Day 1: Friday 11 January
We arrived in New Zealand’s southern and progressive city of Invercargill yesterday, to be greeted by a cool, wind, from the west. Many of us stayed at the excellent Kelvin Hotel where efficient, pleasant staff made us very welcome and we enjoyed in the Southern Explorers’ Room a Welcome Dinner with hot soup and a fine buffet with excellent local cuisine. We also had an opportunity to meet Nathan Russ Operations Manager for Heritage Expeditions, Samuel our Expedition Leader, Yulia the Cruise Director, Heidi from the Christchurch Office, Kate the DOC Representative and Dr John.
Day 2: Saturday 12 January
Invercargill, Bluff and southward bound
Noon position: at Bluff: 46o 35.510’S; 168o 20.103’E
Air temperature: 14oC Water temperature: 15oC
The ship positions are noted in case after the expedition, you may wish to compile a chart with our voyage. This can also be useful when used for a presentation or to supplement your diary and photographic record.
This morning we arose to beautiful Southland weather and following an excellent continental or cooked breakfast, assembled with our luggage in the hotel foyer. Here Lisle from Cornwall and Max the Ship Manager, undertook a security check, made sure that possessions had our cabin number noted and the luggage was then loaded in a truck and conveyed to the ship.
We had an opportunity to do some shopping however, most of us then boarded a coach for an enjoyable few hours when we saw some of the green countryside and the world-class CurioScape at Curio Bay in the Catlins. Here we enjoyed an excellent lunch of lasagne and saw the acclaimed 170 million-year old petrified forest before making our way back to Invercargill.
We arrived at the Port of Bluff about 3:50 p.m. and settled into our cabins where our luggage and gumboots had been placed. We became familiar with the ship and enjoyed afternoon tea with freshly baked scones, then had a compulsory briefing by Samuel in the lecture room. This began with an introduction of staff, followed by important housekeeping rules outlined by Yulia and finally an introduction to the SOLAS lifejacket, procedures for an abandon ship drill, use of the lifejacket worn during Zodiac operations, and procedure when using a Zodiac.
The Pilot left us at 6:35, we had a simulated abandon ship drill and reported to our lifeboat, where the engine was briefly started and the drill successfully concluded. We were told to remember, warm clothing and any medication. The bar opened after the drill and our first dinner was served at 8 p.m.
We steamed out of Bluff into a north-north west wind at 6:05 p.m., the trip to Foveaux Strait taking about 15 minutes. The pilot launch Takitimu 11 drew up alongside and it was exciting to see the Pilot clamber down the ladder with a rope grasped in each hand. Once on the Takitimu 11, the launch driver lost no time in pulling away from our ship. We were now on our way.
After passing through Foveaux Strait we headed on a southerly course off the east coast of Stewart Island, or Rakiura as it is also known. The Stewart Island landscape in many places covered in scrub and bush and patches of weathered granite rock, was obscured by low cloud and fog.
We were on our way at last, with our course this evening, taking us along the east coast of Stewart Island, or Rakiura as the island is known. It is New Zealand’s newest National Park with fortunately no predatory stoats. The island named for William Stewart in 1909 a crewman on the Pegasus, has a rich flora and birdlife and wonderful geology with granite rocks. The diverse human history includes early moa-hunter Maori, sealers, Norwegian whalers in the 1920-30s, miners, saw millers and fishermen.
We had good viewing of seabirds including albatrosses, diving and Cape Petrels and other species. Meanwhile, the sea in the strait began to pick up and soon our ship was rolling gently.
The bar which opened for an hour provided an opportunity to meet fellow guests and when in the lee of Stewart Island, the evening meal was served at 8 p.m.
The rest of the night was spent quietly and we are hoping for a good view of The Snares early tomorrow.
© L. Gwynn
Day 3: Sunday 13 January
The Snares including the Western Chain
Noon position: 48o29.35’S; 166o 28.9’E
Air temperature: 11oC Water temperature: 14oC
We slept well last evening and today were greeted with overcast skies, steady rain and a brisk wind from the east, which created a moderate to rough sea. By 8 a.m. we were almost at The Snares that loomed off the bow.
The Snares Islands/Tini Heke, 100km southwest of Stewart Island, are formed of granitic rock, have a highest point of 152m, cover 328 hectares, a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1200mm per year. The position of the island group is listed as 48o01’S and 166o35’E. Of interest is a magnitude 5.8 earthquake, was registered at 12km depth and 85km west of The Snares on 25 November 2018.
Before breakfast we had a good view of North East Island with the smaller of the two, Broughton Island, to port and almost joined to the main island. A number of rocky and craggy islets were off the end of Broughton Island.
The islands were discovered independently on 23 November 1791 by Capt. George Vancouver HMS Discovery and by Lieut. William Broughton HMS Chatham, both of the Vancouver Expedition. The subsequent fur sealing (A. fosteri) era decimated the population and an estimate for the total number of seals taken is not less than 5.2 million with 150,00o from Macquarie and New Zealand Islands in 1810-1813 and the same number for Bass Strait and New Zealand Islands in 1805-1808). A small group of 3-4 convicts was on North East Island for seven years, lived in five huts, grew potatoes and they were rescued by Captain Coffin on the US whaler Endurance in 1818 when 1300 sealskins were taken and the potato crop was abandoned . By 1830 no seals were present.
The pest-free island requires a permit to land and is of great interest to science parties. Only 10 people a year are allowed to land and this includes members of two families who take rock lobster (crayfish). In 2008 The Snares became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Conditions were unfortunately not suitable for a Zodiac cruise that would have been from Ho Ho Bay to the North Promontory and Samuel suggested that we may try on the return voyage. Instead the Captain kindly took us along the length of North East Island, where we were treated to excellent bird sightings.
There were two large rafts of Sooty Shearwaters of perhaps 100 birds, a raft of diving petrels and a small flock of storm petrels. Other birds included numerous Cape or Pintado Petrels, Antarctic Terns, a Northern Giant Petrel (with distinctive reddish beak), gorgeous Antarctic (?) Prions, Bullers, Grey-headed and Salvins Albatrosses that were on the water, or flying about the ship. Other species included seven endemic Snares Crested Penguin (which lays two eggs but only one is incubated) and a New Zealand Fur Seal was also seen.
We also had an excellent view of the flora with the grey-green tree Olearia lyalli prominent and to a lesser extent, the darker Brachyglottis stewartiae, the coastal hebe koromuka (Hebe elliptica) and areas of tussock of which there are two species and 6 ferns, yet surprisingly, there are only 21 vascular plants, of which 19 are endemic to The Snares. The book New Zealand’s subantarctic islands published by DOC, is the most recent published field guide.
One guest who has a good knowledge of sea birds, is Tony, a retired Royal Navy Destroyer Commander and Submariner and together with our expedition staff, we extended our knowledge of birds on the Southern Ocean.
From the main Snares group we proceeded to the Western Chain with deeply fragmented surface areas. This was a fantastic opportunity and many of us including Samuel, Lisle and David, had not been in such close proximity to the five islands previously. We first passed Vancouver Rock, which is marked on the chart as being awash in medium to heavy seas. Today this was very much the situation, as the rock above water was continually drenched by the swell, seen sloshing up the sides. In height Vancouver Rock appeared to be only 3m above the surface.
The main islands all have Maori names – Rima, Wha, Toru, Rua, Tahi (5,4,3,2,1). Extensive patches of guano well above the sea indicated the presence of hundreds of Salvins Albatross nests, of which 60,000 pairs are on the Western Chain. This species is distinguished by having no yellow on the beak, also breeds on the Bounty Islands; about 10 degrees of longitude to the east.
By 10:30 a.m. we were on a course of 182o and making good progress on our journey towards Subantarctic Auckland Islands which were visited by early expeditions going to and from Antarctica, in the 19th and 20th centuries.
We had a quiet rest before lunch at 1 p.m. which included a wonderful salmon and calamari chowder, new bread and butter rice and lettuce salad and fresh cookies. The sun came out and the sea had calmed a lot which made our travel more comfortable.
At 2:30 p.m. Samuel gave us an excellent presentation as an introduction to the Auckland Islands, where we are expected to arrive about 10:30 p.m. this evening. The islands are 460 km from Bluff and from here we will have 825 km before Macquarie Island. Samuel began with an introduction to the geology and geography of the islands with the highest point is 700m and made reference to the two volcanoes with the youngest the Carnley Volcano and the Ross Volcano close to Disappointment Island, followed by a later eruption from the Ross. Out pourings of basalt lava are interspersed with explosive scoria and ash deposits.
The islands were discovered by Abraham Bristow in 1806 and named by him for William Eden (Lord Auckland). We then learned of the numerous ship wrecks, resulting from the incorrect placement of the islands on the first map, with them 64 km further south from the true position.
A short briefing for our landing on Enderby Island followed and at 4 p.m. we focused on the important biosecurity measures in preparation for landing, to ensure that we do not transport any unwanted seeds or invertebrates to the islands. There are already an astonishing 108 species of non-native vascular plants and 72 species of non-native invertebrates. Conditions appear favorable for the landing with a south westerly wind and a temperature of 8-10oC.
With the biosecurity attended to, we began assembling our field kit in preparation for an exciting day ashore tomorrow. The remainder of the day was spent quietly and a further excellent meal of roast sirloin or chicken was enjoyed followed by a good old bread and butter pudding for dinner
Day 4: Monday 14 January
Enderby Island in the Aucklands
Noon position: 50o 30.425’ S; 166o 16.703 E
Air temperature: 13 oC Water temperature: 12 oC
We had an excellent sleep last night. According to the chart, the anchor was dropped about midnight in 20m of water.
This morning we rose to a balmy 10oC, a clearing sky with light stratus and strato-cumulus cloud, and the sun beginning to break through, Combined with a light breeze this had the surface of the water at Port Ross shimmering. From our portholes there is a superb view of the islands about us, which we will become familiar with over the next few hours.
The visible island flora indicated that along the coast, there was tussock and hebe then Southern Rataand Dracophyllum. The soft early morning light on the columnar basalt cliffs on Enderby Island, can be only described as exceptional and text-book geology, while on the beach at Sandy Bay one could see numerous large male sea lions. A few Yellow-eyed Penguins were seen from the ship.
At 8:15 a.m. our lunch was ready and the Zodiac operation began at 9 a.m. with landing on a kelp-covered hard rock platform. We headed to the boat shed built by crew of the Stella in January 1888 and here most of us changed from our gumboots and then set out as one group along the board walk to the far side of the island, where we arrived at 10:20 a.m. The nearby fingerpost was erected about 1888 although should be pointing in the direction of the castaway depot.
Just a light north-west was blowing, the sun was shining and conditions were ideal for obtaining images of many flowering plants. Purple and white gentians, Southern Rata and Cassinia with small white flowers attracted our attention and we were lucky to see a large Yellow-eyed Penguin chick, in brown down under some shrubs. We moved quietly past the chick so as to not disturb it. A further penguin and chick were nearby and a few Southern Royal Albatross were flying, while several birds on the nest were seen in the distance.
Once we had assembled on the board walk, the long walkers set out on their hike around the east end of the island. The remaining 17 of us along with three staff then walked about 100m along the cliff top, to view three nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. We were rewarded with an excellent photo opportunity including some spectacular fly pasts.
A further 100m or so saw us walk over a grassy meadow and past a large patch of Anisotome that had mostly completed flowering. The leaf when crushed had a distinct aroma of the common vegetable carrot or celery, and the spongy ground was likely to be water-logged peat with deposits up to 3 m thick and about 12,000 years old. Agnes led us to a vantage point where we could view a waterfall at the head of a deep chasm in the side of the island. From here we also had a good view of the geology and the Derry Castle reef.
We now headed back to the board walk with most of us in the short walk group, returning to the grassy sward along the back of the Sandy Bay beach. Some time was spent here observing the antics of large “beach master” New Zealand (Hookers) Sea Lions, as they prevented younger males from entering the harems. Pups both small and large were clustered in the vicinity of the females and both male and females were often seen using their fore flippers to flick sand over the back, in an effort to cool the body.
Most of us enjoyed our lunch here and later Lisle and Agnes took most of us for a walk to a lake where we observed a pair of Auckland Island Teal and then returned via a low hill and through a sandy area excavated by archaeologists a few years ago. The earliest Maori occupation was radiocarbon dated at about the 14th Century.
In the vicinity of the boatshed, a few of us saw 3 Teal swimming near kelp and later in the kelp on the rock platform. Other birds seen included 2 Tui, a few Tomtits, Blackbird and two Red-crowned Parakeets (Kakariki), Auckland Islands Shags, Pipets, Kelp Gulls, Red-billed Gulls, 2 giant petrels, Skuas and of course, Bellbirds. These sightings were similar to those made previously, although more Kakariki were seen. Further away a small yacht was observed although the name of the vessel was not established.
David and Agnes took 10 of us to view the small Stella castaway depot hut erected by the crew of theStella and some of us saw a pathetic remnant from an iron stove on the site of a farm house. Some of us enjoyed meeting two of the five-member DOC party that is involved in census of sea lion pups, with the latest figure c.280. One of the staff mentioned pup numbers have been dropping off each year and that some of the adult deaths can be attributed to fighting and attacks by sharks with at least one sea lion seen with three deep wounds on one side.
The long walkers had a long but tiring day with Rene from Switzerland finishing “First” and Xuyuan from China “Second”. We had excellent sightings of various bird species. These included 26 Yellow-eye Penguins of which 8 were seen earlier in the day on the beach; 12 Red-fronted Parakeets including one flock of 6 birds; 4 Auckland Islands Snipe; 11 Auckland Islands Teal and 30+ New Zealand Fur Seals. For the long-walkers, it was interesting to see Shag nests made of mud and others of dried grass and twigs. A large fishing buoy was seen in a cave and it is clear that some of us were over excited during the walk, as Ross lost his mobile phone and several fittings for cameras were found.
We had a very enjoyable time in the bar and the usual high standard evening meal was plated which included excellent pork snitzel and the desert was very moreish.
At 8:30 p.m. many of us participated in a brief landing on the boulder beach at Erebus Cove. This was near the site of the Hardwicke Settlement. Once ashore and accompanied by squadrons of sandflies, David explained the history of the site after which we then split into two groups. The first group visited the Cemetery then changed over to an evening walk through the beautiful regeneration Rata forest to view the Victoria Tree. (1875) and the other group visited the Cemetery. Of interest was some New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax ?) that ptrobably arrived with sealers who found the fiber useful for lashings, boot laces, mats and baskets.
Two old buildings were the castaway depot (now in ruins) placed by the Government steamer Hinemoa in 1906 and by Erebus Creek, the boatshed which is dated to c.1891. As we proceeded up the boardwalk to the Cemetery, recent rooting by feral pigs was seen and will be targeted by the eradication programme.
There were some fine examples of purple orchids on stalks about 10cm long, beside the boardwalk and in the Cemetery, where someone had placed a small spray of presumably flowers by Mahoney’s headstone. One could not help but be moved by the poignant inscriptions on some of the grave markers. Next of kin in England never saw, little Isabella Younger, who was a mere three months old when she died. Her father must have been distraught when he used a millstone to be his daughter’s headstone.
Is it any wonder that the residents of Hardwick who were fed up with the alcoholism, thieving, and the climate, eventually decided that they had had enough and left? In the end the eventual population was about 300 with 5 weddings, 16 births and 2 infant deaths registered. And so after 2 years and 9 months the venture folded and the buildings were dismantled or removed.
The regenerated Rata forest is about 170 years old and there must have been a beautiful view of Port Ross from houses at Hardwicke. We stopped briefly beside the collapsed chimney of the Monkton farm house (1874) and aside track went to the site of four houses no longer there. Traces of the road around the bay were recognized by beach stones that had been placed by Maori who made the road and were paid with promissory bank notes.
Once at the Victoria Tree, a very old Rata, we took photos and pondered over the inscription. Originally the tree was visible from off-shore and a marker pole held a container for messages. A further 125 m further along was the start of the main village with the site of the Governor’s House and Administration Building, although there is very little to be seen now.
