth Fish today.
After lunch we viewed an episode of the Blue Planet series called 'Frozen Seas' where the frozen worlds of the Arctic and Antarctic are compared. In these environments the annual freeze and retreat of the sea ice governs the pace of life. Later in the afternoon we attended a lecture on the "Ethics of Whaling" where the arguments and counter arguments often used in the debate were presented. This sparked some lively conversations which continued on into the evening.
Thursday 2nd February 2012: Back into the Pack Ice.
The morning found us picking our way delicately through the pack ice once again. Fortunately there were some good open leads so we made good progress. After breakfast we started to watch the first episode of 'Longitude', a two part dramatization of how the first reliable measurement of longitude was determined changing navigation in the seas forever. The lecture was paused after 20 minutes however as there was an announcement on the intercom offering a zodiac cruise amongst the ice bergs.
Three zodiacs were launched and half the group set off towards the icebergs. With the sun out, the magnificent range of blue colours against the stark white was magical. Flat topped tablular bergs with cracks and caves rolled in the steady swell. A broken down berg with a sharp pointed pinnacle looked very reminiscent of Bruce's birthday cake. We wove our way through the ice flows getting another few hundred photos. Then it was back to the ship to pick up the second group for their turn. The ice had now moved around a bit but we could still manoeuvre through. A Leopard Seal was spotted up on an ice flow so we motored over to have a closer look. Alert and watchful, he tolerated the visit and another large number of photos were taken. We completed the trip and returned to the ship just in time for lunch. What a grand last look at Antarctica before heading out of the pack ice!
After lunch Episode One of 'Longitude' was shown in its entirety, leaving people looking forward to the next instalment. Sea conditions were quite calm, so everyone looked forward to a restful night.
Friday 3rd February 2012: At Sea
As day dawned the ship had begun a steady roll, but it wasn't too bad. We just needed to hang on while moving around. Most people had adapted to the movement, so there were very few who still suffered from sea sickness. After breakfast we watched the conclusion of 'Longitude', and then had a recap of the time spent in the Ross Sea. It was good to go over what we had achieved in the twelve busy days spent in Antarctica. There was so much history to ponder, and lots of images of wildlife and amazing scenery to take away with us. Rodney suggested some good books for further reading which will enhance our understanding of the historical sites that we have visited and the people who spent time there.
After lunch, we watched the film 'Endurance' which details the journey of Shackleton and his men in their failed attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. This was yet another chapter of amazing endurance during the early exploration of these southern climes. Later that afternoon there was a talk on the Seabirds of the Southern Ocean. It was a timely introduction to the bird rich zone we were about to enter in the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands and had the keen birders out on deck straight afterwards. The ship continued to rock quite a bit, so drinks and dinner required a bit more coordination than we had needed for a while, but the motion was not unpleasant and lulled everyone to sleep.
Saturday 4th February 2012: At Sea
The wind and seas abated overnight and our ride became much calmer. We have crossed the Antarctic Circle again and so officially have left the frozen continent behind us. As we journeyed north both the water and air temperature were rising. Our Expedition Leader Nathan, gave a talk about ship operations, where he explained various design and mechanical aspects of the ship, catering, food and medical supplies as well as many other features that people have asked him about during the voyage.
After lunch we watched a documentary called 'Encounters at the end of the World' which follows a group of scientists working and living in Antarctica. Later in the afternoon for something completely different, Rodney talked to us about the Russian Far East. He painted a very appealing picture of this remote region and no doubt some future travel plans were hatched after seeing some the amazing sights this unique area has to offer. Over dinner that night we counted ourselves fortunate in having had yet another great day sailing on the Southern Ocean. We retired to our cabins wondering how long our luck would last.
Sunday 5th February 2012: At Sea
The new day found us all feeling "ship shape". Following a delicious breakfast, the sea shop was opened to give everyone an opportunity to buy mementos such as books and fluffy toys as enduring reminders of our trip. Later we headed down to the lecture theatre for the final episode of 'Life in the Freezer'.
After lunch Nathan gave an introduction to Campbell Island in which he highlighted the many different things we were likely to see there. After so many days at sea we were very keen just to see land again, let alone walk on it! Later in the afternoon we watched a documentary detailing the rat eradication programme on Campbell Island. All the rats were finally eradicated from the island in 2001 after being there in massive numbers for close to 200 years. At the time this was the most difficult pest eradication programme ever attempted worldwide.
