The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent's human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.
The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the 'Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this 'heroic' or 'golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year but they still occupy the same sites. The seals which are no longer hunted for food lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.
Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey includes The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell Island. They break our long journey but more importantly they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the power house which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a recently updated combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room (March 2018). The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
Classification: Russian register KM ice class
Year built: 1984
Accommodation: 50 berths expedition
Main engines: power 2x1560 bhp (2x 1147 Kw)
Maximum speed: 12 knots (2 engines),
Cruising speed: 10 knots(one engine)
Bunker capacity: 320 tons
Day 1 Wednesday 10 February
Today with beautiful weather, we arrived at Invercargill New Zealand’s southern-most city, where most of us stayed in the fine centrally located Kelvin Hotel. Brendon, the Functions Manager, made sure that we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the evening with fine local produce and an excellent desert with berry compote a favourite. We also met Don McIntyre our Expedition Leader and David Harrowfield, a member of the expedition team. This was a good occasion to get to know many of our fellow expeditioners, some of whom had travelled with Heritage Expeditions before.
Day 2 Thursday 11 February
Noon position: Latitude 46o35.504’S; Longitude 168o20.71’E,
Air temperature: 16oC Water temperature 15oC. Taken from the Bridge Log Book (1430).
The ship positions are noted in case following the expedition one may wish to compile a chart with our voyage. This can also be useful when used for a presentation or to supplement photographs.
This morning we arose to cloud and light rain however this soon cleared and the weather today was excellent. Following an excellent breakfast, we assembled with our luggage in the foyer. Here David H. and Max the Ship Manager, made sure that possessions had our cabin number noted and the luggage was then loaded in a truck and conveyed to the ship. This provided an opportunity to do final shopping, then most of us walked with David to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. The visit with so much to see proved to be a highlight of our brief stay in Invercargill.
We began by viewing the excellent presentation ‘Beyond the Roaring Forties’, this being the same name for the exhibition, which featured aspects of the natural and human history of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, some of which we will visit in the next few days.
There were superb artefacts associated with early shipwrecks and the castaways. These included, the beautiful figure head of a woman clutching a bible, from the barque Glory wrecked at Bluff in 1881; the original wooden grave marker for 15 casualties from the Derry Castlewrecked on Enderby Island in 1887 along with a pair of seal skin slippers laced with twine, from the Dundonald wrecked on Disappointment Island during a storm in 1907. One can only imagine what it must have been like for men on the General Grant wrecked in 1866, who resorted to making miniature wooden rescue boats, complete with a keel, mast and sails and inscribed “WANT RELIEF”…
Other items such as a blubber fork, blubber cutter and scrimshaw (engraved sperm whale teeth) were linked to the dangerous work of early whaling. Other galleries included paintings done by a well-known early New Zealand artist, John Gibb, who completed interesting artworks depicting boats in the Bluff oyster fishery late 1880s-late 1890s. We all of course know that the best oysters in the world are still dredged from oyster beds in Fouveaux Strait. Come on April, when the season begins and the Oyster Festival is held in Bluff!
Other galleries included excellent displays of the region’s natural history, Maori artefacts from pre-European times, an exhibit titled ‘Deep Freeze’ with ice scenes including one based on a Herbert Ponting photograph (taken near Cape Evans in 1911) by Tony Bishop; staff photographing artefacts found during an archaeological excavation and a small wooden waka (Maori canoe) immersed in a bath; as part of the long conservation process. In the Tuatara gallery, we saw Henry the oldest resident, who was born in the late 19th C. and several baby Tuatara which before being put on display, have six months exposure to ultra-violet light. This is needed to provide Vitamin D and to get their biological clock (circadian rhythm) functioning. The presence of a third (pineal) eye located above the brain, is visible through the skin in newly hatched reptiles, however as the eye grows it is then covered with scales.
Back at the Kelvin Hotel, we enjoyed an excellent lunch with a good selection to choose from and just before 2p.m. boarded the coach to take us to Bluff. At the port after passing huge mounds of logs and wood chips, we had our identification checked by a security officer and soon parked beside our home for the next 30 days. The Spirit of Enderby is also named Professor Khromov (1904-1977), after a prominent Russian meteorologist, during the former Soviet Union era and used for oceanographic work. With a learned expression, he observes us each time we walk along the passage on Level Three. Here we took photographs, were welcomed by Don the Expedition Leader and Jane the Cruise Director. On account of Jane from the UK with us, the Cruise Director was known as Jane, Jane. Members of the expedition team then directed us to our cabins, where our luggage had been previously placed, we had a nice afternoon tea in the bar/library and generally familiarised ourselves with our home for the next for weeks.
We cleared Customs, had our passports taken for placement in the safe and gathered in the bar/library. Here we enjoyed freshly baked scones with jam and cream and a glass of blackcurrant juice. Soon after 1600 we left the pier and headed out into the shipping channel. A launch named Takitimu 2 took off the Pilot who saw we made it safely down the channel and by 1630 we were on our way.
At 1700 Expedition Leader Don, had us assemble in the Lecture Room. Members of the expedition staff were introduced and spoke briefly about their background and expectations. We were then advised about various ‘housekeeping’ requirements and Don explained emergency procedures. This was followed by the mandatory lifeboat drill, when we were required to report wearing our lifejackets to the muster stations and cram into either the Port or Starboard lifeboats according to the side our cabin was located on. The Saab diesel engine was briefly started by a Russian sailor, Don checked each boat to ensure we were appropriately kitted out, and the drill was then concluded.
The bar opened at 1830 and an excellent dinner with a mains choice of lamb rump or salmon fillet, was served at 1900. The end of the meal as we continued south past the east coast of the Chatham Islands, light rain was falling. Several Cape (Pintado) Petrels were seen along with a Sooty Shearwater and a New Zealand Fur Seal. We are now becoming familiar with the ship and are getting to know our cabin mates.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 3 Friday 12 February
Noon position: Latitude 68o02.799’S; Longitude 166o38.799’E,
Air temperature: 20oC Water temperature 15oC.
Conditions were calm last night with just a gentle roll occasionally and most of us slept well. As daylight returned, we were now about 200km south of New Zealand, with a light swell from the west-south-west. Many of us visited the bridge and saw large flocks of Sooty Shearwaters flying out to sea for the day, while large birds had also formed rafts near the ship. The occasional Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross were also observed. Sooty Shearwater are known to Maori as Titi or ‘mutton birds’ and under their customary right, Maori are permitted to harvest chicks once a year. They are dug out of burrows for food, although it is not known why there is a comparison to sheep.
The Snares Islands have a highest point of 152m, the islands cover 328 hectares, have a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1200mm per year. Before breakfast we had a good view of the Snares and being on the north coast were sheltered from the westerly. We had ideal conditions for a Zodiac cruise. Don summoned us all to the lecture room for a briefing at 1745 where he gave an excellent introduction Zodiac travel, with Lorna from the Heritage office, demonstrating the correct wearing of the life jacket. This was followed by a brief description of the Snares discovered by Captain George Vancouver on 23 November 1791 and the same day, Captain Broughton, also sighted the islands. Subsequent sealing era decimated the population.
The Zodiac operation using five boats, each equipped with a four-stroke 60 hp. Yamaha engine, began at 0900 with us setting out for two hours on the water. With exception of the scientific parties from University of Otago and National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), no landing is permitted on these pest-free islands. We had a highly enjoyable morning with sun, a little scattered cumulus cloud and no wind. Cruising a short distance off-shore, we enjoyed excellent views of the volcanic rocks, some with nice colouration and the zoning of vegetation adapted to salt-laden air with Olearia lyalli the tall ‘tree daisy’ with grey-green foliage, prominent in places. Other plants included the smaller ‘tree daisy’, Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’, a bright green shore Hebe and large tussock grass.
The many birds included spectacular rafts of Cape Petrels although with lesser numbers than observed previously and Snares Crested Penguins, a dead Common Diving Petrel, Antarctic Terns, Brown Skua, nesting Buller’s Albatross and Salvin’s Albatross, a Giant Petrel, several black Snares tomtits, Silvereyes, a Snares Fern Bird, Back and Red-billed Gulls. The Sooty Shearwaters are the most prominent bird species on the Snares, with an estimated 2.7 million pairs (1971), however they had mostly flown out to sea before dawn for a day of fishing. In two areas we obtained good photographs of Snares Crested Penguins. Excellent viewing was also enjoyed of numerous New Zealand Fur Seals including pups that were resting on warm kelp and some of us saw a loud confrontation, between a large male and two younger seals that resented the bigger male entering their territory.
We passed through a large arch, entered two large caverns exposed to the sea and saw a deep fissure with green and brown algae up the sides. In the first cavern, Victoria gave an excellent rendition of the first of two Andrew Lloyd Webber pieces from Phantom of the Opera; an aria and arpeggio. This was followed by a further piece in the second cavern entitled ‘Wishing you were somehow here again’. William made a further contribution with a rendition of the famous Irish tune ‘Danny Boy’.
Water running down from the first cavern appeared to come from the small penguin colony above, with Victoria stating “I’ve just been peed on by a penguin!” Where the sun touched the entrance, the water appeared a most beautiful turquoise. In places 3cm wide bands of quartz strata were seen and some surfaces of rock exposed to the sea was pitted from salt.
In Ho Ho Bay we glimpsed huts of a research station established in the 1960s and now occasionally used for science projects. Time was spent obtaining photographs of a rainbow where a blow hole existed, however one of the best highlights was an excellent view of the famous ‘penguin slide’ with large numbers of Snares Crested Penguins commuting over granite, with the surface worn smooth perhaps over hundreds of years. The population of this species is around 30,000. Some penguins which became stranded in the kelp, managed to extricate themselves remarkably quickly. Penguins were calling and from nests on adjacent headlands, the distinctive nasal-like and guttural, braying calls of Buller’s Albatross were heard. By 1115 we were back on board and Don, David and Chris, each agreed that the visit was rare, as conditions often prevent any Zodiac cruising.
We enjoyed a very nice lunch at 1300 and at 1400 David gave his first lecture ‘Bleak Outposts in Stormy Seas’ which focused on the various stages of occupation in New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands and Australia’s Macquarie Island. These were discovery; ship wrecks and castaways; sealing and whaling; scientific parties; farming; military lookouts during WW2 and pest eradication.
At 1700 Don gave the mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) briefing, followed by an introduction to the Auckland Islands. All personnel then completed their form in which they stated their boots, back packs and clothing was free of unwanted seeds, dirt etc.
The bar was well patronised and it was very interesting to discover from conversation that we have direct descendants on board from three expeditions. For each person, there was a desire to learn more about their ancestor. Celia’s great, great, grandfather Charles Thorndike Tucker, served as Master (Navigating Officer) on HMS Erebus, during James Clark Ross’s expedition in 1841, when the Ross Sea was penetrated for the first time. The Tucker Glacier was named by Ross for him. Ian Williams’s wife Gwyneth is the great, great, granddaughter, of Sarah Cripps who was born at Hardwicke, the village established on Auckland Island, by Charles Enderby in 1849. Sarah’s Bosom named after her was later changed by Samuel Enderby to Port Ross. William Grey is a great grandson of Professor Edgeworth David a member of Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09. The ‘Prof’ as he was known, took part in the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and also discovery of the South Magnetic Pole. By evening the sea was calm and prospects were looking favourable for a fine and interesting day tomorrow.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 4 Saturday 13 February
Enderby Island (Auckland Islands)
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.529’S; Longitude 166o16.734’ E
Air temperature: 12oC Water temperature 8oC.
We had an exceptionally calm evening and after a little rain, enjoyed a fine day with a mix of cloudy and sunny spells. A stiff northerly was blowing on the far side of Enderby Island.
Port Ross where we anchored is named after the famous English Arctic and Antarctic explorer, James (later Sir) Clark Ross, who visited here in November 1840. Originally it was named Rendezvous Harbour by the French expedition led by Dumont D’Urville and renamed later by Charles Enderby. Many of us on deck early were fascinated with the spectacular columnar basalt cliffs with prominent jointing, topped by rata forest and Dracophyllum, along the south side of Enderby Island. The rock has formed in this way during cooling of the lava.
Most of us had a hearty breakfast and after Don’s briefing on the landing, held in the lecture room at 0745, we made our lunch and soon after 0900 the landing using three Zodiacs got underway. We all disembarked on a rocky tidal platform covered with kelp, behind which was a shallow cave. Some of us were fortunate to see a Red-crowned Parakeet. Anchored in the bay was a large yacht Evohe that had a film party on the island. We left unwanted clothing and life jackets at an old boat shed and enjoyed a welcome and brief talk from Sea Lion research team leader, Chris Muller. The DOC party was very concerned at the loss of four two-month old pups in the past 36 hours and the colony is showing a general decline. Don and David recalled seeing the beach almost covered with New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lions in years gone by.
Our party now split up with a little over half of us, opting to do the long walk around the end of the island. The remainder then set out on the short walk. Of special interest was a mauve native orchid, one of three species on the island. Some trees and low shrubs of Southern Rata, along with Cassinia and small white and mauve Gentians were also flowering. A few Southern Royal Albatrosses were on nests some distance from the boardwalk, although some of us had a good view of one taking flight. Once on north coast, both parties spread out and all a metre apart, we slowly walked through the tussocks and Bulbinella rossii a ‘mega herb’. In December these magnificent plants have a beautiful orange flower head, although was now a dark brown seed head. We were fortunate to flush out a small Auckland Islands Snipe and could not get over how well camouflaged the bird was. Heritage Expeditions is the only group with permission to undertake the activity and several of us obtained good photographs. The next point of interest was a nesting site for Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. One well developed albatross chick in brown down was seen and we were treated to a fine flying display by a pair of birds, while an adult near the chick, periodically emitted calls.
The long walkers continued on their way and by 1300 the short walkers were back at Sandy Bay and enjoying lunch. We were able to photograph some pups and adult Sea Lions and one or two Yellow-eyed Penguins were seen and others were heard calling in the Rata forest.
David, with New Zealand, UK and Antarctic experience in archaeology, found a worked chert flake in the vicinity of the excavation done a few years ago. It has not been established where the source material was located, although similar stone is on Campbell Island. The artefact which appeared to have been burnt was photographed and left on the site. The area had many fragments of bone and it was not possible to determine if these were associated with cultural or Skua activity.
Some of us visited the Stella castaway depot. This depot named after the ship, is thought to have been placed in 1880 and was stocked with clothing, blankets, medicines and food. One of our shipmates suggested Stella Hut, would not have much room for a honeymoon. Near the boatshed we noticed that a ‘finger post’ directing castaways to the depot, is actually pointing in the wrong direction! There are several of these in the Auckland Islands. A few of us watched the autopsy by vet Emily, from Massey University, of a New Zealand Sea Lion pup. Samples taken to ascertain why the pup(s) had died included half the brain preserved in liquid nitrogen. The short walkers all found something of interest and most returned to the Spirit of Enderby by 1430. Many photographs were taken of Sea Lion pups, adults, some of the birdlife and the interesting flora.
Those who had embarked upon the long walk who arrived at Sandy Bay later in the afternoon, had been rewarded with views of the Derry Castle reef where the ship was wrecked in March 1887 and of the memorial plaque placed near the site with 15 graves. The barque had a load of grain from Geelong Australia. There were eight survivors who subsisted on grain and shellfish for 92 days, as the castaway depot was found to contain only one jar of salt. The walkers covered the ground in good time and all were back on board by 1700. Bird sightings were plentiful with numerous Red-crowned Parakeets and a variety of other interesting birds including, Auckland Islands Tomtits, Red Polls, a Blackbird, a Spurwing Plover, juvenile Bellbirds, brown Northern Skuas, Kelp Gulls, Arctic Terns, Auckland Islands Teal and Yellow-eyed Penguins. A dead White-headed Petrel was seen and there were many Sea Lions, but no Elephant Seals today.
It would be difficult to determine the most special aspect of today as there were many highlights. Before the evening meal, we had a recap in the Bar-Library when many of us were given a chance to comment on the day. Ian A took numerous photographs of ferns for Te Papa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, which is undertaking a major survey of ferns. Each side of the frond was photographed and five species were recorded. Stuart photographed a burrow that was perhaps that of a petrel; Chris in the expedition team enjoyed observing a Skua and had a far from friendly meeting with a Sea Lion; Don saw a young Diving Petrel that appeared to have fallen from its nest on a cliff above the rock platform, doing its best to avoid a Skua.
This evening many were writing diaries or enjoying going through photographs taken. The bar opened at 1800 and this was followed by the usual excellent dinner with the choice of lamb or chicken was provided by Robin and Benny. A birders meeting was held in the bar-library.
Don’s definition of Adventure – “adventure is you don’t know the outcome”
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 5 Sunday 14 February
Auckland Island – Carnley Harbour – Tagua Bay
Noon position: Latitude 50 o48.759’S; Longitude 166o 04.654’E
Air temperature: 17oC Water temperature: 12oC
We departed from Port Ross about 0320 and had a calm sea for the night. By 0630 the coastline of Auckland Island was visible with Cape Farr to Starboard and Gilroy Head to Port. It was very bleak with light rain falling. At 0640 a 25 knot wind was blowing from the north-north-west the temperature was 10oC and the water also 10oC. The few birds about included Sooty Shearwaters which Don pointed out was the first species in the world to have been found contaminated with plastic. By 0700 Adams Island was to port and Musgrave Peninsula was emerging. To starboard lay Mt D’Urville 631m and the highest point on Adams Island is 640m. We continued up Carnley Harbour in very bleak conditions, with the wind showing no sign of abating. Following breakfast, we assembled in the lecture theatre. Don explained the present and anticipated weather situation, and then gave an outline on what we could perhaps achieve this morning. Sheltered reasonably well by the Musgrave Peninsula, we then dropped anchor in Tagua Bay. The objective today was to enhance our knowledge of the Auckland Islands more recent history linked to WW2.
Following the rapid departure from Port Chalmers New Zealand, of the German cargo ship Erlangen on the eve of war being declared in 1939, the ship was without its full load of coal. The Erlangen then headed south and finding a good location to hide at the head of the North Arm of Carnley Harbour, the largely Chinese crew cut 400 tons of Rata for fuel. Ian A. mentioned that unbeknown to the Germans, Rata is one of the few timbers than will burn when green. New Zealand authorities had by now organised the secret Cape Expedition.
Soon after 0900 two Zodiacs were launched and we were shuttled to a basalt boulder beach below Rata and Dracophyllum trees. On the beach were blue-lipped mussels, limpets, snails and the attractive small paua, Haliotis virginia, which is also found in New Zealand. A Bellbird was calling, an Antarctic Tern was seen and two small Pipits were seeking food on the rocks. Once everyone was ashore and on top of a terrace, we made our way along a muddy track and through a ‘goblin forest’ of very old Rata and Dracophyllum trees. The vegetation was of great interest and included lichen on trees, interesting ferns, purple flowering Gentians and some nice examples of a green native Orchid. Everywhere small seedlings had discovered a niche to become established; this often in clumps of moss, or in decayed wood. Ian was especially interested in a very small fern which could possibly be a new species and Chris found a footprint from what appeared to be from a large wild pig.
Don pointed out the secret WW2 Cape Expedition lookout site with commanding views either side of the peninsula and after a walk up a steep track, we arrived at the site of the main building complex which housed the New Zealand coast watchers. The buildings are in a sorry state of decay yet the cooking range was still in evidence. We all agreed that it must have been quite a cosy retreat and that considerable effort was required to man-handle all the building materials and other items to the site, which had to be firstly cleared and levelled. Then there was all the cooking utensils, food and communications equipment. From here we walked a short distance up the ridge and inspected the lookout hut. This has been restored by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, which has done an excellent job. A few artefacts included a packet of playing cards and several rusted tins including a baking powder tin.
An emergency shelter was also located at Emergency Bay near the entrance to Tagua Bay. A further party was located at Ranui Cove on the north-east corner of Auckland Island and another was on Campbell Island at Tucker’s Cove. This also had a lookout although nothing remains of the Campbell Island lookout hut. We enjoyed a leisurely walk back down to the beach and by now the sun was beginning to break through. By 1130 we were on board after a most interesting excursion having enjoyed the distinct aroma of the damp forest, the beauty and variety of the plants, interesting relics of past recent history and the exercise.
Don advised that weather conditions at Macquarie Island were not favourable for landing and after consultation with the captain the decision was made to head direct for Antarctica. Heritage Expeditions Operations Manager Nathan Russ, advised from the office that yesterday all the ice broke out from McMurdo Sound, leaving us with the possibility of still seeing Macquarie Island and perhaps also the Balleny Islands, on the way north before the final scheduled landfall at Campbell Island. We enjoyed a very nice salad and pasta for lunch, continued up the North Arm and then departed the Auckland Islands to commence our run south. Shearwaters along with White-bellied Petrels and a Grey-backed Petrel were feeding.
Our course was set to follow 167o Longitude with a westerly heading toward 166o and soon we were well south of the Auckland Islands. The sea now a lead-grey colour with numerous white caps and created the occasional roll of the ship. Because of the conditions, Don called off any lectures. An excellent dinner was enjoyed after which Birdmon, held his lively evening discussion in the Bar/Library and with a calm sea we looked forward to a comfortable night.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 6 Monday 15 February
Noon position: Latitude 55o06.66 ’S; Longitude 166o19.547 ’E
Air temperature: 17 oC (probably nearer 13 as sun on thermometer). Water temperature: 10.5oC
We had a very good rest last evening and this morning we are on a course of 182o True with about 1000 nautical miles (nm) to go before we reach Cape Adare in the early hours of Friday. Today we have a following sea with a two-three metre swell and a northerly wind speed of 15 knots. At 0815 the temperature was 10o and the sea temperature also 10o. The light fog this morning is due to the northerly wind and we are however still some distance from the Antarctic Convergence. The few birds about this morning included Wandering and Southern Royal Albatrosses, Cape Petrel and Sooty Shearwaters. During the evening, we began veering west toward 166o Longitude, with a speed of 11.5-12 knots and our position at 0740 was 54o08.745’S; 166o19.426’E.
Most of us had only a partial or no idea of what many instruments on the Bridge were for. After breakfast most of us assembled on the Bridge where Don who has wide experience in sailing, provided a clear explanation for us. Don began his discussion with aspects concerned with navigation such as the radar and small blocks of wood providing a visual record of the course setting. It was interesting to hear that some instruments such as three electronic chronometers were backed up with a standard wind-up instrument and that along with national flags, code flags, are also internationally recognised. Mounted on top of the ‘monkey bridge’ above the Bridge, there is even the equivalent of an aircraft ‘black box’. This contains a record of all systems in the previous 48 hours. Other instruments such as the echo sounder are electronic with a paper recorder also used. There are several items of equipment for communication which use satellites and also have back-up systems. The international distress frequency is Channel 16 and our ‘line of sight’ VHF radios operate on Channel 8. Don also explained the role of the officers with the Chief Mate also a qualified Captain, along with the Second and Third Mates, who are highly skilled; watches operate on a system with four hours on and eight off and the Spirit of Enderby has twin engines that operate through a gear box and single propeller. At 1000 we assembled in the Bar-Library to try on our handsome blue polar outer jacket with liner, which will be delivered to our cabins in due course.