By now the light was fading and we headed back to the landing. It was foggy, light rain was falling and getting dark. It had been a good excursion that rounded off the day nicely. By 10 p.m. we were back on board and looking forward to a good night’s rest.
© Y. Mishina
© A. Breniere
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
Day 5: Tuesday 15 January
Auckland Island – Tagua WWII site and wreck of the Grafton in North Arm.
Noon position: 50o 48.709’S; 166o 04.659’ E
Air temperature: 11oC Water temperature: 12oC
This morning the anchor was lifted and the engine started at 6 a.m. After yesterday it was not such a good morning today with wind, rain and scattered cloud, as we made or way down the east coast of Auckland Island, towards Carnley Harbour on a calm sea.
By 7:30 a.m. the day had brightened, the sun was lighting up the sea and we had breakfast at 8 a.m. Half an hour later, we were entering Carnley Harbour with each side, a dramatic landscape with evidence of past glaciation in the Pleistocene when massive glaciers emanated from large snow fields, to form classical u-shaped glacial troughs. Glaciers retreated about 15,000 years ago and landforms are now well weathered. Vegetation consists of Southern Rata, Dracophyllum, Hebes and tussock grass.
The Spirit of Enderby anchored in about 40 m of water in Tagua Bay and by mid-morning we were back in the Zodiacs with on this occasion a visit to the Cape Expedition WW2 station known as Tagua II.
We landed on a beach of basalt boulders with evidence of recent pig rooting and interesting marine specimens such as the shells of two crabs, one with large mandibles and several molluscs including the large blue mussel, small paua (Haliotis virginia) also found in New Zealand, cockles, limpets and snails. From the beach we became contortionists as we climbed up a small rocky gulch and then over or under a tree to a step that saw us on reasonably level ground with of interest, two very old and large Rata trees with multiple trunks.
We generally followed a cut track with the occasional tag and although no pigs were seen, saw further rooting. It was a very enjoyable walk through open Rata and Dracophyllum, ferns, large mounds of moss and only one short muddy section. After a little climbing we reached the derelict Tagua 2 station building.
David gave us a brief on-site lecture of the main components which included, 2 bunk-rooms with a common room in the middle and opposite with sliding windows, a kitchen with a Shacklock range, collapsed bench and sink and shelves with tins that once held such products as tea and tapioca.
From here we climbed to a levelled area where the observation hut restored by DOC was located. During occupancy of the station, a telephone link connected with the main hut and the lookout was manned on a roster system. No enemy shipping or aircraft was reported and much useful time was spent by the five men surveying and undertaking observations in science. Of interest was Lycopodium with drooping stems and nice examples of the green orchid. At Ranui, further north in the Auckland Islands, an 11 verse poem titled “Fifty South” by Jonnie Jones is in the hut book.
We had an excellent morning and at 12:20 p.m. the anchor was lifted and we proceeded to the North Arm of Carnley Harbour. Lunch was brought forward to 12:30 p.m. and with the tide approaching low we were able to make a brief visit to the site of the Grafton wreck. It was a rare opportunity to visit a site, which is probably the greatest survival story in New Zealand castaway history.
Rodney Russ himself a sea faring man, considers the epic open boat voyage to Stewart Island by Captain Musgrave, Raynal and one other man, which led to the successful rescue of the two men left on Auckland Island, can be compared to Captain Bligh and the Bounty and of Captain Worsley during Shackleton’s expedition in 1914-16. Musgraves rescue began on 19 July and the rescue was affected 7 weeks later.
Conditions were perfect and we were shuttled ashore where David gave an on-site lecture on the history of the Grafton wreck on 3 January 1864, about the hut named “Epigwaitt” (house by the sea) which became home for five men and of the voyage in a ships boat named Rescue that reached Stewart Island and led to the two men left behind, being collected by the Flying Scud from Invercargill. The key to survival was good management by Thomas Musgrave and François Raynal, sufficient food, warm accommodation and plenty of fuel.
While at the locality, photos were obtained of a part of the wreck, the collapsed walls of the “Epigwaitt” hut, one of the areas cleared for a path by the men, of cut Rata stumps and of the slip cleared for when the Rescue outfitted for the voyage was launched.
We were underway by 3:10 p.m. and departed the North Arm of Carnley Harbour. Two rafts of Sooty Shearwaters were about the ship as we left Carnley Harbour at 4 p.m. As we rounded the end of Adams Island albatrosses were seen and soon the Auckland Islands will be behind us as we head in a south-west direction towards Macquarie Island.
With a last glimpse of the high, rugged cliffs of Adams Island and thoughts of early seafarers on the Grafton and other ships lost in stormy seas, we left the Aucklands and headed south, having not established the name of the small yacht or of a large fishing boat sighted.
At 5:15 p.m. we assembled in the lecture room for the de-brief on our Auckland Islands experience. Samuel spoke on our activities and was followed by Lisle who commented on some of the birds seen. One interesting point concerned the Pipit which often walked ahead of us on the boardwalk. It seems the species nests under the boardwalk and was basically leading us away from the nest. Agnes then commented on many of the plants we had seen and David spoke about Hardwicke and suggested books to be read.
The bar opened at 6 p.m. and the evening meal was again beautifully presented with a choice of John Dory fish or venison. Both meals were first class.
We then retired for the day with 350 nm (650 km) until, we reach Macquarie Island tomorrow evening.
© L. Gwynn
© L. Gwynn
Day 6: Wednesday 16 January
Southern Ocean. Enroute to Macquarie Island
Noon position: 53o 06.383’S; 161o 51.982’ E
Air temperature: 9oC Water temperature: 10oC
This morning the day began with fog and a temperature of 9.4oC. We have made good progress at a speed of 10.6 knots on a course of 232o and with very deep water of 3800m. At 7:45 a.m. we were at 52o35.913’S 162o53.547’E and the state of sea was moderately rough with a few “grey beards”.
Our day began with a lecture on birds at 9:45 a.m. by Lisle. There are many books on seabirds and lectures are frequently given to guests on ships. Today however, we were treated to one of the best lectures when it comes down to identification. In Sea birds of the Southern Ocean, Lisle used an excellent selection of photographs along with for some species, comparative images.
Most of us will now have a better idea for some groups of bird groups such as the albatrosses, molymawks, petrels, shearwaters, skuas, penguins and other species. However, prions as even professional ornithologists have found, are not always easy to identify. They look similar and have an erratic flying pattern.
Tony who has studied birds around the world mentioned, is there a need to split species to sub-species. In some of these birds, there are so many subtle differences in colouration about the head, the beak, the tail or leading edge of the wing etc.
Our next visit to the lecture room was at 11:30 a.m. to view a 30 minute documentary screened by Yulia, on the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project. Three species were targeted and the work was undertaken in winter so as to minimize the effect on bird life. A GPS system used for aerial spraying proved effective along with ground based parties working from 10 huts (including 5 new) with 6 dog handlers using Labradors and Springer spaniels. The work was effective and after a year, the island found to be pest free. Since then there has been a dramatic recovery of vegetation.
After an excellent lunch all participated in Quarantine measures to ensure that nothing from Auckland Islands could be transferred during our landing.
At 4:30 p.m. we again returned to the lecture room where David gave his first lecture in history. This was titled “Lost in the Mists” and focused on Douglas Mawson’s first expedition. A wireless station was placed on Macquarie Island to provide a link from Antarctica to Australia which would relay weather and other expedition reports.
The party was not a happy one and there were frequent personality problems although the relationship with the sealing parties was good. The wireless station proved effective and news of the death of two from Mawson’s party in Antarctica was relayed to Australia and the Macquarie and Antarctic parties also learned from Wellington, of the death of Scott and his four men on their return from the South Pole.
This was the first time radio was used by an Antarctic expedition. There was also reference to early sealing activities and the establishment after Mawson’s expedition, of Australia’s first station of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) which opened on 25 March 1948.
By early evening the sea was relatively calm as we plugged along at 11 knots toward Macquarie which we expect to reach about 1 a.m.and anchor in Buckles Bay.
We had a convivial evening in the bar and an excellent dinner of fillet steak or crispy salmon. Beautiful travel conditions and this evening Lisle held his first bird identification meeting, when species sighted so far were also discussed.
Day 7: Thursday 17 January
Noon position: 54o 34.033’ S; 158o 56.039’ E
Air temperature: 7oC Water temperature: 6oC
We dropped anchor in Buckles Bay at Macca, as Macquarie Island is affectionately known to the Australian “expeditioners”, about 1 a.m. at 54o.30.339’S 158o56.896’E with 23m of water below the ship. It was good to have a comfortable night again.
This morning arose to a calm sea with several beautiful King Penguins swimming about the ship. It was great to see the speed they generate when below the surface and the trail of bubbles left behind. It was noticeably cold last night and at 7:10 a.m. the air temperature outside was 7.5oC. The sky had 7/8ths strato-cumulus and there were good views to the south and of Mawson’s Wireless Hill (100m) behind the Australia Antarctic Division (AAD) Station and along the Isthmus to Perseverence Bluff (180m) and Razorback.
Notes on “Macca”
Macquarie Island lies north-south on the Macquarie Ridge, along the eastern margin of the tectonic plate boundary, between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate and is the highest point on the Ridge. It probably emerged 600-700,000 years ago, rising to 2.5 km in elevation; initially as islets then as an archipelago. The island is still rising and the last glacial event 18,000 years ago had a major effect on the landscape. Earthquakes are not uncommon with one measuring 8.1 on the Richter magnitude scale on 23 December 2004 and another of 7.1 on 12 April. Macquarie has a long human history. This began as we have heard, with the discovery by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh in July 1810 and sealing began soon afterwards. It was then estimated that there were between 200,000-240,000 seals and in the first 18 months 120,000 skins were taken. Between the years 1810-1819 there are a staggering 207 recorded ship visits. Macquarie Island has an approximate length of 34km, a width of 5km, an area of 128km2, an annual rainfall of 905mm and the western coast is particularly rugged. On Macquarie the rocks are 10-30 myr (million year) basalts which include pillow lavas formed when super-heated lava is cooled very quickly under the ocean. These rocks are 2-12 myrs old and some can be seen at Sandy Bay. On the plateau in the north are ultramafic rocks formed at least 6km below the earth’s surface.
The island is very important geologically, as it is the only known area of oceanic crust in relatively pristine condition and which is independent of any other continent. The World Heritage rating was based on this geology. Along the coast rock “stacks” are remnants of a former coastline. Mt Hamilton the highest point (470m) is named for Harold Hamilton of Mawson’s 1911-13 party, and in the north the Bishop and Clerke Islets, mark the southernmost point of Australia (including the islands). These are among the oldest rocks recorded for the Earth’s mantle.
The island is rich in bird life with Antarctic and Fairy prions, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels; Grey, White-headed and Blue Petrels, Macquarie Island shags (Blue-eyed cormorants), Light-mantled Sooty, Wanderer and Grey-headed Albatrosses and Northern (Brown) Skuas. Insects are abundant, however, in contrast there are only 45 vascular plants (have vessels conducting fluids – water plus mineral salts and food) of which three plants are endemic. Because the island is too far south, there are no trees or shrubs and the flora is dominated with megaherbs, tussock grasses and ferns. Prominent plants are the Tussock grass (Poa foliosa); Macquarie Island “cabbage” (Stilbocarpis polaris) and the Macquarie Island daisy (Pleurophyllum hookeri).
Breakfast was at 8 a.m. (the Station time is 2 hours behind) and at 8:30 a.m. the Rangers were collected. This was followed by a briefing in the lecture theatre for the day’s activities and the pleasure of meeting Chris the Senior Ranger and a veteran of many times at Macquarie Island, a second ranger Luke, with both from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service Hobart and Annette, the station Chef. Samuel gave us an excellent introduction to the island and then introduced Chris who welcomed us to Macquarie and spoke briefly on the eradication programme and what the island is now like. It is he said “a very special place”. We were also told about plans for the new station, which will have a smaller “footprint” and this season engineers, a design team and consultants, are visiting and an environmental impact report is being compiled. An undercover interpretation area will be part of the new station.
During this time, the ship was relocated to Sandy Bay, with our landing beginning at 9:30 a.m. This is a wonderful place so rich with wildlife, and a unique experience for anyone fortunate to visit. The bay has a long human history which includes sealers, the site of an early hut also of science undertaken over the decades.
For ourselves on this beautiful morning with a light breeze and scattered cloud, the main attractions were the Royal and King Penguin colonies, the Elephant Seals and other bird life including giant petrels, Antarctic Terns, Brown Skuas and endemic Macquarie Island Shags. We had about 500m of beach we could traverse during our visit.
Chris gave us a short briefing on landing and we were then able to enjoy our visit. Many of us began with a walk to the Royal colony, passing grunting Elephant Seals along the way. There is an excellent wide board walk and we could not get over the extent of the lush vegetation since the eradication of rabbits. This included Poa, Stilbocarpa polaris, Pleurophyllum criniferum and Bidi Bid, Acaena minor. Small staked sites indicated where growth is being monitored.
Two eggs are laid by the Royal Penguins and along the boardwalk were broken eggs, where they had been dropped and eaten by Skuas. A Skua was also seen evading biosecurity, with Bidi Bids attached to its plumage. We also noticed a scattering of markers at the site of rat traps that have been placed as part of an on-going monitoring process.
About 14,000 airs inhabit the Royal Penguin colony and after 35 days of incubation, chicks began arriving on 1 December. Now in brown down they were developing fast. Some of the adults were courting and in March-April, they will return from the sea to moult. We soon discovered that Lisle’s description of the Royal Penguin colony - “Like a Cornish pub on a Friday night” was absolutely correct.
Returning from the colony, numerous King Penguins of which many were moulting, were seen standing in Finches Creek and although we saw large numbers along the beach, the main concentration was at the north end, where birds were sitting on eggs and a few young chicks. This was of great interest to Xuyuan who remarked “Baby - one, at king base. Very nice”. And how true, as we all enjoyed these beautiful and interesting penguins.
We enjoyed seeing the Kings at close quarters (taking care to remain outside a rope) with the nesters occasionally revealing the egg or a chick. Luke from the Wildlife Service was very helpful with his answering of our many questions and we certainly learned a great deal about the beautiful species.
Some of us spent time perched on nearby rocks, enjoying the wonderful site of the birds walking past, sleeping or standing prone and putting up with their moulting process with at the start, their bright orange neck patches beginning to fade. This is not a good time for the birds and we were careful to keep away from them. Occasionally one would emit a call and the high pitched staccato sound was quite different to that from the colony.
About the bay time was spent with the Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonine). Some of these were huge and showed little respect for their mates as they launched themselves with body fat rippling, on top or between others then lay perhaps flicking wet sand over the back to cool their body and perhaps serve as a sun screen. Younger animals occasionally reared up sparing and biting each other, followed by chest contact and grunting. It was however, the noise from the proboscis-like nose of old bulls, that will contribute to our memory of these mammals.
We certainly had a morning to remember. Lisle had seen a pod with at least three Orca Whales, near the ship and by 1:30 p.m. we were back on board. The anchor was lifted at 2 p.m. and during lunch, the ship relocated to Buckles Bay, for our landing and a tour of the Australian Station. Our new ship position was 54o30.374’S 158o56.884’E.
AAD Station Buckles Bay
With the beautiful still afternoon, little cloud and bright sunshine, we were soon ferried to where the Australian Lark boats deliver from the resupply ship, supplies via a ramp. About us were moulting Elephant Seals which had a dislike to our presence and are declining, with the reason for this yet to be established. Many of these large creatures with their bright pink mouth and rather large canines were slumped in hollows amongst tall grass, either side of a path. We took care to maintain our distance and moved by quickly.