Monday 6th February 2012: Campbell Island
Directly after breakfast we watched a short documentary 'The Impossible Dream' which tells the story of the finding and steps towards the recovery of the Campbell Island Teal which was presumed extinct from the island. Rodney, being the one who first rediscovered the Teal on Dent Island, gave a first hand introduction and more background to the film.
As midday approached, all eyes scanned the horizon waiting for our first view of Campbell Island. Finally we saw it, wrapped in fog, so we couldn't fully appreciate its charms as we approached Perseverance Harbour. Once we started travelling down the harbour the swell dropped away and we were treated to glimpses of seals and penguins in the water and seabirds in the air. We dropped anchor just off shore from the old Met station which includes a collection of buildings and a little wharf area. We saw researchers on island and radio contact was made.
After lunch we landed at the wharf where we briefly met the seal biologist, and then started up the Col-Lyall boardwalk. A trip to the island wouldn't be complete without a few Sea Lion interactions on the way. Everyone took their time and enjoyed the slow assent to Col-Lyall Saddle taking photos of the vegetation as it changed on the way up. The ever present Pipet was very welcoming and seemed to particularly like being the centre of attention. The island's megaherbs were lush and showed few signs of the impact of sheep grazing in the past. Pleurophyllum speciosum still had many purple flowers on display as we approached the saddle along with other species such as: Bulbinella rossii, Anisotome latifolia, Pleurophyllum criniferum, Pleurophyllum hookeri, Hebe benthami and Gentianella cerina which were at various stages of flowering and seed delivery. The real highlight up on Col-Lyall was the colony of Southern Royal Albatross where everyone had ample time to sit with birds that were incubating their eggs. As the day wore on, some younger birds came in from sea and landed on the island in small groups to participate in their elaborate and beautiful dances. Eventually we tore ourselves away, as many of us could have sat for hours, but the aroma of dinner cooking lured us back to the Spirit of Enderby. On the way back down, a few Yellow-eyed Penguins were spotted in amongst the vegetation and down at the wharf a pair of Campbell Island Teal were spotted at the water's edge. Many spent the last hour on the island watching the teal foraging along the shoreline. It was an incredible day on an incredible island. That evening we entertained the three grateful seal biologists who came aboard for a nice hot shower and a dinner far better than they had enjoyed in ages.
Tuesday 7th February 2012: Mount Honey and Tuckers Cove, Campbell Island
For ten fit and energetic people there was an early wakeup call at 5:30am so they could get an early start on the climb up Mt Honey, the highest peak on the island at 569 metres. They were deposited by zodiac on the shores of Garden Cove and Rodney led the troupe on their ascent through the thick vegetation while Arend brought up the rear.
Meanwhile back on the ship most got up at the usual time for breakfast. It was a clear day in Perseverance Harbour and we could make out a lot more of the surrounding landscape. The wind had picked up a bit from yesterday with some strong gusts channelling down through the harbour. This was not enough to deter us from the trip ashore however, so we again boarded the zodiacs and landed at the wharf. Nathan then led the way across to Tuckers Cove and up the creek line to the old coast watchers huts. Across the cove we could see where the homestead once stood during the days when sheep were farmed on the island. It was slow going with the dense tussock growth and occasional surprise encounters with Sea Lions, but a good stretch of the legs and opportunity to see a bit more of the island. For those who were happy to brave the wind and spray, we then took the zodiacs up to Camp Cove to have a quick look at the 'World's Loneliest Tree'.
After our jaunt to Camp Cove the zodiacs were dispatched to collect the Mt Honey climbers who were patiently waiting back at Garden Cove. No doubt most were secretly grateful to be sitting down for a rest after such a challenging climb. Their trek up towards the peak started off on a narrow track through the Dracophyllum which opened out into thick tussock. There were a few muddy bogs to negotiate along the way and a few ups and downs, but they were rewarded as they climbed higher with great views over the island. As they got higher, the ground was covered with brilliant megaherbs most of which had just finished flowering, though some still had beautiful and strange looking flowers.
Up here they found more colonies of Southern Royal Albatross who sat patiently on their nests while others took to the sky. A few were engaged in beautiful courtship dances and displays. The climbers sat for a short time watching this rare and fascinating behaviour. Then they looked skyward at the peak and could delay the final assault no longer. Up they went, scrambling, clambering and slipping until they reached the summit. Once there, the wind made it difficult to stand up, but at least it kept the cloud at bay so they could enjoy the wonderful views. The descent was a much quicker affair and all made it safely back to Garden Cove.