Birdmon’s lecture was very useful and well attended. Most of us have an interest in the variety of birds and already this morning in addition to albatrosses, we have seen a White-chinned Petrel and Antarctic Prions. The lecture began with charts indicating the various important wind and ocean circulation patters around Antarctica. Excellent photographs conveyed distinguishing features, such as upper and lower views with subtle differences between. Other topics briefly discussed included dynamic soaring by albatrosses, feeding and nesting. These will be expanded in further presentations. Before lunch at 1330 a large piece of seaweed was seen and Don advised that Christchurch had today experienced a magnitude 5.7 earthquake, at 10 km depth off-shore.
We had a busy afternoon again with Don giving us an excellent introduction to the calculation of latitude, longitude and the importance of time. This was very helpful as it made us appreciate the problems that confronted early mariners and was also a useful lead into Part 1 of the excellent film ‘Longitude’.
After a 30 minute break, David then gave his second lecture to a good attendance. ‘From Ross to Borchgrevink 1841-1900’ focused on the early discovery of Antarctica and in particular the 1841 voyage of James Clark Ross with the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (later lost in the Arctic), which penetrated the Ross Sea and discovered the two major volcanoes on Ross Island, the Ross Ice Shelf and other features. Reference was made to the Challenger Expedition, the first landing at Cape Adare in 1895 and the British Antarctic (Southern Cross) Expedition 1898-1899, when the first winter-over on the continent was achieved in 1899.
By late afternoon we were experiencing 30-35 knot winds with swells from the west as we are now moving into the centre of a depression (low). Progress is good however and this evening, we had a very convivial time in the Bar-Library followed by an excellent meal with a choice of Chatham Islands blue cod or beef spare ribs. After dinner Birdmon held the evening bird checklist discussion. This was attended by 14 when a photograph taken by Ian, was used to confirm identity for a Cape Petrel. This led to an interesting discussion on the use of the term Cape Pigeon that was given by early mariners, on account of the bird when feeding, nodded its head like a pigeon. We also learned that it is good to describe what one sees before consulting a book, with a sketch a good way of doing this.
Day 7 Tuesday 16 February
Latitude 60 degrees passed – now responsible to Antarctic Treaty
Noon position: Latitude 58o 53.807’S; Longitude 169o 04.809’E
Air temperature: 12oC Water temperature: 7.6oC
1822 Latitude 60o00.550’S; Longitude 168o27.816’E
First of five Global Drifter Programme buoys released.
We enjoyed a further comfortable night although during the morning, the ship experienced a few rolls on the beam from the northwest, with one at 20o and this morning a few of us decided to lay low in the cabin. The course is 145o True with 760 nm to go before Cape Adare. Barometric pressure rising which is good and by lunch time, we had travelled 865 nm from Bluff. There were not many birds about this morning.
David gave his third presentation to a full house this morning. ‘Antarctica Unveiled’ dealt with the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904, led by Commander Robert Falcon Scott; also known as the Discovery Expedition, on account of the new ship SY Discovery. Major achievements included the first record of an Emperor Penguin colony, first view of the Polar Plateau, discovery of the first Dry Valley (now Taylor Valley) and a new furthest south of 82o11’. A number of reasons were given for the failure of the dogs taken on the southern journey, reference was made to illness suffered by Scott, Wilson and Shackleton and the idea of sleeping in a three-man sleeping bag, caused some amusement.
There was a superb hot beef sandwich with salad for lunch and an excellent caramel square for desert. We are certainly being fed better than those who spent two winters on the iced-in Discovery.
In the afternoon Don offered a further very useful lecture on the basics of navigation, charts and GPS (Global Positioning System), which we all attended. We extended our knowledge on navigation with such details as ‘the doppler effect’ which enables the accurate measuring of distance. We also learned how GPS receivers can locate four or more satellites to work out distance and latitude and longitude, while a fourth satellite will indicate the height above sea surface level.
The second part of ‘Longitude’ was screened at 1500 and a number of us have had the pleasure of viewing John Harrison’s three clocks and his beautiful watch, along with the Kendall copy, which are exhibited in the Royal Maritime Museum at Greenwich London. We returned to the Lecture Room later where Birdmon, gave his second presentation entitled ‘Recognising Bird Behaviours’. A good attendance heard about the variety of behaviour shown by different species including, social relationships, foraging for food, habitation, song development and the fact that young birds with eyes yet to open listen to the parent and also when developed, tap the parents beak as they demand food. Other topics discussed included body care and aggression, as shown by the Skua with its ‘long-call’ display. There was a hilarious end to the lecture, as the imminent arrival at 60o led to a fast exit from the Lecture Theatre, with Birdmon briefly speaking the last few words to himself.
At around 1820 and making good progress at 11.1 knots, the Spirit of Enderby crossed Latitude 60o this now indicating that we are in the waters of the Antarctic Treaty. A large number of ‘Antarctic virgins’ were invited by Don to gather at the bow where to please King Neptune, they received The Polar Blast. All were hosed, drenched and recorded by the numerous photographers. Soon afterwards the first of five 30cm diameter steel ocean buoys with a 15m long cloth drogue was released as part of a Global Drifter Program jointly sponsored by WMO and UNESCO. It was thrown over by Chris, Jim and Birdmon, at 1855 and provided a further interesting aspect to the expedition. The five buoys will be released between 60-66oSouth and 160-179oEast. Each buoy will receive and transmit data to a satellite such as air temperature, conductivity, barometric pressure, along with sea temperature, ocean current and salinity. Many of us obtained a good photographic record of the buoy release and the second buoy was scheduled to be put over about midnight.
The bar was again the setting for much laughter and later we tucked into an excellent meal featuring either Butter Chicken or venison Rogan Josh. Birdmon had his evening species discussion again in the library and advised that he has a book in his library entitled ‘Birds of the Caribbean’ by James Bond, but not the same one as we are familiar with! Don said we can expect good weather over the next day or two and the wind is likely to come from the east. We are not over the Antarctic Convergence yet and we and the Akademik Shokalskiy will be the only ships in the Ross Sea at present. Of interest was the sighting of three Royal Penguins perhaps from Macquarie Island and about 360 nm from home.
Day 8 Wednesday 17 February
Antarctic Convergence; 1st iceberg; Humpback whales; release of buoys
Noon position: Latitude 63o20.489’S; Longitude 167o45.434 ’E
Air temperature: 3.5oC Water temperature: 6oC
This morning we got up to a nice calm sea and during the night passed through the Antarctic Convergence which appears to be further south this season. There was a light fog at 0730 although this soon faded away. The water temperature was 4oC and air temperature 3o. Our position at 0730 was Latitude 62o27.578’S; Longitude 167o45.609’E. However the barometric pressure is falling and we may be in for a rough spell. Several bergs were picked up on radar about 0200 however these disappeared in the fog. The large berg to starboard was deemed to be the first for competition purposes at a time of 0715. Don estimated its height to be about 40 metres above the water line and he described it as a remnant tabular berg, verging on a ‘castellated’ iceberg. The Spirit of Enderby was brought closer and many of us obtained good photographs.
At 0900 we assembled in the Lecture Room below Deck 3 for a presentation by Chris. Titled ‘Weather forecasting and the Effects of El Nino on the Southern Ocean’ this was an excellent lecture. Although many of us had some familiarity with the subject, it was a very useful refresher and carefully explained with good illustrations. The lecture began with a discussion on the steps involved with forecasting – data collection including use of satellites, balloons and automatic weather stations (AWS - one was on Enderby Island), processing of data and modelling and compilation of a weather forecast and what it is consists of. This included Low and High Pressure systems, fronts, along with an explanation of wind speed in knots and direction, all using simple symbols. Chris also made reference to the buoys being released and gave a careful explanation of El Nino and La Nina systems with the present El Nino in the Southern Hemisphere, disrupting the atmosphere system over the South Ocean.
Our handsome blue polar jackets were issued by the expedition staff and at 1100 the third buoy was put over the side, this providing a further photo opportunity, with a few autographing the cardboard wrapper which soon disintegrates. One inscription, GNOME, was appropriate when considered as an acronym as it means ‘Guarding Naturally over Mother Earth’ which may also explain, why there apparently is a Gnome overlooking Germany’s Gondwana Station in Terra Nova Bay. Gnomes are part of a long established part of folk-lore not only in Europe, but also in New Zealand.
Don gave his next presentation titled ‘Ice is Nice’ which explained the extensive terminology for sea and land ice, supported by excellent photographs. The lecture was in two parts and special emphasis was given to the overall formation of sea ice at different times of the year, along with such features as tide cracks and the ice foot, which are often undercut and can be very dangerous. Care must also be taken during Zodiac travel in the proximity to ice bergs. Many if not all of the various forms of ice, will be seen by us during the expedition and we may also encounter the polyna area in Terra Nova Bay, where the sea remains ice-free during winter. On land, we may observe phenomena in the atmosphere caused by ice crystals and also fine ‘diamond-dust’. If wind is blowing there may be ‘drift’ with fine wind-blown snow, a short distance above the ground and often remarked on by early explorers. There was some discussion on climate change and Don mentioned that in the 2014 winter, the total surface area of ice around the continent was 11% more than that previously recorded. Furthermore around the Antarctic Peninsula, sea-water temperatures are up and large ice-shelves have been collapsing.
Again our chefs excelled themselves with a nice fresh salad and superb sausage rolls for lunch, a favourite with everyone. There was an opportunity to photograph two large bergs and many of us were lucky at 1405 to see a splendid pair of male Humpback Whales breaching several times. Three Black-browed Albatross were also sighted off the stern. The Sea Shop opened for half an hour, providing an opportunity to purchase various gifts and mementoes of our expedition. There was an interesting selection of apparel with the Spirit of Enderby logo, postcards, books, a map and other items. This was followed by a screening of the documentary ‘Polar Bearing – 200 teddy bears to Antarctica’ about Don’s yacht voyage to Antarctica in 1993. He had previously sailed the same yacht around the world during the BOC Challenge in 1990 and on this particular expedition the yacht Buttercup (also named Spirit of Tincan) carried Don, his three crew and 200 teddy bears as the silent observers. The yacht had no sooner arrived at Commonwealth Bay, when a second yacht appeared and both parties were forced to wait out a katabatic blizzard. Don said he only had three eight hour, spells ashore at Mawson’s huts and for several days the violent wind blew up to 60-70 knots and for three days over 70 knots. The yachts were coated with ice and although a great experience, they were pleased to head north, eventually to be towed to their final berth in Australia and a great welcome. However this would not be an end to Don’s Antarctic sailing.
The next buoy was put over at 1700 and the last five hours later. By late afternoon the Spirit ofEnderby was enjoying a relatively calm sea with an occasional roll and soon we expect to cross the Antarctic Circle at 66o 33.3’ South Latitude. At 1830 in the Bar-Library the results of the Iceberg Competition were announced. The winners were Mark and Debbie with 62o44’ South and they were only nine miles out. The time winner was Ian A. with 0700 with his position of 61o35’ South. The winners will have the privilege of being first to enter the historic huts. Birdmon mentioned that some of the birds seen today were Back-browed Albatross, a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, White headed, Cape and Giant Petrels. There was much fun in the library this evening with a whiskey tasting session, while Naoko and Sybil compiled art works. Naoko detailed maps in her diary and Sybil drew various signs in the passages. Another artist is Debbie from South Africa, who uses oils to paint a variety of subjects. Most of us retired as an early start was expected.
Day 9 Thursday 18 February
Southern Ocean; Antarctic Circle crossed
Noon position: Latitude 67o 44.0’ S; Longitude 170o36.6’ E
Air temperature: +2 oC Water temperature: +2 oC
Around 0500 today we surfaced to a bleak morning with a grey sea and scattered white horses. Don summoned us to the Bar-Library at 0530 and advised that at 0541 we would cross the Antarctic Circle. This is a geographical boundary (also in the Arctic) at which in summer, marks the most northerly point at which the sun is visible for 24 hours a day on mid-summer’s day (21 December), when the sun is at its highest above the horizon. In winter it is the southernmost point at which the sun can be seen on Mid-winters Day (21 June). South of the Antarctic Circle in winter, it is dark 24 hours a day.
The crossing of the Antarctic Circle is considered to be a symbolic point of the entry into Antarctic waters. On 17 January 1773 Cook and his crews on the HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure were first to cross this significant geographical line.
There were of course, a few bleary eyes. Jane handed out mugs of the mulled wine Robin had concocted and then Don recited passages in which we pledged to advocate preservation of Antarctica until the day we ceased to visit.
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility - a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin - as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.” This was applied to the forehead by Lorna.
Then with a busy programme ahead, it was back to bed for another two hours rest.
At 0815 we were at 67o South and 170o30’ East, on a course of 166o True. We were making a good 12 knots with a 20 knot north-west wind and a three meter sea. The temperature was falling and just 0oC with the water 2oC although Don mentioned the temperature is 1-1.5oC too warm. The barometer was falling fast. Rodney Russ, the founder of Heritage Expeditions who is currently leading an expedition aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy, informed Don that yesterday the air temperature was -10oC on Ross Island and -19oC on the Ross Ice Shelf. Don suggested we can expect similar temperatures.
We passed a large berg at 0900 after which David gave his fourth lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Earnest Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition 1907-1909. He discussed Cape Royds and Shackleton’s hut, the first ascent of Mt. Erebus and the two main expeditions which for the first time attained the South Magnetic Pole and got to within 97 miles of the Geographic South Pole. A recording made by Shackleton in 1909 following return of the expedition was played and this is possibly the only known recording as Scott did not make one. The library has several books we are enjoying.
William Grey from Queensland, grandson of Professor Edgeworth David, treated us with an excellent presentation on his ancestor with the lecture complimenting the earlier lecture by David. We learned much of ‘the Prof’s’ early life, how he came to join Shackleton’s expedition, of his influence on science and major contribution to the expedition. The lecture was interspersed with good quotations and one perhaps must feel pity for the Prof’s wife and family, when they heard he decided to remain for a year in Antarctica, advising that among other aspects, it would be good for his health. Don reminded us that the Magnetic Pole moves ‘fast’ through an elliptical path of 370 km, and that Mawson was the first to discover this.
By 1230 the state of sea was much the same as in the morning and the horizon obscured by fog. The captain was busy on the Bridge keeping watch for icebergs of which there were six in our vicinity and from time to time, checked the display on the radar. At 1245 a polystyrene container floated past and its position was recorded. A few bergy bits and one or two well-rounded growlers were also seen and Don advised a selection of maps had been placed in the Bar/Library and that rather than us asking what various features were, he would in fact be asking us. Following lunch we had a briefing from Don for our arrival at Cape Adare which included a video on the Code of Conduct for historic sites, prepared by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Later Birdmon gave an introductory lecture on penguins entitled ‘Speaking Spenesidae – Penguins of the Polar South’. This most interesting lecture began with a description of the six genus. At present only the Adelie and Emperor are true endemic penguins in Antarctica, with the rest being confined to Subantarctic and peri-Antarctic islands (those off the Antarctic continent), along with the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula, although some are beginning to appear in the Antarctic, perhaps as the result of climate change. Of interest too were the various means of adaption for penguins such as strong breast mussels for flippers, dense plumage on a compact body and flattened yet strong bones. Physiological aspects include the counter current system in for example the legs where the veins return blood to the heart, these are next to the arteries and is an adaptation whereby penguins can stand on a cold surface. There are two million Adelie Penguins in Antarctica with the largest colony (previously termed rookeries) at Cape Adare having 100,000 breeding birds.
The day passed very quickly and many of us began to assemble things ready for a potential landing at Cape Adare in the morning and prepare for an early night. By 1800 the sea was calmer and the sky was clearing. Birdmon had a good muster of 14 after dinner when sightings were discussed. He mentioned that “birds are dynamic and change their appearance a lot. Look carefully, study it and note various characteristics.” Most of the birds we will encounter are ‘tube-noses’ which excrete salt via a gland. One such bird, an Antarctic Fulmar, was sighted today.
Day 10 Friday 19 February
Off Cape Adare
Zodiac cruise in Robertson Bay – icebergs, huts, wildlife
Noon position: Latitude 71o 18.06’ S; Longitude 170o 06.214’ E
Air temperature: 0oC Water temperature: 0.7oC
175 years ago today: James Clark Ross with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, named Cape Adare after Viscount Adare; MP for Glamorganshire.
This morning Don woke us at 0630 and many of us went up to the bridge. There had been an early snow flurry, the decks had a reasonable coating and it was -4oC. Rodney said it was -30C at Scott Base yesterday and was the lowest temperature he had ever experienced there. The sea was however calm with a light ripple and a light southerly was blowing. Near us were several large bergs, some with deep blue caves near the water line. We were in 312m of water, about 12 nm off Cape Adare and moving at around 9.6 knots. Wildlife seen included a Giant Petrel, Snow Petrel, several South Polar Skuas, a Weddell Seal and a pod of around 20 Orca. Soon we were surrounded by floes and numerous bergy bits, providing ample scope for photography.
Unfortunately Robertson Bay, named after Dr John Robertson, the Surgeon on HMS Terror, had too much ice for us to consider a landing. However most of us could make out the historic huts through binoculars and some picked up the cross on the boulder at the head of Hanson’s grave, located on the top of Adare Peninsula. Don planned a Zodiac cruise but this had to be delayed an hour while a snow flurry passed through. Soon after 1000 we launched five Zodiacs and had a marvellous two hours cruising despite one good snow flurry which lasted a short time. This was nature at its best; the real Antarctica which we had come all this way to see. We saw, photographed and enjoyed, superb grounded bergs some with caverns and icicles, some with layers of past annual snowfalls and in places, dust layers from guano or perhaps moraines. There were also excellent close-up views of a Crabeater Seal (the species which actually eats euphasids including krill, rather than crabs) and two Weddell Seals, Adelie Penguins and birds including Wilson’s Storm Petrels. Am imitation of the ‘long-call’ of the South Polar Skua was given by an enthusiastic passenger in Don’s Zodiac. It was interesting to see the effect of the Robertson Bay clockwise current with large pieces of ice and a small berg moving at 3+ knots. At the end of Cape Adare sat the last of two volcanic ‘stacks’ named Gertrude and Rose. Gertrude, the larger of the two had toppled over some years ago. Gazing across to the brownish surface of guano on Ridley Beach, named by Borchgrevink after his mother’s maiden name, we had an excellent, albeit slightly distant view of the two huts, along with the porch of the now wind demolished, Scott Northern party hut.
By midday we were back on board and departed Robertson Bay. Don advised with a forecast of light winds over the next three days, we would now head south to Ross Island with perhaps Franklin Island tomorrow evening. Lunch was excellent with a colourful rice salad containing corn, chopped pepper and red onion, two wraps with chicken mince and a very fine piece of Chef Benny’s carrot cake. Soon we were heading south with the Downshire Cliffs to starboard. These were named by Ross at the request of Cdr. Francis R.M. Crozier of HMS Terror, for the late Marquis Downshire. Mt. Hanson, named for Nicolai Hanson of Borchgrevink’s expedition who died aged 28 years, loomed above steep cliffs of volcanic rock while Skuas escorted us southwards.
Many of us had a rest and later the first part of the documentary ‘Shackleton’ part of the Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (Weddell Sea party) 1914-16 was screened. A whale was also sighted from the Bridge and by 1900 we had passed Cape McCormick at the southern end of the Adare Peninsula. This feature was named by Ross for Robert McCormick, Surgeon on HMS Erebus. We then passed Possession Island and the Dickson Pillar, with the latter named for Paul B. Dickson USN, VX-6, who first photographed the feature on 18 January 1958. There was a briefing in the Bar-Library at 1915 when all learned to pronounce the name of the new South Korean Station, Jang Bojo. The station named after a ‘military leader’ to whom the present Korean culture is attributed, following a split from the Chinese culture around 900 AD, has extended an invitation to us to visit, as has the United States McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. We then enjoyed a fine dinner with a choice of a pork chop or beef hot pot. A beautiful tart desert followed. Birdmon gave his evening discussion and many of us had an early night as we may have a late landing tomorrow.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 11 Saturday 20 February
Ross Sea, off Franklin Island
Noon position: Latitude 74 o 45.5’ S; Longitude 169o 23.4’ E
Air temperature: -6oC Water temperature: 1oC
We had a calm sea last evening with the ship drifting and this morning had passed Coulman Island. This large island was named after Ross’s father-in-law Thomas Coulman.
At 0730 we were at Latitude 74o04.107’S and Longitude 170o12.639’E. Light snow had fallen in the night and the sea was now up with a 25 knot southerly and wave height of about a metre. Outside the temperature was -6oC and the water temperature was -1oC with Don predicting an early winter. We were making around 9.3 knots, with no ice or birds visible. Celia spotted the dorsal fins of three whales some distance off, although they were not identified. At 0930 David presented his fifth lecture ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ which covered the last expedition in 1910-13 led by Captain R. F. Scott. This was a complex expedition with two intentional winter-over parties, and an extensive science programme including two geological expeditions and the main journey to the Geographic South Pole. A science and marine survey programme was also undertaken by SS Terra Nova. It was not easy to cover the key points to the expedition and reference was made to what the various parties were doing at different times. At the conclusion of the lecture, the audience asked several interesting questions and the general opinion was that it was a pity Scott did not consider Amundsen’s previous experience. Don, who answered many questions, recommended that those interested should read the recently published book ‘The Scott Disaster’.
Later Birdmon gave a lecture entitled ‘Avian Polar Adaptions’ which began with mention of three strategies applicable to all creatures including humans, which deal with the cold – migration, hibernation and activation. We then learned about the various physical adaptions, followed by discussion on physiological then the various behavioural adaptions. There was such a variety and many of these concerned penguins along with seals and already we have seen some of these. We are likely to observe more during our forthcoming landing which is at the tail-end of the penguin breeding season. Comparisons were made with some Northern Hemisphere species with one interesting comment that a bird, the Ptarmigan, excavates snow which it uses as an insulator.
By noon we were still in the open water of the Central Ross Sea with several large bergs in the vicinity and the sea reasonably calm. A few Snow Petrels were seen and sailors took the opportunity to open and clean the Bridge windows. Lunch today was at the earlier time of 1300 and was an outstanding selection of pizzas followed by delicious blueberry muffins. During the afternoon the sky cleared and weak cerulean blue took the place of Payne’s grey. At 1300 Don mentioned that we had a SW wind of 20 knots with the sea up, perhaps generated by a 50 knot katabatic along the coast of Terra Nova Bay, which is renowned for such conditions. The second part of ‘Shackleton’ was screened and at 1800 we assembled in the Lecture Theatre for a briefing that covered landings for Franklin Island, Cape Royds and Cape Evans.
After dinner a pair of Humpback Whales was sighted off the port bow and by 2035 we were approaching Franklin Island with our position at 70o09.935’ South and 168o17.770’ East.