We were split into four groups each with a Station staff member and one of our own staff then given a very informative tour of the surroundings and the Station. This began with a walk along a long roadway past the site of the 1911 sealers hut, then up an excellent board walk to the top of Razorback. From here we had a fine view of the Isthmus, the Station, of Wireless Hill and the Judge and Clerke Islets.
At present there are 17 expeditioners at the Station although this can grow to 49 beds. All staff travel to and from the station by sea, on the icebreaker Aurora Australis, soon to be replaced with a new ship. The Summer Leader is Alison, who is also a geologist.
From Razorback we walked through an opening to the coast at Hasselborough Bay. This was very interesting and our guides as we neared the Station discussed the many interesting science programme. These include magnetism, meteorology by the Bureau of Meteorology, GPS monitoring of the islands position and ARPANZA which undertakes monitoring for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. There is also detection equipment that registers any nuclear fallout in the air that may result from nuclear explosions. While at the Station, Samuel was able to down-load the latest ice chart for the Ross Sea.
Of interest was a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross that were nesting near a ridge. Also seen was a Redpoll which is not present, but originated from the mainland. In 1912 Harold Hamilton noted the presence of these birds. Walking along the mixed sand and shingle west beach, there was masses of dried kelp thrown up during violent storms with seas occasionally washing right over the Isthmus.
Of interest were numerous large bones scattered along the beach, from the dead Sperm Whale that washed ashore early last year. These included two massive scapulae, ribs, vertebrae and an enormous upper jaw bone. All had been redistributed along the beach and weathered in the process. The skeleton of a large male Elephant Seal was also present. Parts of a large spider crab, small snail shells, moulting Gentoo Penguins and endemic Macquarie Island Cormorants, were seen gathering nest material. Other birds included a White-morph Giant Petrel, Antarctic Terns and Kelp gulls.
A bronze plaque commemorating the Division’s supply ship Nella Dan, that was holed on rock nearby and later scuttled in deep water and an anchor was of interest, along with bolt holes in a rock where Mawson’s 1911-13 party had their meteorological instruments attached.
We were shown a number of buildings including the Fire Hut and one of the original Nissen huts of the late 1940s and soon arrived at the main mess building. According to a notice, we then entered Ye Olde Sealers Inn with displayed on a wall, three sections from early sealers’ clay pipes and a pair of leather shoes; all from the early-mid 1800s. The front of the bar had wooden oil barrel staves from the days of the “oilers” and a very early anchor was on a wall. From the Bauer Bay hut was a telephone, found in sand hills near the hut in 1991, c commemorative plaques, photos of all the winter-over teams and a plaque with a dried rabbit skin as a reminder of the pest present for decades.
We enjoyed in the The Sealers Café (mess hall) tea or coffee, and superb fresh carrot cake and chocolate cake. Yulia stamped our passports and the post office attended to our cards, which were also sold at the bar. One person is designated “kitchen helper” an assists all day and the Chef has Monday and Sunday off. The Station also has a hydroponics facility run by the staff, with UV lighting and currently produces fresh rocket lettuces, cherry tomatoes (almost ready), cucumber, basil and coriander.
Soon it was time to go and we headed back down the road after exceptional hospitality. Many of us saw the fabulous, catalogued artefact collection, which included a box of teeth from the Sperm Whale, dray wheels, try pots and wood from the Clyde wrecked a few months before Mawson’s party arrived and salvaged a water tank for their hut. Some of us saw one of the three helium balloon launches with a radiosonde and sent aloft each day. A further balloon with instrument to record ozone is also released as required.
On the way back to the ship, we had good viewing of Rockhopper Penguins on a small hill near the Station and it was easy to see how these penguins are so named. We could not get over the clarity of the water and one could observe large kelp plants attached by their holdfast to the rocky bottom.
Back on board, the bar opened at 7 p.m. and after we had a superb meal of soup, either monkfish or chicken and a very tasty pear desert. A question time was held in the bar/library and Samuel and Agnes then took Chris and Luke back to the Station.
This will certainly be a day to remember for the expedition. But wait! We have not finished with the Subantarctic as Campbell Island is still to come along with various per-Antarctic islands, around the Continent.
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
© L. Gwynn
Day 8: Friday 18 January
Macquarie Island. Southern Ocean
Noon position: 54o38.817’ S; 159o55.664’ E
Air temperature: 8.1oC Water temperature: 7oC
We had a very comfortable night at anchor and this morning the sea has a roughened surface with a few white caps. We lifted the anchor at 8:30 a.m. and began our journey to Lusitania Bay, about an hour further south. This morning it was foggy, a 22 knot north wind was blowing and the air temperature was 6.8oC.
According to the late Dr John Cumpston, Lusitania Bay was named by Captain Edwin McDonald of the ketch Gratitude in 1898, for the 30 ton sealers supply ship Lusitania (Captn. John Langdon RN 1822). The charts also show Lusitania’s Anchorage and Lusitania Road. Nothing to do with the ship sunk off Ireland by a submarine in WW1.
The beach here has a huge King Penguin colony that was exploited for oil by Joseph Hatch’s parties. In the midst of an estimated, 200,000 breeding pairs of penguins are three coal fired, steam powered digesters (one fallen over), when 2,000 penguins could be processed at one time, each bird yielding 500ml of oil. In contrast elephant seal oil which varied according to the carcass, yielded 60 gallons to 750kgs. After 12 hours the water was run off, the oil decanted into settling tanks and the refuse was run out to sea.
Men worked in 12 hour shifts in a shed they termed the “hall of smells” and could process 2,700 penguins a day. However, the King Penguin oil was not of good quality with blood content in the oil making the product ferment. By 1894 the population was greatly reduced and by now attention was turned to the Royal Penguins at the Nuggets.
By 9:50 a.m. we were in Lusitania Bay. It was foggy and the cloud base along the island was down to perhaps 200m. By now the wind was gusting to 35 knots from the north, with spells of rain and the air temperature 8oC.
Because of the conditions it would have been miserable in the Zodiacs and the swell of about a meter would have made use of the gangway difficult for the driver, crewman and us. Instead Captain Dimitry, kindly managed several circuits off the penguin colony and we obtained good photographs of this and of the steam digesters. Further north along the coats was an interesting smaller colony of King Penguins gathered in the murk as a circle on the hillside, with a few other birds within the circle. David suggested, they were perhaps not penguins but mushrooms.
Samuel spoke about the penguins which Lisle thought were at least 500,000 birds although without vertical air photographs, the actual figure would be difficult to establish. We had excellent viewing of penguins swimming or porpoising (by Royals) near the ship. Small groups swam with their head erect as they glanced around at the ship, occasionally called and then submerged. Other birds included a pair of Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, a Northern Giant Petrel and diving petrel.
It had been an interesting morning and the conditions did not deter our gallant Chef Becca, from being the only person observed on the bow with her binoculars, as she enjoyed seeing the Lusitania Bay colony.
By 11 a.m. we had competed our circuits, enjoyed a good view of the briefly sunlit greenish-yellow hillsides, the rocky outcrops, before moving north towards Buckles Bay. We continued up the east side of Macquarie Island, had an excellent view of a Black-brow Albatross and at 12:05 p.m. turned the ship retracing our course while we had lunch. At times the wind was gusting to 40 knots, it was raining and the sea was rough with white horses or grey beards as the old mariners called them.
After lunch the second engine was engaged at 1:20 p.m. and when near the south end of the island, we changed course to 150-157o for Antarctica. The sea was a little rough although should be much the same for the next two days, and near Hurd Point a Sperm Whale was seen. It is now SOUTHWARD HO!
As always, the afternoon passed by quickly. At 3 p.m. We saw an excellent documentary titled “Beyond the Roaring Forties” on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Having now seen the islands this was even more enjoyable.
With the wind dropping, the sea was calming down and we were experiencing what Tony termed, a quartering sea which was striking the ship either side at the stern. At 5:15 p.m. we attended an excellent lecture by Agnes on “Penguins”. We have already seen five species (Yellow-eyed, King, Gentoo, Royal, Rockhopper) and can expect to see a further two or possibly three species (Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap).
There was a good attendance in the bar and a further outstanding meal produced by our chefs. This was an excellent way to finish off the day as we gradually work our way south to Antarctica. At 8:30 p.m. Samuel advised we can expect the wind to drop further and to have at least another two days of calm conditions.
Day 9: Saturday 19 January
Noon position: 58o 22.483’ S; 162o 29.951’ E
Air temperature: 3oC Water temperature: 5oC
Last evening it was noticeably cooler but we had a comfortable night and the second engine was engaged at 7 a.m. This morning we had a fairly flat sea, the ship rolling a little with a 14 knot wind and good progress should continue. At 7:15 a.m. we were at 57o 39.078’S 161o45.157’E and doing 11.1 knots on our course of 150.5o in a SSE direction, The air temperature a cool 3.3oC and water 6.6o with a depth of 4668m. There was no wildlife at all and the sky was mostly cloudy with 7/8 stratus and weak sun.
We had a busy yet relaxing morning. At 10.a.m. David did his second lecture which on this occasion, focused on Exploration of the Ross Sea from 1841-1930.
Before lunch we were issued with our handsome blue, lined Antarctic jackets that will keep us warm when in the south. For lunch we had an outstanding and popular British dish of bangers and mash, complete with delicious onion in gravy and an excellent slice of banana cake to finish lunch off.
At 2:30 p.m. we watched the excellent documentary “The Silence Calling”. This covered the first 50 years history of Australia’s Antarctic Expeditions, including construction of the first station on Macquarie Island, the station on Heard Island, followed by Mawson, Davis the most southern station and Casey which followed abandonment of the US Wilkes Station that was donated to Australia.
We were almost near the close of the documentary when advised marine mammals had been sighted. This lead to vacating seats and after a brief look with the creatures having by now left the film resumed. The mammals seen were c.15 (Samuel) Pilot Whales and our position at 3:35 p.m. was 58o57.973 S and 163o 07.152’E. By now we were over 4115m of water, the water temperature had risen to 6.9oC and the air temperature had fallen to 2.2oC.
At 4:30 p.m. Lisle gave a superb presentation, “A Guide to Expedition Photography” using examples of his professional images taken around the world. This began with what is expedition photography? He said that it can be summed up with places, people, fauna and flora and we need to tell a story with our photography. Lisle said lighting is most important and his images had examples of lighting behind one.
For us in Antarctica, the “golden hours” are 10 p.m.-3 a.m. and an example of this was an outstanding image featuring the face of the Ross Ice Shelf, with glorious colour while above was a superb sunset. In his closing remarks, Lisle said we need to adapt to the situation. It is also useful to stay low and much good photography can be done from the Zodiac.
By early evening the sea was still calm and a further comfortable night is ensured. Samuel mentioned earlier that a low is hovering over the Ross Sea and may not dissipate for a few days. The bar opened at 6 p.m. and dinner this evening included beautifully cooked Blue cod and Lamb rump.
Day 10: Sunday 20 January
Southern Ocean. First iceberg
Noon position: 62o 1.851’ S; 166 o 43.830’ E
Air temperature: 1.2oC Water temperature: 4 oC
This morning as we near our objective, it was much colder with the temperature at 7.15 a.m. 1oC, and with a 19 knot breeze, the state of sea was good. We made good progress in the night and were now at 61o27.634’S 165o51.532’E, with the Balleny Islands away to the south-west of us.
The spectacular view of a lone Wandering Albatross was seen gliding over the waves and a small flock of 4-6 Wilson’s Storm-Petrels was noticed by Rene.
Much of the morning was spent in the lecture room. This began with a mandatory briefing by Samuel in three parts – Introduction to the Ross Dependency, IAATO Guidelines and the Polar Code.
At 11 a.m. David gave a lecture that covered Part 2 of his Introduction to Exploration of the Ross Sea. This mainly concerned two eminent American explorers Admiral Richard Byrd who had served in WW1 and son of a millionaire Lincoln Ellsworth who on a 4th attempt, completed the first crossing of Antarctica by air from Dundee Island off the Antarctic Peninsula to the Bay of Whales, although near the end they ran out of fuel and walked the rest of the way.
The day continued to be fine with patches of blue sky amongst scattered strato-cumulus cloud and some higher cirrus with mares’ tails, was indicative of the leading edge for a Front. Earlier there was a spell of fog and with it, a short burst of snow. There were also a few birds around. They included Campbell’s Albatross (one was seen yesterday), Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross’s, a Fairy Prion, Mottled and White-headed Petrels.
Yulia put on the Notice board, rules for the Iceberg Sighting Competition. The Rules were quite simple. No staff or crew or bribes; it must be at least the size of a London double decker bus above water and seen by the eye and no radar.
At 2:30 p.m. the Sea Shop opened in the Port Dining Room and this was an excellent chance to obtain mementoes for the expedition. There was a good selection of books which covered the Subantarctic and Antarctic along with apparel and nick knacks.
We returned to the lecture room at 4 p.m. This was for a presentation by Samuel on ice charts and wind maps. The WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) classification was explained. 1 = low ice in one area; 1-3 very open ice; 4-6 open ice; 7-10 clos ice; 9-10/10 very close ice; 10/10 fast ice. This uses different colours and later, more up to date technology will also show the thickness of ice. Satellites can only record icebergs of 60km2 and with current wind, the ice is moving about 25km/day.
Using satellite imagery for the period 26 October-16 January, we had nicely explained the changes in ice around Antarctica and for the Ross Sea. Weather maps were now explained and a site zyGrib.7.0.0 provides maps with both direction and strength by way of symbols in knots. Following discussion with the Captain, Samuel said we will try and go around the stationary Low Pressure system at present near the entrance to the Ross Sea. We can expect heavy seas, ice and grey beards (white horses).
At 1 p.m. today we changed course to 160o so as to go around the weather system which is moving in a clockwise manner toward the east. We will now head south into the Ross Sea towards McMurdo Sound and see what we can do.
During Samuel’s lecture the first iceberg, a rather weathered example was seen off the Starboard bow. The winner was Terry who entered a time of 4:30 p.m. and the position was 63o05.126’S 168o04.490’E. The water temperature was 3.3oC. A small Antarctic Prion and one or two other species were seen about the berg.
By 6 p.m. we were doing a circuit of the berg which was thought by the Captain to be 25m higher than the ship which at the bridge is 10m above sea level. The berg was quite likely, a remnant from a tabular berg and now tilted. The subtle blue that for most of us, we had not seen before, will long be remembered. Sea water was washing up the lower sides and a small fast flying Antarctic Petrel was nearby. It really was a special moment for all of us. A few hardy souls including Yulia, Dr John, Becca, Juergen, Cath and John, ventured onto the bow until driven inside by the wind.
With a change in the state of sea, most of us organized our cabins and ourselves for hopefully a comfortable night. Late afternoon tomorrow, we are expected to cross the Antarctic Circle 66o33’S.
© Y. Mishina
Day 11: Monday 21 January
Noon position: 65o08.6’ S; 172o 05.7’ E
Air temperature: -2oC Water temperature: 2oC
Last evening was reasonably calm and this morning it was blowing from the south at 35-40 knots with some good waves crashing over the bow. The air temperature was -1.7oC and the water 2.4oC. It was interesting on the bridge with wind whistling through some opening in part of the ceiling and a swell of about 2m with perhaps up to 6m predicted during the day.
We were over water 2463m deep and doing a comfortable 9 knots.
Our position at 7 a.m. was 64o40.383’S 171o 10.753’E and our Course 140o. A few birds were about – a Cape Petrel, shearwater and those of us on the bridge had a superb view of a beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatross riding on the air currents a few meters from the Starboard bridge side windows.
At 9:15 a.m. Yulia screened for us the excellent documentary, Frozen Planet Part.1 narrated by the eminent naturalist, Sir David Attenborough. Most of us have viewed this before but the quality is such that one never tires of the programme.
Beginning at 11.15 a.m., our knowledge of Antarctica was greatly extended by Agnes with her lecture Antarctica the Great White Continent.
