You won't find them mentioned in a travel brochure on your high street; you won't find them in most guidebooks, you probably don't know anyone that has ever been there and they don't even appear on some maps of New Zealand's South Pacific - these are the ‘forgotten islands'. Despite their low profile, they are among the most remarkable wildlife reserves in the Southern Ocean, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and afforded the highest protection of any nature reserves in New Zealand. Remote, uninhabited and on no regular shipping route, access is further restricted by a strict Management Plan which limits the number of people allowed ashore each year.
Departing the Port of Bluff, Invercargill, the first of these islands we visit are The Snares. No landings are permitted because the islands are honey-combed with seabird burrows. Of particular interest are the Snares Crested Penguin, Fernbird and Tomtit - all of which are endemic. We should see them all as we enjoy the dramatic coastline and tree daisy forest from our Zodiac cruise.
In the Auckland Islands, the largest of the island groups, we will have the chance to spend the day ashore on Enderby Island, arguably the most amazing Subantarctic Island. Here you can hike through the windswept Rata forests, and along the exposed coastal cliffs. The wildlife is never far away and its lack of fear means close encounters, great for photography and observations. In Carnley Harbour in the south of the Auckland Islands there are a number of fascinating sites, including a Shy Albatross colony, abandoned Coastwatcher's huts, a shipwreck and castaway depots that we can visit. The weather will dictate what we do.
Campbell Island, the southernmost island of this expedition, is an example of what can be achieved in restoring islands. In recent years sheep, cattle, cats and rats have all been eliminated and the island is rapidly recovering. The great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, a friend of Charles Darwin, visited Campbell Island in the 1840s and described the flowering fields of ‘megaherbs' to be "second to none outside of the tropics". We can say the same now, because of the removal of these introduced animals. This island is also the home of the majestic Southern Royal Albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Flightless Teal and Snipe.
These islands represent a priceless ecosystem. Joining this expedition redefines natural history travel and will leave you wishing you could have spent more time there.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation, meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a 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 3 January
Bluff is blanketed by fog. Staff ashore are manipulating the oldest Zodiac, named “Babushka”, onto a trailer to be whisked away for repairs before sailing. Dry stores have been inventoried, and sundry other chores completed before the arrival of passengers this afternoon. Initial concerns over the effect of fog on flights into Invercargill was soon dispelled as the breeze increased revealing a classic Bluff summer day, hot, sunny and clear.
Martin and Sarah went to the Kelvin Hotel where they met the passengers, checked all bags onto the truck for delivery to the ship then, with all the passengers accounted for, boarded the bus to Bluff. First stop was at the Bluff Harbour Security Control where the friendly staff signed us through onto the wharf. We boarded the Spirit of Enderby where passengers located their cabins, were re-united with their bags then set about exploring the ship.
At 16:00 the Expedition Leader, Alex Fergus, gave all passengers a comprehensive briefing covering our future activities, life aboard ship, and the emergency procedures then followed with the introductions to our staff Jessie the Hotel Manager, Ed and Lance the chefs, Medical Advisor Neil, and guide/lecturers/Zodiac Drivers Sarah, Martin, Mitch and Nick.
The engines were started at 16:50 and by 17:00 we were underway to the Pilot Station. With the Pilot aboard we steamed slowly past the Sterling Point light out of the Port of Bluff. His job done, the Pilot clambered down a rope ladder onto his vessel, and Captain Dimitry set our course for The Snares islands.
At 17:45 the Abandon Ship alarm sounded and passengers, staff and crew, all bulked up in their big Solas Life jackets, went immediately to Lifeboat stations and climbed aboard their assigned boats. All passengers, quickly became aware of the intimate surroundings and lack of a “bathroom” in the ship’s lifeboats. To the relief of all, this vitally important drill was carried out without a hitch.
At 18:30 Alex gave his comprehensive Zodiac briefing introducing all passengers to the rubber boats which are such a vital part of an expedition ship’s equipment. Following this, it was into the bar where passengers were able to assess the wines, spirits and beers available and discover the restorative properties of Moa beers.
Dinner was a culinary ‘tour de force’ prepared by Ed and Lance and served by Natalia and Olga.
So far, the weather has held fine with light winds and bright sun all day.
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Day 2: Thursday 4 January
We awoke to what promises to be yet another lovely day with calm sea, ideal for Zodiac cruising off The Snares Islands.
