This is without doubt one of the most inspirational and informative journeys or expeditions into the Southern Ocean ecosystem that one can make anywhere in the world. Long recognised for their rich biodiversity, the Subantarctic Islands lying to the south of New Zealand are UNESCO World Heritage sites. This places them in a select group of only 180 natural sites that have been designated as ‘the most important and significant natural habitats' on the planet. They are also afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments and access to these islands is by permit only. On this expedition we offer you the unique chance to explore, photograph and understand these wonderful places in the company of some of the most knowledgeable and passionate guides.
As a young biologist, Heritage Expeditions founder Rodney Russ first visited these islands in 1972 with the New Zealand Wildlife Service. He organised New Zealand's first commercial expedition there in 1989 and it was only natural that his family should travel with him, what wasn't predicted was that they would join him in the business and be as passionate about the conservation of this region as he is. Now, many years and over 100 expeditions later, Rodney's sons Aaron and Nathan continue their father's enthusiasm and legacy for this region with Heritage Expeditions. As the original concessionaire we enjoy good relationships with the conservation departments and some of the access permits we hold are unique to these expeditions.
The name we have given to this voyage ‘Galapagos of the Southern Ocean' reflects the astounding natural biodiversity and the importance of these islands as a wildlife refuge. (The book Galapagos of the Antarctic written by Rodney Russ and Aleks Terauds and published by Heritage Expeditions describes all of these islands in great detail.) The islands all lie in the cool temperate zone with a unique climate and are home to a vast array of wildlife including albatross, penguins, petrels, prions, shearwaters and marine mammals like sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. The flora is equally fascinating; the majority of it being like the birds and endemic to these islands.
This renowned expedition includes four of the Subantarctic Islands, The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell. Each one is different, and each one is unique - just like this expedition.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Akademik Shokalskiy is the sister ship to the Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov), they were both built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and being fully ice-strengthened they are perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and provides comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
Date: 22 December 2014 – 3 January 2015
Ship: Professor Khromov/Spirit of Enderby
Expedition Staff & Crew
Expedition Leader: Don McIntyre
Captain: Dmitry Zinchenko
Hotel Manager: Jessie Prebble and Jane Zhou (in training)
Chief Mate: Aleksei Zinchenko
2nd Mate: Sergei Ostapenko
3rd Mate: Valentin Drozdov
Radio Officer: Aleksander Goncharuk
Chief Engineer: Alexander Gridnev
Chief Electric Engineer: Valerii Raubo
Chief Stewardess: Natalia Bogdanova
Chefs: Connor Arcus and Frank Widmer
Guides/Lecturers: Alex Fergus, Mitch Bartlett and Mike Holland
Kayak Guide: Judd Hill
Day 1 – 22nd December 2014
Convergence on the southern-most city
From all over New Zealand, Australia and various other parts of the globe, our expedition’s contingent assembled in Invercargill, New Zealand’s southern-most city. By 1900, almost all of us, with the exception of a few late flights, gathered together on the 6th floor of the Kelvin Hotel for our first meal together. Our expedition leader Don warmly welcomed us all and provided scope for the day ahead and the almost two weeks that would follow, always with the returning focus of adventure.
Day 2 – 23rd December 2014
Invercargill and our departure
A leisurely breakfast was spread over a three-hour window at the Kelvin Hotel, allowing time for jet-lagged folks to start recovery as well as a little early exploration time around Invercargill. Luggage was checked and packed for the ship, and for the remainder of the morning most of us explored the Southland Museum. A very hands on explanation of the successful rearing of Tuatara at the Tuatararium was followed for most with a mix of wandering around the Subantarctic Garden, the wider Queen’s Park gardens, and time spent in the permanent exhibitions ‘Beyond the Roaring 40’s’ and ‘Whales, whaling, and the Antarctic’. It is worth noting that Invercargill turned on the nicest weather seen in 8 months for our departure day, surely a positive omen.
At midday a bus took the remainder of us who were at the museum back to the Kelvin Hotel for lunch and by 1330 our full complement was on the bus heading towards Bluff. At 1400 we received cheery approval from the Island Harbour port security, before finally boarding the Professor Khromov. After customs clearance and a few refreshments, we joined our expedition leader Don in the lecture room for an introduction to the staff, a Zodiac briefing, the emergency briefing, and the plan for the day ahead at the Snares. Just before 1600, with the pilot on board, we started heading out of Bluff Harbour, rounding Bluff Hill, and heading out into the notorious Foveaux Strait. Notoriety aside, today the sea could not have been calmer, giving us the rare opportunity to follow the western side of Stewart Island southward.