This was an excellent lecture supported with useful graphics that succinct and easy to follow. Agnes made reference to Antarctica, being the last continent to be inhabited by humans and then made reference to its position in relation to other countries, including being roughly the same area as Australis. In contrast to the Arctic which is surrounded by land masses, Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
The Antarctic Convergence or Polar Front which ranges from 48o to 61o S, was crossed last evening and a drop in water temperature took place from 4oC yesterday to 2oC today.
The Convergence is also where northward flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic where they mix and the upwelling of the bottom (Antarctic) water with nutrients, is where seabirds tend to congregate and feed.
Ocean circulation was clearly explained with the use of good maps. Agnes then considered aspects supporting reasons for the Continent to be the coldest (the average ice thickness is 2200m), windiest, and highest continent on Earth and various statistics were shown.
Late this morning our second iceberg was seen and by 12:30 p.m. we were experiencing short period waves and a swell of about 4m plus a 7 knot wind occasionally increasing in strength. Outside it was sleeting with fog and poor visibility. Soon after a superb lunch of salad and sausage rolls with some of minced sausage meat and others of cheese and potato, we headed to the cabin for a good rest. The outside decks were closed and it was a chance to catch up with reading, knitting (there are two knitters on board) our emails, photographs or diary, before the next visit to the lecture room at 3 p.m.
This afternoon the first episode of The Last Place on Earth, the drama of Scott and Amundsen in 1911-12 was screened. The programme has been described as not meant to portray a race but rather be a tale of heroism, foolhardiness, selflessness and self-delusion in a land where victory must be secondary to survival. Before the first episode, David spoke briefly on correspondence he received in the 1970s from Scott’s son the late, Sir Peter Scott and concerning a family letter released to the media.
The afternoon passed quickly and the opening of the bar and a further fine dinner, we enjoyed a quiet evening and hopefully, a chance to have a decent sleep. The ship pitched a bit and there were a few good splashes over the bow. At 10 p.m. ice was seen in the water and five icebergs were seen on radar. It was foggy and the wind is expected to blow 30-35 knots but should ease after 2 a.m.
Day 12: Tuesday 22 January
Ross Sea; Antarctic Circle
Noon position: 67o 41.469’ S; 177o 16.561’ E
Air temperature: 1oC Water temperature: 0oC
We crossed the Antarctic Circle 66o 33.3’S at 1.55 a.m. Many of us did not sleep all that well and at 7.30 a.m. it was blowing at 20 knots and foggy. We were east of the Balleny Islands, the air temperature was 1oC and the water temperature 0oC. A small flock of 10 Antarctic Petrels was seen and our position was 67o16.928’S; 176o 00.493’E.
The ship occasionally rolled and we had to be very careful negotiating our way about the stairs and passages.
At 10 a.m. many of us assembled in the lecture room for a presentation by David on whaling in the Ross Sea during the 1920s and 1930s and titled “There she blows!” Over the years he had met some of the old whalers and last year was lent three photo albums by the son of a whaler, living at Port Chalmers near Dunedin City. This enabled never before shown photos to be shared with us.
At Noon we assembled in the bar/library for the Antarctic Circle crossing ceremony, albeit 10 hours late. David wearing a beanie that was meant to be the head of an Emperor Penguin plus a beak made by Agnes, then gave a background to some of the early expeditions and read the Ode before receiving the Mark of the Penguin. This was applied to the forehead by Yulia and we all had a mug of excellent mulled wine.
Following lunch (excellent fish and chips) we were able to have a rest before viewing Part 2 of The Last Place on Earth. A few birds are bout including more Antarctic Petrels and several Snow Petrels, the first seen of this beautiful bird by us, along with a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. This morning Lisle reported on two Humpback Whales seen some distance away. Several bergs were in close proximity and the wind was blowing at 22-24 knots and continued all afternoon, with most of us resting.
At 4 p.m. we changed course so as to go round the low pressure system, with 50 knot wind gusting to 70 knots at Cape Adare.
We trooped down the steep stairway to the lecture room to see Part 2 of Frozen Planet, with this episode titled “Spring”. It was a further good episode that began with the Arctic followed by the Antarctic. Much of the programme was concerned with the life cycle of the Adelie Penguin with the returning after five months at sea, ashore building nests with stones and the females arriving later.
By late afternoon, the sea had calmed a little. The petrels and Light-mantled Sooty were still here and flying about the ship. The bar opened in the usual time at 6 p.m. and this evening the petrels had departed however, three albatross’s including a White-capped and Wanderer were accompanying the ship and we are heading toward the Ross Ice Shelf. This evening we enjoyed an excellent dinner.
Samuel with his end of the day announcement from the bridge advised that we will have tonight, an updated weather map and tomorrow new ice and wind charts with discussion planned in the lecture room.
© L. Gwynn
Day 13: Wednesday 23 January
Noon position: 71o 26.781’ S; 179o 01.049’ E
Air temperature: -2oC Water temperature: -1oC
We had a good rest last evening and this morning arose to find little change in the seam as we work our way around the low pressure system to the south-east. At 7 a.m. we were positioned at 70o41.566’S; 178o44.286’E and passing over an area of “seamounts” – mountains in deep water rising from the sea floor. Away to the west are the Adare Peninsula and Cape Adare and this morning the wind was still busy at 25 knots.
About the ship we still have petrels (7 Snow and 2 Antarctic) and the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross with us yesterday, was again with us this morning. It is unusual to see this species so far south. The petrels which are more commonly seen when in the pack ice, provide an enjoyable sight, as they take advantage of still air in the trough between waves and fly with the left or right wing dipped until when above the waves, they can increased speed and direction of flight.
While McMurdo Sound is still ice-locked, recent satellite imagery suggests that Cape Evans is clear of ice and with a bit of luck, we may visit the Ross Ice Shelf this evening and see Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and Scott’s at Cape Evans.
At 9:30 a.m. we saw Part 3 of The Last Place on Earth and at 10 a.m. meanwhile members of Staff were part of a SAR communication exercise with Scott Base (Antarctica New Zealand), the US Mc Murdo Station RNZAF, RNZN and IAATO who dealt with media. Done by phone and email this lasted two hours until 12 and our ship was tasked to assist a fishing vessel with 36 crew and an on-board fire. In the end the Captain advised we could not take on board and provide accommodation for the crew which included three injured. It was agreed that all be collected and taken to McMurdo Station and then to New Zealand.
While the SAR exercise was underway, we returned to the lecture room at 10.45 a.m. for the third showing of Lonely Planet which for this episode focused on the “Summer” months in the Polar regions. This was yet a further excellent programme in which David Attenborough provided the commentary. In Antarctic waters, of interest was seeing a Minke Whale taken by a pod of Orca and further footage of Orca taking a seal.
Today we enjoyed Lasagna for lunch and we were approximately 170 nm east of the Adare Peninsula. A few petrels were still about the ship, perhaps looking for something edible, stirred up by the propeller. Outside it was foggy with a 20-30 knot wind and we were moving along at 9 knots. A solitary Antarctic Fulmar was seen from the bridge.
Part 1 of Longitude was screened at 2:30 p.m. This is an excellent programme based on the novel and the historic record. Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth’s surface. It is an angular measurement usually expressed in degrees.
We returned to the lecture room at 4:30 p.m. when Samuel discussed the two hour SAR and we were given an up-date, on the most recent ice chart and the wind. Cape Adare with 130 km/hr and Korea’s Jang Bojo Station reported bad weather.
At midnight we will change course for Cape Crozier and are due there on the 25th at 3-4 a.m. So it is likely that we will have a further day at sea. Next day we should be at the Ross Ice Shelf for four hours, followed by Cape Bird then Cape Royds or Cape Evans or both. Following the ice edge, we will turn north with various possibilities on the way.
James Clark Ross opens the door
With copies of nice portraits and numerous maps, Samuel then gave an outstanding lecture on James Clark Ross. During Ross’s career he had accomplished 9 winters and 17 summers in the Arctic and 3 summers in the Antarctic. Had there not been concern at the sea freezing, Ross would have almost certainly, extended his activities with some landings in the “McMurdo Bay” area. Ross died in 1862 when only 62 years old. Samuel’s lecture was concluded with reference to the discovery of the Erebus and 11 km away, the Terrorin the Canadian High Arctic. Ross had however, “opened the gate for the Ross Sea”.
With another day over, a course change was scheduled for Midnight with the new course set for Cape Crozier where we are due about 3-4 a.m. on the 25th. This evening the sea has calmed and we earnestly look forward to a day of blue sky and sun, with some ice in the water.
Day 14: Thursday 24 January
Noon position: 74o 44.424’ S; 176o 25.137’ E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: 1oC
It was not such a goodnight last evening and this morning the wind was blowing 15-20 knots with occasional stronger gusts. The sea was up with large swells, some of which appeared to be about four meters. At 7.30 a.m. we were in foggy conditions and at 74o15.619’S; 177o 15.553’E and doing about 8 knots.
Beneath us the Pennell Bank (named for Lieut. Pennell, Captain of the Terra Nova during Scott’s second expedition 1910-13) had a water depth of only 200-300 m while away to Starboard and not visible, was Coulman Island. The large island which is volcanic in origin has an ice cap. It is one of many features named by Ross in 1841 and was named after his Father-in-Law, Thomas Coulman. The island is 3 miles (45.8 km) wide, 6555 ft (1998m) high and has an Emperor Penguin colony on old beach ridges at the southern end.
Birds similar to yesterday included Antarctic Petrels (Lisle said one flock had about 30 birds), a few Snow Petrels and a large, dark plumaged giant petrel.
Breakfast was an interesting experience and again the staff assisted us with conveying our plates and drinks to a table and also helping us to our seats. The kitchen staff meanwhile continued to work under far from easy conditions – a very fine effort. Samuel advised we will have a quiet morning and we hoped the afternoon may be better although no major improvement is expected during the day or the evening.
By noon we had according to the Helmsman, a 4 m swell with the SE gusting to 40 knots and blizzard conditions with driving snow and visibility down to perhaps 2 km. The Spirit of Enderby is on a course of 190o and a steady 7 knots.
A note about the air temperature as this has been remarked on by a few guests. There is a thermometer by a window on the port side of the chart room on the bridge. This is not only difficult to read but when having clear skies with the sun out, any reading is not a true record of the air temperature. Thermometers should ideally not be exposed to sunlight and are normally “screened”.
In spite of the occasional roll, we received a splendid lunch of butter chicken pieces on rice, accompanied by naan bread and for desert, a tasty piece of freshly baked cake. Most of us had lunch after which a rest then followed at 2:15 p.m. by Part 4 of The Last Place on Earth. After a spell, we returned to the lecture room at 4, for Part 2 of Longitude.
By mid-afternoon, there appeared to be an easing in the state of sea, so may it continue. At 6 p.m. the bar opened and Tony one of the “regulars” managed stay in his chair when during a roll of the ship, he shot backwards and was stopped by the coffee mugs cabinet and importantly, remained seated and still holding the glass with his favourite end of the day tipple.
By dinner time the evening had a mostly clear sky with at last sunshine. We had another superb meal and in Samuel’s announcement at 8 p.m. we learned that tomorrow the weather looks favorable for viewing the Ross Ice Shelf followed by a landing at Cape Royds and possible later, a further landing at Cape Evans. With an early breakfast scheduled, many of us went out on deck via the bridge side doors to enjoy the evening light and fresh air, before retiring early for what promises to be a great day.
© Y. Mishina
Day 15: Friday 25 January
Ross Island – Mts Terror, Terra Nova, Erebus. Ross Ice Shelf; Cape Crozier; Mt. Bird; Cape Bird; Beaufort Island
Noon position: 77o 22.83’ S; 169o 10.7’ E
Air temperature: 0.5 oC Water temperature: -5 oC
After past days with at times, unpleasant weather, this morning we were rewarded with what will always remain as one of the special moments in our lives. By 7 a.m. with a clear sky and bright sunshine, we were approaching Ross Island with to Port, the great Ross Ice Shelf stretching like a pure white ribbon, away into the distance. To Starboard the massive bulk of the extinct volcano Mt Terror and beyond Mt Erebus with the Fang Ridge were prominent.
It had snowed in the night and the decks were icy this morning. A crewman washed the Starboard bridge windows and the water immediately froze with large feathery icy crystals. The Captain complete with a beanie, was on the bridge and the air temperature was around -5oC. A moderate breeze was blowing a few bergy bits nearby, along with two bergs. A Humpback Whale was sighted, some Adelie Penguins were seen and our first for the expedition, and a pair of Skua hovered over the ship.
After an excellent breakfast with fruits, eggs and bacon, we converged on the bridge. Two crewmen with shovels and wooden mallets were busy clearing snow and ice.
The Ross Ice Shelf and wildlife
On 26 January 1841 (178 years ago) James Clark Ross and his ships were coming up to the Great Ice Barrier from Starboard. This was the first time humans had seen the feature and they then decided to turn to Port. By 8.30 a.m. we had turned to Starboard and were cruising along the face of the magnificent ice shelf; the area of France.
The Ross Ice Shelf reaches into Antarctica and the glaciers that feed it from the north. It is about 800 km (500mi) wide and 970 km (600 mi) long and pushes out to sea at the rate of between 1.5-3m (5 and 10ft) a day. As we cruised along, one could see how waves have undercut the ice which is between 15 and 50 m (50 and 160ft) above the water surface. However 90% or 1/7th of the floating ice is below the surface.
Several clusters of Adelie Penguins were seen on bergy bits, a Weddell Seal the first of several was sighted and we also had at 9.30 a.m. a good view of a Minke Whale. We were now at 77o 22.062’S 170o19.493’. Out on deck it was bright with a cool wind, but we had to exercise care as the decks were rather slippery. As we neared the east end of the ice shelf, we had a good view of Mt. Terror (3236m).
Samuel gave a good commentary on the ice shelf, Mt. Terror and other features which included the very large Adelie Penguin colony, identified by a pinkish smudge on the lower slopes of the mountain. David provided an historical background to the “worst journey in the world” made in July 1911 and using a map published in 1962, pointed out features such as Igloo Spur with at the ice shelf end, the position of the 1911 rock “igloo” (162m). Soon cloud obscured much of Mt Terror, as we began to make our way toward Lewis Bay and Cape Bird named after Lieut. Edward Bird on Ross’s expedition.
At 10:30 a.m. a pod of 20 or more Orca (Agnes) and a further Minke was seen although Lisle suggested perhaps six in total, this enabling anyone with a camera, to obtain images of them. We were at this time, still cruising along the edge of the ice shelf.
Because of our proximity to the ice cliff, we now turned to Port and resumed our journey well offshore, along the northern coast of Ross Island. Then at 11 a.m. and standing in the midst of a cluster of Adelies, was a very fine example of the first Emperor Penguin we have seen on the expedition. As they passed the ship, the Adelies took to the water leaving the Emperor last to depart and a short time later, the Captain sighted a second Emperor, with a further chance of photography at its best.
Continuing our course toward Cape Bird along the north coast, we had good viewing of a large tabular berg, and of the big Adelie colony in which the message post left by Scott’s Discovery expedition in 1902 for the relief ship Morning still stands. By noon high cloud was coming through and away to Port, we had excellent viewing of shear ice cliffs and outcrops of volcanic rock.
By 1:30 p.m. we were beginning to see the banana-shaped Beaufort Island (named by Ross) located off Cape Bird and after passing Cape Tennyson, we had a further sighting of several Orcas near the ship. By 3 p.m. we had crossed Lewis Bay and had a good view of Mt Bird (1766m) with small volcanic cones and of the steep rocky cliffs of Beaufort Island. The highest point is Paton Peak (771m) named after renowned James Paton a Bosun, who served on the ship Morning and Terra Nova and then was lost on the Aurora in 1917. The west side of the island has a steep but gentler topography rising to an ice cap with below, ice cliffs approximately 20m high. Adelie Penguins nest on beach ridges at the south-west end.