At 07:15, Alex gave an overview of the day’s Zodiac cruising at The Snares. At 08:00, the boats were in the water and we set off, in slight seas with a very slight skiff of rain, for the coast of Brougton Island, the southern most of the main Snares Islands. The Snares Islands are remarkable as they are the only forested islands without introduced mammals, not even mice.The rock cliffs are composed of 100 million year old granite and the top of the islands is covered with a thick layer of peat. The forest covering the island is dominated by the large tree daisy Olearia lyalli which is closely associated with another tree daisy Brachyglottis stewartiae. Around the shore the white flowered Hebe elliptica is prominent. We slowly puttered northward past the cliffs and fantastically sculptured stacks of Northeast Island, with large groups of Snares Crested Penguins around the boats. We had hoped to watch the dawn mass exit of millions of Sooty Shearwaters for their feeding grounds in the rich waters of the subtropical convergence just offshore. We should have arrived, at the island at first light rather than sunrise to catch the birds leaving. You live and learn in this game. Undismayed, we revelled in the sight of diving petrels, nesting Buller’s Albatross, skuas, Red-billed Gulls (both adults and juveniles), Antarctic and Grey-fronted Terns around our Zodiacs. Not to be outdone, Hooker’s Sea Lions (a 6 year old male and 3-4 year old male) kept us company as we moved through the tunnel into Ho-Ho Bay. Fur seals were numerous along the cliffs, just above the water, but preferred to bask in the sun rather than join us. The water here is normally exceptionately clear, but today the inshore surface layer was clouded by huge swarms of colonial jellyfish-like salps. Our final destination was the famous Penguin Slide. At this site, countless generations of Snares Crested Penguins have hopped out of the sea after foraging and trudged their way up the 40° slope for about 300m until they reach the level of their nests. There they will exchange places with their partner who will totter down to the water to repeat the exercise. In this process the penguins feet and claws strip away any last vestige of vegetation so the Penguin Slide is bare, polished rock for about 300m. Those in Nick’s Zodiac were given a final treat, a quick trip around the northern end of the island far enough to see the saw-toothed shapes of the five islands of the Western Chain at the southern end of the group. The Zodiacs then made their way south and mustered at the pick-up point at 10:45. Twenty minutes later all passengers were back aboard the Spirit of Enderby and the Zodiacs secured for the run south to the Auckland Islands.
During the run to the Auckland Islands we were lucky enough to make sightings of six Long-finned Pilot Whales, five killer whales and, best of all, four Arnoux’s Beaked Whales, an infrequently seen species of offshore beaked whale.
After yet another super meal from Ed and Lance, we joined Sarah in the lecture room for her fascinating talk ‘Birds of The Snares’. This was followed at 14:30 by the call to clean boots and equipment as part of the necessary quarantine measures we have to undertake to prevent the spread of unwanted plants between island groups. At 17:00, after the clean up, we joined Alex in the lecture room for a very comprehensive, interesting introduction to the Auckland Islands. A sojourn in the bar followed by dinner put the cap on a superb day.
Photo credit: A. Fergus
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Day 3: Friday 5 January
Sandy Bay – Enderby Island
At 04:00 Captain Dimitry brought the ship to anchor off Sandy Bay, Enderby Island. Passengers were then able to appreciate the blissful couple of hours sleep before before succumbing to Jessie’s dulcet toned wake up call to breakfast at 06:30. This was to be a very busy and rewarding day, again in beautiful weather.
After breakfast, staff helped Ed and Lance prepare 58 packed lunches for those heading ashore at Enderby Island.
This was followed by a briefing on today’s planned activities beginning with the helicopter operations at 07:30 – landing drums of jet fuel on Enderby and removing old empty drums back to the ship for return to Bluff, a potentially tricky operation coordinated by Mitch and Nick with Richard “Hannibal” Hayes of Southern Lakes helicopters.
Heritage Expeditions regularly teams up with Southern lakes Helicopters to maintain the supplies of aviation fuel on Enderby Island and Campbell Island. These supplies are essential for emergency evacuations from these islands. The helicopter will be used to transport 15 205 litre drums of aviation fuel ashore, and a similar number of empty drums back to the ship for transport to Bluff. This year the cooperation is extending to benefit two scientific projects on the Auckland Islands, one of these is the annual count of sea lion pups at Dundas Island. The other project is to photograph nesting albatrosses on Disappointment Island off the northwest coast of Auckland Island.