As soon as everyone was back on board we weighed anchor and set out for the Snares Islands. Lots of sea birds escorted the ship away from the ruggedly beautiful coast of Campbell Island. The swell had picked up, so we were rocking and rolling once again, but it had now become so familiar everyone took it in their stride.
Wednesday 8th February 2012: Snares Islands
The rolling swell had stayed with us all night and made it slightly challenging as we packed some of our gear in preparation of arrival back in Bluff. Before lunch Nathan ran through the procedures for disembarkation once we arrive in Bluff and this brought home to us that our expedition is drawing to a close. Accounts were settled after lunch as we bounced our way towards the Snares Islands. Late in the afternoon their rocky cliffs were spotted jutting out above the horizon. The air was full of Bullers Albatross and Cape Petrels wheeling around the ship. A big swell was running making the rocky outcrops look pretty dramatic.
Three zodiacs were launched for a quick cruise around the southern end of the island. We quickly learned that the gangway was no place for indecision as the first groups were loaded. The boats bounced across the surface towards a cove around corner, where the cliffs were lined with nesting Bullers Albatross. Snares Crested Penguins could be seen high up on the rock face and a few New Zealand Fur Seals were spotted lounging around on the steep lower slope. The kelp was reminiscent of a grass skirt swaying along the bottom of the rock face to the rhythm of the swell.
We then followed the coast back around to the south, investigating some more secluded coves and caves before returning the first group back to the ship. The swell was still quite lively as we changed over to the second group, but now most knew the drill and quickly got aboard the bobbing zodiacs. After the second group were safely aboard, the ship headed up the east coast of the islands. Everyone agreed that it had been an invigorating end to our day. There was a lively atmosphere in the bar and dining room as we shared our last delicious dinner together. Good food and good company - a fitting finale to an incredible journey.
Thursday 9th February 2012: Bluff
Our 4,300 nautical mile journey ended on our return to the Port of Bluff, New Zealand. After breakfast and immigration formalities, we bade farewell to the Spirit of Enderby and boarded the bus to start the journey home. It was time for farewells as the group dispersed and headed off in different directions. The trip has been a great success. We are some of the lucky few to have journeyed so far south and experienced so many incredible places. May our memories linger, and our stories and photographs encourage others to help preserve this very special part of the world.
THE LAND OF THE ADÉLIE
Penguins they waddle and Ele seals sleep
Albatross fly over oceans so deep
From the Aucklands to Macquarie where the rookeries are
And the light mantled sooties come from afar;
From Campbell to the Snares we set gumboots down
On the pebbles where the sealers stepped
Digesters were engines for boiling down penguins
The sealers took seals and the whalers the rest.
We'll tell you a whale of a tale
Of how we set sail
On the Spirit of Enderby
With the Russ's and Co
Ever southward we go
To the land of the Adélie
When you're a seal it's a pretty tough life
You'll fight like an ogre to win you a wife
A penguin is cute and they have a good deal
Would you rather be the penguin or the Leopard seal?
We boarded the zodiacs like heroes will
And luckily nobody took a spill
If the rocking ship was hard to take
The ice shelf will be a thrill.
Here's to the beer and the Pinot Gris
Here's to the finest of company
Just lie in your bunk or look out your door
It feels like heaven or more;
Now many things are lost at sea
I lost my breakfast, I lost my tea
I lost my Antarctic virginity
Aboard the Spirit of Enderby.
Chorus x 2
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" We truly believe you guys are one of the best travel companies we have ever dealt with regards to what places you go, what you offer in the expedition, your values and ethos, the quality of the ship, and above all else, the exceptional professionalism, experience, humour and quality of the staff. "
" I can't express enough thanks to Heritage for providing a Wonderful, Wonderful Trip.
Well organised. The Staff, including the Galley Team (Great Food) and Russia Crew, were so 'User Friendly;. A Must, Must do trip. "
" Hi guys,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for such a fantastic expedition we experienced in the Southern Ocean. The sites, especially the huts, are quite moving and just so humbling to actually be there. The restoration that has been done is incredible. And having the extensive knowledge of the Duke is unsurpassed. I am still watching back the videos of his explanations in the huts.
All joking aside Katya, I have learnt a lot about the birds and can certainly recognise much more than the beginning of January.