We entered McMurdo Sound at 4:30 p.m. and had a good view of the Adelie colony and on a glacial terrace above the beach, could see the New Zealand Antarctic programme field station. Originally and perhaps still known as the Harrison Laboratory, it has been rebuilt since the late 1960s – early 1970s and is now mainly used by scientists monitoring the Adelie Penguin population. Off-shore a small tilted berg had a most beautiful blue interior.
The anchor was dropped off the field station at 77o059’S; 166o 24.925’E and conditions were perfect for a landing. This got underway at 5:15 p.m. On the beach we were met by the field station leader Brian Karel, who recently had a rocky ridge named for him. A further two people at the station are involved in mostly Adelie Penguin census work. After a short on-shore briefing by Samuel, we were able to wander about the Adelie Penguin colony which totals 60,000 breeding pairs.
We had a wonderful time viewing at close quarter, adult and four week old Adelie Penguin chicks chasing a parent as they demanded more food and when the parent entered the sea, the chick was then able to relocate to the crèche and the precise place from where it had left with the parent bird. There was much to see.
Nesting opportunist Skuas with three week old chicks and fast developing plumage chicks were also seen, at least five Weddell Seal adults and juveniles, and a young Emperor Penguin was reported. This was the best opportunity we have had so far to observe penguin adults and chicks which were in crèches and continually demanding to be fed.
For those interested in geology, most of the beach was volcanic basalt, although granite “erratics” was evidence of past glaciation with the rocks having originated from west McMurdo Sound, being left after the ice retreated.
Soon it was time to return to the ship where Yulia and David prepared the bar for opening and this evening, we had a later dinner at 8 p.m. with an excellent broccoli soup, a choice of Asian duck or Blue cod followed by panacotta with fresh fruits. It had been a most interesting and excellent day and was especially enjoyed by David, who had his first visit here to work on a coastal surveying project in the 1974 season.
This evening we remained at anchor and the plan is to depart Cape Bird at 6 a.m. for Cape Royds or Cape Evans.
© Y. Mishina
© L. Gwynn
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
Day 16: Saturday 26 January
Ross Island; Cape Evans; Cape Royds
Noon position: 77o38.034’ S; 166o 24.4670’ E
Air temperature: -2oC Water temperature: 0oC
We had a very restful night and this morning got up to a beautiful Cape Bird morning with just a breeze rippling the water and the sun rose at 6 a.m. over the top of the Mt. Bird ice cap to sparkle the sea. There was just a slight swell and anchor was lifted in preparation for relocation of the ship.
At the start of our day, the grey rocky hillside including the field station was in shadow and as the sun steadily spread over the dark grey gravel around the colony, the penguins became vivid white spots, as they started their day – if yesterday had ever ended. The ice cap was a pale, cold, soft, cerulean blue.
Off shore the small and perhaps grounded “tilted berg” which some of us inspected late yesterday, was still in shadow. Two small bergs were in McMurdo Sound and there was a scattering of bergy bits and fragments of floes. The sky was mostly clear and a large cumulus wind cloud was atop Beaufort Island.
At 6 a.m. the anchor was lifted and the Spirit of Enderby was prepared to be relocated to Cape Royds. Soon the entire massif of Mt Erebus (not visible from our previous anchorage) was visible with the Fang Ridge prominent on the left. The sun was very bright on the snow encrusted slopes and it was difficult to get a good photo. The lower Mt Terra Nova (2130m) between Terror and Erebus was not visible. Now we were making our way down the coast toward Wohlshlag Bay with at the end, the small Horseshoe Bay before Cape Royds.
We had a briefing at 8:15 a.m. for Cape Royds where the most southern Adelie Penguin colony is located, however the extent of ice along Black Sand Beach and wind at Backdoor Bay, meant that we had to relocate to Cape Evans and did so at 9:05 a.m. It was a superb morning. Lisle drew our attention to about 20 Orca in three pods and we had a magnificent view of Mt Discovery (2680m) and beyond, the Transantarctic Mountains. Two helicopters from the US McMurdo Station were seen and presumably were taking out the penguin research team from Cape Royds and their equipment which was underslung from a Bell 212.
By 9:45 a.m. we were at Cape Evans in bright sunlight and with barely a ripple on the water and the position on anchoring was the same as for Noon. A few small bergs appeared to be grounded and we had excellent views of Mt Erebus, Scott’s Hut and the Dellbridge Islands in the vicinity. These were named after James H. Dellbridge 2nd Engineer on the Discovery in 1902-04. They consist of Inaccessible Island which rises to 95 m and is usually snow-free; Tent Island (the largest) which depending on one’s viewing can resemble a tent; Large Razorback and Little Razorback. They are noted as at 77o40’S; 166o25’E.
At 10:20 a.m. we were being taken ashore and immersed in one of the greatest historic sites associated with exploration in the heroic-era (1895-1917). We were able to have 40 in the ASPA with no more than 8 in the hut at any one time.
Kate and David set up the boot cleaning mat and brushes and we were then able to become immersed in the hut from which Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard left in the blackness of winter for Cape Crozier and were lucky to return, and from where Scott and his men departed for the South Pole in 1911, only to never return.
Within the hut David explained who slept where and many the aspects of interest to us. There was a trove of fascinating artefacts all carefully conserved by specialists engaged by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Many of these people spent a year including wintering over at New Zealand’s Scott base. Of interest were two baking trays for making bread rolls consumed at lunch time with tinned salmon and other “delicacies”.
Yulia was shown some Russian inscriptions in pencil on the wall beside Dimitri Gerof’s bunk. She interpreted the word “grave” a remark, doubtless with reference to the deaths of the Polar party and had not been interpreted previously. A member of the search party that found Scott, Wilson and Bowers, was Dimitri Gerof who slept in the lower of two bunks and was responsible for one of two dog teams.
A further inscription in pencil by David’s friend physicist Dick Richards GC, recorded “Losses to date”. This named the three men of the Ross Sea party for Shackleton, who had died and ended with “Ship?” as the seven who remained, had no idea if the Aurora was still afloat.
Many enjoyed walking about the site and beyond, in the warm sunshine and saw many items of interest. Of special interest was the rock hut which was a try out, for the Midwinter journey to Cape Crozier in 1911. Built by Cherry-Garrard, it even had the entrance in the right place and was briefly used as a place to skin seals. Nearby was a flag pole which may have flown the Union Jack in 1911-13.
Today lunch was at 1 p.m. With the day still perfect, the ship was then relocated about 8 nm to Backdoor Bay at Cape Royds. Our new position was 77o33.955’S; 166o09.313’E. The staff found a good landing point on the ice foot and chopped out a track, so we were able to then step directly onto a snow surface. From here we had only 900m to walk to Shackleton’s hut. Initially we walked up a snow slope and then continued on the grey kenyte scoria which sparked from Feldspar crystals.
We were soon queued up to enter Shackleton’s Hut from his 1907-09 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition. This was a totally different experience to that which we had in the morning. As with the galley area at Cape Evans, the colourful shelves of many provisions, drew our attention and was excellent for photography.
By 6 p.m. we were all on board and Australia Day was soon celebrated in the usual way with popcorn and drinks in the bar/library. Needless to say, Russell had to shout his three Aussie Brisbane mates.
At 6:15 p.m. the anchor was lifted and we returned to Cape Evans by 7:30 p.m. and the almost identical position to previously – 77o38.036’S; 166o 24.207’E. This evening our Chefs did us proud with a superb dinner for Australia Day.
It had been a grand day with an Emperor Penguin seen in the morning at Cape Evans and a further Emperor seen at Cape Royds. By 10 p.m. Mt Erebus had disappeared in cloud. As one photographer said, “If only I had taken my evening photo before dinner. Oh well, tomorrows another day in Paradise”.
© L. Gwynn
© L. Gwynn
Day 17: Sunday 27 January
Ross Island; Cape Evans and Polar Plunge; Cruising the ice edge; on the Ice and the Furthest South
Noon position: 77o37.230’ S; 166o 16.325’ E.
Air temperature: -3oC Water temperature: -0.6oC
We had an excellent nights rest after our action-packed day yesterday and this morning got up to low cloud, a slight ripple on the sea and -7oC. By breakfast time, light snow with small spherical grains, was falling and had already put a dusting over Inaccessible Island nearby.
By 8:30 a.m. we were lucky to have a further opportunity to visit the hut. Some of us had not been there yesterday, while others were anxious to have a second or even third look, at the hut under different conditions. This morning with the low cloud cover, it was much darker inside and had a distinct somber feeling about the place.
Stafford who was making his second visit in 24 hours “coming back again and even after the Shackleton hut, the feeling is even stronger than my first visit yesterday”. There is something about this place that leaves an impression like no other, for those privileged to enter its hallowed setting. David was in the hut again and able to explain the occupancy and stories attached to some of the inscriptions and artefacts. As before, we signed in/out in the visitor book.
Some of us also walked up the short track on Wind Vane Hill and cut across some snow and rock to see the Emperor Penguin there yesterday. This bird was perhaps two years old and although moulting, had some nice colour about the head. There was also interesting items about the ASPA which included the cable with dog chains still attached and where place in 1911, further remains of a husky that had been shot where tied and abandoned in 1916-17. As Mackintosh, Leader of the Ross Sea party wrote in 1915, that there was a “spider web” of copper wire that once transmitted data from instruments on Wind Vane Hill to the hut.
At 11 a.m. we held the Polar Plunge at 77o38’S; 166o24.2’E and by 11:30 a.m. were on our way toward McMurdo Station and the ice edge to see if we can view any wildlife in this area. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience with a total of 14 men and 6 women who braved the chilly water and claimed it was “invigorating”. Dr John did the record leap of 10m from the top of the gangway.
At 11:30 a.m. the engines were started, the anchor raised and with Scott’s Hut gradually fading away in the distance, we left our anchorage and moved further south towards the ice channel and ice edge in search of wildlife.
Lunch today was at 12:30 p.m. and included a superb quiche and muffins. By 1:15 p.m. we were moving along the ice edge with closely packed floes and in the distance the Dailey Islands as a mirage and a feature of polar environments. Several Weddell Seals including one an unusual whitish seal, a Minke Whale and Adelie Penguins were seen. By 1:30 p.m. we had good viewing of Observation Hill (230m) with a little later, Scott’s Cross visible on the Summit. As we got nearer the top of the Discovery Hut roof became visible and a small portion of Mc Murdo Station which is at the head of Winter Quarters Bay.
Each season 100+ flights leave Christchurch and deliver on average, 5,500 world-class scientists, logistics personnel and artists, as well as 1,400 or more tons of cargo that is conveyed by air on the 3,920km journey. In addition fuel and cargo leaves Port Lyttleton on specialist ships charted by the US National Science Foundation Division of Polar programs. Antarctica New Zealand which provides logistic support for Scott Base contributes to this logistic support with Operation Icecube of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. New Zealand currently has no purpose-built supply vessel.
The Captain kindly put the bow in against the ice and by 3 p.m. most of us were able to spend an hour off the ship, which was at that point was our Furthest South - 77o48.433’S; 166o25.506’E.
Lisle and Agnes put us on the sea ice which was perhaps 3m or more thick and Samuel estimated to be, over about 500m of water. Here we had a most enjoyable hour, walking about the ice and viewing at close quarters (5m+away) a Crabeater Seal that was perhaps born last October-November. We also observed several Adelie Penguins and four miles away toward McMurdo, the 400ft USCGC Polar Star using its three gas turbines (aircraft engines) that can produce 60,000 HP, to widen the channel. We were 3.3 nm from McMurdo Station.
It was a wonderful and memorable way to end the Antarctic component of our expedition. Conditions were beautiful outside and at 4:15 p.m. we began making our way north to see what wildlife we could pick up along the ice edge and who knows what our next stop may be. About 6 p.m. three fat moving whales which Samuel thought may be Sei Whales, were ahead of the ship, although not seen again.
After a further action-packed day the evening after a lovely meal, was spent quietly as we hope to land on Franklin Island in the morning.
© L. Gwynn
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
© Y. Mishina
Day 18: Monday 28 January
Ross Sea; Franklin Island; Terra Nova Bay
Noon position: 75o23.321’ S; 167o 29.865’ E.
Air temperature: -2.5oC Water temperature: 1.0oC
This morning we dropped anchor in 39 m at 4:10 a.m. Our position was 76o09.402’S; 168o18.881’E. Yulia provided a wake-up call and soon we were dressed and landing at 6 a.m. on volcanic Franklin Island which is 9 km long, 98%ice and 300m at the highest point.
We spent an hour at the only area where it is possible to land and we were fortunate to not have a big swell. Snow had a coating of dust blown by southerlies from the talus slopes and at the north end of the beach, there were small debris cones formed by frost heave.
Once on shore we were able to observe Adelie Penguins and their well-developed chicks. There were also two Emperor Penguins. One had very nice colour about the head and the other was probably born last winter. They were quite content to be amongst the Adelie Penguins and did not appear troubled by the 30 observant Skuas flying overhead.
Also of interest was at our end of the beach five Weddell Seals. One young seal leaving the water looked a particularly fine creature with its sleek, wet, body. Other items noticed included a large, five armed starfish, about 20cm in diameter.
Ross, who named the island after His Excellency Captain (later Sir) John Franklin RN and later (?), Governor for Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania), landed here on 27 January 1841. The men rowed from one end of the island to the other, a distance of 8 km and Hooker, who hoped to collect specimens, fell over board and was sent back to the ship. Most of the island has an ice cap and the far side has ice cliffs. Soon it was time to leave as the wind was beginning to increase and by breakfast time it was 10 knots, with an expected increase to 20 knots.
It had been a very interesting landing and some of us wondered where large pieces of Oregon timber had come from as was the chart on the bridge. This showed Franklin Island in a different position with the island drawn to a point further south. The chart was dated 1991. By 8:15 a.m. we were headed for the ice edge at Terra Nova Bay on a reasonably comfortable sea.
Back on board it is worth mentioning that in addition to Captain Dimitry, his officers and crew, the excellent work also done by our Zodiac operators – Samuel, Agnes, Lisle, Dr John and Yuri. Their professionalism has ensured that we have been able to meet our objectives and when time comes to depart the expedition, we will no doubt retain vivid memories of staff standing in a swell, with water well up their chest as the boat was held, while we left or boarded after a landing. In addition hours are spent on the rear deck, ensuring the Zodiacs are cared for and prepared in readiness for our landings, with fuel and air where needed for the tubes.
We also need to consider the crew members who diligently care for our cabins. It is a mundane activity and the work by them, is done by Natalia and Albina, to perfection and with a smile. Our Chefs regardless of the state of sea have continually produced a superb range of meals that are always nicely plated and delivered by Yulia and Olga, as for any good restaurant on shore. How lettuce can be still perfectly fresh as we near the end of an expedition, speaks well for the way the fresh vegetables have been cared for, from the time they are placed on board. The Russian Crew also has their own Chef Ludmila who provides first class meals in traditional Russian cuisine.
Many of us enjoyed a rest however at 11 a.m. there was a good attendance to hear David give his lecture “Heroes that history forgot” on the 1914-17 Shackleton Ross Sea party.
This lecture had the following objectives – make reference to the last expedition of the “heroic-era” (1895-1917); to state the situation concerning Shackleton and the Endurance; recognize the four Australians who were with the Ross Sea party and to discuss the heroic huts and artefacts seen in the last two days, including some specific items made by Australian Keith Jack and conservation by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
We had an excellent lunch of chicken pieces with rice and salad and continued our way over a calm ocean in a north-west direction toward Terra Nova Bay. At 1:45 p.m. we were now approaching the ice edge and seeking a way around this. Beautiful mountains could be seen and also Cape Washington (275m), named by Ross for Captain W. Washington Secretary Royal Geographical Society (1831-1840).
As we crept closer to the continent, we had at 2:20-2:35 p.m. an excellent sighting of four Minke Whales first spotted by Janet and Rosemary, feeding and occasionally breaching, on the calm ocean surface. This was at 75o01.738’S; 166o57.353’E.