One of the highlights of Stewart Island‘s west coast was the opportunity to catch sight of Codfish Island, the home of the majority of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds, the Kakapo (current population ~ 126 birds). For those not in the know, this large green nocturnal parrot, with the face of an owl, a lek breeding system, and a painful reliance on seed masting, now only survives on this and a handful of other offshore islands.
At 1800 the sirens blared seven short rings followed by one long ring, repeated thrice, signalling the abandon ship drill. We all crammed into the two lifeboats to get a distasteful glimpse of the claustrophobic conditions necessary for survival. We refreshed in the bar, before being treated to the first of Connor and Frank’s fantastic meals.
Mitch’s bird of the day: White Capped Albatross
Lifeboat drill aboard Professor Khromov (note – 15 more people will be packed into this space).
Day 3 – 24th December 2014
Before 0600 we were in the lee of the Snares, while a north north-west wind was blowing a moderate 20-25 knots. The ship was moved from east of the South Promontory to South Bay and back again in order to assess the conditions for a Zodiac cruise. At 0745, after breakfast, we were briefed by Don in the lecture room about the plans for the day ahead and by 0830 we were boarding the Zodiacs for the first time.
From the ship we headed up the east coast of North East Island toward Mollymawk Bay, and then rounded into Ho Ho Bay, with its various arches and caves to explore. Snares Crested Penguins dotted the coastal edge, while New Zealand Fur Seals basked on rock platforms only a few metres above them. Beyond the seals, a fringe of vegetation dominated by white-flowering shore Hebe (Veronica elliptica) and Snares Punui (Stilbocarpa robusta) sat beneath a canopy of tree daisies (Brachyglottis stewartiae and Olearia lyalli). From Ho Ho Bay we rounded Station Point into Station Cove, where in the front of the Canterbury University research hut, a small group of sub-adult male (SAMs) New Zealand Sea Lions wrestled in the shallows. The occasional Snares Tomtit, a little flicker of black, darted in and out of the vegetation. The Snares Crested Penguins maintained constant activity, returning from sea in large porpoising flocks, squabbling and socialising amongst the kelp holdfasts, and generally entertaining us in whichever direction we chose to look for them. By this point, looking out to the ship, we could see the sea state beginning to decline. The tidal current had changed, and we now had wind-against-tide. We left the shelter of Station Cove and headed north out and around Seal Point and Skua Point, past Punui Bay, and up to the Penguin Slope. With the predominantly northerly wind it was not the nicest day at Penguin Slope, with the wind gusting in towards the rock faces. At this stage the Captain was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with the sea state, so we headed south in the Zodiacs back towards the ship, spotting a number of nesting Buller’s Albatross along the coastal cliffs as we went. The swell was now reaching 1.3 metres and while we managed to unload one and a half Zodiacs, it was not long before the Captain called our disembarkation off. For those remaining in the Zodiacs, this meant an extended cruise along South Promontory (where at least one Zodiac managed good views of Tomtits and Fernbirds) past Broughton Island and into South Bay, where with a little more protection we managed to unload everyone onto the ship.
After lunch folks had time to hang wet clothes or watch the bird and mammal life around the ship (multiple Dusky and Hourglass Dolphins were spotted around the ship throughout the afternoon) before Alex took the microphone at 1530, and through a mass of images, guided folks through the flora of the Subantarctic, looking at the Snares, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands. In addition to exploring the weird and wonderful components of the flora he touched on the origins of many of the species and how the key factors isolation, land area, emergence time, geology and latitude, function together to drive Subantarctic ecosystems. By 1800 the swell had increased to 3m, and the function of short glasses in the bar-library was soon apparent. A quick debrief on our day at the Snares gave us a chance to celebrate our successful morning, for as Don was quick to note, conditions at the Snares regularly make a Zodiac cruise here impossible.
Mitch’s bird of the day: Buller’s Albatross
Alex’s plant of the day: Brachyglottis stewartiae, an endemic tree daisy with cones of bright yellow flowers.
Snares Crested Penguins cruise in the foreground while the Professor Khromov steams off the east coast of North East Island (The Snares).
Snares Crested Penguins.
