Forgotten Islands of the South Pacific: Subantarctic Islands

“The most beautiful place I had ever seen”

“EXCERPTS FROM DIARY - FORGOTTEN ISLANDS EXPEDITION CHRISTMAS 2013 CHRISTMAS DAY We managed 3 landings on the Auckland Islands today due to astonishingly clear weather. We are anchored in Port Ross and take the zodiacs first into Erebus Cove where we wander through the Rata forests. The Rata were milled by a ship in the war days for emergency fuel and have now coppiced creating an eerie forest of twisted branches offset by the almost fluorescent green of the mosses underneath. There is a small graveyard here where some of the settlers are buried, but nothing remains of the settlement itself. It is clear the settlers had a hell of a time. The landscape is beautiful but unforgiving. Next landing is in Ranui Cove and we walked up to the lookout, about an hour all up. Magnificent 360-degree views and the clearest most perfect day for viewing. There is no wind, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, a rare day indeed in this part of the world. Back in the zodiacs and to the ship for lunch, which is well received after the exercise. We sail now to Carnley Harbour. The entrance is between Cape Farr and Gilroy Head. You sail in between two mountains coming into a harbour which is essentially the volcano crater. Unbelievably good weather and calm seas. We are all on deck now, cups of tea and cameras, jackets off and the sun on our backs, watching sea lions and penguins swimming around the ship as we pass by the islands... We make a landing where we see the remains of a small boat, the remnants of a ship wreck and hear tales of shipwrecks and survivors, and then, just because it’s Christmas and the weather is so extraordinary, Rodney surprises us and takes the entire expedition out for a zodiac cruise around all the bays and down to Figure 8 island to see the seal breeding ground and flocks of seabirds. We wend our way along the coast and take in the sheer beauty of the place before motoring back to the ship at full steam. ENDERBY ISLAND When we wake up we are at Enderby Island. Breakfast at 6.30, briefing at 7.15 and we are all on the island by 8.30. There is a choice of walking 8kms around the island or 2kms across the island and we opt for the shorter one. Initially we were going to do the longer one, but the sea lions are hauling out and the albatrosses are nesting. We spend an hour watching the Light-mantled sooty Albatrosses, some sitting on their nests and the others swooping the cliffs and bringing food to their mates, and at least two hours watching the sea lions, some with their pups, some birthing, some mating, and the young males who can’t get a look in. The beauty of Enderby is hard to describe and quite other-worldly. It has an abundance of textures and colours and plants and birds you don’t get anywhere else. The megaherbs are phenomenal. Definitely not shy, they are big and bold, an incredible big splash of colour and texture across the landscape. Beneath them are the shy birds, we were lucky enough to see the Enderby Snipe, a very shy, flightless bird that resembles a quail with a long beak. The Pipits are cute and inquisitive and always bobbing just out of reach. We saw a couple of yellow-eyed penguins making the trek from sea to land, a falcon swooped past too and of course the albatrosses. We saw white southern albatrosses nesting in the megaherbs – massive birds, and bright white, they stand out easily, clearly not concerned about camouflage and of course we spent plenty of time trying to catch the sooty albatrosses on film as they swept along the cliffs to their precarious nests. A long day today, and a picnic lunch on Enderby. Back to the ship for a game of scrabble, a cup of tea and maybe a nap before dinner...... CAMPBELL ISLAND If we thought yesterday was a big day, then we hadn’t figured on today! Campbell Island will prove to be our favourite. Animals and birds we spot today are the Pipit, Campbell Island Snipe, Teal, Albatrosses, Elephant Seal and Sea lions. In fact the nesting albatrosses are so prolific that we have to leave the track several times to circumnavigate them and we came across the friendliest ever Snipe! Totally fearless, it walks right into our midst even walking over our boots and hands. We have chosen to do the big walk starting at 9.30 and ending around 5pm. It is yet another unexpectedly gorgeous day – we have been phenomenally lucky. I can’t recommend the walk enough. It is a long day and a lot of walking, a few achy bodies at the finish but the flora and fauna and animals that you see on this hike make it more than worth the effort. If you are physically fit, at any age, then you will cope with the hike. The first two and a half hours is up. Morning tea is on the side of a mountain, out come the picnic lunches and we take in the view and take off our jackets. We are reminded to save plenty for lunch and afternoon tea as it is a long day. An hour later, still going up, but a gentle incline, we reach the megaherb gardens. We have seen them on Enderby, but nothing prepares you for the garden of eden that opens out ahead of you here. We wandered through the stunning plants and found ourselves on the edge of a cliff overlooking mountainous islands and an azure sea, gulls gliding and dipping, the sun at full brilliance. I can honestly say this was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. There were albatrosses and molly gulls with chicks, all fluffy and helpless and huge and little Pipits dancing about us, flitting around our feet, and of course the amazing plants. We were quite a while before we moved off. More walking up the hill but slowly now taking it all in before resting on a rocky outcrop to take in the vista which is all around us now. We can see the cliff face further around that we will head across. I am glad of my photographs or I might barely believe what I have seen the last several days. ”


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