Ahead, was Mt Melbourne (2732m) named by Ross after Lord Melbourne, the British Prime Minister at the time he was planning his expedition in 1840. The volcanic peak steadily becoming larger has ASPA protection for warm areas of ground that grow mosses near the summit and in places steam is emitted. By now we were following a broad channel through water with scattered fragments of floes and few Snow Petrels and a Crabeater Seal were seen.
By 5 p.m. we were enjoying bright sunlight and Samuel gave an interesting commentary from the bridge on the broken ice that had been carried north along the coast from McMurdo Sound. Now we entered open water with scattered ice and were about 32 nm from the coast. It was a fabulous experience watching the small pieces of ice, some of which were quite bizarre and the best place to see the ice was from the bow, although the deck above the bridge gave a better over view. To the north, Mt Melbourne a cone of great beauty was looking quite magnificent.
We now entered a zone of calm open water, made good progress toward Inexpressible Island. This was so-named by the six men of Scott’s Northern party in 1912, most likely on account of their environment and the wind, for which nothing favorable could be expressed; hence Inexpressible. Soon after 8 p.m. and a superb evening meal, we were back in the ice with some large blocky floes. The Captain pushed forward through navigable areas and in the meantime, we enjoyed the evening with Mt. Melbourne looking simply outstanding.
At 8:35 p.m. we had 5 nm to Inexpressible Island and the cold dense air (the “katabatic” after the Greek - kata) could be seen coming down from the Polar Plateau, peaks of big mountains, into valleys and out to sea. It was quite strong, gusting to perhaps 30 km/hr and not surprising, that we were unable to land after dinner.
The Captain decided to drop anchor for the night in 21.3m (at one stage we had only 4.5m under the keel) and this was done at 9:40 p.m. when at 74o54.253’S; 163o45.049’E. In the distance to Port, one could see a meteorological mast at the site of China’s yet to be constructed new station. At present there is a collection of small buildings for the construction party and science.
Many of us were on the bridge and after David spoke about some of the land forms we were observing, Samuel kindly advised that the hill we were gazing at behind the landing site had been named Harrowfield Hill (HH) by the New Zealand and United States Geographic Names Boards, for his contributions over many years. The applause and comments was greatly appreciated by David.
With a possibility that the wind may drop in the night, many of us called it a day early, in case we are called to be prepared for a landing.
© Y. Mishina
Day 19: Tuesday 29 January
Terra Nova Bay; Inexpressible Island; Evans Coves - Priestley Glacier; Ross Sea
Noon position: 74o 538’ S; 163 o 47.1’ E.
Air temperature: -5oC Water temperature: 1 oC
Many of us had a broken sleep last night but on the credit side, we rose to a beautiful sunny morning. The katabatic wind was still blowing and gusting to 35 knots and the ship was at times, swinging on the anchor. With spray whipping off the short period wave crests, it would have been difficult to even put a Zodiac on the water, let alone travel over perhaps half a kilometer to the landing; if indeed it was accessible.
There were numerous porpoising Adelie Penguins and one could see clusters of penguins on the shore.
In the still soft light while the sun was comparatively low, there was a good view of the terminal face on the Priestley named for Sir Raymond Priestley a member of Scott’s Northern party. Piles of rock forming Hells Gate Moraine, was quite visible although the historic depot was removed by Antarctic Heritage Trust archaeologists several years ago. Kate mentioned at present, there is a small New Zealand science team, drilling to examine the “grounding zone” of the Priestley Glacier.
An enduring memory will be the beautiful smooth, rounded contours, of the low slopes and small hills of pale brown moraine gravel and boulders, extending around the head of the bay we anchored in, along with the contrasting grey rocky headlands by the sea. This landscape is unlikely to change greatly in the decades ahead, although will continue to slowly weather by freeze thaw and the effect of the katabatic.
With the katabatic unlikely to cease in the near future Captain and Samuel made the decision for us to depart and to see if we can reach the vicinity of Italy’s, Mario Zuccheli Station, named after the late respected founder of the Italian Antarctic Programme, Dr Mario Zuccheli, where the Italian expedition cargo ship is presently working.
The anchor was lifted and we departed at 8:30 a.m. By 8:50 a.m. we were clear of ice, this quite a change from yesterday and we had an excellent view of the Transantarctic Mountains. The Captain took the ship into Evans Cove, the bay in front of the Priestley Glacier and here we had an excellent view of the big “dirt cones” with moraine debris on top and of Hells Gate the lateral moraine which has just begin to appear on the glacier’s terminal face.
Before 10 a.m. a crewman opened the bridge windows, washed off the deposit of salt giving us a much better view from the Bridge and 10 minutes later, we were approaching the ice edge. Visible with binoculars was the Korean supply ship, their station and the location of South Korea’s Jang Bojo Station.
At 11 a.m. we assembled in the lecture theatre where Samuel did a recap with slides, on where we have been and what has been achieved in a matter of days.
On Inexpressible Island
The lunch today was an ideal foundation before setting out on our walk on Inexpressible Island and into the stiff katabatic wind, which came and went in the manner characteristic of the katabatic. From the kitchen we received newly baked white bread and a bowl of excellent meat and potato “hoosh”. Samuel then reinforced what we had been told at the briefing. Timing for departure and pickup, protection for our face, body and Zodiac travel.
At 1:15 p.m. we started the landing operation at the small cove found by Rodney Russ, 300m from the ship. We then had a 1.2km walk over snow with some surface ice, followed by grey boulders of gneiss interspersed with occasional small pieces of granite and other rocks. We had a head wind of 25-30 knots and a -26oC wind chill which took us 40-45 minutes.
As we neared the site keeping a large boulder to our left and gradually veering left, we came upon large boulders also of granite and soon sighted a wood stake that marked where the snow cave was. Many of the boulders had grey crustose lichens and the occasional yellow and red lichen were also seen.
The 25 or so who decided to set foot on the island, then boulder-hop to the historic site, was satisfied with the time on shore. At the site David discussed the significance of the area and with photographs matched the present boulders to those in a 1912 photo. Many then climbed the hill directly behind, so as to see the Priestley Glacier and part of the Nansen Ice Sheet. A small number including 10+ of our ladies, climbed to the top of HH, where they were also treated to an outstanding view of the Priestley and were amazed at the different rocks with some split from freeze/thaw and resembling packs of cards.
Dave obtained excellent photographs on his G9 phone of lichens. A striking example was a red species in a fissure, where snow could accumulate and provide sufficient moisture for growth. He also recorded a mustard-coloured species, green lichen and the dark and more prolific grey lichen mentioned earlier. Beside a small pond at the base of the hill, where a pair of Skua were bathing, was a luxurious patch of green algae; another member of the plant kingdom. Near here was a plaque attached with the logo of the Italian expedition and a red marker pole was also noticed.
David and Samuel climbed up the hill and unfurled the New Zealand and French flags. By now the katabatic had eased off and the afternoon was quite pleasant with little cloud and much sun.
Others including some of the Staff who had seen the historic site previously and Crew, were content to enjoy an Emperor Penguin that had some nice colour, was perhaps three years old, very cooperative and from a distance also very friendly. Samuel thought it may have originated from Cape Washington, where there are 11,000 pairs. It was much better having the wind on our back as we threaded our way through boulders and over more open areas then snow to the landing.
It had been a wonderful visit and for David a special occasion which was rounded off with the gift of a beautiful drawing of the island done especially by Terry.
By 4:30 p.m. most of us were back on board and the ship which had been at 74o54.351’S; 163o52.379’E was then heading on a homeward course that should take up along with ice edge to Possession Islands and then Cape Adare, although there is no telling at this time, whether we will be able to do a landing there.
We had an excellent dinner with pork loin in a beautiful, puff and pan pastry and fried crispy skin salmon. This rounded off the day nicely. By 8 p.m. we were passing through large floes which occasionally as they hit the hull, let out a resounding boom.
Agnus reported Snow Petrels and 6 Emperor Penguins were seen from the back deck. Lisle said this brings the total so far to 21 and more are expected yet. Some of us enjoyed time on the bridge, but we mostly decided to have an early night after a really stupendous visit to Inexpressible Island.
© L. Gwynn
© L. Gwynn
Day 20: Wednesday 30 January
Ross Sea; Coulman Island
Noon position: 73o 52.950’ S; 170o 16.327’ E.
Air temperature: -2oC Water temperature: +1oC
There were many slow starters in our ranks this morning. After the wind and energetic hiking yesterday Samuel decided that we should have a rest but some such as Juergen and Becca, our Chefs, unfortunately have to work to provide the necessary sustenance that keeps us going for the day.
By 8 a.m. we were making good time on comfortable waters with the ice edge visible away to Port. Our course is toward the south end of Coulman Island named by Ross after his Father-in-law Thomas Coulman who told Ross when he married, he was to give an assurance that he would do no further polar exploration, where there is the largest Emperor Penguin colony.
At 9:30 a.m. a pod of four Minke Whales was seen at 74o03.646’S; 169o31.407’E and presumably the same whales, which number in the thousands around Antarctica, were seen again at 9:45 a.m. along with a Southern Giant Petrel.
Many of us were pleased that no group activity was on this morning. A small number were on the bridge and a lot of us enjoyed resting our weary bodies. At 10:30 a.m. Yulia screened a further episode of Frozen Planet.
At 11:35 a.m. we saw our first Leopard Seal. We have now seen three of the four species of the true Antarctic seals with the Ross Seal and most elusive in the Ross Sea region, yet to be added to our observations.
Before noon we had outstanding views of Crabeater Seals with in excess of 20 including eight in one group. We were able to see the variety of colour, their pronounced long nose and one animal had three long teeth marks down the side. A similar injury was seen a few days ago. Their locomotion on the ice floes was also of interest and it was beautiful to see the gentle swell with small pieces of ice flows moving up and down, as if to a musical score. A number of Weddell Seals were also seen.
At 12:10 p.m. we were 25nm south of Coulman Island, an Emperor Penguin was seen before lunch at 12:30 p.m. however, by 1:20 p.m. we were about 15 nm from the east side of the island and by 2:15 p.m. too far east to make out the Emperor Penguin colony at the southern end. There were areas of blue sky and with the sun emerging we could make out some dramatic topography with an ice cap over the island, ice falls and volcanic outcrops. One evening in early 1990, David briefly visited the northern top of the island, from the USCGC Polar Star, to assist an American geologist with sampling the black volcanic rock for dating.
By now we were in open water and should reach Possession Island about 5 a.m. tomorrow. A new low-pressure system is ahead of us and we are keeping this under review. At 3:30 p.m. David gave a further well attended lecture titled “Biscuits, Saltwater and Hoosh - Scott’s Northern Party 1911-12.”
By 5 p.m. we had passed the basaltic northern end of Coulman Island and again had the ice edge to Port. When a seal was sighted, the ship was then turned and we were much closer to the island. At 5:20 p.m. we were at 43o21.403’S; 170o32.587’E. and had an excellent view of Coulman Island with snow-capped peaks protruding through strato-cumulus clouds and along the east side of the island, steep volcanic slopes, some with talus cones at the base and areas with ice falls.
We were then treated with magnificent viewing of two Minke Whales that surfaced a few meters from the ship and alongside the ice edge. Floes had delicate shades of turquoise blue to emerald green and between these, were areas of broken ice plus a few pancakes. This signals a start to the refreeze of the ocean for winter and the new home for penguins as they leave their colonies, while seals mostly remain, whales depart for temperate waters to have their calves and birds such as the Skua also head to the Northern Hemisphere and do not return until the Ross Sea region spring.
Snow Petrels were also about the ship and are the most common bird we have seen today. Some of us wondered what it must have been like for Ross, his men and two ships in these waters 178 years ago. By 5:30 p.m. we were leaving the island and continuing north toward the southern end of the Adare Peninsula.
At 8:30 p.m. the first Antarctic Petrel for several days was seen and we were moving along at 12 knots towards the Possession Islands which we anticipate reaching about 2 a.m. After a lovely meal of soup, venison and a fine desert, most of us had an early night. The ship was now starting to roll a little and bed seemed the best place to be.
© L. Gwynn
Day 21: Thursday 31 January
Ross Sea; Possession Island; Adare Peninsula – Downshire Cliffs; Cape Adare. Enroute to Balleny Islands
Noon position: 70o 258’S; 170o08.2’E.
Air temperature: -2oC Water temperature: +0.5 oC
About 2 a.m. this morning Samuel checked conditions for a landing at Possession Island. There was a big swell, push ice grounded along the beach, bergs and large numbers of Adelie Penguins were gathered on the beach. Of interest were perhaps a thousand Antarctic Petrels in flight, along with a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and perhaps as Lisle has suggested, the southern limit for this species.
The Possession Islands we passed while sleeping, in area they cover 7 miles (11km) in the western Ross Sea and lie 5 miles (11km) south-east of Cape McCormick named by Ross for Robert McCormick, Surgeon on HMS Erebus. Possession Island is nearly two miles long and is the most northern and largest of the islands. It was named by Ross to commemorate the planting of the British flag on 12 January 1841 and naming for Britain.
By 6:30 a.m. we were passing the Downshire Cliffs. We were at 71o22.040’S; 170o39.916’E and doing 11.3 knots. These were named by Ross at the request of Cdr. Francis Crozier RM, of HMS Terror for the late Marquis Downshire, a friend of his. High above was the second highest peak – Mt Hanson (1255m), on the 75m long Adare Peninsula and was named for biologist Nicolai Hanson who when 28 years old died during the British Antarctic (or Southern Cross) Expedition (1898-1900) led by C.E. Borchgrevink. Cape Adare was named by Ross on 11 January 1841, for his friend Viscount Adare M.P. for Glamorganshire.
We saw briefly over the saddle west of which is the Warning Glacier, lower slopes of great cloud-covered peaks in the Admiralty Mountains (also named by Ross) while on the steep east slopes of the volcanic rocks forming the Adare Peninsula was a huge eroding cirque and an area of brown rock which contrasted with the black basalt. It was certainly a dramatic landscape.
Off the end of Cape Adare was several large tabular bergs grounded in shallow water of only 75-40m deep with some water 14-8m deep. These blocked our view into Robertson Bay, named by Ross for Dr John Robertson, Surgeon on HMS Terror. As we headed around the ice edge, numerous large growlers of old blue ice with rotten snow washing off the surface, were bobbing up and down in the swell and Captain Dimitry was keeping a close watch on these, as they have the potential to damage the rudder and steering gear.
A cold wind was blowing however, excellent photography was possible and birds sightings included a superb Antarctic Fulmar with its grey plumage, Wilson’s Storm Petrel’ Giant petrels, South Polar Skuas and Snow Petrels. Giant icebergs obscured the view into Robertson Bay, although we could see the Murray Glacier at its head. Borchgrevink’s huts were not visible. For at least one person, there was touch of sadness at leaving the Ross Sea, as we have in a few days become very familiar with the region. But who knows, some of us may yet return.
At 8:45 a.m. Samuel gave a recap and briefing in the lecture room when he outlined the history of geographical place names, the region and the Borchgrevink expedition. He said “it is now farewell to Antarctica and the Ross Sea which is something special to staff”. He then mentioned that we have 1139nm (2100 km) to travel before Campbell Island and the forthcoming weather situation which was shown with wind maps.
To avoid a low pressure system extending well south in to the Ross Sea, a new course will take us to the west side of the Balleny Islands (clapping) which comparatively few people have visited.
The islands were discovered in 1839 during a search by John Balleny for new sealing grounds and were also landed on for the first time, by Captain Freeman on the Sabrina, who with his crew, stones he collected and the ship was lost in a storm a day later. In 2018, a history of the islands, the science done and the landings was published by David in two editions (Part 1 and Part 2) of “Antarctic”, the quarterly journal of the New Zealand Antarctic Society.
The objective Samuel said, is to follow the ice edge to the head of the islands and with deep water of 300-2000m, there is good potential for viewing wildlife. Samuel said we aim to keep the wind behind us although some swells from 30-40 knot wind is possible. At 10 a.m. we saw Pt 5 of The Last Place on Earth and at 11:30 a.m. a further episode of Frozen Planet, titled “Winter”.