Day 4 – 25th December 2014
Christmas on Enderby Island
During the night the swell abated as we moved closer to the Auckland Islands. By 0300 we were in the sheltered waters of Port Ross, just south of Enderby Island. Shortly after breakfast Don called us down to the lecture room for a briefing on the Christmas day options ahead. We packed our lunches for the day and by 0915 we were boarding Zodiacs and heading toward the wave-cut rock platform just west of Sandy Bay. A pair of Auckland Island Teal, a species now recovering on pest-free Enderby Island, fed obliviously in the rock pools as we crossed the beach, weaving between New Zealand Sea Lions, and headed to the small collection of research huts at the back of the beach. As a single group we crossed the grassy back dunes, while Yellow-eyed Penguins ambled between the beach and the forest edge. We broke through stunted shrubs and into the Rata forest as we began following the boardwalk which would take us to the northern cliffs. As we exited the forest, the vegetation again dwarfed to scrub level only, and was soon dotted with the large white bodies of nesting Southern Royal Albatross. As we came closer to the northern cliffs shrubby vegetation gave way to the bright yellow Ross’s Lily (Bulbinella rossii) and the giant carrot, Anisotome latifolia, with its bright pink and purple cauliflower sized flower heads held atop large, rigid, twisting and pointed pseudo-carrotty leaves.
As a group we completed a sweep across the megaherbs and low tussocks, searching for the Auckland Island Snipe, where with quiet hands held aloft indicating success, most of us managed a glimpse. We continued eastward to the peat escarpment that allowed good views of a few pairs of Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross nesting on the cliffs and here we split into two groups, those who wanted to continue a circumnavigation of the remainder of the coastline to the east and south, and those who preferred to take their time to retrace our current path and enjoy the Sea Lion action back on Sandy Bay.
The long-walkers continued eastward along the coastal margin toward the Derry Castle Reef, so named for the ship the Derry Castle which was wrecked here in 1887, at the cost of 15 lives. We lunched at the burial site, providing some rare Christmas company to those lost in the wreck. The reef itself had good numbers of Banded Dotterel, Yellow-eyed Penguins, Sea Lions, New Zealand Fur Seals, and perhaps a single Australian Sea Lion. We continued up from the reef along the coast, weaving between tussocks and Macquarie Island Cabbage (Stilbocarpa polaris) above steep coastal cliffs. We dropped back down to the beach, spotting our first Elephant Seals, probably last year’s pups from Macquarie Island, before heading back up the cliffs towards an Auckland Island Shag colony. Heading inland for the first time, we stopped for an afternoon break under cover of the Rata forest toward the island’s North East Cape. Here, twisted boughs of Rata hung over the broad, plate-like leaves of Macquarie Island Cabbage, which blossomed amid jagged branches of Turpentine Scrub (Dracophyllum longifolium) which stabbed up toward the canopy. Bellbirds, Tomtits and Red-crowned Parakeets whirred around us, while a distant mewing from a newborn Sea Lion pup, hidden away in the forest, could just be heard.
From the forest we regained the coast and continued westward toward Teal Lake, and eventually a path winding through scrub that delivered us almost onto Sandy Bay.
Conditions were calm with 10 knots of wind on the east side of Enderby coming from the north. We paddled first to Butterfield Point to have a look at the passage between Enderby and Rose Islands, but the tidal stream was too much so we stayed in the lee of Enderby and followed the coast past Sandy Bay as far as Gargoyle Point on the eastern side. We started to get tide against wind and waves there so we turned and returned to the ship. Beautiful cliffs and caves between Butterfield Point and Sandy Bay. Yellow-eyed Penguins and New Zealand Sea Lions on shore and in the water. Sea Lions were very curious under the kayaks and even having a nibble at us to see what we were. Awesome first paddle.
8 Kayakers, 12.4km
Mitch’s birds of the day:
1. Light Mantled Sooty Albatross
2. Auckland Island Snipe
3. Northern Giant Petrel (chick)
Alex’s plant of the day: Gentianella cerina, one of the endemic brightly-coloured gentians currently in full flower along the coastal turfs.
Auckland Island Teal, now recovering on Enderby Island and regularly seen along the island’s coast.
Meadows of endemic Auckland Island Gentians (Gentianella cerina and G. concinna).
An Auckland Island Tomtit surveys the world from a perch atop a Ross’s Lily (Bulbinella rossii), one of the megaherb species on Enderby Island.