A northerly swell, breaking waves and a fresh snowfall over the Adelie colony area, meant that a landing or Zodiac cruise was not possible. There was also a cold wind blowing and the temperature was -5oC. We were however treated to beautiful views of puffy cumulus clouds over one end of Franklin Island through which annual snowfall layers and patches of dark volcanic rock were visible and the ice cap lit up with sunlight at the opposite end. Franklin Island was as with many other landforms, named by Ross in 1841, to recognise Sir John Franklin, the noted Arctic explorer, who was at the time Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and had entertained the expedition on its way south from Hobart in 1840. In the distance we had our first glimpse of Mt. Erebus (3795m) while Mt Discovery (2680m) was prominent to the right. The Transantarctic Mountains were mostly under cloud however above their peaks we could see a beautiful pale yellow to apricot sky and above that were dark to pale grey strato-cumulus clouds. Occasionally a pale cerulean blue sky was visible and the golden orb of the sun. The evening birding gathering was held as usual and most of us prepared for an early start and busy day tomorrow.
Day 12 Sunday 21 February
Shackleton’s Hut; Cape Evans – Scott’s Hut; Ice edge; Furthest South
Noon position: Latitude 77o 33.724’ S; Longitude 166o11.951’ E
Air temperature: -5oC Water temperature: +1oC
This morning Don woke us at 0430 and urged us to come out on the deck and view the sunrise over Mt Erebus which lay to starboard. The mountain was almost clear and we had the great enjoyment of watching the sun appear above the range ahead of us. Mt. Discovery also looked superb with early sun lighting up its rocky flanks. To the west the Transantarctic Mountains with the Royal Society Range prominent, looked magnificent and we were able to identify major glaciers including the Koettlitz, Blue and Ferrar along with other features such as the pale brown landscape in the area of Marble Point, originally proposed for Scott Base, Butter Point, the Bowers and Wilson Piedmont Glaciers and beyond, the Dry Valleys. In the distance one could pick out buildings at Williams Field used by United States aircraft and several mirages were also seen. There was a 5-10 knot wind blowing from the south and a light ripple on the sea. Many of us returned to the bunk for an extra hour, until called again at 0645.
The landing for a visit to Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds got underway in perfect conditions at 0800. We landed on a narrow black beach of scoria at the head of Backdoor Bay and carefully made our way over a very icy surface behind the beach. Nearby was a Weddell Seal pup with a nice silvery coat and several Adelie Penguins including a chick, most of which were moulting. Cape Royds has the southernmost Adelie Penguin colony in Antarctica and is of considerable scientific importance. From here we had an easy walk on a track over a ‘moonscape’ of black scoria with large rocks of volcanic Kenyte, containing feldspar crystals resembling smoked glass which sparkled in the very bright sunlight. After a short walk over undulating ground with scattered erratic rocks; mostly pinkish to white granite and of varying size form that of a mandarin to very large boulders, we were soon at the Antarctica New Zealand green field hut or wannigan (a North American Indian term). David proudly exclaimed that he used to sleep in this hut and we then descended a short slope, to arrive at Shackleton’s hut erected in 1908.
Jim and David had placed a strip of vinyl and boot brushes outside, which we all used before entering the hut. A screwdriver was used to prise pieces of rock from the tread of our boots, as this could damage the floor. First into the hut were Mark and Debbie who had won the iceberg sighting contest. For many of us it was a dream come true and we had a wonderful time with our cameras, while David explained where the 15 men slept and of some of the antics which occurred during the winter. While we awaited our turn inside the hut most of us enjoyed a walk around the ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area) enjoying the landscape, the view across McMurdo Sound and the beautiful late summer morning. The time soon passed and by noon, we were back on the ship. There was however more to come. Don announced that pancake ice, indicating an early start to the sea freezing, was drifting by and that a Minke Whale had been sighted. On an ice floe, a lonely Emperor Penguin soon captured our attention and once again, we enhanced our photographic record.
As we enjoyed a lunch of lasagne, salad and chocolate brownies the ship relocated to just off Scott’s Hut and both anchors were lowered so our second landing for the day could get underway. We had a magnificent visit to this historic site associated with Captain R.F. Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, which Don described as “a living thing” – in other words history coming alive. It was the hut that Scott along with four of his men left, to never return. After the boot cleaning operation, we again enjoyed a very special visit inside this peaceful hut with so much to see. David pointed out items of interest including links to Shackleton’s Ross Sea party which lived here for two years (1915-17) during World War 1. Stuart was surprised at how large and well organised the hut was. Ian A. was particularly impressed with the shear grandeur of the setting for the hut while Chris was amazed at “the different scenes” each having a variety of contents. Most of us enjoyed a walk around the area within the ASPA with many items of interest including a husky skeleton, a large pile of mutton carcasses, dog and pony lines and crates each with a drum of Shell petrol. Further afield we were treated to the sight of seven moulting juvenile Emperor Penguins. Soon it was time to return to the ship with everyone on board by 1845 and satisfied after a very special day in our lives.
Before dinner Don held a briefing for our planned activities tomorrow and a further full day is expected at the United States McMurdo Station and at New Zealand’s Scott Base. We then held an auction for a bottle of McKinley’s replica Shackleton whiskey and the lucky buyer Alma who outlaid NZ$900, will be donating the box and contents to a close friend. Proceeds of the sale will go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
After our usual sumptuous evening meal, the ship was repositioned and at 2040 was passing the Dellbridge Islands (Inaccessible, Tent, Big Razorback and Little Razorback) named by Scott during his 1901-1904 expedition, for James H. Dellbridge the Second Engineer, on the SY Discovery. With very light snow falling, we headed to the ice edge for the evening, where whales and penguins may be seen. We achieved our Furthest South at 2240 at Latitude 77o53’S;Longitude 166o25.263’E. With another full day planned for tomorrow, most of us had an early night.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 13 Monday 22 February McMurdo Station; Scott Base; Discovery Hut; Observation Hill
Noon position: Latitude 77o 51.072’S; Longitude 166o 38.506 ’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: 0oC
Vladimir advised today all Russians celebrate “Mens’ Day”
This morning we were again called early and rose to a beautiful almost cloudless day, with a very cold wind. By 0800 the Transantarctic Mountains were superb and all was looking good for the busy day Don had arranged for us. After a reconnaissance, a landing site with small shingle beach below the ice foot was fortunately located behind the Discovery Hut. Groups had already been arranged for the visit during the morning to McMurdo Station where Mac Ops, kindly organised various tour guides for us. Scott Base was our destination for the afternoon.
Jim and David walked over The Gap to Scott Base where Jim spent two winters in 1992 and 1996 and was interested to see the changes that had taken place. David, who has spent much time at Scott Base and is busy undertaking research for the Scott Base 60th Anniversary in 2017, was also able to view changes to the base and to discuss with a friend, the science being undertaken.
The remainder of us had a most interesting visit to McMurdo Station in the morning. We were impressed with the wonderful hospitality extended by the US McMurdo Station personnel. In addition to visiting the beautiful Chapel of the Snows with its stained glass windows, we saw the bronze statue of Rear Admiral Byrd and flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations outside the National Science Foundation chalet. We visited the shop in Building 155, although Kent decided the lingerie did not have the range of sizes to warrant a purchase. We then spent time in the Crary Laboratory with a most helpful tour guide Valerie. An item of great interest was a display of meteorites of which 467 were found on the ice last season. Three meteorites (with one as large as 22lbs) were on loan from the Smithsonian Institute and some thin sections were also exhibited. There were no fish in the aquarium as the biologists have finished work for the season, however it was interesting to hear that sea water is pumped from and is a closed circuit system with water returned and the temperature maintained to 5oC.
During a discussion in the radio room, it was interesting to hear that the ‘Golf Ball’ at Arrival Heights, is owned by NASA and the microwave transmitter is at Black Island as the reception from the satellite/s is much better and new equipment was being installed. We enjoyed a cup of coffee and cookies at the coffee lounge in one of the older buildings and saw mountain bikes with large snow tyres. Soon it was time to return to the ship for lunch.
After lunch, Scott Base kindly provided transport to take us over to the New Zealand station which has been operating continuously since 1957. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this installation which is much smaller than the sprawling United States McMurdo Station and the Scott Base staff was extremely hospitable. Mark said “it had a different passion” and he specifically mentioned the level of collaboration between McMurdo and Scott Base, with this including electricity generated by the Meridian wind-farm, fuel and medical services. Mark found “there were no barriers” and he could not get over the friendliness of the Kiwis. At Scott Base many of us found a few mementos in the shop named Compass and some of us also met Anthony Powell who compiled the award winning time-lapse film ‘A Year on Ice’ which was made using time-lapse photography. One aspect of interest was the unusual presence of Leopard Seals which have not been seen in such large numbers before and that divers undertaking science are being accompanied by professional divers. In addition to a tour of the base, we were able to see the vehicles outside, the historic flag pole, half of which is from the original pole once erected by Discovery Hut, the Scott Base sign, the memorial to the four New Zealanders, who have died during service with the New Zealand Antarctic programme and ‘Grub the Chippie’ was making a table incorporating an early sledge. At present some of the Kiwis at Scott Base are training for competitions including tug–o-war and weightlifting. A comment was made by one American that “the Kiwis beat us at everything” so it will be interesting to see who wins the next round.
With Mts. Erebus and Terror standing clear against a pale blue sky, it was all too soon time to leave and we were shuttled to Discovery Hut where David explained the “layers of history” which the hut represents; in particular, the occupancy by the Shackleton Ross Sea party who spent a miserable few months here in the winter of 1916. From here Lieutenant Aeneas Mackintosh and Victor Hayward left to walk on the sea ice to Cape Evans and were never seen again. We were amazed at the contrast in the three huts we have seen and many of us found Discovery Hut cold and depressing. Honour, once a Curator for Coleman’s in the UK, described the hut as “so atmospheric”. However it was interesting to see the high standard of carpentry undertaken by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, in which identical timber has been used for replacements. The artefact conservation as at the other two huts was apparent in some examples and in others perhaps not so obvious, such is the quality done for this specialised work. When it was time to leave, Winter Quarters Bay was already beginning to freeze over and the Zodiac had an interested time, breaking through new pancake and grease ice before reaching the ship, which had its own icy coating on the hull. In places owing to a difference in temperature between the air and unfrozen sea water, there was a little ‘frost smoke’. Don as a mark of gratitude for our welcome at Scott Base, invited several staff to the Spirit of Enderby where they enjoyed a drink in the Bar-Library. This provided a further opportunity to catch up and to thank them for their hospitality. They very much enjoyed the visit including a short Zodiac cruise.
We had really enjoyed a marvellous day and learned much about two totally different Antarctic stations and of the research being undertaken. Birdmon was proud of his 18 trips as Zodiac driver today, along with four walks visits from Discovery Hut to McMurdo Station, the evening climb and although he “had a hunch that there was a clamming tide”, a careful visual inspection on the shore revealed nothing. Don took the Scott Base staff back and 18 of us were able to climb Observation Hill after dinner to inspect the memorial cross to the polar party that died during Captain R.F. Scott’s expedition. In the calm clear evening, we had magnificent views of the surrounding areas including Black and White Islands, Minna Bluff, the Ross Ice Shelf, Mt. Discovery, the Transantarctic Mountains and of Scott Base and McMurdo Station. Those of us on board at 2130 saw some Minke Whales about 100m off the bow. Many of us however had an early night and we departed for Cape Bird about midnight with a cloud-capped Mt Erebus a beautiful pink and a wonderful apricot colour over the Transantarctic Mountains. Alma noted that the sun set at 0028 and rose again at 30343. She took an excellent photograph showing the moon almost on the horizon to the left of Mt. Erebus.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 14 Tuesday 23 February
Cape Bird; Cape Crozier; Ross Ice Shelf; Franklin Island
Noon position: Latitude 77o 13.223’S; Longitude 166o 24.405’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: 0.6oC.
Don advised the water temperature recorder was indicating 1oC in excess. From here on the reading is 1o less.
This morning we had a very comfortable ride up the coast and many of us would have enjoyed another hour in the bunk. We were however roused at 0715 to a beautiful morning off the beach at Cape Bird. On the post-glacial terrace behind the beach, we could see the New Zealand field station (the second here) with most of the beach and ice-capped cape behind still in shade. A brisk breeze was blowing and it was -5oC with the water temperature at 0.6oC. Our position was 77o13.221’S; 166o24.294’E and barometric pressure was slowly falling as we left the influence of the high pressure cell. At 0830 Don held a pre-landing briefing over the PA system and a reconnaissance revealed that there was a swell on the beach. We soon discovered it was a rather wet landing, however we enjoyed the walk along the beach which was familiar to David from his first visit to Antarctica. Only a few clusters of Adelie Penguins remained in the central colony where some late chicks were doing their best to fend off the Skuas attempting to take them. The main colony near the hut was almost clear of penguins.
To the south was the Shell Glacier along with the magnificent Quaternary Icefall and further away the crevassed slopes that Aeneas Mackintosh and seaman McGillon had crossed in 1908, after nearly losing their lives on the sea ice, during a hazardous walk to deliver a mail bag to the Cape Royds hut. Some icebergs were grounded off the low-lying Priapulus Point, while to the north the ice cliffs of Cape Bird and beyond, Beaufort Island were prominent in the early morning light. Cape Bird rising to Mt Bird (1800m) was named by Ross for Lieutenant Edward Bird of HMS Erebus and volcanic Beaufort Island at 76o56’S 166o56’E, was also named by Ross for Captain Francis Beaufort RN, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.
Following the landing Don arranged a polar plunge. A rope was tied around the ‘jumper’ who then leapt off a gangway landing platform and left the water almost as fast as they entered. Lorna from the Heritage Expeditions office went first and gave an impressive scream as she hit the water. She was followed by William and the others while photographic evidence was recorded from a Zodiac by Wang. The intrepid 12 provided great entertainment for the rest of the group and very much appreciated a rejuvenating hot shower afterwards.
By lunchtime the visit to Cape Bird was successfully concluded and the ship turned out to sea setting a course around the ice cliffs of Cape Bird and Lewis Bay en-route for Cape Crozier and the Ross Ice Shelf. David gave his next lecture 1500 which focused on the Northern party of Scott’s 1910-13 expedition. After undertaking surveying, geology and glacial observations, this group was forced to winter for 209 days in a snow cave at Inexpressible Island. The point was made that following the news of the deaths of the polar party in 1912, it was the survival of the Northern party which was seen as an act of heroism and gained considerable media attention. The SS Terra Nova made three attempts to collect these men, however was prevented from doing so by heavy sea ice and diminishing coal. Aspects such as the diet of seal brain, liver and kidneys led to mostly a protein diet with few carbohydrates. The term ‘hoosh’ (basically a stew with 60%beef and 40% fat) was also explained however we decided not to try this at home. The six men eventually walked 230 miles down the Victoria Land coast and reached Discovery Hut where a message informed them that the polar party had died. They continued to Cape Evans with two men, Raymond Priestley and George Abbott, later completing the second ascent of Mt. Erebus and Trygve Gran, the first solo and third ascent during the same expedition.
By 1600 we were travelling through beautiful pancake ice with the sea moving as a series of gentle unbroken waves, as it moved up and down. The pancake ice represented a refreeze of the sea surface and many pancakes which resembled giant lily pads had an almost greyish opaque surface, with the upturned edges formed by colliding, glistening in the sun. In places the pancakes had over ridden by others and one seen by David was a perfect heart shape while another had a heart within the circle. Where there were gaps, the sea was an inky-black. As we neared the Ross Ice Shelf, first discovered by James Clark Ross in 1841, there was more open water and the pancakes progressively became smaller. Beyond the ice shelf, was historic Cape Crozier with its dark black volcanic rock, made famous by the book ‘The Worst journey in the World’ undertaken by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Birdie Bowers and Dr Edward Wilson, in the winter of 1911. Cape Crozier was a further landform named by Ross, in this instance for Francis R.M. Crozier Commander of HMS Terror. Further back and below Mt. Terror (3236m) we saw the now barren extensive Adelie Penguin colony, although the message post erected by Scott’s expedition in 1902 was not visible today and is well up the slope in the colony area.
This vast feature of floating ice about the size of France has a front edge a staggering 800 km long along its seaward face and 750 km back towards its source; the giant glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains. It varies in in thickness from around 330m to 700m and has only 1/7thof the ice above the waterline. At our point where we first drew opposite the ice shelf, Don estimated the height to be around 12m above the waterline. When James Clark Ross discovered the ice shelf in January 1841 he wrote “…a perpendicular cliff of ice between one hundred and fifty feet and two hundred feet above the sea, [was] perfectly flat and level at the top and without any fissures on its seaward face”. Ross also stated “There is no more chance of sailing through that than through the cliffs of Dover”. Decades later, the Ross Ice Shelf attracted explorers of the famed ‘heroic-era’ and later men such as Admiral Byrd’s expeditions. Nearer the ice shelf, we could clearly see undercutting with waves rebounding then moving fast along the water line until dissipating. Some of the colours were superb with subtle blues and greens and the ice shelf at this point appeared to have been sculptured by an artist. A large iceberg had calved and was still by the shelf. We also had a sighting of a Minke Whale and Birdmon noted at least six more whales. Later Don and Birdmon in discussion with Rodney identified the pod as six Arnoux Beaked Whales.
At 1840 at 77o25.382’S; 169o49.883’E and having passed Spirit of Enderby Bay, we left the ice shelf and set a new course for Terra Nova Bay. A debrief was held in the Bar-Library when the suggestion was mooted for an entertainment night and a recap outlined the wonderful last few days. Don made the point that any documentaries we see in the future will take on a whole new dimension for us, such as seeing the Ross Ice Shelf. The programme was then discussed and once again we had an outstanding evening meal although happy birthday sung for Don, was not correct. With a calm sea it was a good opportunity for an early night. Perhaps still weary from yesterday, only a small number attended the evening bird sighting discussion.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 15 Wednesday 24 February
Terra Nova Bay; Gondwana Station; Jang Bojo Station; Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o 48.484 ’S; Longitude 164o 34.077 ’E
Air temperature: 0.5oC Water temperature: -5oC.
Today 100 years ago, Dick Richards, Ernest Joyce and Victor Hayward of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party 1914-16, reached the crucial Minna Bluff depot. Some historians have suggested Wilson and Bowers could have possibly made a similar trip to One Ton Depot 11 miles away and in doing so, saved Captain Scott.
We enjoyed a comfortable night however by 0730 the sea was a little rocky. Off the bow was an excellent view of Mt Melbourne (2732m) with below, Cape Washington 275m, the southernmost extremity of a peninsula, which separates Wood Bay and Terra Nova Bay. The cape was named by Ross in 1841 for Captain W. Washington, Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society 1836-40. As we neared the coast we were accompanied by eight Snow Petrels and a solitary Skua. Mt. Melbourne is a volcanic cone which although not active, has near the summit, areas of warm ground and ‘fumeroles’ similar to those on the summit of Mt Erebus. These chimney-like formations are created by steam escaping through vents and meeting cold air which condenses. Inside a fumerole the temperature can be +40oC and outside the air temperature -30oC. Excellent views were also enjoyed of other areas along the Victoria Land coast.
We were now at 75o12.077’S; 166o57.298’E and moving along at 11 knots. Our heading was 321.6o and the air a cool -5oC. Of interest were patches of grease ice. This grey, soup-like surface had on close inspection, very small fragments of ice. The expedition has been excellent for sighting the different varieties of ice, explained by Don in his lecture.
At 1000 we sang Happy Birthday to Birdmon before he began his presentation ‘Sea Lions and Seals Down Under’. This excellent presentation, the first from him on mammals, began with us learning that creatures such as seals, whales and dolphins which are Cetaceans have been shown by the fossil record to have evolved from land-based carnivores ‘Indohyus’ 55 million years ago. They had features such as heavy limbs used for walking, gradually developing into flattened toes enabling swimming. There are three main classes of Pinnipeds – Phocidae or true seals with 18 species; Otariidae or walrus, with the one species and the Odobenidae seals, with 14 species. Birdmon then compared Sea Lions and seals and we also learned about some of the major physiological features that enable them to dive to great depths, such as compressing their lungs under pressure, thereby reducing the possibility of ‘bends’ and reducing the heart rate to slow oxygen consumption. The place of seals was then shown in an excellent chart depicting the Ross Sea food web and the lecture concluded with excellent photographs and details of Sea Lions and seals which will help with identifications. We finally learned that 30% of body mass for an adult male Elephant Seal is blubber.
By 1100 we had extensive pancakes with most being saucer to dinner plate in size. There were further patches of grease ice and between floes, the deep Prussian blue of sea water. The morning was absolutely superb with outstanding viewing from the Bridge and the ‘monkey-bridge’ above. Don gave a useful commentary on the landscape before us and by 1230 we could see the unoccupied Italian Mario Zucchelli Station, the summer-only unoccupied German station Gondwana and the handsome blue and architecturally-designed, South Korean Jang Bojo Station. The vista ahead could only be described as majestic. It was paradise for a physical geographer, geologist and glaciologist. Mt. Melbourne was still the dominant feature to starboard, however we enjoyed viewing the board valleys with snow covered glaciers, old hanging valleys or cirques, and long arêtes (ridges) with small peaks and rocky outcrops with talus below, extending down towards the coast. In one coastal area to port, steep grey cliffs were topped by an extensive ice-planed area. In other localities, snow-clad slopes which appeared to be about 40ooverall and extended to the coast had pale to dark brown rocky areas.
We began our next landing at 1400 and alighted on a small shingle beach with a small area of slippery ice to negotiate. It continued to be a beautiful day with very little wind. This was our first continent landing and the locality was quite different to that of Ross Island. The ‘country rock’ was predominantly gneiss with quartz, mica and iron and was highly metamorphosed, with some nice folding in places. Numerous erratics deposited after retreat of melting glacier ice, included granite, quartzite and some pegmatite. Other items of interest were some large colonies of black lichen and lesser amounts of yellow, green and red lichen, along with some mosses. About 70-80 Skuas with chicks were in the vicinity and we took care to avoid these. There were 11 Weddell Seals near the landing place and the Gondwana station, with many others in the vicinity. Unoccupied for about a decade, the Federal Republic of Germany, Gondwana Hutte scientific station, was of interest. We had a look at the original hut elevated on metal supports while on another building, there appeared to be solar heated windows.
After inspecting the station and carefully avoiding the Skuas, we walked over a ridge from which we had a commanding view of Jang Bojo Station. Here we were met by Dr Yong Soo Kim, one of the 16 member winter over party. Dr Kim took us on a long walk during which he carefully explained the various components of the station and gave us numerous interesting facts. At the end of the access road was a tall tower used for meteorology and this proved irresistible to Andrew who climbed to the top and had a good view of the station and its surroundings. The station is elevated in order that wind can blow beneath and is of modular construction. Solar and wind power make up 30% of the stations energy needs and a desalination plant produces 20 tonnes of water for the station. At Cape Washington where there is an ASPA, 25,000 Emperor Penguin chicks and 75,000 adults were counted. Other science is focused on marine biology, earth science, meteorology along with upper-atmosphere physics. The Korean icebreaker Aaronarrives on March 9 when the two helicopters, New Zealand aircraft and non-wintering personnel will leave. We had a very enjoyable visit to the station and presented the staff with six bottles of Spirit of Enderby wine and a special bottle of Terra Nova wine donated by Peter in appreciation of our visit. A group photograph was taken and after inspecting the wharf, we walked past the garden gnome with wheel barrow back to our landing and returned to the Spirit of Enderby by 1800. The station has had only four visits from tourists and each have been with Heritage Expeditions. The anchor was raised and we had nearly a two hour voyage toward Italy’s Mario Zucchelli Station, before assessing Inexpressible Island for an evening landing.