There followed a further Quarantine boot cleaning exercise at 07:30, overseen by Sarah and Martin, for those who didn’t manage to complete this yesterday. Immediately following this, passengers collected their packed lunches and compulsory ‘poo bags’ and were ready to go ashore.
At 08:00 Martin and Sarah prepared two Zodiacs for ferrying passengers ashore beginning at 08:30. Passengers had been divided into two groups, ‘Long Walkers’ who would take the walk around the eastern half of Enderby Island, and ‘Short walkers’ who travelled in leisurely fashion up the boardwalk to the northern cliffs and east as far as the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nests and returning to Sandy Bay with all the time they required for botanising, birding and sea lion watching. Once ashore, all passengers gathered at the Boatshed at Sandy Bay and were introduced to two of the researchers Chris and Sarah who were running the Yellow-eyed Penguin and sea lion investigations respectively. After this introduction all set off across the boardwalk for what transpired as a magnificent day in weather most could only dream of.
The first Zodiac returned to the vessel at 14:30 and the rest on demand until about 17:30 when the last walkers were taken back to the ship.
The after-walk buzz of conversation in the Globe Bar is always the best indication of a good day. This evening it was difficult to hear yourself speak as walkers compared notes and species of flora and fauna seen culminating with sea lion pups being born on the beach at Sandy Bay.
Having studied the weather conditions over the next couple of days, Alex decided we should make an overnight run to Campbell Island to maximise the opportunities presented by the weather. This was to prove an inspired decision.
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Photo credit: J. Prebble
Photo credit: J. Prebble
Day 4: Saturday 6 January
Perseverance Harbour – Auckland Islands
At about 12:00, after an easy run from the Auckland Islands, we approached Bull Rock near the entrance to Perseverance Harbour Campbell Island. As we steamed through the entrance we passed the main sea lion rookery on Davis Point to starboard and 10 minutes later the Paradise Point rookery up the hill on the port side. The weather conditions were perfect for the day’s planned activities, a climb up Mt. Honey with Alex and Mitch, and a Zodiac cruise of the harbour beginning with viewing of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nests on the northern cliffs toward the entrance returning up the harbour to Beeman Base, Tucker Cove, Camp Cove, Garden Cove, Venus Cove and back to the ship. Followed by a walk to Col Lyall.
At 13:15 the Mt. Honey walkers were ‘zodiaced’ to their start point in Garden Cove and began their ascent. Fifteen minutes later, the rest of the excursioneers left the ship for their harbour cruise. Sarah located a number of nesting LMSAs, one with an inquisitive chick (excellent photo opportunity). We headed back up the harbour and cruised around Tucker Cove, the site of the only successful farming venture. In about 1895, a Gisborne man J.Gordon built a homestead and woolshed on the flat land on the western side of the cove. He released about 300-400 sheep then, in 1900, sold out to Capt. W.H.Tucker who employed whalers from Picton to farm the sheep and carry out shore whaling from Capstan Cove in Northwest Bay in the winter. At its peak in 1916, the farm had a wool clip of 131 bales from 6,800 sheep and 1,600 lambs. However, the isolation, difficulty of supply and very wet climate led to the farm being abandoned in 1931. From 1970-1991 the island was fenced off into 3 blocks and the sheep removed. The only evidence of the farming at Tucker Cove is the remains of a cast iron wood burning stove, and a couple of stone built jetties.
In Camp Cove we landed to investigate the ‘Loneliest tree in the world’ (Guinness Book of Records designation) a Sitka spruce, planted in the early 1900s – reputedly by the then Governor General The Earl of Ranfurly – which, instead of having its characteristic conical shape, has been reduced to a spherical blob by generations of Met Staff on the island cutting the top out for their Christmas trees!
We motored out of Camp Cove toward Garden Cove and Venus Cove, passing the grave site of the unfortunate M.Duris of the 1874 French Transit of Venus Expedition who reputedly died from cholera. From Venus Cove we motored to Beeman Base, the NZ Met. Station at the foot of Beeman Hill.