Day 5 – 26th December 2014
Carnley Harbour and Tagua Bay
At 0615 we rounded the heads of Carnley Harbour and began steaming up the channel between Adam’s Island to our south, and main Auckland Island to our north. After breakfast we joined Don in the lecture room for a briefing on our day at Auckland Island. By 0845 we had the Zodiacs in the water and we were heading toward Tagua Bay, the site of the southerly Coastwatcher’s station on Auckland Island. From the rocky shore, with Tuis diving in amongst the twisting Rata, we scrambled up across peat embankments, and followed the path through the goblin forest toward the main base. The home of the southern Auckland Island coastwatchers for four years during war time is now much dilapidated, but we could get a feeling for the isolation of their position. We continued up the small peninsula that Tagua Bay almost separates from the main island, up through scrub that eventually opened up allowing views (limited today due to blustering rain) out east toward the Erlangen clearing. We made it to the Lookout Station of the coastwatchers that peered out of the forest toward Carnley Harbour. A few of the original artefacts of the Lookout Station remain intact, such as a can of Edmonds baking powder and a pack of playing cards, which give a little insight into the simplicity of life on the island. From the Station we could hear the conditions deteriorating on the little iron roof, and peering down toward the coast we could see our ship rolling with the wind. We headed back down toward the coast after hearing from the Captain that both anchors were dragging. We boarded the Zodiacs, and were all back on the ship by 1100 as winds gusting up to 45 knots whipped up the harbour around us.
After lunch we cruised down Carnley Harbour, and at 1430 we were once again out in the open ocean, being pushed along by a 30 knot northerly, in a three metre swell. The remainder of the day was spent quietly enduring the roll as we continued our 19 hour run between the remote island outposts of the Auckland Islands and Macquarie Island.
Mitch’s bird of the day: Sooty Shearwater
Alex’s plant of the day: Metrosideros umbellata, Southern Rata, with splays of red flowers, and offering a home to diving Tui, it was still impressive even in the gusting wind and driving rain.
Don explains the Coastwatchers base at Tagua Bay.
The Tagua Bay Lookout Station - high above Carnley Harbour.
A few artefacts of life remain in the Tagua Bay Lookout Station.
Day 6 – 27th December 2014
At sea en route to Macquarie Island
We awoke in New Zealand waters, and by the time a late breakfast had passed, we were in Australian waters, much to John’s delight. With 12-15 knots of south-easterly on the bow the conditions on the ship were mildly improved from the previous afternoon, and it was calm enough that at 1030 Mitch could share with us a presentation on all things penguin. Mitch explained the 18 species of penguin to us, focusing on the 13 that occur in the New Zealand region. Mitch focused on which characteristics we could use for distinguishing the similar species, their populations, where they breed, and some of their unique behavioural quirks.
After lunch Don briefed us about our potential activities on Macquarie Island and touched on some of the more unique aspects of the geology and wildlife of the island. Following on from Don, Mitch once again took up the microphone, this time for an introduction to Albatross. Again he focused on the different species occurring in the southern ocean, their population numbers, where they breed, and how we can tell some of the very similar species apart.
During the latter part of dinner, the rocks north of Macquarie Island came into view, and shortly afterwards we were in the lee of the isthmus. A rogue late-night Zodiac mission, kept as hush-hush as possible, saw Ivan and Andrea, the respective partners of Vivian and Chris, hurried from the island to the ship, much to the delight of all four of them.
Mitch’s bird of the day: Gentoo Penguin
Day 7 – 28th December 2014
Sandy Bay and the East Coast of Macquarie Island
After and early breakfast and quarantine check we ran two Zodiacs into Garden Cove to collect the five ranger staff joining us for our time on Macquarie Island. With the rangers aboard, we joined them and Don in the lecture room for a briefing on the day ahead at Sandy Bay. At 0930 we began boarding the Zodiacs and were relieved to find a relatively calm landing at Sandy Bay. We landed on the gravelly beach behind the spit, and were welcomed by marauding flocks of King and Royal Penguins, while littered all over the beach, across and on top of one another, were hundreds of slug-like cat-faced Elephant Seals of all different ages. Following another briefing from the rangers, were we free to explore. North of the spit, beyond a dense pile of Elephant Seals, we found the main King Penguin colony of Sandy Bay. The remaining King Penguin chicks from the previous season, cloaked in brown-down, begged at desperate parents, while most of the birds, eggs on feet, kept up a continual chatter in the largest part of the colony. Dropping south, back past the landing, the Royal Penguins could be seen coming ashore, and chattering amongst themselves on the beach, in front of piles of the largest Elephant Seals (still only juveniles relative to the 3-4 tonne adult males). From here we could cross the stream before Filch Creek, and follow the boardwalk, up and around the plateaus of the silvery megaherb Pleurophyllum hookeri, and on towards the Royal Penguin colony. Stretching up the slope, thousands of Royals vied for their nesting space, devoid of vegetation, due to the continual trampling. This was a great site for simply taking some time to sit back and absorb the white noise of wildlife.