A late evening landing was now scheduled for Inexpressible Island. This was where the Northern party of Scott’s last expedition was forced to spend 205 days incarcerated in a snow and ice cave in 1912 when the Terra Nova was unable to collect them due to heavy ice. During our evening meal the katabatic wind came up, however this fortunately abated and by 2100 we landed in a small cave and from the bow, stepped onto the ice foot. This was a totally different landing and here Don had put in ice screws for two ropes to ensure any Zodiacs left were secure and also to aid our landing. We walked over a firm surface of snow between the ice foot and boulders, then along the shore of one of the three Evans Coves, before cutting onto the boulder strewn shore and old post-glacial beach ridges where David was already waiting at the site of the snow cave. A weathered plywood sign erected in 1969 indicated it was placed on the site of the cave and early photographs with large boulders confirm this. Here also were two pieces of bamboo and remains of several seals and penguins that once provided sustenance for Lieutenant Victor Campbell’s party. David explained various aspects of the site and suggested that we should now read books on the subject, with particular mention of ‘The Longest Winter’ by Meredith Hooper.
While we were ashore the sun dipped below a ridge, transforming clouds into beautiful shades of dark orange and red. A light wind also came up and soon after viewing numerous Weddell and Crabeater Seals with advanced pups, along with three mummified Elephant Seals by the shore, we walked back to the ship in time to see a full moon rising above the brown Northern Foothills. A number of us also enjoyed a hike along a ridge from which we had a good view up the Priestley Glacier and enjoyed the weathered rocks and others split from freeze-thaw processes. We had an interesting time getting onto the bow of the Zodiac and more so the floor which was very icy. Yoshio apparently “did a dance” on the icy metal floor. Then at the ship, alighting on the platform below the gangway in the slight swell was another exciting experience. We retired to bed tired but very happy.
© Heritage Expeditions
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 16 Thursday 25 February
Noon position: Latitude 74o 11.753 ’S; Longitude 169o 57.259’E
Air temperature: -1oC Water temperature: +1.0oC
We had a calm night and this morning at 0800 were at 74o 32’ S; 168o93’E, with the air temperature -2oC and barometric pressure 993 hp. Our course was set at 073o True and we were doing a comfortable 9.5 knots with anticipated arrival at Cape Adare early tomorrow morning. However Rodney had advised Mowbray Bay at Cape Hallett and Robertson Bay at Cape Adare were not accessible due to ice. We also later heard from Don that the Australian icebreaker/supply vessel Aurora Australis had parted its moorings in a 30 knot wind and was aground.
After breakfast David gave his presentation ‘Heroes that history forgot’ and said how he was privileged to have known Dick Richards GC, the last surviving member, along with two other expedition personnel. This focused on the still comparatively little known Ross Sea party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition 1914-1916 during World War 1. The lecture focused on a chaotic, under-funded expedition, which departed from Hobart on Christmas Day and became established at Cape Evans the next month. A sad aspect was the loss of three men including Mackintosh, leader of the party, who anticipating his death, wrote a final letter just as Scott had done – “…Goodbye friends. I feel sure our people [and] my own dear wife and children, will not be neglect[ed]”. However the seven men that were marooned in Antarctica had successfully laid depots for Shackleton, to the bottom of the Beardmore Glacier. A blizzard that took the ship Aurora out to sea, resulted in the ship then drifting in ice for nine months, fortunately led to the ship unlike Endurance, reaching New Zealand to be refitted. It returned south with Shackleton as a passenger and collected seven survivors. Overall the expedition was a catalogue of errors which should have been called off at the start of WW1.
Birdmon gave the second lecture this morning about ‘Orca: stealth of the sea’. This very interesting lecture began with a comment that the term ‘Killer whale’, was promoted by the military and in fact no person is known to have been killed by the species when in the natural habitat. Sailors once called Orca ‘wolves of the sea’. The lecture moved to the origins of whales as shown by the fossil record, where the Orca now fit in as Odontoceti - toothed whales (and dolphins). We learned about the various swimming adaptions along with special anatomical features such as large lung capacity (95% of the time Orca are under the surface) and the various habits of the species, of which many are used during hunting; such as creating a wave to wash prey into the water. The lecture was especially interesting since we had on three occasions, observed pods of Orca; recognised now as being Type C of the four ‘eco-types’ in the Ross Sea region.
By 1500 we were off the south end of Coulman Island and had moved to 73o48.124’S; 170o07.707’E. We were amongst scattered floes of various sizes with the water a pale grey reflected from the cloud above. On the horizon was a long band of puffy strato-cumulus clouds. There is a colony of Emperor Penguins at the south end of Coulman Island and we were treated to an excellent viewing of a juvenile Emperor and an Adelie (possibly a hybrid) on a flow. A Weddell Seal was also seen but we have not sighted a Leopard Seal or a Ross Seal thus far.
Chris gave the third presentation today. He talked about quite a different subject from what we have heard so far during the expedition. Using excellent photographs, Chris discussed ‘Growing up at Gorge River – New Zealand’s remotest family’. The talk focused on the decision his parents Robert (aka ‘Beansprout’) and Catherine’s made to abandon the ‘rat-race’ and enjoy a sustainable life in New Zealand’s South Westland. He revealed what can be achieved with hard work and patience while at the same time, contributing in various ways such as pest control to the well-being of New Zealand. One does not necessarily need all the modern conveniences for contentment and bringing up of a family. In 1992 the home budget amounted to a mere NZ$2,000. It was inspirational and nice to hear Chris speak openly about not only his own life, but also of his sister Robin, who is studying the Fiordland Crested Penguin and his friend Gracie Bodo from Minnesota. His parents along with sister Robin are accomplished authors, artists and makers of apparel and other products utilising possum fur.
Late in the afternoon we were in open water, with just the occasional bergs away to starboard and port, scattered bergy bits and occasional pancakes. After our time in the ice when we sighted the lone Emperor, course was changed and the Spirit of Enderby was by 1800 about halfway along the wild coast of Coulman Island. The occasional Snow Petrel was keeping us company and we enjoyed an opportunity to be in the Bar-Library to write our journals or sort photographs. The bar opened at 1830 before we tucked into hamburgers or chicken with wedges for dinner. Robin had spent most of the day baking fresh bread and buns for the evening meal. Most of us then had an early night.
Day 17 Friday 26 February
Ross Sea; Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 70o 38.6 ’S; Longitude 170o 23.2 ’E
Air temperature: -4oC Water temperature: +1oC
We had a comfortable night and some of us had a view of the entrance to the Tucker Glacier. We had an area of jumbled ice to port and the occasional Snow Petrel as we made our way towards the northern end of the Adare Peninsula. We were now at 71o 20.848’S; 171o169.93’E and moving along at 11.7 knots. Outside the temperature was -5oC and we had a nice sunny start to the day. Over the last ten days, there has been a good accumulation of snow on the Transantarctic Mountains and along the top of the Adare Peninsula. From 0600 on we were 14 miles off the rugged Downshire Cliffs, however as we neared the end of the peninsula, we could see that Robertson Bay was full of ice. The last ice floes and five Snow Petrels left us, as we too departed the Ross Sea and once again entered the Southern Ocean. Away to port, the great Antarctic continent gradually diminished and finally faded from view. Many of us wondered if we would ever see Antarctica again and were thankful for our experiences and the mostly kind weather conditions which made these possible.
Before lunch Don screened the digitally enhanced film ‘The Great White Silence’ made by Herbert Ponting and released in 1924 and which he stated, showed Antarctica “in her savage and marvellous moods”. King George V who attended the premier showing said “…I wish that every British boy would see this film…” Hand-tinted colour for photographs and models were used and there was interesting information including, work on the SS Terra Nova; mention of the motor sledges which could pull two tons at three miles per hour; footage of seals including their rasping ice at breathing holes; frost smoke; pancake ice and the use of eleven dogs to pull a sledge (Scott Base teams with Malamutes were generally nine dog teams).
One interesting comparison Ponting made, concerned an iceberg 22 miles long. This he said “could bear the city of London and all its suburbs on its back”. In the light of knowledge today, some details such as for Adelie Penguins filmed at Cape Royds was incorrect and footage such as portraying the polar party, was done in the vicinity of Cape Evans along with four people with three sets of skis. Nevertheless it was a very interesting film and of course we have viewed Ponting’s darkroom in Cape Evans hut which he termed a ‘house’ and where he processed the film. When the film became more readily available, it was shown around the world and David recalled seeing this as a teenager at Waitaki Boys’ High School in Oamaru New Zealand, where an annual Scott Memorial Essay, now replaced with a Speech Competition, has been held since 1913.
At noon we were progressing with a very comfortable 11.3 knots and on a course of 349.2o. The deep Prussian blue sea had a scattering of white horses and was nice and calm. Don gave a presentation after lunch entitled ‘McIntyre Adventure’. This began with Don’s early interest in sailing and his contact with Round the World sailor, Robin Knox Johnson. By 1978 with his background in sailing, diving and Macquarie Island, Don sailed 10,000 nm in the yacht Skye and a decade later was manager for the Goodman Fielder Wattie Bicentennial Around Australia yacht race. This led to the BOC Challenge in 1990 when he was 2nd in his class for the 27,000 nm race from Newport Rhode Island and return.
In 1993 using the BOC yacht and accompanied by 200 teddy bears, he visited Commonwealth Bay and began the first restoration of Mawson’s huts. Two years later with his then wife Margie and using a yacht Spirit of Sydney, they participated in the Living Alone in Antarctica Expedition this in a small purpose-built 12x8ft hut, erected near Mawson’s huts where they undertook various scientific and other observations. A further visit with Margie to Cape Denison followed in 1999, for the ‘Ice-Walk’ to ‘Maddigan’s Nunatak Expedition’. With the large yacht named Sir Hubert Wilkins and support from entrepreneur Dick Smith, a further three expeditions to Antarctica followed. Since then Don has followed the voyage of Bligh, searched for Spanish galleon treasure and flown around Australia in a gyrocopter. He and Jane now live on Nomuka Iki Island in the Tonga group, where they have been exploring early wrecks and plan to develop interesting activities for visitors and in doing so promote and give something back to the Tongan community and Kingdom.
The remainder of the afternoon passed quickly and at 1600 the first Southern (Antarctic) Fulmar seen during the voyage was reported by Birdmon. As the species breeds in large numbers on the Balleny islands, we are likely to see more of these. It has not been established why less of this species has been seen in the Ross Sea region over the last two or three years.
The first episode of the superb documentary ‘Frozen Planet’ narrated by Sir David Attenborough was screened at 1700. The production began with the Arctic and included wonderful natural history footage of mating Polar Bears; the largest gathering of birds on the planet; of a huge glacier on the Greenland ice cap which is six times the area of the UK and is advancing 40m a day; wolves taking a young bison that became separated from the herd, along with superb photography of a Great Grey owl, flying straight for the camera. The programme then moved south to the Antarctic and we were told that 40 million plus, penguins feed there during the brief summer. Wonderful time lapse and freeze-frame filming included a Sea Lion trying to take a Gentoo Penguin and Orca creating waves and water turbulence to break a floe and then take a Weddell Seal by the hind flippers, a process first observed during Scott’s 1910-13 expedition. There were beautiful fern-like ice crystals in caves below giant ‘fumeroles’ on the high slopes of Mt. Erebus, of a pod of Orca ‘spy-hopping’ and finally shots of the beautiful benthic world below the ice. Here the cold results in slow growth leading to large sizes for many creatures such as sea spiders.
In the Bar-Library this evening, certificates were handed out for crossing the Antarctic Circle, with further certificates for The Polar Blast and Polar Plunge still to be prepared. Don then gave a useful introduction for the Balleny Islands, advised the weather should be favourable for Macquarie Island and that when over 60o south, we will probably experience a 20-25 knot winds from the north-west. We were a day ahead of schedule which was to our advantage and may arrive at Macquarie around noon on the 2nd or 3rd. The sea was getting up a little this evening with a light fog and our ETA at the Ballenys is expected to be around 0930 tomorrow. The evening meal was of the usual excellent standard with a choice of marinated pork ribs or brisket beef in a filo pastry case for the main and desert was a gorgeous cheese cake topped berry fruit. Those at the end of the port side dining room were entertained by Geoff with his spoon disappearing act.
Day 18 Saturday 27 February
Southern Ocean; Balleny Islands; Antarctic Circle
Noon position: Latitude 67o 03.090’S; Longitude 163o 42.404’E
Air temperature: 1oC Water temperature: 0.5oC
Last evening the sea remained calm and this morning when we tuned out, the convection fog which came over yesterday was still with us and light snow was falling. At 0730 we were 11 nm off Sturge Island in the Ballenys and half way along the eastern side of the island. On the Bridge radar we could see that there was a cluster of icebergs near the south-east corner and one was between the island and the ship, this showing the value of the ship’s electronic aids. We were now doing 12.8 knots on a course of 281.9o True. Our position at 0730 was 67o 27.986’S; 165o262.50’ E. The sea was rising slightly and by lunch time, Don said we are likely to have 35 knots from the south-east. Just after breakfast two Humpback whales were seen 200m off the starboard bow and birds passing the Spirit of Enderby included seven Southern Fulmar and a prion. Light snow was still falling.
There are three prominent islands in the Balleny group named Sturge (in the south), Buckle and Sabrina (in the north), along with several smaller islands including Borradaile, named after one of the merchants who united with Charles Enderby in sending the expedition. There is also the well-known Monolith. The islands were discovered by John Balleny on the sealer Eliza Scott in February 1839. They were named in Balleny’s honour by Captain Beaufort Hydrographer to the Admiralty. A sister vessel the Sabrina after which one of the islands is named, was lost in a storm. Sabrina Island named after the sealer has a colony of Chinstrap penguins and has been an ASPA since 1966. There is not a lot of literature published on the islands, although a report was published following a US/NZ scientific expedition in the 1960’s. In a change from the usual programme, Birdmon asked us to assemble in the Bar-Library at 1000 for his interactive presentation ‘Knots and Splicing 101’. Most of us had used some of the basic knots and we each received a small length of cord to make several common knots. Using illustrations on a screen, this began with the familiar Reef Knot and the incorrect granny knot version. Birdmon suggested that as we are now in the Velcro age, many have forgotten how to tie knots. We then did the Bowline; an important knot used by sailors as it won’t slip, is strong and can be easily undone by “breaking its back”. Don said he would not allow anyone on his yacht unless they could tie a bowline. Others experimented with were the Half-hitch, Clove-hitch, Figure Eight and re-woven version used in climbing along with the Prussic, including the double overhand. Andrew gave a demonstration of the rolling hitch and Sjirk, of the trucker’s knot. It was an enjoyable and useful hour and we all successfully passed ‘Knots 101’.
Light snow driving in from the south continued and a few bergy bits were in the water. At times the sun was trying to break through, however soon the decks had a layer of wet, slushy, snow. The sea was busy with white horses interspersed with bergy bits and by noon, we had rounded the top of Young Island and were off the corner of Buckle Island. Through the murk the Monolith was briefly seen, although with the tough sea, no Chinstrap Penguins, as we moved along the west coast. Species of flying birds recorded included Sooty Shearwaters, numerous Pintados, a flock of Southern Fulmar, several Antarctic Prions and a solitary albatross which may have been a Black-browed. There are often interesting aspects mentioned by our fellow guests and Ian W. recalled, when as a 15 year old St. Peter’s College student in Adelaide, one day when he was climbing inside the roof area of the science laboratory he found a sledge with ‘Mawson’ written on it and numerous other objects.
Don gave the next presentation at noon. This began with an interesting discussion using maps on the screen, showing where China has its four Antarctic stations at present, along with details of the proposed Ross Sea station, which will be sited away from katabatic winds and possibly somewhere on Ross Island. The lecture then focused on the Antarctic Treaty, a simple document with 12 Articles which were carefully explained. The area south of Latitude 60orepresents 10% of the world’s land surface and 10% of its oceans. We learned about the original 12 Consultative members when the Treaty was established after the International Geophysical Year 1957-58 and signed on 12 December 1959; coming into force on 23 June 1961. Since then a further category of Non-Consultative members has been created. These members abide by the Treaty and can attend meetings, however have no voting rights. The number of Consultative Members has also increased and Don mentioned the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Flora and Fauna (1964); the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1978), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) based in Hobart and the Protocol on Environment Protection (the Madrid Protocol 1991), which marked the beginning of a comprehensive environment protection scheme. Antarctica remains as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science; environmental principles apply for the conduct of all activities; activity relating to mineral resources other than research is prohibited and subjects all activities to prior assessment of their environmental impact. The Environmental Protocol has been welcomed by conservation organisations and stands as a landmark in Antarctic history. Don also discussed the role of tourism including requirements for Heritage Expeditions, IAATO and final discussion concerned such aspects as landing fees and use of aircraft, for which the United States controls airspace in the Ross Sea region.
At 1340 we were advised a 50 knot wind was blowing at Cape Adare, so we were fortunate to be clear of the locality. As we passed Buckle Island, a mere two nautical miles off shore, the wind was beginning to pick up as predicted and was blowing at 35-40 knots. There was very little visible through the murk from the Spirit of Enderby and most of us read, rested, or worked on our photographs. There were however some of us on the Bridge, on the lookout for items of interest and because of ice, we had to slow down at 1440. Many of the bergy bits had a brown coating from phytoplankton (diatoms), which we had seen previously and learned about in lectures. Later in the afternoon we passed the end of Young Island and five minutes later, the Antarctic Circle. Small pieces of ice and the occasional bergy bit continued to be about, along with a few Southern Fulmars.
At 1600 Don screened his excellent documentary ‘Two below Zero’ which he said is available free for down-loading on YouTube. The video told of the year Don and his then wife Margie had spent at Cape Denison in 1995. As Don said in such a situation “you learn a lot about nature and even more about yourself. How do you quantify putting man on the moon or climbing Everest?” Don was already familiar with the locality as had been there before in 1993 on his yacht Buttercup, however did not envisage what they would have to put up with. He was 40 and Margie turned 31 during the adventure. Even before erecting their pre-fabricated 2.4x3.6m Gadget Hut modelled on an outback Kangaroo meat freezer, the site was photographed. Over three days, 25 loads with half a tonne of supplies and equipment with enough food and fuel for two years, was sledged to the site. Six years later when the hut was removed, the site was re-photographed. Work often went on until 2300 each day, and they put up with low temperatures - the interior of the hut reached as low as -18oc and outside -43oC; severe blizzards with a record gust of 240 km/hr (Mawson recorded 320 km/hr) and owing to a blocked ventilator, both suffered from carbon monoxide exposure. With return of the sun and arrival of Adelie Penguins on 20 October, followed by visitors from the USCGC Polar Star, life at Cape Denison took a turn for the better and Don completed a photo survey of Mawson’s main hut. They were collected by Spirit of Sydney, richer for their year in Antarctica with Don saying they were both probably the first colonists on the continent.
At 1730 we cleared the northern end of Young Island and experienced residual swells coming from the north. We entered a band of fairly heavy pack soon afterwards and slowly pushed our way through. The ice dampened the big waves which rolled away from port. The ice band was about 500m wide and beyond it a cold, lead-grey sea merged with the equally grey sky on the horizon. Of great interest however were several rafts of Southern Fulmar on the far edge of the pack. One raft had at least 200 birds and Birdmon estimated there were around 500 birds in total. It really was a spectacular sight. Other birds around the ship included Wilson’s Storm and Snow Petrels along with a distant albatross which was not identified. By dinner time we were punching into big widely spaced waves, with some crashing over the bow and only a few pieces of ice including a few growlers, were about the ship. Don reminded us to keep one hand for the ship and one for yourself, as we may have a wild night. There are three different wave patterns resulting in a confused sea which could have been caused by several events, such as being away from the lee of the island and the wind although not high, is creating a swell from the north-west. There is also both an easterly or south easterly air flow and Don suggested a current may be at the end of the island. This evening in spite of the ship rolling our chefs produced a superb meal with a mussel soup entre; chicken or lamb rump for the main then a fine apple tart with custard. We then settled down for the night and the sea appeared to be calming.
Day 19 Sunday 28 February
Noon position: Latitude 63o 02.517 ’S; Longitude 161o 20.604’E
Air temperature: 2 oC Water temperature: 2 oC
The ship rolled a little in the night however most of us had a reasonable rest. This morning we are over around 2500m of water, with a clam sea and light swell. A flock of 8-10 Sooty Shearwaters was seen at 0730 when we were at 6 63o49.683’S; 162o02.241’E and moving along at a comfortable 11.6 knots. The air temperature is still a cool 1oC however the water has warmed up to +1.7oC.
About 0900 we passed a nice dark blue large tabular berg. We are now close to seeing the last of the ice with these at 63o32.384’S; 161o46.291’E. The sun was trying to break through and the sea was pleasantly calm.
After breakfast David gave a presentation ‘Icons of Exploration’ which began with a comparison of Arctic and Antarctic historic sites, where they are found and the variety of them. Most of the lecture focused on the lead-up to the conservation of these sites, the work done by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust established in 1987 and the variety of problems affecting the huts and artefacts, with many of an environmental nature. The Trust utilises skills from around the world and is led by Nigel Watson, Executive Director; Al Fastier, Programme Manager; Lizzie Meek, Manager Artefacts and Paula Granger, Manager Communications. Pip Cheshire of Auckland is the Senior Architect. A large team of people with other expertise assist the Trust, which is supported by Antarctica New Zealand and Christchurch International Airport. The Trust has every reason to be proud of its work and with the historic huts and artefacts on Ross Island now completed, is turning towards Borchgrevink’s huts at Cape Adare, with significant financial support provided by the Government of Norway. A further project is focusing on the Hillary Hut Scott Base, erected for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) 1955-58 and International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-58. This hut was the first at the New Zealand station and will be 60 years old next January. Once all the huts and their contents have been conserved, on-going maintenance will be undertaken as required.
Several Humpback Whales were sighted after the lecture and we had a number of icebergs on the horizon, to port and starboard.
Our next presentation ‘Drilling for Oil’ was delivered by our fellow guest Richard C. This was an extremely interesting talk which continued into the lunch break. Richard began his oil career with a BSc in Geology and then became a “mud-engineer” on drilling rigs. He has worked in the North Sea, West and North Africa, Canada, Qatar, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and South East Asia (Philippines). None of us in the audience realised that there was so much to the oil drilling industry. Richard discussed in some detail, with clear power point charts, such topics as the drill and production process, terminology, the rotary drill process, rig types and personnel. His own work as a fluid engineer was primarily concerned with the drilling mud which consisted of freshwater, bentonite and various chemicals with a high pH of 9-9.5. Some of the depths drilling were as deep as many peaks are high in New Zealand’s Southern Alps; over 3000m. Later in his 40 year career, Richard was involved in management and as a consultant to the oil industry.