For lunch today we had a salad with a difference – raw sliced onion, garlic and tomato with excellent Russian vegetable and meat borsch. Later a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross was seen flying around the ship.
At 2:30 p.m. we again visited the lecture room for the New Zealand Wild South documentary made a few years ago, “Solid Water Liquid Rock”. This is an excellent programme with filming by Max Quinn of the Natural History Unit Dunedin. We next attended a lecture at 4 p.m. by Agnes. This was Sea ice, the eighth continent.
During the lecture, Lisle saw a Southern Right Whale and later, two Antarctic Fulmar, a Minke Whale and from the bar, a Humpback Whale was seen by guests.
After a splendid dinner we retired and looked forward to perhaps seeing Sturge Island about 7 a.m. This evening the sea was a lot calmer than it was earlier in the day.
© L. Gwynn
Day 22: Friday 1 February
Balleny Islands – Buckle Island – Zodiac cruise Sabrina Is; Southern Ocean
Noon position: 66o.029’S; 163o 47.1’E.
Air temperature: -0.5oC Water temperature: +0.5oC
This morning at 6:30 a.m, the ship was east of Sturge Island, the most southern of the Balleny Islands chain mentioned previously and with Brown peak 1524m.
The volcanic Ballenys are located between latitudes 66o15’ and 67o10’s, and longitudes 162o15’ to 164o45’E and straddle the Antarctic Circle (66o33.638’S). In area they cover 400km2 and are 2,300km due south of Bluff. Our position then was 67o22.208’S; 66o15.627’E. Below us was 2,000 m of water and we were cruising along at 11 knots. A few seabirds were about and included several Antarctic Fulmar which nest on Sturge Island, Antarctic Prions, a Cape Petrel and a Mottled Petrel.
At breakfast time, course was changed to take us past Cape Freeman in two hours to Port and we would then be nearer the next island named Buckle Island with 945m the highest point and passing along the west side by the shelf. Watch was now being kept for whales as Humpback and Blue Whales are to be seen here.
At 8:10 a.m. we saw a pair of Humpback Whales and none have been seen since, although many of us have been keep a look out. However, there has been a range of birds with the beautiful Antarctic Southern Fulmar increasing and other species have included, Antarctic Prion; Mottled Petrel; Cape Petrel; Greater Snow Petrel (which Lisle said, when in flight it has less wing flap); the occasional Wilson’s Storm Petrel and shearwater.
By 10 a.m. we were passing through the wide gap between Sturge and Buckle Islands and it was now very foggy out and the Captain was watching the radar. Wind had increased slightly and as forecast.
It is difficult to believe that we have left McMurdo Sound, the Ross Sea and the areas with sea ice. The region seems so far away and time has passed quickly, but we have now visited Antarctica and achieved our primary objective. At 10:30 a.m. the final two episodes for The Last Place on Earth was screened by Yulia.
About lunchtime we reached the south end of Buckle Island the central island of the three main islands in the chain rises to 945m. We were still in the Antarctic Treaty zone. Soon we were preparing to climb into our rig for a Zodiac cruise and the ship was anchored with one anchor, in 30m near Eliza Cone at the south end of Buckle Island and the position was 66o53.989’S; 163o14.106’E.
At 2 p.m. using five Zodiacs, we set out and were enjoying the steep and rugged terrain of ice and rock on Buckle Island. This horizontal layers of basaltic lava was seen, along with some slightly tilted to the north. By now the wind had got up and we then headed toward Sabrina Islet; Sabrina Island and the Monolith (110m) linked by fallen rock to a large block hollowed out and behind the tall needle like structure (79m). All are within ASPA 104 and without a Permit, cannot be landed on.
After bouncing over a sea that was getting up from the wind, we rounded the end of Sabrina Island and were soon confronted with large numbers of Adelie Penguins commuting up a snow slope to their nests on the top of the island. Others were gathered on the sandy beach below and all on his/her own was a Chinstrap Penguin, the last of the species we hoped to see in Antarctic waters. A few more gradually appeared amongst Adelies. A young Weddell Seal was also on the beach and some of us had a good view of a Leopard Seal out and about for its next meal of succulent penguin.
Snow slopes, ice and gravel had in places, a coating of green algae. At the top of the high volcanic rock cliffs, with impressive clusters of icicles, we could make out on ledges, nesting Antarctic Fulmar and Cape Petrels. We had the wind behind us on the way back and apart for particular care needed at the gangway due to the swell bout a meter, we all were on board by 3:30 p.m.
We now continued up the west coast of Buckle Island and admired the steep ice cliffs from glaciers above and the contrasting black basalt rocks on the unfriendly coast, as we followed the off-shore 200-1000m shelf, in search for whales. We were interested to see two avalanches come off the edge of the ice cap and taking with it, powder snow from rock below that lingered in the air for some time.
By 5:30 p.m. we were close to Borradaile Island with its ice cap and a short distance to the north, the third large island named Young Island with the highest point, Freeman Peak (991m), named for Captain Freeman of the Sabrina. Midway along the coast of Young Island, the chart indicated a decrease from 83m to 1434m then from 1783m the sea floor dropped off to 2374m.
By the time we were near Young Island, there was already an indication that the wind was getting up and the forecast on the notice board was not encouraging with at least 30 knots when we are back on the open Southern Ocean. At 6:25 p.m. Samuel gave a figure for 5½ Humpback whales seen at 66o34.067’S; 162o32.936’E. Someone asked if the other half of a whale, was behind a wave crest. We were now on both engines and for the second time, we crossed the Antarctic Circle.
At 8:30 p.m. we saw a further two Humpbacks and we were now leaving the Ballenys behind us with to Starboard, Seal Rocks and Cape Ellsworth after the American airman. We now have 860nm to Campbell Island and plan to go behind the low pressure system so the wind will be behind us.
At 8:55 p.m. there was yet a further whale probably feeding on the shelf was seen and a number of us went to the bridge for a better view. A berg was in close proximity and plenty of birds were about. Soon the last fragments of sea ice was behind us and during recent days, it has been good to see that we saw no evidence of plastics such as packaging materials and polystyrene. And so a further day on our wonderful expedition has drawn to a close.
© L. Gwynn
Day 23: Saturday 2 February
Southern Ocean – enroute to Campbell Island
Noon position: 63o29.1’S; 161o 47.4’E.
Air temperature: +1oC Water temperature: -1oC
The sea was reasonably calm last night and this morning surfaced, it was as predicted fairly rough, and with numerous grey beards and birds. The state of sea is likely to be with us all day.
During the morning, the sea calmed somewhat and at 9:45 a.m. we visited the lecture room and saw the award-winning documentary “Ice bird” This covered the life-cycle of the Adelie Penguin, have been seen by us at Cape Bird, Franklin Island and on floes and the series Lonely Plant. We now have a better understanding of this icon of Antarctica.
At 11:45 a.m. Yulia screened the short documentary produced by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, with the two important huts compared to “time capsules” we have visited, are now dry, smelling “sweeter” and importantly, the many artefacts which have all had specialist conservation are not more likely to survive for future generations. Gordon Macdonald from Canada made some very interesting comments, as did Lizzie Meek the Trust’s Manager artefacts.
One important aspect is the science of archaeology as from this we have been able to uncover. David, who received his first training in field archaeology in 1955, then spoke on what can be learned from archaeology about past societies, their development and technological aspects and of the process involved.
At 2:30 p.m. we were again drawn to the lecture room for the screening by Yulia of a documentary “Operation Overdue”. This was a very well done programme concerned with the Air New Zealand accident in Antarctica on 29 November 1979 when 257 (including crew) when a DC10 on a sightseeing day out, collided with slopes of Mt Erebus at 2500ft, resulting in the death of all on board.
We returned to the lecture room at 4:30 p.m for a presentation by Lisle on “Cetaceans of New Zealand’s Southern Ocean.” Today we learned about the Order of Cetacea; Class Mammalia; of which there are 80 species Worldwide. The largest is the Blue Whale which can grow to 31-33m long. When nursing her young, the calf can put on 17 stone/day from the rich milk.
We had a most enjoyable hour in the bar this evening and a further superb dinner which included sea trout. Fortunately through moving around the low pressure system, the sea has calmed considerably, so we can look forward to a comfortable night.
Day 24: Sunday 3 February
Southern Ocean – enroute to Campbell Island
Noon position: 59o 16.1’S; 163o 29.1’E.
Air temperature: +5oC Water temperature: +5 oC
We had a comfortable and quiet night with many of us able to catch up on sleep. This morning the sea was fairly calm and unusual for this part of the ocean.
His morning Agnes sampled the air, from the “Monkey Deck” (Deck #7). There was a 20 knot northerly it was raining and far from pleasant, with considerable care needed when traversing the deck and to be far away as possible from the emissions out of the funnel. This work is being undertaken for GNS Science at Lower Hutt Wellington, and with several samples taken at different latitudes.
At 10 a.m. we had a superb lecture from Agnes titled “Icebergs-Cathedrals of ice.” At 11:30. David then gave his 9th history presentation titled Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink –Amateur adventurer and explorer.
David began with mentioning CE Borchgrevink’s early life, education, marriage and family. However, not everyone liked Borchgrevink and Sir Clements Markham even less, when Borchgrevink was donated ₤40,000 (today about $5M New Zealand) for his proposed British Antarctic Expedition.
Borchgrevink put together a team of 10 which in addition to himself included two scientists, a Canadian collector; medical doctor, two dog handlers and a handyman. He also obtained a former sealer the Pollux built in 1886 and renamed the ship Southern Cross; 75 Siberian dogs and a huge quantity of stores which included dehydrated vegetables; ½ a ton of tobacco and a generous supply of alcohol. Captain Bernhard Jensen an experienced Arctic ice captain was appointed.
By lunchtime, Samuel advised there was a new front with wind gusting 20-30 knots from the WNW on the Port beam, however he hoped conditions should approve by 12-1 a.m. tomorrow. With the ship rolling somewhat, the Sea Shop opening and jacket return had to be postponed.
At 4.30 p.m. Agnes gave her second lecture for the day and was concerned with Seals of the Antarctic. The first explanation concerned the Families known as Otaridae which includes the Sea lions and Phocidae or true seals of which there are 18 species with the Elephant Seal being the largest.
The state of sea created an interesting time for those who enjoy the social hour at 6 p.m. and how our Chefs managed to still produce a further outstanding dinner, was testament to their efforts. Both the lamb and pork belly were cooked to perfection and also nicely plated as one would expect for any good restaurant.
We had to be especially careful when moving about the ship and most of us were only too pleased to call it a day before 9 p.m. Samuel who has been monitoring the wind several times a day and also the low pressure systems, recommended we again secure anything loose in the cabin and wished us a comfortable night.
Day 25: Monday 4 February
Southern Ocean – enroute to Campbell Island
Noon position: 55o 92.6’S; 104o00.1’E.
Air temperature: +7oC Water temperature: +5oC
This morning the sea had calmed considerably and we have begun our last few days of the expedition. There is still much to be seen and enjoyed on Campbell Island.
At 9:30 a.m. we returned our Antarctic jackets which have served us well and is always a sad moment as it nears the end to our expedition. By late morning the wind was up and the ship was rolling a little.
By late morning the sun was out and at 11:30 a.m. we returned to the lecture room for a further interesting presentation by Agnes. This morning’s lecture was on the subject “Who Owns Antarctica”.
Today we enjoyed lunch at 1 p.m. and were treated to superb pizzas and at 2:30 p.m. a good attendance in the lecture room viewed the wonderful documentary “Ice and the Sky” based on the life’s work by French glaciologist, Dr Claude Lorius, who lives in Grenoble France.
We returned to the lecture room yet again at 5 p.m. when Samuel provided an excellent introduction for our forthcoming visit to Campbell Island.
Campbell Island is the dissected remnant of a volcano and at Perseverance Harbour can be seen excellent columnar basalt. Basement rocks are schist and are overlain by Cretaceous sandstone, conglomerate and carbonaceous mudstone. In the Palaeozoic era (dating from 2mya) the island was glaciated.
The island has a unique flora with an Upper alpine zone, Lower alpine zone and a Sub-alpine zone. There are 29 species of birdlife including six species of albatross, Pipit, Teal and Snipe.
The island was discovered 4 January 1810, by the same mariner who discovered Macquarie Island; Captain Frederick Hasselburgh of the whaling ship Perseverence and was named after a Sydney-based company, Campbell and Co. The name of the impressive harbour we entered was also taken from the ship. Hasselburgh was drowned in the harbour, together with Elizabeth Farr, a young woman born on Norfolk Island, and a 12 or 13 year old Sydney boy, George Allwright. The first map was drawn in 1816.
The island became a seal hunting base and the seals were almost totally exterminated. In 1874 the French scientific expedition led by Captain J. Jacquemart and many localities were named at this time. The expedition later returned under A. Bouquet de a Gyre to examine the Transit of Venus. A technician M. Paul Juris died from typhoid and is buried in a lonely grave, on a small headland at the head of the harbour. In the late 19th Century, the island became a pastoral lease for sheep farming along with a few cattle, until 1931 when it became a casualty of the Great Depression. During WWII a Coastwatcher station operated and after the war, the facilities were used as a meteorological station until 1958, when a new station was established at Beeman Cove. This became fully automated in 1995, and the post office here also closed.
The island is now Gazetted as a scenic reserve and with removal of cattle and sheep in the 1970s and 1980s brown rats were exterminated in 1992. The island was declared pest free in 2003 and was the largest rat eradication in the world. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is administered by the Department of Conservation and the wildlife and flora, have recovered considerably since the eradication, declared successful in 2004-2005.
This evening the sea is a bit on the bumpy side again and after a delicious dinner which included duck in the menu, we decided on an early night. Tomorrow looks to be an exciting day for us.
Day 26: Tuesday 5 February
Southern Ocean; Campbell Island - Motu Ihu Puku – Col Lyall
Noon position: 52o43.1’S; 169o04.9’E.
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 10oC
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Few of us slept well last night and today we surfaced to a rough SW sea and wind blowing 30-35 knots. Staff assisted guests to their tables and it was clear that we could not have a programme for the morning. Most of us retired to the cabin for much of the morning.
According to the Chinese 12-year animal Zodiac cycle, the Chinese Year beginning in 2019 is the Year of the Pig. Each Chinese Zodiac Year begins on Chinese New Year’s Day. Chinese New Year is also known as “Spring”. The pig is a symbol of diligence, compassion and generosity in China.
By 12:30 p.m. we were nearing the entrance to Perseverence Harbour and had a wonderful view of the dramatic landscape on the east coast with many of the islands in mist, having French names given at the time of the scientific Transit of Venus expedition in 1874 when Capt. Jacquemart on “L Vire” established the observatory. This was the first observation of the transit since Cook in 1769.
We dropped anchor at 1:30 p.m. 52o33.056’S; 169o09.510’E and a second anchor was lowered later. A stiff NNW was blowing and expected to rise to 25 knot. Moored nearby was a two mast yacht Evohe which is chartered by DOC for sea lion work.
Following lunch we had a briefing at 2:30 p.m. when Samuel outlined options for us over the next two days. The afternoon was not all that pleasant with wind and rain showers. However a number of us decided to brave the elements and hike the 3.5 km to Col Lyall to view the nesting Southern Royal Albatross, rather than tomorrow. Other albatross will be seen during the proposed long walk.
On arrival at the concrete boat ramp, we had a bonus. In an open shed was a rare sighting of a moulting, Erect-crested Penguin, which breeds only on the Bounty and Antipodes Islands. For a short while there was some wind and rain but that soon passed.
More than half our number decided to visit Col Lyall which as predicted and Murray discovered, was a rather windy place, when he ended up horizontal in the tussocks. Three Southern Royal Albatross were by the boardwalk and of the birds seen most were expected to be on eggs. Campbell Island Pipits which nest under the boardwalk and two Campbell Islands Snipe were seen and we had excellent viewing of Pleurophyllum speciosum, the purple daisy, P.criniferum, P.hookeri, and Stilbcarpa polaris, the latter also known as Macquarie Island cabbage and once consumed by sealers.