With weather once again deteriorating, we called the morning short just a little earlier than planned, and started loading the Zodiacs at 1330. With increasing seas, and the Zodiacs punching into 30 knot gusts at the gangway, we managed to get all back on board. After lunch, the ship cruised past Lusitania Bay, the largest King Penguin colony on the island, and we could see midst the birds, the digestors, a not so ancient reminder of Joseph Hatch’s oil industry. At 1630 we joined six of the seven Macquarie Island staff on board in the lecture room. Representing the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) was station leader Ivan and Field Training Officer Ian. In addition we had Chris, who heads up the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TPAWS) on the island, and ranger Mike, previously of the Macquarie pest-eradication team. The two remaining ship visitors, Jared and Kate, are both volunteer Albatross researchers, working jointly with AAAD and TPAWS. After introductions, everyone had the opportunity to bombard our guests with questions ranging from the role of tourism to who funds the wildlife research. By 1800 we were closing in on the isthmus, the site of the main AAD base on the island. The wind was still building, and we were now punching into 35-40 knots of north-westerly.
Conditions were 20 knots from the N-NW and around a metre of swell. It picked up to 30 knots by the end of the paddle. We headed from the ship across and into Sandy Bay hitting the coast at Finch Creek. We then headed north, past the King Penguin rookery and up the coast half way to the Nuggets. We then turned and ran down the coast with the wind to the Rockhopper Penguins and returned to the ship. There were heaps of Royal Penguins in the water around the kayaks and a few Elephant Seals close but they were not interested in us. 5 Kayakers, 9.9km
Mitch’s birds of the day:
1. White morph of the Northern Giant Petrel
2. Royal Penguin
3. Brown Skua
Alex’s plant of the day: Poa foliosa, a grass. It seems boring, but the recovery after the rabbit eradication, especially around the Royal Penguin colony, is too good not to rate a mention.
Itchy-nosed Elephant Seal.
A Royal Penguin regaining the beach.
The King Penguin colony at Sandy Bay.
Day 8 – 29th December 2014
The Isthmus, Macquarie Island
The isthmus was hidden under heavy clag at 0700, with visibility limited to 100m as we looked out from the ship towards Macquarie Island. The Captain had spent all night running the ship in a loop along the east coast, necessitated by the wind, swell and lack of any harbour. After breakfast we met up with Don and the Macquarie Island staff for a briefing in the lecture room, before boarding the Zodiacs. The swell coming into Buckles Bay was still too high for a landing, but we were able to begin unloading at Garden Cove. We managed to get a fourth load of our team ashore before the Captain deemed the gangway too dangerous, but luckily, with a little manoeuvring the final party was landed. In five groups we explored the different sections of the isthmus. Meanwhile Judd and his kayak gang explored the northern coasts.
The terrestrial teams first headed to the northern end of the beach on the island’s west coast to catch a glimpse of one of the small populations of Rockhopper Penguins, while also enjoying the young Elephant Seals tussling on the sea edge, practicing future battles for harem dominance. We headed south along the beach toward the patches of Gentoo Penguins, where chicks, often larger than their parents, stalked their mothers and fathers across the sand in demand of nourishment, the parent’s only apparent escape being the sea. Good numbers of Brown Skua, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, as well as King Penguins could also be seen along the beach. We crossed the isthmus again back to the east coast and followed a path littered with piles of slumbering Elephant Seals southwards toward the stairs leading up to the viewing platform. After a short steep climb complete views of the isthmus were ours to be had, north to the station, south to flanks of the plateau, where recovering vegetation painted the slopes in various shades of green. We headed back down toward the station, passed the digesters, and on into the ‘Olde Sealers Inn’ where the rumours about the quality of Macquarie Island scones held true. After a meteorological balloon release we were back on the beach and heading out towards the ship. We waved farewell to the staff on the beach where Vivian and Ivan, Andrea and Chris said their last goodbyes for now, and we were away.
By 1300 we had everyone back aboard the Spirit of Enderby where we quickly put away lunch before setting sail for Campbell Island, a mere day and half of open ocean away. In the late afternoon we joined Mitch in the lecture room for a presentation on ‘Petrels and other seabirds’, where he ran through the different species, their life histories, population numbers, and in the case of the Sooty Shearwater, the complicated issue of their indigenous harvest in and around southern New Zealand.
Conditions were 20-25 knots and swell up to 2 metres at anchorage. We paddled from the ship across to the coast just north of Garden Cove and paddled up to the northern tip of Macquarie Island. Winds were gusting over 30 knots up there so we turned and followed the rocky coastline south. Some rock stacks we could paddle between were exciting! We paddled to the Rockhopper Penguins south of Garden Cove the headed as far south as the Macquarie Island sign painted on the fuel tanks, then returned to Garden Cove and made a landing to visit the base. Conditions had worsened at the ship on return but it was still manageable getting kayakers back on the ship. A wild Subantarctic paddle!