At the base, all those going on the Col Lyall walk landed and set off up the 3.5km-4.00km boardwalk to Col Lyall. The weather remained as fine as could be, clear sky, warm sun and a light breeze. The botanists had a field day! Walking up Beeman Hill we passed through the Dracophyllum forest interspersed Coprosma and Myrcine with prickly shield fern and water ferns. In the open land just north of Beeman the orchids were plentiful, lichens abound, the megaherbs, for which these subantarctic islands are justifiably famous, were blooming. Just a couple of specimens of the fabulous, ultramarine blue Hebe benthami. All three daisy species of Pleurophyllum – (speciosum, criniferum, hookeri) were in profusion along the boardwalk along with two large carrot relatives Anisotome latifolia and A.antipoda. Maquarie Island cabbage Stilbocarpa polaris is everywhere. Approaching Col Lyall the two tussock species Poa litorosa and Chionochloa antarctica predominate. Among the tussocks at least three dozen Southern Royal Albatross were nesting, while mates and single birds were gamming or soaring spectacularly overhead.
From 19:30 people began to reluctantly wend their way, down from Col Lyall to the pick-up point at the Beeman Base wharf. The last Zodiac left the wharf at Beeman Base at 20:30.
At 21:30, the Mt. Honey long-walkers gathered at the waters edge below the slip opposite the ship and were collected by Nick. Mitch returned with a second Zodiac and the last of the group were speedily delivered to the ship, tired but elated after an energetic day. Back aboard, everybody gathered in the Globe Bar to compare notes and photographs.
It is probably worth noting that deer, mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels) and brushtail possums, all the scourge of mainland NZ, were never introduced to the subantarctic. However, pigs, goats, cattle, rabbits, sheep and cats were. Brown rats made it ashore at Campbell Island, and mice invaded Auckland, Enderby and the Antipodes Islands. In the process of eliminating these pests sheep were the first to go. Cattle were removed from Campbell Island in 1976. Goats were removed by 1991. The Enderby cattle and French blue rabbits were next to go, however 58 goats, some rabbits and shorthorn cattle were captured by the New Zealand Rare Breeds Conservation Society. Mice disappeared from Enderby Island eradicated during the rabbit poisoning programme. In 2001, a total of 120 tonnes of brodifacoum pellets was spread by helicopters over Campbell Island. By year 2003 not a rat was left and the recovery of local vegetation has been astonishing. Campbell Island is the largest island in the world, so far, to be cleared of rats.
Dinner was served at 21:00 in the dining rooms and, because it came late, staff assisted the chefs with the post dinner clean up.
Photo credit: A. Fergus
Photo credit: M. Bartlett
Day 5: Sunday 7 January
It was a fine morning; those who missed the Col Lyall walk yesterday set off at 08:00 to land people at Beeman Base to complete a rapid walk to Col Lyall.
At 08:30 the others went by Zodiac to Tucker Cove to visit the Coastwatchers Base and adjacent Magnetic Observation hut.
En route back to the ship a quick diversion was made to Garden Cove for those who wished to see elephant seals among the tussocks. Weather was changing quickly with a cold wind blowing and intermittent rain showers. The Col Lyall walkers picked up.
At 11:15-30 all Zodiacs were aboard and secured for sea. After lunch at 13:00 we departed Perseverance Harbour en route for the Auckland Islands. The sea was rough.
There was a lecture by Sarah at 13:30 titled ‘Stories of subantarctic seabird science’.
At 15:30 Jessie opened up the Sea Shop in the port side dining room for those wanting souvenirs, warm clothing, T shirts, books and fridge magnets.
We joined Alex in the lecture room at 17:00 for his talk on ‘The flora of Australasian Islands’, a comprehensive and fascinating lecture on a topic we do not often think about.
At 18:00 the Globe Bar opened and was very well patronised. Dinner was at 19:00, Ed and Lance produced yet another culinary masterpiece in increasingly rolling conditions.
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Day 6: Monday 8 January
Carnley Harbour – Auckland Islands
The Spirit of Enderby entered Carnley Harbour early this morning and by 07:15 we were approaching Tagua Bay, the site of the Coastwatcher No.2 Hut and Lookout. At 07:45 we dropped anchor and, in the relative silence that followed, could hear Bellbird song from the ship.
As 08:30 all ashore, life jackets were placed in the bins and Alex led off toward the lookout. As soon as we left the beach the botanists were having a field day. There were so many species of orchids to be seen and Alison collected lichen samples the length of the track. The derelict Coastwatcher No.2 hut is a forlorn sight. The only part of it to have retained some integrity is the kitchen, where original canisters of items such as rolled oats and tapioca sit on the shelves opposite the wood/coal burning range. The rest of the structure is just a floor-less, sea of de-laminating plywood. Interestingly, all the window frames and the frames of each section of the walls which were bolted together are cedar and, by and large, in good condition.The views, north and south, from the top of the track were spectacular and the conditions so clear that the Erlangen Clearing at the north end of the harbour, past Figure of Eight Island, was visible to the naked eye. The well maintained Lookout hut is still in good condition. As elsewhere, the Rata was in full bloom and just beautiful. By 10:35 we were heading down to the landing and within 25 minutes all were aboard. Captain Dimitry lifted the anchor and we cleared Carnley Harbour at about 12:15. A course was set for for Musgrave Inlet about 60 minutes steaming north. The weather remains freakishly good with clear skies, a ring around the sun and very high cirrus clouds.