At noon a slight course change was made and we had a further berg to port and a solitary Shearwater was seen. We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon until Part 2 of ‘Lonely Planet’, was screened at 1600. Before the documentary, Don showed wonderful footage obtained in Tonga of a Humpback Whale and calf in his local lagoon. This included the communication call between mother and offspring. David Attenborough’s film began with arrival after 6000 miles of travel, of Adelie Penguin males which commenced nest building at the Cape Crozier colony. It then moved to the Arctic spring, with arrival of Polar Bear cubs and the transition from the winter ice to thaw and spring with plant life, wildlife, insects including at 14 years, the World’s oldest caterpillar, which eventually becomes a moth. The programme then moved to South Georgia with wonderful scenes of Wandering Albatross and chicks, a Macaroni colony with five million penguins, before moving back to Cape Crozier and the arrival and breeding of the Adelies with males taking over incubation and the females going fishing.
The sea became rougher in the afternoon and the level four deck doors were closed by dinner time. Don suggested we may not be in the lecture room tomorrow. Following dinner Birdmon held his species sighted meeting in the Bar-Library. Of interest yesterday was Chris’s sighting of either Rockhoppers or Royals. Other species were a Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmer, a Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross and a Black-browed Albatross. With the sea getting up and one roll of 35o noted by Sarah, we decided on an “early retirement”.
Day 20 Monday 29 February (Leap Year)
Southern Ocean; Antarctic Convergence
Noon position: Latitude 59o00.426’S; Longitude 159 o 38.449 ’E
Air temperature: 2oC Water temperature: 4oC
The night proved to be reasonably calm; far better than expected as we continued to ply the Southern Ocean enroute to Macquarie Island.
This morning at 0745 we were at 59o48’S; 159o10’ E and moving along nicely at 11-12 knots. The south-westerly was 30 knots with the occasional 35 knot gust, the air temperature a warm 2oC and the barometric pressure rising to 1002hp. We deviated slightly from our course to make travel more comfortable and on arrival at Macquarie Island tomorrow morning we will be in the lee and have much calmer conditions.
At 0900 what was perhaps our last iceberg, was passed when we were at latitude 59o22’S.
With the chairs in the lecture room in disarray and the occasional roll, lectures were cancelled this morning. Instead we were offered free drinks at the bar this evening, if we are able to come up with over 15 names for “prepared carrot”. Those of us planning to take part in the concert met with UK Jane in the library at 1030 to finalise plans for the ‘Enderby Icecapades’ production. Before lunch many of us were on the Bridge enjoying the wild sea. Birds observed included Black-browed, Wandering and Gibson’s Albatross, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Antarctic Prions and Shearwaters. By noon we were enjoying a comfortable 12 knots with the occasional roll and a brief flurry of light snow which reduced visibility off port to less than 100m.
Lunch was excellent with a pasta salad and splendid large sausage rolls created by Benny. During one conversation amongst the ‘intelligencia’ in the far corner of the port dining room, Geoff told us he had been to see Rob the doctor. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Geoff told him that he couldn’t get the words of the ‘Green, Green, Grass, of Home’ out of his head. Rob then said “You’ve got Tom Jones syndrome” to which Geoff replied “is it rare?” “No” said Rob “that’s not unusual”. Geoff said he felt better after that.
Kent then told everyone that, Lorna’s presence on the ship this morning will be long remembered. When near the port side bridge consul where controls are duplicated, she unknowingly leant back several times on a small lever, below the window. In doing so, Kent maintained that she sent a tap, tap, tap, signal to the voyage data recorder on the deck of the ‘monkey-bridge’ thereby recording her time on the Spirit of Enderby for posterity. At 1715 we were over 5000m of water and with most of us either resting, busy in the Bar-Library or on the Bridge, the afternoon passed quickly as we now looked forward to Macquarie Island. Australia’s 200 nautical mile zone around Macquarie Island extends to approximately 10o of Latitude before 60o which marks the boundary for the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and was crossed by us a few hours ago. The Bar-Library was busy this evening with scrabble players, readers, the bird identification discussion and Japanese top of the range, Hibiki whisky tasting. The sea was also rough with the occasional big roll so many of us preferred to turn in early.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 21 Tuesday 1 March
Southern Ocean; Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 55o12.128’S; Longitude 159o 17.397’E
Air temperature: 6oC Water temperature: 5.5oC
St. David’s Day UK
At 0745 we were at 55o59’S; 169o27’E and had 75 nm to go before reaching the island and already there were a few birds are about. The sea however is dropping fast and we are on a course of 300o NW with both engines going and doing 9 knots. Macquarie operates on Australian time and there will be two hours difference to New Zealand. Don said we can expect rain and the annual rainfall is around 900mm.
The island is located on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary and is formed of rocks from the Earth’s mantle. Many of the rocks are iron and magnesium rich and are termed ultramafic. They have been formed about six kilometres under the mantle and pushed up. Mild earthquakes are not uncommon here, although in 2004 an earthquake registered 8.1 on the Richter scale and in 2007, there was one of Magnitude 7.1. The island is very young and is thought over the last 6000 years, to be rising about 0.8mm/yr and the ridge it is on, extends to New Zealand. Macquarie was once thought to have been widely glaciated however on the basis of old beach ridges, this has been discounted.
In addition to early sealing expeditions, many Antarctic expeditions stopped here and a radio station base was established for Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14. This closed in 1915, and following a public campaign by Mawson to stop ‘oiling’, the island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1920, renamed Macquarie Island Nature reserve in 1978. In 1948 the present ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) station was established. A remnant of Mawson’s radio mast is still on Wireless Hill behind the station, with the remainder in Hobart. Extensive science in many fields, including historical archaeology of sealing and more recent sites, has been undertaken and with the recent removal of pests (feral cats, rabbits, rats and mice) the vegetation has had a dramatic recovery. The birdlife, four species of penguins, Fur and Elephant Seals, along with the hospitality of station staff including Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service rangers make this a very special place to visit. Our chef Benny has been privileged to spend a year including winter, at the ANARE station. Don held a briefing in the lecture room at 1100 during which he gave an excellent introduction to Macquarie Island which Douglas Mawson described in 1913 as “one of the wonder spots of the world.” Of interest was that New Zealand tried to annex Macquarie Island, but on this occasion was too late. The island was claimed from Britain, annexed by New South Wales and named after Governor Colonel Lachlan Macquarie. New Zealander Josef Hatch however, obtained a lease for ‘oiling’ from 1902-1920. Details of the flora and fauna along with extermination of the various introduced animals, was of interest and the island is now pest free. At noon as we neared the island, we were over nearly 5000m of water and 28 nm from Macquarie. We had passed over the Antarctic Convergence, the sea was rough with white horses on wave crests and as Don suggested may happen it was raining steadily. We had just 28 nm to go.
Following lunch Birdmon gave his next presentation, which focused on ‘Birdlife of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands’. This lecture was based on images of a variety of birds, many of which we have seen, and initially focused on the New Zealand Falcon. Other birds included the Bellbird, Tui, Tomtit and rare Black Robin. One good aspect of the presentation was that there were many observations of birds commented on by the audience. We were surprised to learn that the Bar-tailed Godwit has the longest non-stop flight for any bird, of 7700 miles over six days and at about 1000m height. In Christchurch New Zealand when the Godwits arrived at the Avon-Heathcote rivers estuary, the cathedral bells were once rung.
At 1500 we approached Macquarie Island through rain and low lying fog. The sun briefly tried to break through as we neared Lusitania Bay, where surf could be seen breaking on the beach, green vegetation and the King Penguin colony of about 100,000 birds was visible. Around the ship we had a welcoming party of both Kings and Royals or should it be said, Royal Kings? Other birds about the ship were Giant Petrels, including two white variants and one with a white head. The anchors were dropped at 54o43.470’S; 158o51.912’E. The name origin for this bay is obscure however David vowed he would establish this, once he had access to his library. Five Zodiacs were put in the water and we enjoyed a wonderful hour on Lusitania Bay viewing, King Penguins often within a metre. Many of them were porpoising and emitting a call, quite different to that of the Adelie. A leucistic King Penguin was also seen. There was some good surf along the shore about 100m from where we cruised and we could see three Josef Hatch digesters (one which toppled over two years ago). In the Rock-hopper colony to the south, there was a derelict hut. We cruised back and forth along the beach to make the most of the photographic opportunities. Those of us in Jane’s Zodiac were intrigued by a white Giant Petrel washing beneath the wings and alternately plunging the head beneath the surface. When we returned to re-board the ship it proved an interesting operation where good timing was essential if one wanted to make the landing platform, without boots being filled with water.
All of us enjoyed a hilarious evening in the Bar-Library. Don requested ‘formal dress’ and there were three ties worn. With Kevin acting as MC, Terry providing Technical Support and Geoff Publicity, the production ‘Enderby Icecapades’ was performed. It began with a story from Margaret, followed by a poem by Victoria and Jenny an impression. William sang a sea shanty with audience participation (‘Rule Britannia’), Alma recited a poem, Honour recited ‘If’ and Jane provided ‘A Thought’. Andrew performed ‘The Wellie Song’ with the audience singing the chorus and of course the three-man sleeping bag had to be included. The latter entitled ‘Scott’s Last Night’ was scripted by William with comments by Captain Scott (Richard C), Lieutenant Bowers (Richard G) and Dr Wilson (William). Merlin (Geoff) contributed ‘Mind Reading’, however after careful thought when he buried his forehead in his hands, had trouble distinguishing between a bracelet and a bangle before finally settling on ear ring. As Don proclaimed “It was a great team effort” and engendered much laughter for performers and audience alike. The evening meal was simply superb offering lamb back-strap or seafood chowder after the entrée. Peter generously donated bottles of splendid Terra Nova Pinot Noir wine which was very much enjoyed by all. This evening we remained at anchor at Lusitania Bay and prepared for what we hoped would be a good day ashore tomorrow.
Day 22 Wednesday 2 March
Noon position: Latitude 54o 34.0’S; Longitude 159o 58.7 ’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 6.5oC
Today we surfaced to a bleak morning with low cloud and a 30 knot NW-NNW blowing. It was not possible to consider a landing at Buckle’s Bay where we arrived before breakfast. The air temperature was 7-8o however the barometer is falling. By 0815 there was a big surf and two metre swell at Buckles Bay so we headed south to Sandy Bay to check conditions there. However on arrival we found conditions were similar with gusting wind. At 0930 David gave his final history presentation ‘Douglas Mawson - from the AAE to ANARE’. There was a large attentive audience and the Australians in particular enjoyed hearing about Mawson’s three expeditions in 1907-09 to the Ross Sea, followed by two to East Antarctica, the AAE and BANZARE. Information which most were unaware of, related to the radio operator in 1911 and Mawson’s relationship with Captain John Davis, during the first voyage of the BANZARE in 1929, after which Davis resigned. The lecture concluded with the establishment of Australia’s Antarctic programme in which Mawson was instrumental with Dr Philip Law being its first Director. On his death, Mawson received a State Funeral and his lasting legacy is undoubtedly the sound science programme which Australia enjoys today, along with the Australian Antarctic claim for 42% of the continent. By late morning the sea was still rough with whitecaps and before lunch at 1230 Don announced that there would unfortunately be no landing today.
After lunch we all assembled in the lecture room to enjoy three videos made by fellow passenger Shigeki with technical assistance provided by Kent, Luke and Chris. These began with a private expedition to a camp by the Transantarctic Mountains reached by aircraft operated by Ken Borak Air, when using a metal detector a successful search was made for meteorites. It was interesting to see the construction of some of the tents. These were identical to a tent used by Shackleton’s Weddell Sea party and designed by artist Putty Marston. Shigeki then flew to the South Pole and we saw excellent views of the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, with this followed by a visit to an Emperor Penguin colony at Gould Bay on the north edge of the Weddell Sea pack ice. The close-up photography of the adult Emperors in particular was very detailed and we enjoyed good views of four month chicks and of adults tobogganing. In the final video we travelled for 13 days to 90o North on a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker charted by Quark expeditions at a cost of a mere US$45,000. There was excellent viewing of a Polar Bear, Walrus’s, Guillemots and of Fritjof Nansen’s cave site in Franz Josef Land, where he and Johansen wintered over. At the close of the presentation we were treated to three minutes of the Spirit of Enderby pushing through ice and rough water. This was recorded by Shigeki using a mini video camera on a telescoping pole and he kindly offered to copy this for us. Later we viewed outstanding images of swimming King Penguins Shigeki had taken with a special underwater camera attached to the extended pole. The regular ↕ and gentle motion of the flippers, along with the occasional use of the extended feet and tail to steer, was of great interest. We were very grateful to Shigeki for sharing his wonderful photography with us. Birdmon told a nice true story when a photograph of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park USA was on the screen. A naturalist running the visitor centre had talked about Half Dome all day, when a woman asked “Where is the other half?.” He jumped over the desk, then ran outside and on returning said “I don’t know. It was there a minute ago!”
Many of us saw Part 3 of ‘Frozen Planet’ and learned that there are an estimated 50 million plus Crabeater Seals in Antarctic waters and that these have a greater combined weight than any other animal on the planet. Also that every Adelie Penguin chick requires 30 kg of food before it is fully grown. Again we saw film of a pod of Orca Whales in which a Minke Whale was drowned by a larger Orca turning it on its back and preventing it from breathing. Orca also created a wave to try and overturn an inflatable; in the same way as they dislodge a seal from an ice floe.
In the bar certificates were given out to participants in the Polar Plunge Swim Club and to those who braved The Polar Blast when deluged by Don with 4oC sea-water. It was also announced that that the ice broke out from the front of Scott Base today. After a fine evening meal, the bird sighting meeting was held and by 2115 there was a good fog outside.
Day 23 Thursday 3 March
Macquarie Island; at sea for Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 54o 40.660’S; Longitude 158o 55.788 ’E
Air temperature: 6oC Water temperature: 7oC
The sea was nice and calm last evening and we got up to a clear morning at Buckles Bay, with the green slopes of Macquarie Island vibrant under the sun. The wind was however gusting at 25 knots and the surf could be seen crashing on the beach at both the usual and alternative landing sites. Unfortunately the forecast is not good for the next two days and little better for Campbell Island. From the Bridge we could see waves at Hasselborough Bay on the west side of the isthmus. This bay was named after the discoverer of Macquarie Island Captain Frederick Hasselborough who arrived in July 1810 while searching for new sealing grounds. At 0930 the engines were started for a final visit to Sandy Bay. Don showed three short documentaries on his solo gyrocopter trip around Australia, his commemorative Captain Bligh voyage in the ‘Bounty boat’ and one when on the Orion during which a French solo sailor was very grateful to be rescued. We enjoyed these very much and many of us envied the interesting life Don has led as an adventurer.
At 1100 the Sea Shop opened for the final time with a 40% discount enticing many to obtain further mementos. By noon we were again heading back towards Buckles Bay again in a strong westerly wind and a sea well sprinkled with white horses. Looking back on the past three weeks however, we have had the weather gods on our side to accomplish so many good landings. Don advised that following a consultation with our captain and seeing increasing winds (a sustained 35-40 knots at the station) being forecast, the decision had sadly been made to depart from Macquarie at 1400. We were advised to ensure our cabins were prepared for the journey to Campbell Island which was likely to be three days away. Don also said the Aurora Australis was making its way to Perth where the vessel will be dry-locked and renew its ice classification.
We were invited to participate in a photo competition, with one entry in each of three categories for people, places and wildlife. To enhance the atmosphere in the corner where members of ‘The Captain’s Club’ meet for dinner, Natalia provided candles which with the photo gallery, impressed the diners including Jenny and Lorna in the predominantly male domain. In the course of conversation, Richard G. suggested “It’s hard to set a fossil on fire” to which Geoff responded “Is that what your wife said to you?” There was of course much laughter. In the evening Shigeki again kindly offered to share his videos and many of us received copies for our personal enjoyment and the bird discussion followed by a shot of Ardbeg courtesy of Andrew. A few of us stayed up late to see if there was an aurora but nothing was visible. Victoria commented that for the first time in many days however, a starry sky was visible.
Day 24 Friday 4 March
Noon position: Latitude 53o25.554 ’S; Longitude 164o55.980 ’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9.3oC
The sea was fairly calm last evening and this morning at 0745 we were greeted by a cloudy, but at least fine day and an air temperature of 8oC with the sea temperature 10oC. We have 211 nm to travel before Campbell Island, where we expect to arrive at 0600 tomorrow. This morning the sea was still calm with only a 20 knot N-WNW wind and we were making good progress at 10 knots. At 0930 we had a great view of a Humpback Whale, 400 metres to port.
Birdmon gave a lecture entitled ‘Great Whales of the Southern Ocean’ which greatly extended our knowledge on these magnificent mammals, but it also had its entertaining moments. As Birdmon said “It’s hard to interview a whale and get a straight answer.” We learned that the Hippopotamus is the nearest surviving direct link to the whales, which have various strategies for foraging and that the baleen whales represent 50% of biomass of all marine mammals in the Southern Ocean. The mouth of large baleen whales, takes in 10-15 tonnes of water (along with krill) which is also used as ballast and ejected using the tongue. They are only seen on the surface about 5% of their time; have differences to both sides of the body and a ‘splash board’ to protect the blow hole/s and the large pectoral flippers on the Humpback serve as tactile organs. The shape and location of the blow - bushy for the Humpback, columnar and tall for the Blue, Finn and Minke, angled and forward for the Sperm Whale, will help us recognise various species. Further links to the land fossil mammal is the vestigial ‘floating’ pelvic bones along with perhaps the presence in young, of hair on the body. Other aspects described included activities such as breaching, singing with low decibel levels, the specialised skeletal structure and possible camouflage. The lecture finished with discussion on the Sperm and Long-finned Pilot Whales, with William a philosopher, being offered the role of “answering questions”. The presentation finished with lively discussion and Birdmon is certainly an advocate for, as he put it “citizen scientists” who are diligent, active recorders of information and should be listened to.
By Noon the sun was breaking though a veil of stratus and a few birds were about. We should see many more as we near Campbell Island. By now we were passing over 2300m of water at a comfortable 10 knots. The next presentation was given by Chris at noon. Chris spoke about his ‘Adventure into the Artic – sailing the North-West passage’. This very interesting talk concerned a journey he and Grace made along with three others, with no person having met the others previously. Chris began with an interesting outline on early-recent expeditions to the North-West Passage (actually now with ice melt several ‘passages’) first sailed by Roald Amundsen in 1903-06. They learned of the trip by yacht through a web site – www.findacrew.com and with little notice, joined Joe Wolff, the owner and captain of the 47 foot long, 19 year SV Hawke in Baltimore. The vessel had an 8mm thick, insulated aluminium hull. They stocked up with US$10,000 of food including 1100 eggs, “most of which went rotten”, 20 cabbages “which kept well”, 100 apples, 60 cans of salmon, 25 kg of cheese etc. along with fuel and fresh water which in some places, cost more than fuel. They travelled from 20 July - 22 September for 7000 nm, with the sea time taking 31 days during which 35% was sailing/motoring; 35% sailing and 30% motor sailing, finishing in Kodiac Alaska. Places of interest included the well-known four graves (now with bronze plaques) on Beechy Island linked to Franklin’s 1845 expedition when the entire 129 man crew of Ross’s Antarctic ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror perished; an early Hudson’s Bay Company trading post; colourful houses; ice-moulded landscapes; a smoking coal seam and wonderful sightings of a Polar Bear and three Brown Bears. People were very hospitable although those of Stephenville in Newfoundland were with their 50:50 Canadian and Irish accent, “unusual”. Other memorable experiences included tacking though a field of ice bergs, catching a tuna fish and several large cod.
Toward the end of the afternoon, Don had us attend a briefing for our proposed landings on Campbell Island. Options discussed had to be planned around the anticipated windy/wet weather. The 115km2 island was discovered the same year as Macquarie Island by Hasselburgh (or Hasselburg) of the sealing brig Perseverance in 1810 (wrecked at Campbell Island in 1828; the only known shipwreck there) and was named for his employers Robert Campbell & Co of Sydney. This was the same year that Macquarie Island was discovered. The weather can be summarised as cool, cloudy, wet and windy and only receives 650 hours of bright sunshine annually and less than one hour on 215 days (59%) of the year. The rich human history on the island, has focused on several early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, pastoral farming (300-400 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses) which began in 1895 at Tucker Cove, the WW2 Cape Expedition 1942-45, the former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 and replaced with automated system) and pest eradication since 1990 with in 2008, the island being declared by UNESCO, a World Heritage site. Jim our New Zealand Government Representative spent a year on the island in 1993-94 and so knows the place well. His visit would be one filled with nostalgia.
The bird meeting was held as usual with species reported, including Storm and Giant Petrels, Prions, Sooty Shearwaters, Southern Royal, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and White-chinned Petrels. The days are really flitting by fast now and most of us retired early.
Day 25 Saturday 5 March
Perseverance Harbour Campbell Island; at sea off Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o 32.911’S; Longitude 169o 09.666 ’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 9oC
After a comfortable night we dropped anchor in about 32m of water around 0300 and were woken by Don at 0600. Those of us who had indicated that we would like to take part in an assault on Mt Honey (558m) went ashore at 0700. The party of 36 (including five keen expedition staff and the ever enthusiastic Lorna) were soon at the start of the track. There was a light ripple on the water, a scattering of thin cloud and a Yellow-eyed Penguin could be heard calling from scrub near the former meteorological station. As the surroundings became more distinct, some of us enjoyed views of rocky outcrops, vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice-moulded landforms and olive-green scrub extending from the water’s edge, then merging with tussock. Lava flows were also visible on wave washed cliffs and hillsides were clothed in tussock grass and Dracophyllum scoparium scrub.
On the left we could see the old meteorological balloon launching shed, then behind the wharf the generator shed and on the ridge-line the New Zealand Meteorological Service automatic weather station with solar panels for charging batteries. Below at the water’s edge are fuel and supply sheds, the old crane and from here, rail tracks leading up to the winch, behind the meteorology and DoC sheds, fridges and freezers, then the accommodation annex. At the right-hand end is the DoC accommodation facility for science and track maintenance parties. Three outer huts are at North West Bay, Bull Rock colony with Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses and at Six Foot Lake. Volcanic bush-clad Beeman Hill (187m) rising behind main annex, has tucked behind it two now dilapidated coast watchers huts from the secret Cape Expedition in 1942-45. The lookout hut is no longer visible and may have been dismantled or was obscured by scrub. However there is the emergency cave, which walkers would see on their return from North-west Bay.
By 0830 much of Mt. Honey was becoming obscured by fog, the wind was up and the harbour had scattered white horses. Numerous Shearwaters were about and some were on the water as rafts. It was obvious that the sun was unlikely to be with us today. With the Mt. Honey walkers away, Don had the remainder of us prepare for a Zodiac cruise about the inner harbour. This began with two boats at 0930 with Don and David assisting with interpretation. The wind came up and there were occasional strong gusts. Just as we passed the old station buildings, a pair of Campbell Island Teal was seen around the rocks on the foreshore. This was a major highlight for David who over many visits with passengers since 1993 had never before seen the bird. Since 150 were returned from New Zealand to the island some years ago, pest eradication has ensured they have adapted very well. The species previously thought to be extinct was re-discovered by Heritage founder Rodney Russ.