I have been raving about the whole trip to family and friends and can't watch the photos too often. I love being able to talk about all we saw and experienced from the likes of Hill 360 to the expanse of the ice.
Despite having only been home a few weeks I still cannot believe I was actually down there and also on the other sub-antarctic islands. All I can say is thank you. It has been fascinating reading the recent logs online too.
I trust Samuel and Agnes had fun travels around the South Island.
I look forward to getting to the Arctic next year now. Thank you again and keep up the great work! "
" Hi guys,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for such a fantastic expedition we experienced in the Southern Ocean. The sites, especially the huts, are quite moving and just so humbling to actually be there. The restoration that has been done is incredible. And having the extensive knowledge of the Duke is unsurpassed. I am still watching back the videos of his explanations in the huts.
All joking aside Katya, I have learnt a lot about the birds and can certainly recognise much more than the beginning of January.
I have been raving about the whole trip to family and friends and can't watch the photos too often. I love being able to talk about all we saw and experienced from the likes of Hill 360 to the expanse of the ice.
Despite having only been home a few weeks I still cannot believe I was actually down there and also on the other sub-antarctic islands. All I can say is thank you. It has been fascinating reading the recent logs online too.
I trust Samuel and Agnes had fun travels around the South Island.
I look forward to getting to the Arctic next year now. Thank you again and keep up the great work! "
" I thought the staff was very helpful and knowledgeable. Every effort was made to comply with the itinerary, weather not with standing! I especially enjoyed the lectures which I thought were very professional and I learnt a lot. Areas where I thought you could make improvements were more grab rails in the dining and bar facilities to prevent accidents in rough weather. Cooks and staff did a wonderful job with the meals but would have been superb if served on hot plates. Although the expedition team were helpful, I did think on walks, especially on the way back from Carnley Harbour and Cape Royds, that the leaders could have kept the group together so the slower walkers were not trailing so far behind. Overall it was an enjoyable experience and one I shall remember for years to come. I for one was delighted that we ended up in Lyttelton and Christchurch and offer my thanks to your staff at base who organised everything for us. "
" Hello Julie,
Thank you for your testimonial. It is wonderful to know how much you enjoyed your time on your recent voyage with us to Antarctica. As you will have experienced, the ocean and weather conditions can change rapidly when in the Southern Ocean, and the grab rails fitted around the ship are helpful in moving around the vessel safely. There are instances when the high sea conditions mean staff onboard advise passengers to take extra care in moving around the vessel, and to use this time to rest, read, edit images etc, ready for our next landings. We are pleased you enjoyed the expertise of the staff and the lecture series onboard. The staff are experienced in outdoor group management and maintain contact with each other via radio to ensure passengers are all accounted for. We like to give passengers as much freedom to experience each landing as our permit and time allows for, and are aware that some passengers move faster than others for various reasons, including fitness and special-interest groups such as birders - we have tight procedures to ensure all passengers are safe prior, during and after each landing. We hope you can join us on another Heritage Expeditions voyage in the future. "
" Back in the UK after a fantastic January trip to the Ross Sea. This was my 2nd trip down there and once again it was absolutely brilliant, many thanks to Rodney and his great team, the Russian Crew (Max was awesome spotting whales!) and to all the ship-mates who made it a memorable trip. "
" Thank you to all of the team for making this "the trip of a lifetime". Every day was a new adventure shared with staff and passengers from a wide range of backgrounds but a shared interest in exploration and conservation. We feel very privileged to have visited places that most people can only dream of - standing in the Historic Huts certainly reinforced what hardy souls those early explorers must have been.
The lecture and video programme gave us a thoughtful insight into a wide range of topics relevant to the trip. The chefs did an outstanding job under conditions which were extremely challenging at times.
" This voyage was perfect and truly unforgettable for me and for many others and the reason for this was the weather and the crew and the organisation that Rodney and Julia so expertly put togther to make it so. "
" Thanks to Rodney and the lecturers for an amazing journey to a truly incredible part of the world. An experience not to be missed!! Having walked through the huts it is difficult to imagine how they managed to survive, sometimes for years on end.
" “Absolute grandeur and uniqueness of Antarctica was made more memorable by the fantastic atmosphere and ambience of the journey.” "
" I've seen nature up close! The cleanest water! The most ice & snow ever! Seals! Penguins! Albatross! & all the others! Some amazing locations & swam in the water off a Subantarctic Islands! I fell in love with every island we went to. "