7 Kayakers, 5.8km
Mitch’s bird of the day: Gentoo Penguin
Alex’s plant of the day: Colobanthus muscoides, the bright green cushions raised liked giant mushrooms all along the coast.
Juvenile male Elephant Seals practice battle on the west coast beaches of Macquarie Island’s isthmus.
A lone Elephant Seal maintains watch in front of one of the stations outlying buildings.
Gentoo Penguin feeding chick
Enjoying Macquarie Island hospitality
Day 9 – 30th December 2014
At sea en route to Campbell Island
We awoke to a slightly increased swell and enjoyed a late breakfast which set the pace for our day at sea en-route to Campbell Island. After breakfast we joined Don in the lecture room for ‘A year in Antarctica and other adventures’, and spent the next hour, jaws-agape, listening to Don’s many accomplishments in the field of unknown outcomes. From a yacht-building 23 year old in Adelaide, around Australia, to and around and through Antarctica, onto gyrocopters, chartless Bounty re-enactments, to treasure hunting and beyond, Don kept us in silent awe as he detailed 30 years of adventuring.
After lunch Jessie and Jane opened the Sea Shop so anyone after penguin-emblazoned socks, Subantarctic literature, or just a few postcards, had the opportunity to stock up. Later in the afternoon Alex had the opportunity to deliver to those who were interested a lecture intertwining the human and environmental history on Campbell Island over the last two hundred years since the island was discovered. He also touched on the current state of wildlife on the island and the bicentennial expedition he had been involved in. The bar opened as usual and a fine meal followed before everyone settled into the last few hours on the open ocean before the seclusion of a calm harbour.
Mitch’s bird of the day: Campbell Island Albatross
Day 10 – 31st December 2014
At 0130 the ship rounded the heads of Perseverance Harbour and anchored off Beeman Point at the western end of the harbour after a journey of 18 hours on the open southern ocean. An early breakfast was followed by a briefing outlining the day of adventures ahead. Everyone made a cut lunch then separated into three groups. The long walkers, heading over to North West Bay were the first to depart, followed by Judd’s kayak gang, and lastly the Zodiac cruisers who would go on in the afternoon to conquer the Col-Lyall Saddle.
The long-walkers departed from the Beeman Point wharf, and roughly followed the coast around Tucker Cove, and up onto Homestead Ridge, where most of the usually dry track had converted into a bubbling stream. We were escorted across the peat bog by a nervously calling group of Antarctic Terns, before we took a break, under what cover we could find from the Turpentine Scrub. Then we headed up the old slip, now widened, and spilling debris in a fan across low shrub and herbfield. As we climbed up the slip and gained Col Ridge our first Southern Royal Albatross came into view, nesting amongst the tussocks and megaherbs, with wings neatly folded across their backs to restrict any rain entering their nests. We sidled up onto the ridge proper before continuing on to our first high point of the day. Now in complete clag, with visibility dropping to about 40m, we stayed as a tight group as we began the descent along the western cliffs towards North West Bay. Half way down the clag thinned and the stunning white cliffs came into view, with the lowest portion of cloud-topped Dent Island visible. We wound about tussocks taller than ourselves and eased our way into the creek that would bring us onto the beach. With a few Sea Lions to roar a welcome and a group of Yellow-eyed Penguins half a dozen strong in tow, we arrived at North West Bay, formerly Capstan Cove, the site of a former whaling base. Generally we would lunch here, but after almost four of hours of rain, we opted for the hut above the coast instead, however, the swollen stream at Capstan Cove, now a dark-brown rampant river, presented our first challenge. With Alex, Mitch, Athol, George and Barry spread across the torrent, we slowly, hand-by-hand, ferried our team across the waters, and onto the Elephant Seal strewn beach. From here we hauled ourselves up a slippery peat face, before entering gnarled Turpentine forest and wandering across to the hut. For a moment, the weather threatened to clear, but it was not to be. We retraced our steps a little and followed the winding path up the 1984 fence-line and onto the northern flanks of Mt Dumas, before sidling towards Cave Rock for the obligatory photo and biscuit. The nicest weather of the day opened a view across Perseverance Harbour as we headed down to Camp Cove, the home of the ‘Lady of the Heather’ and the Sitka Spruce, and within 15 minutes Don had us heading back to the ship, to warm (or hard) drinks, showers and dry socks. An admirable effort was made by all, especially given the almost seven hours of rain endured.