We were treated to close-up encounters with New Zealand Sea Lions with some following us as they held their heads just above the water while others porpoised, occasionally fully breaching. Stops were made beside a rock and timber ‘jetty’ at Tucker Cove, where we were able to stretch our legs, inspect the local geology, with nice chert-like rock of various browns etc. and limestone. There were shells of limpets and blue mussels, which Jim and David agreed are very good. Around the corner, we inspected the site of the former Tucker pastoral farm homestead. Here Wang when taking a short-cut across an area of boggy ground, managed to measure his length in water and mud. His video camera was wet but fortunately still operated. The homestead was established along with a shearing shed for sheep in 1895. All that remained isolated on a grassy sward was the Shacklock Orion coal range, with a rusty row boat rowlock and a bottle base embossed Dunedin placed on top. By the water’s edge, were a few worn bricks and a broken bottle of ‘Bonnington’s Irish Moss, for Coughs and Colds.’ Also of interest a short distance away, were an adult Giant Petrel with four chicks and another adult with chick further along the shore. Numerous dead seed heads for the mega herb Bulbinella rossi which in December would have a bright orange colouration were amongst tussock.
At Camp Cove, we saw the Sika spruce recorded in the Guiness Book of Records, as the ‘loneliest tree in the world’. Here we enjoyed the song of a Campbell Island Pipit from the top of the spruce, planted in 1901-02. This was followed by a sighting of a “schizophrenic penguin” which was in fact a Campbell Island Shag. “Chicken-man” Alan described the bird as “a brown creature” to which Birdmon later said “there is a Brown Creeper”. Nearby a Sea Lion pup now fending for itself, was frolicking in a pool beneath water spouting from the top of the bank. We passed Garden Cove, followed by Venus Bay, where in 1874 the French hoped to observe the Transit of Venus and all were on board soon after midday.
The first group to return from Mt Honey decided against a full climb and those who continued further up the hillside, decided when at 220m to then turn back. As hikers bush-bashed their way up the steep, muddy track with occasional running water and surrounded by Dracophyllum scrub and high tussocks, they too decided they had had enough of the rain and wind. However everyone enjoyed themselves and apart from a few Pipits, the most interesting observation was of four Royal Albatross with at least one having a chick which Shigeki filmed from just five metres away from their nests. Ian A. claimed “There was a lot of mud and I slipped around and fell over, before turning back at the cloud base”. Valerie commented, “I got lost a few times” and Naoko said “I got very wet. I am drying my gears now”. William pointed out that poet Rupert Brook (who had attended Kings’ College in Cambridge as he had) wrote words in ‘Heaven’ which perhaps best summed up this walk:
One may not doubt that somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose In Liquidity.
Our chefs provided a fine lunch of hot beef slices with chutney on a large slice of freshly baked bread with salad, followed by a cake slice. Don announced that because very strong winds with gusts were forecast, we would be departing at 1500 for the open sea, although he hoped to find a sheltered place to ride out the weather until the early hours of Monday 7th. We left on schedule and as we made our way out to the harbour entrance we passed Davis Point followed by Erebus Point named by James Clark Ross. Near here we saw the often well populated Sea Lion colony, although today only two animals were seen. Along the coast of Perseverence Harbour to starboard, were caves and undercut areas in the rock, of which at least four lava flows were visible. Above a narrow area of tussock on the cliff tops was thick scrub although further up gentle slopes there was more extensive areas of tussock. When clear of the harbour entrance, we could make out Jacquemart Island half obscured by mist and La Botte (The Boot), along with volcanic rock stacks one of which was standing like a pencil. Beyond here was Antarctic Bay and Mt. Dumas (499m) although these were not visible. Several localities have French names, given at the time of the French Expedition visit in 1873 -1874. Low cloud was obscuring much of the landscape and sea birds were soaring over the waves. Bird sightings included Wanderer, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross, the Campbell Island Shag, Cape Petrel and Sooty Shearwater.
For the rest of the afternoon many of us rested or relaxed in the Bar-Library. The meeting to discuss bird observations today was convened as usual and species sighted included eight Mallard Ducks, a vagrant probably from New Zealand and various albatross species. Lorna was in charge of the evening entertainment and decided to screen the Australian movie ‘The Adventures of Pricilla – Queen of the Desert’. Those not watching the movie played Scrabble, read books or retired early to take advantage of a calmer sea.
Day 26 Sunday 6 March
At sea near Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o34.2’S; Longitude 169o16.7’E
Air temperature: 8oC Water temperature: 8oC
This morning we discovered that during the night we had been making journeys up and down the coast, from the entrance to Perseverance Harbour to beyond North-east Harbour and between Cossack and Bull Rocks. This was a 2 hour return journey of 13 nm, 1 nm offshore.
At 0730 we were positioned at 52o32.534’S; 269o176.09’E and crossing over 80-90m of water. The sun rose at around 0720 and the air temperature was 7oC. Wind remained at 25-30 knots although later in the day it was expected to increase to 40 knots. Waves could be seen crashing against vertical volcanic cliffs over which mist came and went and the sea was sprinkled with white horses. Birdmon gave the first presentation of the day on ‘Merlins in Urban to Wild Environments’. The Merlin Falcon Foundation supports the Coastal Forest Merlin project with its main objectives being research, education and stewardship. Field work has often involved 10-16 hour days over three decades and the behavioural ecology has provided insight into this species of raptor, which can fly from 60-100mph. A major part of the diet made up of small birds which are conveniently beheaded in flight and interestingly the Merlin’s eye is two to three times stronger than those of humans, the female is larger than the male and in North America, there are three sub-species. In the course of his research, Birdmon has travelled extensively and one field trip in 1983 involved 10,000 miles, as he gathered data on these “symbols of wildness and freedom”. Most of the field area is from Juno to Vancouver, when nest platforms, sometimes previously used by Crows, have been examined at 200ft above the ground and involved use of crossbows and climbing equipment. The emphasis has been on non–invasive research techniques.
William, Hon. Res. Assoc. Prof. at the University of Queensland gave the next lecture entitled ‘The Melting Planet – Reflections on Human Sustainability and the long Thaw’. Using excellent visual material, William after briefly mentioning Al Gore, discussed ice during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods and considered global and cosmic perspectives from the point of view of a philosopher. It is clear that tropospheric CO2 is increasing and ice has been steadily disappearing over the last fifty years. Examples included Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt. Everest and seasonal ice melt has shown for Greenland to have increased for 1992-2005, while parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have also shown rapid collapse. The reduced capacity of the ocean to retain CO2 has had an impact on ecosystems, the rise in temperature is affecting coral reef communities and increased acidity due to formation of carbonic acid, will compromise the calcification process in the shells of molluscs. A now widely accepted model is that of Milankovitch which demonstrates how our planet’s orbit and orientation changes as a result of the sun fluctuating over time, changes the way the orbit varies, along with the tilt of orbit. Major global warming glaciations have been shown to have begun 300 million years ago and the present Quaternary Era began 2.6 mya. We have evolved from a cool planet which has got cooler while the sun has become hotter, but at present we are injecting a large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere. Global temperature is rising more quickly and will not level off until temperatures decrease. Clearly fossil carbon carries substantial risks. As William said, “we live prosperously by treating the atmosphere as a sewer”. However the suggested carbon limit of 445 parts per million is perhaps too high. There has also been a dramatic increase in population with one estimate that by 2400, the mass of people will equal the mass of our planet and deaths will be equal to or greater than the number of births. Limits once suggested by Thomas Malthus have been proved incorrect and now 36% of the global terrestrial biosphere is dominated by humans. At the end of the day, we need a transition away from fossil carbon. We all learned a lot from William’s enlightening lecture which sparked a few lively debates.
Don carried a flaming candle stuck into the end of a parsnip as he led a parade of expedition members singing happy birthday to Steve into the dining room for lunch. There was more happy news that Jenny and Doug are expecting a new member to their family.
Many of us returned to the lecture room at 1600 to view ‘The Search for the North Passage’. This focused on Roald Amundsen who as a boy was fascinated with the loss of the Franklin expedition when 129 perished. Amundsen secretly left Norway on 16 June 1903, with a crew of six on the shallow draft fishing boat Gjoa without scientists or even a doctor. Over the next two years, he learned much from the Inuit and on 26 August 1905, achieved his goal of being first to navigate a route through the North West passage above Canada, which had claimed scores of lives and several ships. We could all see what made him successful in his goal of reaching the South Pole.
Before the bar opened at 1830 we had an informative presentation from Sjirk, who is an enthusiastic environmentalist from the Lane Cove Sustainability Action Group. ‘Can we make our lives a little less plastic?’ began with the origins of plastic and how by the 1950’s the product was being advertised in Life magazine, as ‘throw away living’. There is now sufficient plastic produce to entirely wrap the planet. This includes production of four billion bags annually and we dump 7,000 bags a minute and a staggering 4.5 tonnes has been calculated to enter the ocean each 15 seconds. Is it not surprising that we see our coastlines and other areas of recreation along with roadsides, littered with plastic bottles. Unbeknown to most people, it will take 400-500 years for a plastic bottle to break down and furthermore, plastic does not biodegrade. The impact on wildlife such as turtles, fish and birds is considerable. A dead Shearwater at Lord Howe Island was found with 175 pieces of plastic inside. According to Sjirk the major problem is that “governments are out of touch with reality” and we can all play our part by for example, forming a local environmental group, conversing with the public, declining to accept goods in plastic bags and approaching our political and community leaders with petitions.
At 1910 Don advised that the weather was showing signs of improvement and later the wind eased and the seas abated. There was also a peep of blue sky with a possibility that we may enter the harbour earlier than scheduled. Fingers were crossed for a good day ashore and in the Zodiacs tomorrow.
We had the usual laughter over dinner this evening and Geoff who offered to assist with dishes, was given a crew shirt, apron and head scarf. Several photographs were taken with staff and active at the sink. Many decided on a quiet night again, although a team effort was underway on a large jigsaw puzzle.
Day 27 Monday 7 March
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.0’S; Longitude 169o09.5’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9oC
Birthdays for Kevin and Kent celebrated
We had a comfortable nights rest and by breakfast we were anchored in Perseverance Harbour. We then made preparations for a day on the island and some Zodiac cruising. The water was calm despite the wind getting up around 0800. There was however promise of a nice day with scattered cloud and larger areas of blue sky than over recent days. Four Zodiacs were launched after breakfast for a tour of the interesting area at the head of the harbour and as we left a raft of around 50 Sooty Shearwaters took off. Some of us had already enjoyed the ride on Saturday and decided it was well worth another trip. An interesting variety of birds was seen including three Black-Bellied Storm Petrels and a pair of Mallard Ducks. Returning to the site of the Tucker homestead, we not only examined the old Shacklock range again but also had an excellent view of four New Zealand Sea Lions which were most cooperative with our desire to obtain a good photographic record. This was an excellent opportunity to observe their behaviour. Ian A. was able to photograph two fern species at their southern limit for the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand records.
From here we journeyed past a long pebbly beach with occasional large basalt boulders, to Camp Cove where there was no wind at all. Here many of us went for a walk through the Dracophyllum to the tussock, while others visited the ‘Loneliest tree in the World’ so it would be a bit less lonely or were simply content to lie back in the grass and enjoy the stillness and fresh air. There was a nice example of a basalt dyke extending onto the beach and here Alma found the perfect place to rest. Continuing around the coast, we made perhaps the first Spirit of Enderby visit to the lonely grave of M. Duris, the Engine room Technician on the frigate Vire, who died here on 22 September 1874, when the French scientific expedition called in an attempt to observe the Transit of Venus. The grave surrounded by a nice wooden fence with rails and pickets, had been visited by sailors of the Royal New Zealand Navy ships HMNZS Rotoiti and HMNZS Hawea. They had perhaps done the restoration, as two medallions were attached to the fence which was in good condition. Sadly the ornate metal cross at the head of the grave is in urgent need of conservation and the grave would also benefit from removal of ferns. We all considered it a rare privilege to visit the hallowed site, tucked away in the Dracophyllum. Our journey continued around the shoreline to the waterfall and we then gradually made our way back to the Spirit of Enderby. We had been blessed with a perfect morning and enjoyed our cut lunch in the Bar-Library.
At 1330 the next landing got underway with a shuttle service which deposited us beside the old wharf and huts of the former meteorological station. The weather continued to be beautiful and soon we began the one hour trek up the board walk to Col Lyall. Don had predicted the weather perfectly for the excursion today. We followed the initially steadily rising boardwalk through Dracophyllum, around the side of Beeman Hill and once well past the hill and steadily gaining height, we noticed the two World War 2 Coast Watcher huts away in a valley inland from Tucker Cove. Most of the mega herbs including Bulbanella rossii and Pleurophyllum criniferum had finished flowering, although at a higher altitude near the end of the board walk the occasional Pleurophyllum speciosum (Purple daisy) was seen. There were good examples of the mega herb Anisotome latifolia with large spikey leaves resembling a carrot, although it had now finished flowering. A few small white Gentians and the same green orchid we had seen at Tagua Bay were also spotted. After an hour or so most of us reached the col and carefully observing the five metre rule, enjoyed the Southern Royal Albatross at close quarters on their elevated nests. Some of the birds were sitting on chicks and it was unlikely now that any eggs were unhatched. Of interest was the ‘bill-clappering’ and towards the end of the afternoon the ‘gamming’ behaviour with two or three male birds arriving at a female sitting on a nest. Several albatross were seen flying high above the col and gradually circling as they came in to land. David observed one bird which flew with a “whoosh” only a few feet above his head and then glided in to land inelegantly beak-first in the base of a tussock plant. Others were seen to join their mate, their arrival heralded by ‘bill clappering’ followed by a ‘mewing’ sound such as made by a cat. It really was a special privilege to see the majestic birds at close quarters and this excursion will be remembered for a long time to come. At the top of the boardwalk it was only a short breezy walk to look down into North-West Bay with interesting islands we had seen from the Spirit of Enderby, during the passing to and fro as we waited for better conditions. The landscape was also of interest with re-vegetated slips and rocky lichen covered crags of schist which stood out above the yellow-brown of the tussocks and was reminiscent of the Maniototo in New Zealand’s Central Otago.
The Northwest Bay walking party of 14 including Jim and Birdmon had left at 0845 and completed their journey by 1630. They had enjoyed an outstanding trek, which Luke considered was “not as bad as Mt. Honey with its mud”. Early on the walk Sea Lions were avoided by bush-bashing through Dracophyllum and at Windless Bay large fossil palm-like leaves about 15 inches wide were observed in sedimentary rock; perhaps limestone. Here they had lunch and discovered a large bull Elephant Seal and a smaller one in the bush. Birdmon and William were only 12 inches away from being bitten by male Sea Lions in the bush and Geoff became lost “a few times” in the high tussocks and claimed he had joined the Fukawi tribe. A further six Elephant Seals, a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and numerous Pipits were seen when they looked over a cliff. A hill was ascended and they had a look in the old DOC hut which was pretty basic. It contained two bunks, a sink, book shelf and a visitor book in which Jim found his entry made in 1993. Jim said he had been counting seals, penguins and whales and had had a long day walking from the hut to Courrejolles Peninsula and back via Col Ridge. He wrote “zooted” in the hut book. Sea Lions again required a detour through scrub, however a real highlight was the opportunity to view large numbers of low-flying Southern Royal Albatrosses and many were seen on nests with chicks. For Drs Rob and Clare, the highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the “fantastic displays of the albatrosses”, but they also commented on the beauty of the landscape, the colours of the rocks and offshore islands along with the beautiful turquoise of the sea. Near the end of the walk, they inspected the cave used by the Coast Watchers, which has two rather old seats. On completion of the walk, most of the group then hiked along the board walk to Col Lyall and were able to enjoy the early evening albatross activity. Don reported on three interesting pinkish jellyfish and a large black cod by the landing. He also commented on a female Sea Lion surfing on the wave behind the Zodiac as it travelled to and from the ship until her mate turned up and she left. By 1930 the last Zodiac was being hoisted aboard and it was anchors up and on our way. It had been a great day and pleasing to see Robin had been able to leave the kitchen for a walk to Col Lyall while Bennie was also able to complete the North-west Bay walk.
This evening we had a later dinner than usual with fine New Zealand Terakihi fish or pork beautifully cooked and plated. Kevin and Kent’s birthdays were celebrated with cakes and a magnum of New Zealand, Cloudy Bay Pelorus Vintage 1908 sparkling wine, courtesy of Doug and Jenny, with this also commemorating their forthcoming family member. Only one glass broke when the ship gave a sudden lurch, however it was a sad end for the contents. The bird species meeting was convened and noted the sighting of Black-bellied Storm Petrels and Yellow-eyed Penguins today. The wind is expected to rise to 35 knots and the sea from three to five metres. We now have two days to pack and enjoy the remainder of what has been a very special expedition.
© Heritage Expeditions
Day 28 Tuesday 8 March
Noon position: Latitude 49 o 46.761’S; Longitude 169o 02.375’E
Air temperature: 10oC Water temperature: 9oC
Womens’ Day in Russia
100 years ago today, the Reverend Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party 1914-16, died on the Ross Ice Shelf when 30 miles from safety. “Jesu, Maria – I am near to death. And thou art calling me; I know it now…That I am going, that I am no more…” A copy of the Dream of Gerontius by Cardinal Newman was carried by Spencer-Smith, who died eight days short of his 33rd birthday. This along with his 1915 diary, the last letter to his parents and other historical documents, were found by David in a wooden apple box, within a garden shed, near Invercargill in the late 1970’s. They are now in Canterbury Museum Christchurch.
The ship rolled occasionally in the night and at 0815 we had around 400 nm to go with a course of 350o True set for Stewart Island. We were moving along at 10-11 knots and the sea was 3-4 metres with us rolling to the beam. Wind was expected to be 25-30 knots although would pick up this evening then die off tomorrow. The air temperature at 8.15 was 8oC and our position was 50o25’S; 168o37’E.
We changed course to 50o13.6 S; 168o35.9E and by noon the ship was pitching and yawing from the westerly, the occasional roll over 40o. A few birds were about and included albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters along with a White-chinned Petrel. Although there was some cloud it was a sunny day and the sea flecked white, was a deep ultramarine colour. Today most of us began packing and spent time resting or in the Bar-Library. With the lectures cancelled, this was probably the quietest day we have had. At 1830 a trivia quiz was organised by UK Jane who was compere, in the Bar-Library. There were six teams: Merlin’s Morons; ANZAC Troops; The Albatrosses; Tuckers Wanderers; The Winners and Let’s Get Quizzical. There were 30 questions and as two groups tied, a play-off was required to determine the winner. The winner was in fact The Winners, led by Jenny and they received a bottle of wine for the victory. A second bottle was awarded to the runners-up. It was a lot of fun with much laughter. After a pleasant evening meal of Malaysian curry or a Chinese chicken dish, we tucked into delicious profiteroles for dessert.
Day 29 Wednesday 9 March
Noon position: Latitude 45o 408.56’S, Longitude 172o25.313 ’E
Air temperature: 14.2oC Water temperature: 13.5oC
This morning the sun rose at 0725 on our final day. Don announced that we had 190 nm to go and we were heading north at 10.5 knots, 90 nm off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The air temperature was 12oC, a 15-24 knot westerly was blowing and the sea was at 3-4 metres. Our position was 46o27’S; 172o2’E; the pressure is rising and a fine day is forecast for tomorrow. At 1030 we returned our polar jackets and gumboots that had served us so well, with a few pairs of boots also kindly donated for use by future travellers. A questionnaire for DoC was completed which will help guide future management of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands.
Before lunch Ian A. delivered an interesting presentation ‘North Korea – some personal observations’. Ian had six visits (the most recent six years ago) during contracts with the United Nations Development Programme, when he was concerned with forestry and forest conservation. Only two flights a week enter North Korea via Beijing and Chinese Air Traffic Control keep the 1½ hour flight over land. On crossing the border, a political lecture is given by a hostess. The control of the ‘Democratic’ Republic of Korea over its citizens is extraordinary. Ian showed excellent photographs of major buildings and monuments of the much revered former Leader Kim II-sung and was under strict instructions as to what he could or could not do. On arrival his passport and cell phone was taken. When asked about his binoculars, he explained that he was interested in birds although apart for White Herons and Thrushes, he was unable to identify most species. A most unusual aspect was the lack of traffic and people not smiling and continually gazing at the ground. On one visit Ian was the sole occupant on one floor of the hotel where he stayed. The country which has had considerable deforestation to enable people to be warm in winter did however have extensive market gardening with cabbages, silver beet and rice. Chestnuts are also roasted and eaten. People are made to assist with construction projects which are accompanied with loud music and signage. Tourism is beginning to become more popular.
Before lunch we watched a ‘trailer’ on the US Army Greely expedition before Don screened a documentary on Sir John Franklin who was lost when searching for the North West Passage. The expedition in which 129 men lost their lives, gripped Victorian England. The last sighting of the ships was by a whaler in 1845 however various clues began to pull together threads of the expedition’s failure. Franklin’s men were unlucky to have to put up with a very cold winter when there was no thaw for five years. Once in Peel Sound, they were trapped and eventually the ships were abandoned. Forensic archaeologist Canadian Owen Beattie excavated three graves on Beechey Island and analysis later showed very high lead levels, which were assumed to be a result of eating canned foods. As men died in the effort to make the 800 mile journey by foot and dragging boats to the nearest human habitation, their travel was noted by Inuit hunters. Later examination of oral history archives in Washington along with physical evidence found at various localities also pointed to possible cannibalism and scurvy. These together with hypothermia, frostbite and exhaustion finally signalled an end for the remaining men. Franklin himself had died two years into the expedition on 11 June 1847. The expedition continues to be a source of fascination for historians, scientists and others. Over the last two years the HMS Erebus has been located and various artefacts are preserved in England. It is believed HMS Terror is close to being found, unless it has been already. From time to time other artefacts continue to be found. A comparatively recent book titled ‘Frozen in Time’ by John Geiger, focuses on the exhumation of three of the expedition men.
Jane tidied up our expedition accounts during the afternoon and the remainder of the day was taken up with packing and relaxing. We crossed the 45th parallel about 1515 and at 1700 our disembarking briefing was held. We then had an enjoyable hour in the Bar-Library before a relaxed dinner. At the final meeting in the Lecture Room, Don asked the expedition team to address the group for the last time and Chris then showed his first class DVD slide show of our activities which we could then download onto a memory stick or other media. The winners of the Photography Competition were announced with the winner of each category receiving a Spirit of Enderby cap. The first category of People was won by Heather who captured us in action with her video camera in Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. The second category for Wildlife was won by Neil with his picture of a Skua and the third category for Landscape was won by Shigeki with his photograph of Scott’s Cross on Observation Hill. An honourable mention was given to Naoko whose outstanding photograph featuring the moon rising beyond Inexpressible Island with iced-up rocks in the foreground looked almost like a painting.
The Farewell Dinner in Ice Culture was for the record:
Starter: Duck confit in crisp wonton basket on a bed of red curry cabbage
Mains: New Zealand lamb rack crusted with mustard and panko, kumara gratin, pea puree and red wine jus OR Stewart Island salmon fillets with crushed baby potatoes, roasted beetroot and miso hollandaise
Final: Chocolater fondent with salted caramel ice cream.