We joined Alex in the lecture room at 12:10 for an overview of the planned activities for the day ahead.
After lunch we joined Martin in the lecture room to hear his lecture ‘Marine Mammals and Man’. The lecture concluded with a description of the enormous damage to world whale populations by the massive, lawless, Soviet whaling fleets during the period 1950-1986 and provided a clear reason why it is taking so long for some stocks to recover.
Five Zodiacs were launched for the Zodiac cruise at 15:15 around Musgrave Inlet. We headed off toward the northern cliffs close to the entrance to the Inlet. There we saw beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, one of which was sitting on a large chick that popped its head up for perfect photographs. Along the rocky shore Rockhopper Penguins were plentiful. Red-billed Gulls and black backs (aka Dominican gulls) flew close to the cliffs. Bladder kelp (Macrocyctis sp) and bull kelp (Durvillea sp) was so prolific along the shore it often impeded the passage of the Zodiacs by wrapping around the outboard propellers. We saw what might be the southernmost tree fern (Cyathea davisii) in this part of the world. As we puttered along the coast it was very interesting to note the height of the Rata trees on the lee side of the coast. Their trunks were straighter and the trees were far taller than on the windward side. After negotiating a particularly thick patch of kelp we entered the ‘cave with a hole in the top’, one of the most spectacular sights in the Auckland Islands. There was too much swell running to enter the dark cave next to it so it was one boat at a time, but it was so worth the effort.
Back aboard the Spirit of Enderby at 17:10 the Zodiacs were secured for the trip north to Port Ross. Cloud and northerly wind was increasing.
After yet another superb dinner, topped off with Alison’s birthday cake, we made ready to visit the second most historic place in the Auckland Islands, the Hardwicke settlement in Erebus Cove. Four Zodiacs were launched and passengers ferried ashore. We visited the poignant grave site then strolled along the cobbled path to the Victoria Tree. The inscription carved into the sawn flat face reads, “HMCS (Her Majesty’s Colonial Ship) VICTORIA Norman (captain) In Search of Shipwrecked People Oct 13th, 1865”. The flax plants, which seem incongruous in this setting, were planted by Maori from the Chatham Islands in 1865.
At 20:15 we were all back aboard the ship. All Zodiacs were secured for the sea journey. We were underway for Bluff in an easy sea with moderate westerly swell.
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Photo credit: S. Gutowsky
Day 7: Tuesday 9 January
We enjoyed a long relaxing sleep, with breakfast at 08:30.
At 10:00 we gathered in the lecture room for Mitch Bartlett’s lecture on ‘The Cultural use of Flora and Customary Harvesting of Titi’.
Alex held a lecture at 12:00 on expedition cruising in the Russian Far East, he introduced passengers to the possibilitiesof cruising the coastline of such a vast area with a huge variety of fauna including indigenous animals and birds, both indigenous and migrants and the flora
After lunch at 13:00, we settled ship accounts with Jessie.
By 16:30 Spirit of Enderby was making good speed in superb conditions, about 2.5 hours off South Cape Stewart Island
At 17:00 there was an expedition recap and disembarkation briefing. The slideshow prepared by Sarah, Mitch, Jessie and Alex was an enjoyable reminder of all the things we had seen, experienced and will continue to remember for years to come.
The bar opened at 18:00, with champagne and canapes followed by dinner at 19:00, a spectacular five course extravaganza prepared by Ed and Lance of soup, salmon or lamb racks, delectable pudding followed by a cheeseboard ‘to die for’.
Sadly, we were informed that after about 12 years with Heritage Expeditions, Natalia, the Chief Stewardess who has been the ‘driving force’ in the dining room, delivering superb meals in all weathers with ‘apparent’ ease had to return to the Ukraine for family reasons at the end of this voyage, finishing this season on Spirit of Enderby sooner than expected. This maybe Natalia’s last voyage, we all hoped not. Alex gave a lovely speech, expressing all our thanks and presented Natalia with gifts including champagne and a Heritage soft penguin.