All the while the remaining two groups of adventurers had been braving the same Subantarctic climatic foibles. Judd’s kayak crew headed off from the ship along the northern edge of Perseverance Harbour, first towards Davis Point, where they reported a very active and healthy group of Sea Lions that may have had more than a playful interest in kayaks. Having escaped, the team continued east, first beyond the heads of the harbour and out into the southern ocean, eventually reaching East Cape, the most easterly point on Campbell Island. From here they headed south, regained Perseverance Harbour, and this time followed the southern edge of the harbour. Due to a little kayak trouble the team landed and lunched under overhanging rock before returning to the ship.
Our final group of adventure types, led by Don, began the day with a Zodiac cruise around the upper reaches of Perseverance Harbour. From Tucker Cove, they headed around into Camp Cove, landing to examine Lord Ranfurly’s Sitka Spruce. A little confusion saw Connor briefly examine the heads of the harbour (a bonus for his group) before rejoining the group proper. From the loneliest tree in the world, the Zodiacs followed the coast around into Garden Cove, and eventually Venus Cove, the home of the French scientists in the 1870’s. Great wildlife was seen all along the coastal edge, including very high numbers of Black Backed Gull chicks. The Zodiac cruisers returned to the ship for lunch, before heading to the Beeman Point wharf and ascending the boardwalk. Beyond the old base, the boardwalk wound up around Beeman Hill, an old volcanic plug, with evident pillars of columnar basalt. Eventually the scrub opened into low cushion bog, with patches of the Giant Button Daisy (Pleurophyllum criniferum) emerging in the wetter sections. As the boardwalk began to rise again the Southern Royal Albatross nests began to accumulate around the path, in amongst the tussock and megaherbs. Unfortunately there was little chance to see the views out to Dent Island at the top of the saddle as the rain continued.
By 1830 we were all back on board in time for a recap at the bar, followed by a fantastic dinner. Many of us got together in the lecture room, to watch Don and Margie’s year in a box in Antarctica, before we moved to the Monkey Deck as the countdown to 2015 was upon us. A great, very long day, had been had by all. Happy New Year everyone!
Winds under 10 knots but rain all day were our conditions. We paddled from the ship’s anchorage to the northern shore of the harbour and followed it down past Davis Point and the Sea Lions as far as East Cape. There were some New Zealand Fur Seals along the rocks just after Erebus Point. We then headed to the southern side of the Perseverance Harbour and found an overhang to have lunch under, as it was still raining. We then followed the southern shoreline back to the ship passing some Elephant Seals, more New Zealand Sea Lions and heaps of waterfalls. On the northern side of the harbour there were a few Yellow-eyed Penguins and about six Campbell Island Teal. We then had time to do the walk up to the Southern Royal Albatross colony in the late afternoon. An awesome day!
6 Kayakers, 20.2km
Mitch’s bird of the day: Northern Giant Petrel
Alex’s plant of the day: Anisotome latifolia, one of the megaherbs, and also one of the giant carrots on the island, in full bloom along the western cliffs.
Mud, sweat, but no tears, as we march on towards North West Bay.
Anisotome latifolia, one of the giant megaherb carrots, flourishing along the western cliffs.
Sodden wanderers get a little respite from the rain at North West Bay hut.
A Campbell Island Teal at Camp Cove.
Day 11 – 1st January 2014
Just after 0600 Don woke Alex, who in a state of post New Year’s Eve confusion, presumed we were heading up the boardwalk, but he quickly learnt that due to the bluebird skies, the planned assault on Mt Honey had been resurrected. By 0710 an intrepid band of five was on the beach in Garden Cove to begin the hike up the ‘Rollercoaster’, an undulating path up and down peat bogs and through Turpentine scrub (Dracophyllum cockayneanum and D. scoparium). Within an hour we had made it to the saddle between Mt Honey and Mt Filhol and had our first views south to Jacquemart Island and the southern coast. Then we left our track and started an unmarked route straight up the western flank of Mt Honey. The number of Southern Royal Albatross soaring overhead and gamming in small groups grew as the northerly increased around the base of Mt Honey. Slowly we marched towards the rocky crown of the mountain and in a little more than two hours since we left the beach, we achieved the summit. The northerly had not abated at the top and soon the chill was setting in, but the view was outstanding, being completely clear in all directions. After a brief time exploring the summit area, we were heading back down peaty mountainside, repeatedly losing our footing, and disappearing amongst the megaherbs. Towards the saddle we stopped and watched a group of three juvenile Southern Royal Albatross gamming. All three, as well as the five of us, were taking great joy out of overt neck-swinging, clacking, wing-spreading, marching and keening display. Then it was back onto the ‘Rollercoaster’, and into thigh-high peat-mud, as we pushed ourselves back to the beach, just as Don rounded into Garden Cove with a Zodiac.