This meal was particularly festive and accompanied by much hilarity which increased as the evening progressed. Doug kindly provided more Jan Herzog Marlborough wines with the Riesling 2011 being particularly notable. We were all extremely grateful to Robin and Benny for their great service and culinary expertise, often under very difficult circumstances. On behalf of Don and colleagues, along with Natalia and Albina and of course Captain Dimitry, his officers and crew, the author of this Log would like to say what a pleasure it has been to spend a memorable month with you and to say thank you for contributing to our knowledge. It is hoped that this will be Au Revoir and not goodbye.
We arrived at Lyttelton about 0100 on Thursday 10 March, were cleared by Customs and Immigration, and then disembarked to say our goodbyes after breakfast.
Of doors there is this.
We don’t even see them
as we pass through.
Click here for Species List
Thursday 12th January 2012: Invercargill
Expeditioners from various points of the globe converged on Invercargill to begin a journey south to Antarctica in the footsteps of the great explorers, Sir Douglas Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. The travelling companions met over dinner in an Invercargill Hotel, all in excited anticipation of their four weeks together. Meanwhile at the Port of Bluff, the expedition ship the Spirit of Enderby was being bunkered and provisioned with supplies for the 4,000km return trip to the Ross Sea. Eighty people eat a lot in 30 days, so it was all hands on deck to move the mountain of supplies on board and safely stow them in the deep holds of the ship.
Friday 13th January 2012: Bluff
After breakfast our bags were security checked and loaded onto a truck to be taken to the ship. To wet the appetite for the southern adventure, we made our way to the Southland Museum and enjoyed the informative Roaring 40's display on New Zealand's Subantarctic islands. Lunch was enjoyed at the hotel before we boarded the coach for the trip to the Port of Bluff. Upon arrival we boarded the Spirit of Enderby, and were directed to our cabins to be reunited with our luggage. After meeting the remaining Heritage staff who would be joining us on the trip south, we enjoyed an afternoon settling in and exploring the ship. During the afternoon we received introductory briefings on ship safety and zodiac travel. These were followed by an emergency muster drill where we donned life vests and spent a short time in one of the ships lifeboats. Late in the afternoon we congregated in the Globe Bar for pre dinner drinks and a chat before sitting down to a delicious first meal aboard. A sign of the good things to come! From the weather forecast, conditions in Foveaux Strait looked pretty rough due to a strong easterly, so we waited at the dock for it to ease slightly before setting off. The ship slipped out with the tide after midnight when most were tucked up asleep. Sailing south past Stewart Island gave some protection from the wind and swell but the rocking was soon to build.
Saturday 14th January 2013: At Sea
The wind continued to strengthen overnight and given its southerly origin it was unlikely that we would be able to zodiac cruise at the Snares Islands. Our Expedition Leader made the decision to bypass the Snares on the southbound journey in the hope that the weather would be kinder on the way home. The ship's course was duly changed and we headed for the Auckland Islands. The dedicated birders were up on the bridge from the early hours spotting numerous seabirds as the wind and swell picked up. Royal, White-capped and Salvin's Albatross soared around the ship untroubled by the wind that was causing us so much discomfort. Sooty Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, White-chinned Petrels and Fairly Prions were just some of the species spotted from the ship as we travelled south. The Southern Ocean gave us a taste of what she is capable of with the swell reaching 6 metres with 40 knots of wind. Many on board took this time to get familiar with their bunks while waiting for their sea legs to catch up with them. The doctor diligently undertook house calls to relieve much of the suffering from the dreaded "mal de mer" and reminded us of other great seamen, such as Lord Nelson and Sir Peter Blake who suffered similarly. A reasonable gathering of sturdy sailors enjoyed a lovely meal produced by the chefs in somewhat challenging conditions.
Sunday 15th January 2012: Enderby Island
We awoke early and found ourselves in the sheltered waters of Port Ross at the northern end of the Auckland Island group. Despite disrupted sleep there were many bright faces at breakfast eagerly anticipating a day on Enderby Island. After breakfast, a briefing about the day further heightened the excitement of visiting the island's natural wonders including flowering mega herbs and rare wildlife. Wet weather gear was donned, lunches packed and boots washed before boarding the zodiacs for the short ride ashore.
Once all in the group had been safely delivered to the research station, we set off along the boardwalk towards the western cliffs accompanied by Auckland Island Tomtits and Pipits. Nesting Southern Royal albatross gazed at us as we gradually made our way across the centre of the island. The fields of Bulbinella Rossii stalks on the western side of the island indicated how impressive the landscape would have been earlier in the season when the plants were in full bloom. Purple balls of flowers were still found on some of the Anisotome Latifolia bushes and the pink and white flowers of the Gentians were bright spots of colour amongst the lush ground cover.
Along the western cliffs we admired the nesting Light-mantled Sooty albatross amongst the Auckland Island shags. One group went down to enjoy the delights of Sandy Bay where they spent some quality time with the Hooker's Sea Lions and Yellow-eyed penguins. Those who were keen to stretch their legs and explore more of the island continued north following the coast around the perimeter of the island. Nathan, our fearless Expedition Leader took the lead as he scouted ahead for any troublesome Sea Lions, while the rest of the party followed in loose groupings. Along the way we stopped to enjoy the cliff top views and take photographs making the most of the wonderful light when the sun came out in between a few rain squalls.
The terrain varied from easy on the grassy sward to challenging through the tussock grasses. We meandered past a small group of Northern Giant Petrel chicks who were starting to lose their down in preparation for fledging. Many heard or caught sight of Red-crowned Parakeets and Banded Plovers, but only a few got a glimpse of the elusive Subantarctic Snipe as it darted amongst the foliage. Some time was spent surprising and dodging feisty sub adult Sea Lions who were a little too interested in what we were doing. Many Yellow-eyed Penguins were spotted around the coast nervously travelling to and from nesting areas or just hanging out with other teenagers near the sea edge. The scenery was ever changing and dramatic. The southern Rata in full bloom gave an intense contrast between the redness of its flower and the grey and squally skies. Some people took time out from the coast to explore the interior of the amazing Rata forest which provided a peaceful refuge from the wild world outside. Upon our return to Sandy Bay, time was spent watching life within the Sea Lion harem. Young pups could be seen grouping together as their mothers went out to sea foraging. Males were continually sparing around the edges and recent mothers stood protective guard over their new offspring.
Finally it was time to return to the ship having had a sublime day ashore experiencing blue skies and sunshine as well as some rain and cloud. Back on board, the bar was lively and full of chatter as we swapped stories of the day. After another delicious dinner and we all faded fairly early as a result of all that fresh air and exercise.
Monday 16th January 2012: Enderby Island
We stayed at anchor overnight in the sheltered waters of Port Ross, and awoke to a calm and quiet ship. After breakfast we were told that one of the Expedition Staff had to leave the ship due to a medical problem, so the Spirit of Enderby remained in Port Ross while the logistics of a medical evacuation were finalised.
We made the most of this opportunity to land at Erebus Cove and see the remains of Hardwick Settlement. Originally established as a whaling settlement in 1849 by the Enderby Brothers whaling firm, ships arrived from England with skilled tradesmen and their families with the intention of establishing a settlement that would service the whaling industry as well as farm the surrounding lands. The enterprise ended in failure within three years due to the scarcity of whales in the area, poor farming conditions and alleged mismanagement of the settlement by Charles Enderby the Lieutenant Governor of the Islands. Towards what was the main part of the settlement we found the "Victoria Tree", which had the name of the ship Victoria and its captain inscribed in the trunk. The Victoria was a supply ship that visited the area a number of years after the settlement was abandoned, to search for ship wreck survivors who may have ended up on the island. Today all that remains of the settlement are some remnants of buildings and a small graveyard amongst the Rata forest.
Late in the afternoon a long range helicopter from Invercargill swooped in with a replacement team member and took the ailing staff member back to New Zealand. The Spirit of Enderby weighed anchor and we set off towards Macquarie Island.
Tuesday 17th January 2012: At Sea
Today is the centenary of Scott's arrival at the South Pole, so this was uppermost in our minds as we gathered for breakfast. After a recap of our visit to the Auckland Islands, newly arrived expedition staff member and company founder, Rodney Russ, gave a talk on the history of the area including its phases of discovery, exploitation, settlement, shipwreck and restoration. We then reviewed the wildlife seen during our visit. Although the ride was a little bumpy, the ship was still travelling at eleven knots and many had started to get their sea legs. The birders kept us abreast of the variety of birds visiting the ship throughout the day which included the Southern Royal, Gibson's Wandering, White-capped, Salvin's and Buller's albatross as well as an assortment of petrels including the White-chinned and Cape Petrels, Grey- backed Storm Petrels and many prions.
Helen, the team member who gave the introduction to Macquarie Island was well qualified for the task. She spent five years living and working there as a field researcher and ranger. Her introduction to this incredible little island in the middle of the Southern Ocean covered natural and historical features and prepared us well for the landing tomorrow. Arrival at the island presents the opportunity for sending mail to the folks back home, so the bar did a brisk trade in postcards. These kept many people entertained for the rest of the afternoon and for those that didn't get enough of the Sea Lions on Enderby Island, a screening of 'Sealion Summer' was arranged.
Later in the evening the bar opened and we enjoyed a few drinks before another delicious dinner. Many retired early to their bunks to be rocked to sleep on the southern seas, dreaming of our arrival at Macquarie Island.
Wednesday 18th January 2012: Macquarie Island
It was a leisurely start to the day due to the different time zone of Macquarie Island. We ate breakfast in the lea of the Island while zodiacs were launched to pick up our five ranger guides from the station at Buckles Bay. Once aboard, they gave a briefing prior to our first landing as the ship sailed south the short distance to Sandy Bay. Although nice and calm on shore, the swell out at the ship made for a challenging disembarkation into the zodiacs. Once ashore everyone soon forgot the challenges of the gangway as they were soon surrounded by the local inhabitants of Sandy Bay.
A welcoming committee of King Penguins stood on the beach to greet us as we stepped ashore. Bree, one of the ranger staff, gave a few final instructions and then we were free to wander among the groups of curious King and Royal Penguins and the few less welcoming, moulting Elephant Seals. Soon everyone was widely dispersed across the beach where we spent several hours experiencing what we were told was typical Macca weather -a bit of rain and wind.
Due to their vast size, the Elephant Seals were the most obvious residents on the beach. The young males were packed into tight moulting groups - hard to believe that these are only small seals compared to the fully grown adult males! By sitting quietly most people had some great close-up encounters with the King Penguins who often came up for a peck of our boots. They seemed as fascinated by our presence as we were by theirs. The King Penguin breeding colony at the northern end of the beach was jam packed with breeding birds incubating eggs. They cradle their eggs on their feet against the skin of their brood patch for eight weeks. The other penguin inhabitants of Sandy Bay were the Royal Penguins. These penguins are endemic to Macquarie Island as this is the only place they breed. Adult birds travelled up and down from the beach along a creek line to their inland colony. For us it was a less challenging walk along a boardwalk which went up the bank and along a ridgeline to the colony, passing some severely rabbit-damaged patches of Pleurophyllum hookeri and tussock along the way. The penguin colony itself was busy with adult birds and creching chicks mixed in together. It's a very noisy place, but well worth the visit to see the antics of this energetic penguin. Brown Skuas put on a good aerial display above the colony making the most of any opportunity to get a meal. All too soon it was time for everyone to head back to the ship for a warming late lunch.
The Ranger staff came aboard and joined us for dinner where they particularly enjoyed the fresh vegies and fruit they said they really missed whilst living on the island. A pod of Orcas delighted us as they appeared a number of times during the afternoon and evening while the ship was stationed off shore. Claudia, a budding documentary maker on the island, entertained us with a world premiere of her documentary on the Macquarie Island Pest Species Eradication Program (MIPEP) which documents the work undertaken over the last two years on the island.
Thursday 19th January 2012: Macquarie Island
We awoke on the Eastern side of the isthmus of Macquarie Island in Buckles Bay. The wind was blowing from the west but the conditions were looking very good for another landing. Following breakfast and a briefing we prepared for a visit to the Australian Antarctic Division Research station.
Shore conditions were quite good for our arrival at the beach where we split into groups of ten and were taken on a tour around the isthmus and station by one of the ranger staff. A hot cup of tea and a chat to one of the locals in the station mess gave us a bit of insight into station life. Along the beaches we got to see more of the local wildlife. Today we added Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins to our list as well as the Macquarie Island Shag and many more King Penguins. We were lucky with the weather yesterday, but today it was brilliant, with lots of blue sky, light wind and no rain. As we walked around the island we had to watch out for Elephant Seals that lay half concealed in the tussock. It is hard to imagine that it could be difficult to miss two tonnes of flesh lying there, but you can easily step a little too close to them, creating an uproar of growling, belching and snorting.
We spent a pleasant few hours walking the coastline, learning about the history of the island and present day life. It was an incredible and rare experience that we will not forget. Fulfilled with our morning's activities we jumped back into the zodiacs and returned to the ship for some lunch before starting to cruise down the island. In the afternoon we were treated to the exceptional sight of Lusitania Bay, the nesting and living quarters for some 250,000 King Penguins. From 2kms out at sea it looks rather like a boulder beach, but close up it is wall to wall birds. Ever curious, many of them came out to meet the zodiacs as we made our way towards the colony. Ironically, the digesters that were once used to render oil from their ancestors in the 19th century still stand in the middle of the colony. It's a sobering reminder of the exploitive mind-set that operated in the past on many of these Subantarctic outposts. We spent an hour cruising close to the colony watching all the action in the water and on land. Back on the Spirit of Enderby after a well-earned drink and a delightful dinner, the evening was spent sharing stories and downloading photos. It had been a memorable day thanks to the fantastic rangers and inhabitants of Macquarie Island.
Friday 20th January 2012: At Sea
Calm seas resulting in a good night's sleep saw most people up and about for breakfast. There was little wind and a following sea which pushed us along at a rapid twelve knots. The day's activities started with a recap of our visit to Macquarie Island where we reflected on the island's history and amazing animals. Then we all became focussed on the adventures ahead. It was time to make our bids in the iceberg tipping contest. The rules were set - the first 'berg must be seen with the naked eye and it must be larger than a London double decker bus as it passed abeam of the ship. With a flurry of anticipation everyone chose their preferred date and time. All picks had to be in by dinner time so there was little time for deliberation! Down in the lecture theatre we viewed a film based on the book by Tim Bowden, 'Silence Calling', which documents the first 50 years of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition. This provided us with an interesting insight into how things were done in Antarctica's most recent history.
After lunch we were given an opportunity to contemplate an amazing feat of survival as we watched a documentary featuring modern day explorer Tim Jarvis. In this expedition Jarvis attempted to replicate the physical exertion and conditions experienced by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson during the tragic sledging trip undertaken into Eastern Antarctic in 1912.
Continuing with the Antarctic theme, Rodney gave us a lesson on 'Ice', preparing us for what was to come. We learnt much about the terminology used to describe ice formations on land and at sea. He also gave us an overview of the ice conditions that commonly occur in the Ross Sea and presented a current ice map for the area. Following this talk many adjourned to the bridge to keep our eyes peeled for the first bit of white stuff on the horizon. Everyone was keen to start using their new found knowledge with some even requesting 'bergy bits' in their Gin and Tonics! We retired replete after another great dinner served by the tireless galley crew.
Saturday 21st January 2012: At Sea
Again we were grateful to awake to a calm sea. The day kicked off with the first episode of 'The Last Place on Earth', a re-enactment of the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen, the very expedition we are retracing. Later in the morning we learnt the important points on "How to identify a whale" as conditions for perfect for whale spotting.
The ice map was studied much more intently and with more understanding thanks to Rodney's excellent lecture yesterday. The bridge became a popular hang-out throughout the day as the earlier lecture seemed to have motivated a few whales to put in a brief appearance. Minkie's ahoy! Light snow started falling which provided the material for the construction of a small snowman out on deck, causing quite a bit of excitement for those unused to such a thing. Outside temperatures began to drop a few extra layers were needed for those adventurous enough to take a turn around the deck.
After lunch there was a flurry of shopping in the port side mess when the sea shop opened. Books, cards and souvenirs were snapped up as people underwent a bit of retail therapy. Rodney then gave a lecture entitled 'The ships they sailed to the Ross Sea 1773 - 1917'. In this talk he provided a good comparison between the vessel that is transporting us south to those that went before.
The first ice berg had still not been seen, and the stakes were getting higher for those with time slots coming up overnight. In the bar before dinner the idea was hatched for the first ever 'Enderby Choir'. Members discussed song selection and practices were scheduled for the days ahead.
Sunday 22nd January 2012: At Sea
We were awoken at 4:15 this morning to the announcement of the arrival of the first iceberg. A few keen folk leapt out of bed and ran out on deck in their pyjamas as others struggled in their cabins to don suitable attire for the occasion. Seasoned campaigners and others who preferred to pretend this was all part of their dreams, rolled over and went back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that there were likely to be a few more bergs where we were going. The winner of the competition to guess the time of arrival of this first berg was later awarded a bottle of 'Oyster Bay' chardonnay.
After our early wakeup call, we were rewarded with a sleep-in, followed by a leisurely brunch complete with Eggs Benedict, muffins, French toast and all the usual goodies which kept us going throughout the day. Polar travel certainly does give one an appetite!
Late in the morning we continued on with another episode of the Scott - Amundsen race. Attendance was low today as people found it hard to tear themselves away from the bridge and the unfolding iceberg spectacular. Following lunch, Nathan gave some good tips to the budding photographers on board. The timing for this lesson couldn't have been better as the newly schooled pupils came out of class and got straight to work. Helen's talk on the seals of the region attracted a lot of interest as people wanted to be able to distinguish between the different species we now began to see in greater numbers.
After dinner we assembled on the foredeck just before 10pm to mark the crossing of the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66.34 degrees. Wearing our newly issued super warm Antarctic jackets and with cups of mulled wine in hand we were inducted into the special fraternity of travellers who have crossed the Antarctic Circle by sea. We took this moment to remember those early explorers such as Sir James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hilary and others that pioneered new routes south of the circle. In line with their aspirations for the protection of these lands and the wildlife that inhabited them, we pledged an oath that we would all do that within our power to protect and conserve this incredible part of our planet for the enjoyment of future generations. We were then duly stamped on the forehead with the Mark of the Penguin signifying our membership of this elite club. Afterwards, all eyes looked south towards the Ross Sea, and the excitement continued to build.
Monday 23rd January 2012: At Sea and into the Pack Ice
We woke to yet another calm day. At this point we were beginning to wonder about the Southern Ocean's dreaded reputation, but none spoke of it, thinking it best not to tempt fate. Breakfast was followed by another gripping instalment in the 'Race to the Pole'. As we entered the much awaited pack ice, all eyes were peeled for the seals, whales, penguins and other bird life that we have waited so long to see. Later in the morning Rodney raised some interesting questions regarding the Antarctic Treaty System which focuses on Tourism and the future use of Antarctic. The first Emperor Penguin was spotted early in the day from the bridge, causing great excitement among the group. Many Adelie Penguins and Crab-eater Seals were seen on the ice as we delicately wove our way through some massive ice flows. Numerous sightings of Minkie whales rewarded the dedicated fauna watchers out on deck.
After lunch Nathan briefed us on the IATO code for visiting this part of the world including our responsibilities during shore visits. 'Life in the Freezer' was then screened providing some great images of this last great wilderness on earth. This film invoked some sobering thoughts as we returned to the bridge after dinner to look out for wildlife and contemplate the scenery.
Tuesday 24th January 2012: At Sea
We continued to travel through the pack ice overnight and experienced a bit of rocking as the ship navigated between the flows. Those who were up early were rewarded with the sight of a couple of Pilot Whales playing around the bow of the ship. On deck, gloves and beanie had become necessary as the icy winds were quick to draw away body heat. The ship continued picking her route south, looking for the open water that lay beyond the line of ice.
The day started with another fix of the 'Race to the Pole' followed by a lecture on the world of penguins. Who would have thought there were so many species of these intriguing birds? After lunch Rodney presented a lecture on the 'The Unknown South Land' which detailed the very early discoveries and exploration that contributed significantly to the world's understanding of Antarctica and set the stage for later exploration.
Antarctic and Snow Petrels now escorted us south, constantly playing in the winds created by the ship as they cruised past the windows. These two beautiful bird species make the continent their home. In the late afternoon we gradually escaped the clutches of the pack ice and marvelled at the skill of the crew in picking our way through the veritable maze of ice. As we enjoyed a pre dinner drink the swell started to pick up as we headed deeper into the clear water. Dinner became a lively affair as we hung onto plates as the ship started to rock. The Captain now set a course straight for Cape Adare, where we hoped to land in the morning.
Wednesday 25th January 2012: Cape Adare
A magnificent sight greeted us as we struggled up the stairs after an early wakeup call at 6am. The sun was shining in a bright blue sky as we gazed across at Cape Adare and the Downshire Cliffs. Mt Minto, a 5,100m colossus to the south, was capped with wispy cloud but the rest of the cliffs were clear. Massive tabular icebergs were strewn along the lands edge with many grounded on a shallow bank to the north. The pack ice looked thick and forbidding - an impressive first view of the Antarctic continent.
The wind had now picked up to around 50 knots and the spray from the swell whipped up to the bridge windows. The ship's captain and his crew stayed very focused as they carefully navigated us north, looking for an opening that would allow a landing at Borchgrevink's hut. Alas the ice was too dense so we made our way north west, skirting around the ice edge before continuing south. Cape Adare is the site where the first buildings were erected in Antarctica and where the first team of polar explorers wintered over on the continent. It is also the home to the largest Adelie Penguin rookery in Antarctica
Another episode of the 'Great Race' was featured before a lively lunch which saw everyone holding on to the water jugs. With lectures cancelled for the afternoon, it was time for most to enjoy a siesta in their cabins. Some hardy sailors still made it to pre-dinner drinks before heading down to dinner prepared under trying circumstances by our fantastic chefs.
Thursday 26th January 2012: Ross Sea
Conditions remained rough as we awoke on Australia Day. However, there was a good turnout at breakfast as most had well and truly got their sea legs. Still a bit too rough for lectures, so most took refuge back in their bunks, while others spent the morning up on the bridge watching the spray from the bow fly up over the windows. The ice had been building up on deck as the temperature dropped down to minus 8 degrees outside. Some of the crew had to head outside to remove as much ice as they could to trim the boat back down to its normal size.
After lunch the Italian resupply ship 'Italica" was spotted on the horizon, heading north from Terra Nova station. The captains exchanged pleasantries over the radio as the large orange and white ship slipped past. During the afternoon sea conditions improved, so Rodney continued his account of Antarctic history with descriptions of the events leading up to the Scott-Amundsen era. Tomorrow we would arrive in McMurdo Sound and all looked forward to experiencing this historic region.
Friday 27th January 2012: Cape Evans
A wake up call at 3:15 am roused a few who were treated to the sight of Orcas around the ship in the beauty of an Antarctic morning. We steamed past Franklin Island with its beautiful ice cap and several piedmont glaciers cascading down its cliffs. We slowly sailed on down the west side of Ross Island and had our first clear sight of Mt Erebus. Erebus stayed with us all day as we waited for the winds to die down so we could land at Cape Evans and take our first steps on the continent.