Day 8: Wednesday 10 January
Passengers were up early putting suitably tagged bags out in the passageways.
We were underway to the pilot station and picked up the pilot who brought the ship alongside at 07:00.
At 08:00 the truck and bus arrived. The truck was quickly loaded with the bags and set off for Invercargill. The customary group photograph was taken of the passengers and staff up on the ‘monkey bridge’. Soon after, having said farewell to the staff of the Forgotten Islands of the South Pacific expedition, all passengers were aboard the bus and headed to Invercargill, many would be reflecting on their New Zealand Subantarctic Islands experience and looking forward to reviewing the many photos taken.
With passengers having disembarked the staff began loading food for the 30 day voyage to the Ross Sea which was leaving Bluff the following day, collating information packs to go into all the cabins and setting about the myriad jobs that make the ship ready for sea.
Day 1: 15th December
Position 0800 hrs: 46º35.5’S 168º20.2’E Bluff
Weather: Westerly wind 30-40 knots, air temperature 17ºC
Sea conditions: Four metre swell, sea temperature 14ºC
Nature highlights: Southern Royal, Auckland White-capped and Salvin’s Albatross; Cape, Mottled, White-chinned & Cook’s Petrels; Sooty Shearwater, Spotted and Bronze (Stewart Island) Shags, Red-billed and Kelp Gulls, White-fronted Tern, New Zealand Fur Seal.
Chris and Lisle had met passengers at the Kelvin Hotel lobby in Bluff earlier in the afternoon, from where we bussed to the Professor Khromov (a.k.a. Spirit of Enderby) at 1600 hrs, enjoyed tea and fresh muffins in the bar-library and settled into our cabins before heading down to the lecture room for our first briefing from Rodney, our Expedition Leader and founder of Heritage Expedition.
“I bring you greetings from Captain Dmitri and the crew. And these are our staff: Jenny Williams our Hotel Manager who keeps the show on the road; chefs Connor Arcus and Alain Hauswirth; Dave Chamley ship’s doctor; Lisle Gwynn, Steph Borrelle and Chris Todd your lecturers, guides and Zodiac drivers. We also have Olga Belonovich here with her daughter Vasilisa. She’s a friend and marine mammal specialist from the Commander Islands in Russia. And we have 2 staff here from our Christchurch office; Gill Scott-Douglas with her daughter Abi and Diane Cowan from our subsidiary company Wild Earth. There are also 6 Enderby Trust scholars on the voyage, my contribution to fostering the next generation of conservation leaders; Tess Cole, Robert Vennell, Philip Boersch-Supan, Lizzy Myers, Sarah Falloon and Perry Smith. OK team, come on up and introduce yourselves…And now for the lifeboat drill...”
We set sail for The Snares Islands at 8pm, feeling the lurching roll of the oceanic swell at the harbour entrance, where the helmeted pilot leapt from the ship onto his waiting launch, which peeled off and left us. We sailed south in the lee of the bush-clad Ruapuke and Rakiura / Stewart Islands before heading into the open ocean.
After a sumptuous dinner of lamb-rack or salmon, most of us climbed up to the bridge and upper decks to enjoy the landscapes, seascapes and the see-sawing flight of seabirds long into the evening. Thus began our 8 day voyage to one of the most remote and wild places on earth: the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand.
Day 2: 17th December
The Snares and at Sea
Position 0800 hrs: 47º45.6’S 167º01.2’E
Weather: SW at 16-20 knots, air temperature 12ºC
Sea conditions: Four metre swell, sea temperature 15ºC
Nature highlights: Gibson’s Wandering, Black-browed, Northern Buller’s and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross; Southern Giant Petrel, Fairy and Slender-billed Prion; White-headed Petrel, White-faced and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels; South Georgian and Common Diving-Petrels; Antarctic Tern.
With 4 metre swells and high wind, the seas around The Snares were too rough for launching Zodiacs. Instead the captain made several passes in the lee of the island, enabling us to enjoy dramatic views of granite cliffs and rock stacks, the tree-daisy (Olearia) - clad hills, and distant hordes of endemic Snares Crested Penguins making their way up rocky ramps between the sea and their nests high in the forest. Small groups rafted close to the ship, their black and white bodies, bright orange beaks and yellow crests a study in contrast. The seas were thick with huge groups of Sooty Shearwaters ‘rafting’ or flying together en-masse, groups of diving-petrels, albatross, prions and petrels.