One historian, who has been a frequent visitor to Campbell Island, is Norm Judd, author of numerous reports on the island. With Samuel’s help, David was able to visit the site where there are several graves classified as cemeteries. Two are fenced to protect them from sea lions but the post-eradication vegetation is steadily taking over. It is not known exactly who are buried here and there is also no detailed record on whether the bodies of Captain Hasselburgh and the two who allegedly drowned with him, were buried and if so where? This is doubtless an interesting project warranting further research.
Nine people are undertaking census work with sea lion pups of particular interest and three including, a PhD student are camping. Samuel invited them to the ship where after their biosecurity they enjoyed a cup of soup and had a welcome shower. Gillian then spent time hearing about their work and field camp. The bar opened at 7 p.m. and was well patronized before dinner at 8 p.m. We all looked forward to having a comfortable night while at anchor, prior to our departure tomorrow evening.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 27: Wednesday 6 February
Campbell Island - Northwest Bay; Zodiac harbor cruise; Col Lyall; enroute to Auckland Island
Noon position: 52o 33.013’S; 169o 09.554’E.
Air temperature: 6oC Water temperature: 11oC
WAITANGI DAY – Aotearoa/New Zealand
Today in New Zealand recognises the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by the Northern Chiefs (others followed) on 6 February 1840. The original document is housed at Archives New Zealand in Wellington, is the founding document for Aotearoa/New Zealand. Waitangi Day and is recognized each year with a Public Holiday.
It was excellent to get up this morning and feel refreshed, after a decent rest on calm waters. As the sun rose, hillsides were a beautiful soft gold for tussock grass (Poa sp.) and the olive green of Dracophyllum and Hebes. Weathered cliffs of volcanic rock, had been modified by ice, a few thousand years ago and in places could be seen “cirques” or basins, once with ice, and perhaps with an icefall along the lip, from which an outflow channel had torrents of cold icy water. Since those times, rainfall has played a major role in shaping the landscape.
Near the ship was a large raft of shearwaters busy fishing for a 10cm long species that lives amongst kelp and a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross cruised by. There was some wind and the sky was mostly cloudy and it was hoped the day will remain rain free.
A full programme was arranged and the first people to depart, was 22 of us plus staff (Samuel, Kate and John) equipped with a packed lunch for the walk via Captains’ Cove in Northwest Bay. At 9:45 a.m. most of us remaining, embarked on a Zodiac cruise to the head of the harbour. Targets were Campbell Islands Teal and other birds, along with links of past European history.
As we went around the harbour, we had excellent views of birds with several Campbell Islands Pipits foraging amongst seaweed and rocks, Campbell Island Shags, with 250 pairs recorded on Campbell Island and a Black-back (Kelp) Gull eating what appeared to be, a squid or octopus. Other birds included Red-billed Gulls, giant petrels, Antarctic Terns, a Yellow-eyed Penguin, Southern Royal and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses in flight. Apart for a young sea lion, the animal was mostly absent.
The tide was well out and on arrival at Tucker Cove there was much amusement when Yuri thinking he was about to stand on a firm layer of Sea lettuce (Ulva) and solid ground, suddenly found he was in water well up his legs. An unusual red worm about 1.5cm long was seen on sea lettuce.
We went ashore to inspect the large cast iron Shacklock Orion coal range and David outlined the pastoral farming activity, reminding us of the farm house shown in the lecture room. The stove now has grass growing up and around it however, the brick platform on which it stands is no longer visible. There is also no sign of surrounding homestead foundations although these were determined by archaeologists a few years ago and all the vegetation is regenerated bush which has grown since the land was cleared in the mid-1890s.
On the beach, apart for a few scattered bricks and two bottles one marked CEREBOS and probably a pickle jar, little else remains. Of interest were beautifully coloured cobbles and flakes of dark-light brown, golden and white, silica rich chert or chalcedony, associated with an outcrop of limestone. These had their origin as large nodules about the size of a child’s football and seen in-situ yesterday by David on the opposite side of the bay, with also large numbers of flakes on the sea bed.
This morning, Tony from England who has a keen interest in archaeology, found a flake that even to the untrained eye, had clearly had secondary retouch. The same material has been found as early Maori artefacts on Enderby Island and one may ask, did early Maori who were superb navigators, perhaps come down to Campbell Island, discover and exploit the resource?
From here we stopped at Camp Cove where limestone was again outcropping on the beach. Some flakes of the above stone were on the beach along with a large nodule. Also of interest, were ancient tree branches that appeared by their orientation, to have been washed down the valley and were in peat 40cm below the present ground.
We walked over undulating boggy ground or up the stream, to view the Sika spruce, planted by the eccentric Lord Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand, about 1902-03, who also collected specimens of birds for the British Museum. At the time the suggestion was that an economic forest could be established. Known as “the loneliest tree in the world” the tree features in the Guinness Book of Records – but as one might expect, there are other contenders. There are often numerous sea lions here, but they today were conspicuous by their absence.
Our cruise now took us past the headland with the grave of a young engine room technician, Paul Duris, who died on 22 September 1874 during the French Transit of Venus Expedition. The French observatory under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences set up its observatory on land at the head of Venus Cove and also planted presumably at the area named Garden Cove, potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables, although they did not grow well. A 20m stone jetty was also constructed, along with pens for sheep and pigs.
A curious item on the beach seen near the point with Paul Duris rarely visited grave and now with a replica iron cross (the original is awaiting conservation in Otago Museum), was a large iron pot with an ornate supporting leg. It is not sure what this item may be and the appliance had an opening in one side. When the French expedition first established their station, they set themselves up between Camp Cove and Garden Cove and it is possible this is a link with that party. Good archives are available in France and may have a stores list. We enjoyed a good view of Garden and Venus Coves then made our way back to the ship, arriving in nice time for an excellent pasta lunch.
The Northwest Bay walkers had a great day with much to report on their return. On starting out two Teal were seen at the huts, there were many pipits, Chris was pleased to see “my first Snipe” [Samuel said four were seen] and Christine said “to see the [Southern Royal] Albatross was delightful.” Of the plants the walkers were rewarded with many beautiful purple daisies and several Bulbinella rossii were seen, although were close to finishing.
When on the coast, six Elephant Seals were seen and included a “very large male”. Many commented on a sea lion climbing a cliff and for Dr John, the best part was “the spectacular views.”
A cave with two old chairs and a fragment of (English Meakin?) pottery thought to be associated with the Cape Expedition in WWII was visited. Here Bob performed a haka and then gave a “stirring speech”, although described by Dave as a “short dissertation”. This was followed by a few verses by Bob from the beautiful song Pokarekareana, until he was told, that was enough. It had been an excellent trip although some of the participants found parts a bit tough and Kate returned with rosey cheeks, after plenty of sunshine.
An opportunity to visit or re-visit the Southern Royal colony at Col Lyall got under way at 2:30 p.m. and had several starters. Those who visited Col Lyall were rewarded for their efforts. Adele and Janet took their time and had the great pleasure of seeing a Yellow-eyed Penguin near the old Meteorological Service huts. Adele said “they kept very quiet, not panicky and he stood there a minute while we took our photos. He looked like an adult and we then saw on the boardwalk a Hookers Sea Lion.”
Terry P. was also very pleased to see the albatross and took a video of five birds gamming and on the return walk a snipe was seen on the boardwalk. Lisle said there were four snipe today with one bird a young chick, numerous Redpolls and Silvereyes.
By late afternoon with sunlight diminishing, the various shades of green on surrounding hills, had almost blended to one color and tussock resembled a good Dijon mustard. Channels down hillsides appear to have been effective in heavy rainfall of the past and numerous slips were revegetated. From the ship there was a desire to clamber up hillsides and explore every nook and cranny of the whitish-grey rocky outcrops on the splendid timeless, landscape.
At 5:45 p.m. Yulia and Lisle set out in a good breeze beating down the harbour, with white caps and long skeins of foam, to collect the long walkers. Albatrosses swooping over waves; were on the lookout for something palatable or simply enjoying the late afternoon breeze.
The bar opened this evening at 6:30 p.m. and much fun was had by all. Once again, our Chefs certainly did us proud with an excellent meal. Soon dusk began to descend and we made cabin preparations in readiness for the Southern Ocean and anything it wishes to throw at us.
At 9 p.m. the anchors were lifted and with a beautiful sunset, we made our way out of Perseverance Harbour, bound for Auckland Island. Most of us decided to have a quiet night and for the Kiwis on board, Waitangi Day had been well and truly recognized.
We headed north along the east coast with masses of sea birds including Campbell’s Albatross and Cape Petrels, keeping us company. By 9:30 p.m. dusk had set in beneath an impressive sky of dark clouds and thirty minutes later, we passed the distinctive Bull Rock (28m) then turned to Port, on our way to Auckland Island; a bonus on our expedition since we are a day ahead of schedule.
© S. Blanc
© S. Blanc
Day 28: Thursday 7 February
Southern Ocean; Auckland Island – Musgrave Inlet
Noon position: 50 o 48.957.’S; 166o 26.781’E.
Air temperature: 11oC Water temperature: 10 oC
It was a sleepless night for many of us, but eventually the sea calmed down and most of us had at least some sleep. Today we got up to a reasonably calm sea with the occasional swell and a cloudy sky, with a few shearwaters to keep us company.
Our day began with a hearty breakfast and at 9:30 a.m. we assembled in the lecture room for
two excellent documentaries on Campbell Island.
The first titled “The Battle for Campbell Island”, focused on the rat eradication programme in the winter of 2001. Pete McClelland of DOC made reference to 42 species of New Zealand birds that had become extinct with further species on the endangered list. Accordingly, the operation planned for the island was not one of control, but one of total eradication. Trial baiting took place in 1990 with a further trial in 1999. An estimated 100 days was required to complete the job, however this was accomplished in 26 days.
The second programme focused on the Campbell Islands Teal. The species was discovered at Northwest Bay in 1884 and in 1935, the bird was described as a separate species. Two specimens were obtained by the Cape Expedition but it was not until 1976 that the first survey was undertaken. Skuas were thought to be depleting numbers and the Royal New Zealand Survey soon became involved.
In 1975 Rodney Russ, discovered the thought to be extinct Campbell Island Teal on off-shore Dent Island and later 25 pairs were removed to New Zealand for breeding, followed by a further two males and one female. In 1990 the key to the recovery programme was a female named Daisy and researchers saw for the first time a nest which had three eggs and eventually there were 24 ducklings. By 1998, 40 Campbell Island Teal had been raised and following the eradication programme, 51 were released at Tucker Cove and further teal followed. The recovery and reintroduction post eradication was a total success.
At 11:45 a.m. the next programme for the morning was by Samuel with an introduction rather than a promotion, to the vast Russian Far East bordering Siberia, where Heritage Expeditions has been operating for a number of years.
After a chicken curry and rice, Samuel advised that unfortunately the weather forecast has meant we cannot do a Zodiac cruise at The Snares. At 12:45 p.m. however, we anchored in Musgrave Inlet at 50o39.823’S; 166o10.973’E named for Captain Musgrave of the schooner Grafton. Here we had our final Zodiac ride for the expedition.
We headed out to where vertical basalt cliffs with enormous boulders at the base had a colony of Rockhopper Penguins and enjoyed a wonderful time with our cameras, video and phone cameras. Above the cliff was tussock, Hebes and higher still, Rata close to flowering and Dracophyllum. Above three Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses gave an excellent flying display and a young bird was seen in tussock at the top of the cliff. The water was extremely clear and huge fronds of kelp attached to the rocky shore and sea bed, wafted back and forth.
We crossed to the opposite side of the inlet and entered a cavern which was like an amphitheater as the roof had collapsed. The top which had a fringe of old Rata trees, Hebes and long mossy stalactites were suspended. In one area there were layers of volcanic ash with cobble to small boulder size rocks and most beautiful pastel shades of reddish brown.
A second cavern was next to the first and we entered this but here it had a ceiling. After a while we left the cave and had excellent viewing of an Auckland Islands Shag, which was content to remain on a rock a few meters from a Zodiac. In the vicinity, scores of Cape Petrels and possible Slender-bill Prions were feeding. The prions were particularly interesting and one could observe their rapid leg movement as they ran briefly on the surface before taking flight. We had seen prions from the ship but nothing as close as this.
Yet a third cave was investigated and as with the previous two, these were most likely formed from large gas vesicles in molten lava. We now headed for the ship and at 3:45 p.m. the anchor was raised and with the wind getting up, we headed for the open sea.
The Sea Shop opened again this afternoon and this enabled us to secure further gifts or mementos for ourselves and we later adjourned to the bar. We had a great evening with as a “starter”, a complimentary red or white wine or juice. This was followed by an Antarctic Quiz with the winning team of course having an Australian input.
There was a distinct Asian theme with the main this evening with pork cutlets and rice or the option of an Italian seafood and pasta dish. Both were excellent. With only one other night left on board we looked forward to a good rest and most will pack tomorrow.
Day 29: Friday 8 February
Southern Ocean; Rakiura/Stewart Island – Port Pegasus
Noon position: 47 o 17.9’S; 168o16.2’E.
Air temperature: 13.2 oC Water temperature: 15 oC
Last evening we enjoyed very calm seas and had an excellent sleep. Outside this morning, cloud was soon clearing and a pale, cerulean blue sky and sunshine was ready to greet us. The Subantarctic Islands, the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound already seem so far away.
Our expedition staff organized events for the day and as usual, Yulia soon had our daily programme on the 400 level noticeboard. This began with the acclaimed documentary at 9:15 a.m. titled “Blackfish” which focused on Orca in captivity.
At 11:15 a.m. David did his final presentation “The Tactician – Roald Amundsen and the lead-up to the South Pole”, to a large audience.
By Noon, we had a good view of Rakiura/Stewart Island to Port. Today lunch was at 12:30 p.m. and we soon had a view of Port Pegasus on the east coast, where we anchored at 46o57.138’S; 168o13.615’E. On deck we relished the largely clear sky and mild summer weather with plenty of sunshine and at 4 p.m. 16oC. The Titi Islands were off the bow and two beautiful sand beaches could be seen to Port.
Following a second screening of Ice and the Sky, somehow, we all managed squeeze in to the Starboard bow at 3:15 p.m. for a massed guest and staff photo with a short speech by Allan and Dave, in which they thanked Heritage Expeditions and the Staff. We then settled our on-board accounts.
At 5 p.m. we had our final visit to the lecture room where Samuel provided a review of our expedition and achievements over 9019 km (4870 nm) of travel, during which we saw 100 species of birds and 19 species of mammals. This was followed by an acknowledgment of staff and comments from Lisle then concluded with a superb presentation by Lisle and another by Agnes.
The bar was a hive of activity and David found lurking in the Snug, was summoned and presented with a framed citation of HH with photos and on the reverse side, signatures of all 49 guests and wonderful comments.
At 7:30 p.m. we sat down to a sumptuous and beautifully plated dinner and not forgetting our favourite Allan Scott wines and the Moa beers.
Samuel thanked Olga and Yulia who received a well-deserved applause.
With the Level 4 doors accessible, we were able to enjoy a beautiful warm evening with a moon, which we had not seen for many days. The evening was concluded with a fine selection of poems compiled by Christine during the expedition and read to an appreciative audience.
Day 30: Saturday 9 February
Port of Bluff
Position: 0700: 46o35.618’S; 168 o20.333’E.
Air temperature: 16oC Water temperature: 16 oC (Both at 0730)
“Good morning everyone, Good morning!” And so, our last lovely wake-up call from, Cruise Director, Yulia.
We all hope it is a case of Au Revoir but not goodbye, to our wanderings in the Subantarctic and the Polar Regions. We arrived in Bluff to a beautiful sunrise and warm summer morning.