Meanwhile, the remainder of our expedition group had broken into the three factions. The kayakers had headed into the western end of Perseverance Harbour and were exploring the historical coves and bays from Tucker Cove, around to Garden Cove. Similarly the Zodiac team took their time to explore these areas, and observe the large number of Black-Backed Gull and Northern Giant Petrel chicks that were evident from the coastal edge. The remaining group headed up the boardwalk, enjoying the change in vegetation as the path led up and around Beeman Hill, across the open peat bog, and up onto the Col-Lyall Saddle, where today great views were to be had to the south and west over to Dent Island. Great profusions of megaherb flowers could be seen near the top of the boardwalk, and the refusal of two Sea Lions to budge from the boardwalk led to a quick detour into the scrub.
By 1215 we were all back aboard the ship for lunch in the calm sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour. The anchor was lifted just after 1300 and we headed up the harbour. Over-exaggerated waves of farewell were aimed at the four Sea Lion researchers at Davis Point, which we could see busying themselves around the colony. Williwaws started to pick up around the ship and looking back west we could see heavy grey clouds descending onto the island. We exited the heads and were soon punching into 30 knot northerlies as we began our sea journey back to Bluff. By the time the bar was open the sea state was little changed, 3-4 m seas heaved the ship about as we continued into 30 knot northerlies. Conner and Frank put in a huge effort in order to get the usual fantastic dinner out, before most of us opted for an early night and the relative safety of a bunk.
Sunshine greeted us but the winds had picked up to 20 knots. We paddled to Lookout Bay and past the meteorological station into Tucker Cove. Then we headed into Camp Cove and had a stop to visit the ‘loneliest tree in the world’. We then followed the shoreline into Garden Cove, past Venus Bay and back to the ship. Some nice Sea Lion encounters and an Elephant Seal or two.
6 Kayakers, 8.6km
Total of 5 paddles for 56.9km on the expedition
Mitch’s bird of the day: Southern Royal Albatross
Alex’s plant of the day: Pleurophyllum speciosum, the Giant Emperor Daisy, with huge splays of bright pink, purple and white flowers, all over the higher parts of the island.
In the foreground a rare white morph of the Giant Emperor Daisy (Pleurophyllum speciosum) on the western flank of Mount Honey; meanwhile Megan, Ian, Chris and David continue their ascent, with Six Foot Lake and Jacquemart Island behind them.
Looking down on Perseverance Harbour, the Meteorological Service base can be seen on the edge of Beeman Hill, and unlike the day before, Dent Island (La Dent – The Tooth) can be seen in its full pointed molar-like glory just off North West Bay.
The successful summit team, Megan, David, Ian and Chris, with Dent Island in the background.
Three juvenile Southern Royal Albatross gamming, a form of socialising and practicing for courtship. Gamming includes one or more birds swinging their necks to the sun and then in all other directions, followed by clacking and wing spreading, marching and keening, all to the great satisfaction (evident here) of the gam-onlookers.
Day 12 – 2nd January 2014
At sea en route to Bluff
We awoke late after an interesting night of messy seas that peaked around 0300 with a few waves large enough to bolt a good number of us awake. A late breakfast and most of us settled into a dozy morning of naps and cups of tea. The Lecture Room became almost workable, and for the dozen or so willing, with chairs all pushed to the back wall for stability, the film Black Fish was shown. After lunch Mitch called the bird enthusiasts to the bar to catch up on the last few days of the bird list and Jessie called us all up to her office, a few cabins at a time, to settle our accounts. At 1700 we joined the entire team in the Lecture Room for an excellent slide show put together by Mike that recapped our expedition. Don outlined the disembarkation procedures for the following day, before we sat down for our final meal together.
Mitch’s bird of the day: Cape Petrel
Day 13 – 3rd January 2014
In the early hours of the morning we rounded Stewart Island, crossed Foveaux Strait and by 0645 we were nearing the pilot station. With the pilot on board, we joined together for an early breakfast as the expedition drew to an end. As Bluff began to wake up we said our farewells and began to look back on a magnificent 12 days on the southern ocean.
We wish many more wild adventures to all and thank everyone for their enthusiasm and camaraderie.
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" An memorable adventure enhanced by Heritage staff prepared to risk personal injury to ensure the safety of voyagers. "
" We wish to thank you all for a wonderful Expedition to the Galapagos of the Southern oceans, December 9-21.
It met all our expectations and more and we enjoyed it all, even the rough seas!
This was a very special way to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary, made even more memorable by the very generous gift of the book on The Southern Galapagos you gave us, thank you! "