Photo credit: L. Gwynn
Day 3: 18th December
Position 0800 hrs: 50º30.3’S 166º16.6’E
Weather: 12 degrees, SW wind at 30+ knots
Sea conditions: Swell 2 metres (inside harbour), sea temperature 13ºC
Nature highlights: New Zealand Sea Lion breeding colony, Auckland Island endemic pipit, tomtit, teal, snipe, shag and banded dotterel; Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned Parakeet; NZ Falcon, Yellow-eyed Penguin, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross formation-flying, nesting Southern Royal Albatross.
We were up for a 0630 breakfast and 0730 briefing from Rodney to make the most of our land-based day. But first a reminder from Rodney about leaving the ship and boarding the Zodiacs,
“When you leave the ship, make sure you turn over the tag with your manifest number so we know who has gone ashore, don’t forget to turn it back over when you return. When you leave the ship, climb carefully down the gangway, stand on the Zodiac pontoon, take the driver’s wrist, step down into the Zodiac and take a seat on the side. Don’t lean too far back! When you leave the Zodiac, slide up to the front, swing your legs over towards the sea and climb out as quickly as you can…”
At last, our first landing! Enderby Island is relatively low-lying, rising gently from a sandy beach in the south to coastal cliffs along the exposed north coast. We had anchored off our landing point at Sandy Bay, where we landed stern first, our bow pointing into a small surf. After clambering off (we soon became more nimble), we climbed the sand-blown hillside and grassy bank above the beach, through low shrubs and onto the boardwalk, which led us under the canopy of an enchanting, low-growing forest of red-flowering rata (Metrosideros), Myrsine and Dracophyllum, punctuated by the rhubarb-looking megaherb Azorella. As we climbed further towards the wind-exposed north coast, the vegetation grew lower and lower until it was a dense carpet of cushion plants, gentians, and tough megaherbs Bulbinella (yellow flowers and strap-like leaves) and Anisotome (huge mauve globes of florets).
Photo credit: G. Scott-Douglas
Endemic Campbell Island dotterels and pipits fed on the ground close to the boardwalk, the latter seemingly oblivious to our presence. At the top huge westerly swells smashed into the cliffs below, atomising in to salt-spray. Small waterfalls were being picked up and blown back over the island from whence they had come. In places the deep coastal peat had been scoured by the wind, revealing layers where trees had once grown. Auckland Island Shags flapped rapidly up and down the line of cliff-line and a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross soared past.
Thirty of us carried on clockwise and eastward above the cliffs, around the eastern coastline and back to Sandy Bay. We caught glimpses of the endemic snipe amongst the tussocks, watched teal diving in the kelp, Red-crowned Parakeets feeding on grass seeds, Yellow-eyed Penguins and sea lions resting, an Auckland Islands Shag colony, Giant Petrels, Southern Royal Albatross nesting and flying over the tussocks, a gull feeding on a dead leopard-seal, and the enchanting rata forest, it’s canopy twisted over by the prevailing winds and floor carpeted with Azorella and ferns. Duncan, who had last been on the island in 1986 when it was still grazed by cattle, was astonished at the recovery of the vegetation.
Photo credit: L. Gwynn
Those who returned via the boardwalk were treated to the sight of sea-lions giving birth to pups on the beach and watching the antics of Yellow-eyed Penguins. The wind picked up as we returned to the ship, until gusts ripped the surface into spume. One of the passenger’s great great grandmother had been born on Auckland Island, which she was writing a book about. Rodney was determined that she should see the place so he and Lisle took Shona for a quick visit to the remains of Hardwicke, the short-lived failed settlement at Erebus Cove in Port Ross. Given the sea conditions, the return trip was extremely wet, but there was a great sense of ‘mission accomplished’ and shared pleasure that Shona had been able to achieve her goal.
Day 4: 19th December
At Sea to Campbell Island
Position 0800 hrs: 50º30.4’S 166º16.7’E Anchored at Port Ross a.m.
Weather: Westerly 36 knots, air temperature 11ºC
Sea conditions: 6-8 metre swell in open sea, ocean temperature 13ºC
Nature highlights: 9 species of albatross at sea; a pod of Southern Right Whale Dolphins; the wild southern swells.