As is often the case in Antarctica in the summer, the winds dropped off in the early evening, finally giving us the opportunity we had been waiting for. At 8pm in calm sunny conditions reminiscent of a lazy Sunday afternoon, we boarded the zodiacs and landed near the doorstep of Scott's Terra Nova Hut. It was a very humbling experience to step onto the Antarctic continent for the first time and this feeling only increased as we visited the hut from which Scott's team made their attempt on the pole. It was to be an attempt from which five would never return.
While ashore we met a team of carpenters and metals conservators lead by New Zealander, Al Fastier, who have been working over this and previous summers on restoration of both Shackleton's and now Scott's huts. These projects, funded by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, aim to protect and conserve both the huts and their contents for the benefit of future visitors. The team was very generous with their time and were happy to discuss their work and show us around the hut. We also had the good fortune to meet Scott's grandson, Falcon Scott, who is working as part of the restoration team. The workmanship and dedication of these people is amazing and is clearly evident in the results they have achieved. A restoration expert in metal from Australia proudly told us how they recreated the complicated flues throughout the hut with only the remaining pieces and the old photos to guide their work. A furniture maker from Wellington NZ told us how they fixed the famous ward room table celebrated in Ponting's photo of Scott's 43rd birthday. The kitchen was a treasure trove of old tins and packets whose faded labels gave us a glimpse of the culinary possibilities of the time. Who could forget the aromas of seal blubber, hay and pony poo detected as we went through the stables to see where the expedition's ponies were housed? One stable still contained dried out Emperor Penguins and a crate of eggs. Another had a bicycle mounted on the wall and a Husky skeleton still chained to a post. There was much here to fuel our imagination about the life of an early Antarctic explorer. We reluctantly returned to the ship after an extremely pleasant evening ashore.
Saturday 28th January 2012: Fast Ice and Polar Plunge
Cape Royds was in sight as we awoke this morning. We had hoped for another landing, but the wind just wouldn't play the game as it kept up a steady pace all night. Instead we cruised further south to the ice edge where a channel was being cut by a Russian icebreaker that the Americans have in service. It was cutting out a channel in the fast ice to allow the refuelling tanker clear access to the base. It was intended to stay in action to keep the channel open so that the resupply ship, which was running a few weeks late, could get in when it arrived. We were entertained by lots of wildlife as we cruised down this channel. Many Orca were spotted frolicking in the leads left by the ice breaker and the ever present Adelies could be seen in good numbers along the ice.
After testing the edge of the fast ice with the bow of the ship, it appeared to be capable of holding 50 pedestrians for an afternoon walk. So with the bow of the ship firmly nosed into the fast ice we were transferred across to stretch our legs. The ice surface was surprisingly dry and covered with fine powdered snow. A few Adelie Penguins walked up to the crowd trying to work out what species we were. As we returned to the ship an Emperor penguin popped out on the ice right next to us, giving everyone a great view.
After our break on the ice it was time for the annual meet of the Spirit of Enderby Swim Club. Eight brave souls leapt into the minus 8 degree water from the gangway while the doctor stood by with the defibrillator, which fortunately wasn't needed. They didn't spend a lot of time splashing about and some nearly walked on water!
Later that day an attempt was made at landing on Cape Royds but the sea conditions made this too dangerous to proceed and we sailed on.
Sunday 29th January 2012: Cape Royds and Cape Byrd
A beautiful sunny morning greeted us as we stepped out on to the bridge after breakfast. Mt Erebus had again escaped from its shroud of cloud and the surrounding snow covered slopes are gleaming. The strong winds which prevented us from landing at Cape Royds however, were still with us. We adjourned in a sombre mood to the lecture theatre for the final episode of the 'Great Race' knowing that there wasn't going to be a happy ending.
By the afternoon the wind had dropped and permission was granted for us to make a landing on a beach to the north of Shackleton's hut. With great excitement we boarded the zodiacs and we were soon stepping ashore again. To reach the hut we headed south along a series of ridges covered in loose black scoria and rocky outcrops of volcanic origin. It was a pleasant way to reach Shackleton's Hut nestled down in a valley out of the wind. This hut was erected during the Nimrod expedition in 1907. From this location Shackleton's team achieved the furthest distance south at the time, were the first to reach the Magnetic South Pole and undertook the first ascent of Mt Erebus. This is a much smaller hut than the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, but similarly full of original artefacts, painstakingly restored by the team working for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. We returned to the ship for lunch and headed towards Cape Bird to investigate whether the landing was now clear of sea ice.
As we approached Cape Bird the wind dropped off almost completely and the water took on a glassy shine as we were treated to clear blue skies and sunshine. Some Orca were spotted off the bow making the picture even more perfect. The ice had cleared out allowing us to go ashore and visit the 27,000 nesting pairs of Adelie Penguins. Conditions were ideal for capturing their antics on our flash cards as we lounged around in the evening sunshine. This species is clearly thriving despite the attention of murderous Skuas and the recent colder conditions. Scattered throughout the colony were sunbathing Weddell Seals, untroubled by the mass of birdlife around them. All too soon it was time to return to the ship and relax at the end of yet another perfect day.
Monday 30th January 2012: En Route to Terra Nova Bay
Everyone slept very well after the busy day yesterday, despite our overnight voyage turning into a tortuous exercise in ice evasion for the Captain and crew. It became evident that continuing to head towards the ice shelf would start eating into the precious time left for exploring other locations in the Ross Sea. The decision was therefore made to change course and head North for Terra Nova Bay.
After breakfast a documentary on Mt Erebus was screened in the lecture theatre. 'Solid Water and Liquid Rock' explored the underwater marvels below the ice shelf at the foot of the mountain, and then showed the attempts to sample gas from the lava lake in the crater of the volcano above.
As we travelled north we watched 'With Byrd at the South Pole' which documents Byrd's expedition to Antarctic where he undertakes the first flight to the South Pole in 1930. In the late afternoon we entered Terra Nova Bay with Mt Melbourne to our north glistening white in the afternoon sunshine. In calm, glassy water we headed towards Inexpressible Island with the hope of doing an evening landing. Following dinner we donned our polar outer wear and prepared for a trip ashore to visit the site where Scott's northern party were forced to winter over in a snow cave when the Terra Nova failed to return for them due to difficult ice conditions. It was a truly remarkable feat for the six men to survive this ordeal, living off seals and penguins, while enduring extremely harsh and crowded living conditions. We spent the evening in sunshine amongst the granite boulders observing the seals relaxing on the ice edge. After visiting the plaque locating the site of the ice cave, many climbed the surrounding ridgelines for views inland and along the ice edge. After a couple of hours ashore the wind began to strengthen, giving us a taste of how quickly conditions can change here. A rapid departure was now effected as the ships horn hurried us back to the ship.
Tuesday 31st January 2012: Terra Nova Bay
Early this morning we passed the Italian base, Terra Nova, but weren't able to visit, as the 'Italica' which we had seen previously was in the bay and the station crew were busy packing up for the trip home. Nestled low down on the slope, the bright blue coloured station commands an impressive view out over Terra Nova Bay to Mt Melbourne in the north. We came closer to the shore to get good views of the ice cliffs of the Campbell Glacier as we worked our way along the bay.
On the northern side of Terra Nova Bay is the little German summer base of 'Gondwana'. The base hadn't been used this summer, so we decided to make a landing and explore the area. We piled into the zodiacs and landed in a beautiful bay north of the station buildings. Again the geology stood out as we wandered around the rocky terrain. We enjoyed great views out to sea from the ridgelines and a few seals on shore near the landing kept many occupied. It was a great morning ashore for our last landing in Antarctica.
As the ship cruised north we watched another episode of 'Life in the Freezer' followed by '90 Degrees' and Ponting's original footage and account of Scott's expedition to the South Pole.
After dinner the crowd gathered for the inaugural performance of the Spirit of Enderby Choir. The performers arrived looking very fetching in sparkles and bow ties. They started with an acapella version of 'My Bonny Lies over the Ocean' to warm up. They then launched into a cleverly crafted tune especially written for the voyage entitled 'In the Land of the Adelie'. The performance ended with an old ABBA favourite, 'The Winner Takes it All'. Enthusiastic calls for an encore were rewarded when everyone joined in on a reprise of the new voyage song. This set the tone for a fairly late and high spirited night in the bar.
Wednesday 1st February 2012: At Sea
Breakfast today was a sedate affair. This could have been due to people catching up on some rest after the hectic expedition pace of the last few days or to the enthusiastic celebrations following the choir's first performance the night before. Either way we eased gently into the day with another episode of 'Life in the Freezer'. This was followed by a lecture from Rodney on "Pelagic Whaling in the Ross Sea" where he covered the early history of whaling in this area and reflected on the current situation with the exploitation of Tooth Fish today.
After lunch we viewed an episode of the Blue Planet series called 'Frozen Seas' where the frozen worlds of the Arctic and Antarctic are compared. In these environments the annual freeze and retreat of the sea ice governs the pace of life. Later in the afternoon we attended a lecture on the "Ethics of Whaling" where the arguments and counter arguments often used in the debate were presented. This sparked some lively conversations which continued on into the evening.
Thursday 2nd February 2012: Back into the Pack Ice.
The morning found us picking our way delicately through the pack ice once again. Fortunately there were some good open leads so we made good progress. After breakfast we started to watch the first episode of 'Longitude', a two part dramatization of how the first reliable measurement of longitude was determined changing navigation in the seas forever. The lecture was paused after 20 minutes however as there was an announcement on the intercom offering a zodiac cruise amongst the ice bergs.
Three zodiacs were launched and half the group set off towards the icebergs. With the sun out, the magnificent range of blue colours against the stark white was magical. Flat topped tablular bergs with cracks and caves rolled in the steady swell. A broken down berg with a sharp pointed pinnacle looked very reminiscent of Bruce's birthday cake. We wove our way through the ice flows getting another few hundred photos. Then it was back to the ship to pick up the second group for their turn. The ice had now moved around a bit but we could still manoeuvre through. A Leopard Seal was spotted up on an ice flow so we motored over to have a closer look. Alert and watchful, he tolerated the visit and another large number of photos were taken. We completed the trip and returned to the ship just in time for lunch. What a grand last look at Antarctica before heading out of the pack ice!
After lunch Episode One of 'Longitude' was shown in its entirety, leaving people looking forward to the next instalment. Sea conditions were quite calm, so everyone looked forward to a restful night.
Friday 3rd February 2012: At Sea
As day dawned the ship had begun a steady roll, but it wasn't too bad. We just needed to hang on while moving around. Most people had adapted to the movement, so there were very few who still suffered from sea sickness. After breakfast we watched the conclusion of 'Longitude', and then had a recap of the time spent in the Ross Sea. It was good to go over what we had achieved in the twelve busy days spent in Antarctica. There was so much history to ponder, and lots of images of wildlife and amazing scenery to take away with us. Rodney suggested some good books for further reading which will enhance our understanding of the historical sites that we have visited and the people who spent time there.
After lunch, we watched the film 'Endurance' which details the journey of Shackleton and his men in their failed attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. This was yet another chapter of amazing endurance during the early exploration of these southern climes. Later that afternoon there was a talk on the Seabirds of the Southern Ocean. It was a timely introduction to the bird rich zone we were about to enter in the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands and had the keen birders out on deck straight afterwards. The ship continued to rock quite a bit, so drinks and dinner required a bit more coordination than we had needed for a while, but the motion was not unpleasant and lulled everyone to sleep.
Saturday 4th February 2012: At Sea
The wind and seas abated overnight and our ride became much calmer. We have crossed the Antarctic Circle again and so officially have left the frozen continent behind us. As we journeyed north both the water and air temperature were rising. Our Expedition Leader Nathan, gave a talk about ship operations, where he explained various design and mechanical aspects of the ship, catering, food and medical supplies as well as many other features that people have asked him about during the voyage.
After lunch we watched a documentary called 'Encounters at the end of the World' which follows a group of scientists working and living in Antarctica. Later in the afternoon for something completely different, Rodney talked to us about the Russian Far East. He painted a very appealing picture of this remote region and no doubt some future travel plans were hatched after seeing some the amazing sights this unique area has to offer. Over dinner that night we counted ourselves fortunate in having had yet another great day sailing on the Southern Ocean. We retired to our cabins wondering how long our luck would last.
Sunday 5th February 2012: At Sea
The new day found us all feeling "ship shape". Following a delicious breakfast, the sea shop was opened to give everyone an opportunity to buy mementos such as books and fluffy toys as enduring reminders of our trip. Later we headed down to the lecture theatre for the final episode of 'Life in the Freezer'.
After lunch Nathan gave an introduction to Campbell Island in which he highlighted the many different things we were likely to see there. After so many days at sea we were very keen just to see land again, let alone walk on it! Later in the afternoon we watched a documentary detailing the rat eradication programme on Campbell Island. All the rats were finally eradicated from the island in 2001 after being there in massive numbers for close to 200 years. At the time this was the most difficult pest eradication programme ever attempted worldwide.
Monday 6th February 2012: Campbell Island
Directly after breakfast we watched a short documentary 'The Impossible Dream' which tells the story of the finding and steps towards the recovery of the Campbell Island Teal which was presumed extinct from the island. Rodney, being the one who first rediscovered the Teal on Dent Island, gave a first hand introduction and more background to the film.
As midday approached, all eyes scanned the horizon waiting for our first view of Campbell Island. Finally we saw it, wrapped in fog, so we couldn't fully appreciate its charms as we approached Perseverance Harbour. Once we started travelling down the harbour the swell dropped away and we were treated to glimpses of seals and penguins in the water and seabirds in the air. We dropped anchor just off shore from the old Met station which includes a collection of buildings and a little wharf area. We saw researchers on island and radio contact was made.
After lunch we landed at the wharf where we briefly met the seal biologist, and then started up the Col-Lyall boardwalk. A trip to the island wouldn't be complete without a few Sea Lion interactions on the way. Everyone took their time and enjoyed the slow assent to Col-Lyall Saddle taking photos of the vegetation as it changed on the way up. The ever present Pipet was very welcoming and seemed to particularly like being the centre of attention. The island's megaherbs were lush and showed few signs of the impact of sheep grazing in the past. Pleurophyllum speciosum still had many purple flowers on display as we approached the saddle along with other species such as: Bulbinella rossii, Anisotome latifolia, Pleurophyllum criniferum, Pleurophyllum hookeri, Hebe benthami and Gentianella cerina which were at various stages of flowering and seed delivery. The real highlight up on Col-Lyall was the colony of Southern Royal Albatross where everyone had ample time to sit with birds that were incubating their eggs. As the day wore on, some younger birds came in from sea and landed on the island in small groups to participate in their elaborate and beautiful dances. Eventually we tore ourselves away, as many of us could have sat for hours, but the aroma of dinner cooking lured us back to the Spirit of Enderby. On the way back down, a few Yellow-eyed Penguins were spotted in amongst the vegetation and down at the wharf a pair of Campbell Island Teal were spotted at the water's edge. Many spent the last hour on the island watching the teal foraging along the shoreline. It was an incredible day on an incredible island. That evening we entertained the three grateful seal biologists who came aboard for a nice hot shower and a dinner far better than they had enjoyed in ages.
Tuesday 7th February 2012: Mount Honey and Tuckers Cove, Campbell Island
For ten fit and energetic people there was an early wakeup call at 5:30am so they could get an early start on the climb up Mt Honey, the highest peak on the island at 569 metres. They were deposited by zodiac on the shores of Garden Cove and Rodney led the troupe on their ascent through the thick vegetation while Arend brought up the rear.
Meanwhile back on the ship most got up at the usual time for breakfast. It was a clear day in Perseverance Harbour and we could make out a lot more of the surrounding landscape. The wind had picked up a bit from yesterday with some strong gusts channelling down through the harbour. This was not enough to deter us from the trip ashore however, so we again boarded the zodiacs and landed at the wharf. Nathan then led the way across to Tuckers Cove and up the creek line to the old coast watchers huts. Across the cove we could see where the homestead once stood during the days when sheep were farmed on the island. It was slow going with the dense tussock growth and occasional surprise encounters with Sea Lions, but a good stretch of the legs and opportunity to see a bit more of the island. For those who were happy to brave the wind and spray, we then took the zodiacs up to Camp Cove to have a quick look at the 'World's Loneliest Tree'.
After our jaunt to Camp Cove the zodiacs were dispatched to collect the Mt Honey climbers who were patiently waiting back at Garden Cove. No doubt most were secretly grateful to be sitting down for a rest after such a challenging climb. Their trek up towards the peak started off on a narrow track through the Dracophyllum which opened out into thick tussock. There were a few muddy bogs to negotiate along the way and a few ups and downs, but they were rewarded as they climbed higher with great views over the island. As they got higher, the ground was covered with brilliant megaherbs most of which had just finished flowering, though some still had beautiful and strange looking flowers.
Up here they found more colonies of Southern Royal Albatross who sat patiently on their nests while others took to the sky. A few were engaged in beautiful courtship dances and displays. The climbers sat for a short time watching this rare and fascinating behaviour. Then they looked skyward at the peak and could delay the final assault no longer. Up they went, scrambling, clambering and slipping until they reached the summit. Once there, the wind made it difficult to stand up, but at least it kept the cloud at bay so they could enjoy the wonderful views. The descent was a much quicker affair and all made it safely back to Garden Cove.
As soon as everyone was back on board we weighed anchor and set out for the Snares Islands. Lots of sea birds escorted the ship away from the ruggedly beautiful coast of Campbell Island. The swell had picked up, so we were rocking and rolling once again, but it had now become so familiar everyone took it in their stride.
Wednesday 8th February 2012: Snares Islands
The rolling swell had stayed with us all night and made it slightly challenging as we packed some of our gear in preparation of arrival back in Bluff. Before lunch Nathan ran through the procedures for disembarkation once we arrive in Bluff and this brought home to us that our expedition is drawing to a close. Accounts were settled after lunch as we bounced our way towards the Snares Islands. Late in the afternoon their rocky cliffs were spotted jutting out above the horizon. The air was full of Bullers Albatross and Cape Petrels wheeling around the ship. A big swell was running making the rocky outcrops look pretty dramatic.
Three zodiacs were launched for a quick cruise around the southern end of the island. We quickly learned that the gangway was no place for indecision as the first groups were loaded. The boats bounced across the surface towards a cove around corner, where the cliffs were lined with nesting Bullers Albatross. Snares Crested Penguins could be seen high up on the rock face and a few New Zealand Fur Seals were spotted lounging around on the steep lower slope. The kelp was reminiscent of a grass skirt swaying along the bottom of the rock face to the rhythm of the swell.
We then followed the coast back around to the south, investigating some more secluded coves and caves before returning the first group back to the ship. The swell was still quite lively as we changed over to the second group, but now most knew the drill and quickly got aboard the bobbing zodiacs. After the second group were safely aboard, the ship headed up the east coast of the islands. Everyone agreed that it had been an invigorating end to our day. There was a lively atmosphere in the bar and dining room as we shared our last delicious dinner together. Good food and good company - a fitting finale to an incredible journey.
Thursday 9th February 2012: Bluff
Our 4,300 nautical mile journey ended on our return to the Port of Bluff, New Zealand. After breakfast and immigration formalities, we bade farewell to the Spirit of Enderby and boarded the bus to start the journey home. It was time for farewells as the group dispersed and headed off in different directions. The trip has been a great success. We are some of the lucky few to have journeyed so far south and experienced so many incredible places. May our memories linger, and our stories and photographs encourage others to help preserve this very special part of the world.
THE LAND OF THE ADÉLIE
Penguins they waddle and Ele seals sleep
Albatross fly over oceans so deep
From the Aucklands to Macquarie where the rookeries are
And the light mantled sooties come from afar;
From Campbell to the Snares we set gumboots down
On the pebbles where the sealers stepped
Digesters were engines for boiling down penguins
The sealers took seals and the whalers the rest.
We'll tell you a whale of a tale
Of how we set sail
On the Spirit of Enderby
With the Russ's and Co
Ever southward we go
To the land of the Adélie
When you're a seal it's a pretty tough life
You'll fight like an ogre to win you a wife
A penguin is cute and they have a good deal
Would you rather be the penguin or the Leopard seal?
We boarded the zodiacs like heroes will
And luckily nobody took a spill
If the rocking ship was hard to take
The ice shelf will be a thrill.
Here's to the beer and the Pinot Gris
Here's to the finest of company
Just lie in your bunk or look out your door
It feels like heaven or more;
Now many things are lost at sea
I lost my breakfast, I lost my tea
I lost my Antarctic virginity
Aboard the Spirit of Enderby.
Chorus x 2
Please contact us for further Trip Reports
" I can't express enough thanks to Heritage for providing a Wonderful, Wonderful Trip.
Well organised. The Staff, including the Galley Team (Great Food) and Russia Crew, were so 'User Friendly;. A Must, Must do trip. "
" Hi guys,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for such a fantastic expedition we experienced in the Southern Ocean. The sites, especially the huts, are quite moving and just so humbling to actually be there. The restoration that has been done is incredible. And having the extensive knowledge of the Duke is unsurpassed. I am still watching back the videos of his explanations in the huts.
All joking aside Katya, I have learnt a lot about the birds and can certainly recognise much more than the beginning of January.
I have been raving about the whole trip to family and friends and can't watch the photos too often. I love being able to talk about all we saw and experienced from the likes of Hill 360 to the expanse of the ice.
Despite having only been home a few weeks I still cannot believe I was actually down there and also on the other sub-antarctic islands. All I can say is thank you. It has been fascinating reading the recent logs online too.
I trust Samuel and Agnes had fun travels around the South Island.
I look forward to getting to the Arctic next year now. Thank you again and keep up the great work! "
" With the help of the expedition log that was written by David I made a very beautiful photo text book about the trip and it still lies at my coffee table and is regularly viewed by friends and family every time they visit.
" I thought the staff was very helpful and knowledgeable. Every effort was made to comply with the itinerary, weather not with standing! I especially enjoyed the lectures which I thought were very professional and I learnt a lot. Areas where I thought you could make improvements were more grab rails in the dining and bar facilities to prevent accidents in rough weather. Cooks and staff did a wonderful job with the meals but would have been superb if served on hot plates. Although the expedition team were helpful, I did think on walks, especially on the way back from Carnley Harbour and Cape Royds, that the leaders could have kept the group together so the slower walkers were not trailing so far behind. Overall it was an enjoyable experience and one I shall remember for years to come. I for one was delighted that we ended up in Lyttelton and Christchurch and offer my thanks to your staff at base who organised everything for us. "
" Hello Julie,
Thank you for your testimonial. It is wonderful to know how much you enjoyed your time on your recent voyage with us to Antarctica. As you will have experienced, the ocean and weather conditions can change rapidly when in the Southern Ocean, and the grab rails fitted around the ship are helpful in moving around the vessel safely. There are instances when the high sea conditions mean staff onboard advise passengers to take extra care in moving around the vessel, and to use this time to rest, read, edit images etc, ready for our next landings. We are pleased you enjoyed the expertise of the staff and the lecture series onboard. The staff are experienced in outdoor group management and maintain contact with each other via radio to ensure passengers are all accounted for. We like to give passengers as much freedom to experience each landing as our permit and time allows for, and are aware that some passengers move faster than others for various reasons, including fitness and special-interest groups such as birders - we have tight procedures to ensure all passengers are safe prior, during and after each landing. We hope you can join us on another Heritage Expeditions voyage in the future. "
" Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend. "