Winds continued to shred the surface of Port Ross, with six to eight metre breakers smashing into the reef beyond our sheltered anchorage. Disappointingly it remained too windy for us to launch Zodiacs to visit Erebus Cove and Hardwicke, so we set sail for Campbell after lunch at 1330, many of us a little apprehensive about the huge seas. The Professor Khromov took the seas in her stride, although not all of the passengers were able to; the numbers at dinner were depleted and the heavy pitching and rolling made bed the safest place to be.
Day 5: 20th December
Position 0800 hrs: 52º34.0’S 169º16.4’E
Weather: Westerly at 20 knots, air temperature 10ºC
Sea conditions: Sheltered in Perseverance Harbour, sea temperature 13ºC
Nature highlights: Southern Royal Albatrosses gamming, flying over and sitting on Campbell Island; Campbell Island endemic shag, pipit, snipe, teal.
We arrived at Campbell in time for an early breakfast, enjoying the sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour. All around us volcanic hills rose through Dracophyllum shrubland and tussock clad slopes to rocky crags and ridges. Southern Royal Albatross soared across the higher slopes and we couldn’t wait to get ashore.
Passengers were given the choice of an upper harbour Zodiac cruise followed by a walk up the boardwalk to Col Lyall, or a 16 km return walk over the range to Northwest Bay. Those who chose the former enjoyed close encounters with the flightless endemic Campbell Island Teal, possibly the rarest duck in the world with approximately 130 individuals. The walkers also passed sea lions, Yellow-eyed Penguins and enjoyed Campbell’s spectacular landscapes and megaherbs. As the wind picked up in the afternoon, albatross near the walkway began flying and ‘gamming’ or courting, a mesmerising sight.
Those on the long trip walked from the former meteorological station around Tucker Cove, up and over the range to Windless Bay, lunched at Western Bay Hut and looped back over the range to Camp Cove. The sky was heavy, with low cloud scudding over the tops. We climbed up through Dracophyllum shrubland, Antarctic Terns nesting in the tussocks nearby calling and circling over our heads. Occasionally a sea lion would grunt or loudly exhale from the undergrowth nearby and pipits hopped around our feet. A large area of the saddle was completely covered in megaherbs approaching peak flowering; mauve Pleuriphyllum and Anisotome, bright green Azorella and yellow Bulbinella. Windless Bay was populated by some huge elephant seals and a number of yearling ‘weaners’, skuas feeding on a dead eel and sea lions inspecting us from the water. As we climbed the hillside after lunch we began to see dozens of Southern Royal Albatross, many of them courting or ‘gamming’, a term for their courtship rituals. It is very impressive to be over-flown so closely by an albatross that you can hear the wind whistling around its enormous wings. We stopped to watch group after group high on the hillsides; beak-clacking, wing-stretching, yodeling, head-shaking, neck-arching, co-grooming, and flying low over the tussocks together, reveling in the strong up-hill breeze. A pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross flew together in a fine display of synchronised aerial ballet. Campbell at its finest!
Photo credit: C. Todd
Photo credit: L. Gwynn
Day 6: 21st December
Campbell Island and at Sea
Position 0800 hrs: 52º32.9’S 169º09.5’E
Weather: Nor’norwest 12-15 knots, air temperature 10ºC
Sea conditions: 1 metre swell (anchored in Perseverance Harbour)
Nature highlights: Young sea lions playing around the ship, snipe, albatross.
The morning was drizzly with strong nor’west winds forming williwaws out towards the heads. The Zodiac passengers were again treated to sea lions and Campbell Island Teal. Those on the boardwalk enjoyed very bracing conditions, including winds on the col that made it very difficult to even stay on the boardwalk. Even the albatross were determinedly lying low amongst the tussocks.
We set sail for Bluff just after lunch, heading into moderately large seas hitting us slightly abeam and making the ship pitch and roll dramatically at times.
Day 7: 22nd December
Position 0800 hrs: 50º09.0’S 168º38.3’E
Weather: Nor’norwest 25 knots, air temperature 12ºC
Sea conditions: Four metre swells, sea temperature 13ºC
Nature highlights: Seabirds making light of the rough conditions.
We kept up a steady 7.5 knots into the head wind, many of us taking the chance to read, sort photos or simply get some rest.
Day 8: 23rd December
Position 0800 hrs: 46º35.5’S 168º20.2’E Bluff
We arrived in Bluff in time for our scheduled 0630 breakfast and in time to off-load and depart by 0830. There were many fond farewells for new friends and experiences shared: although the sea conditions had been tough, we had seen the Southern Ocean’s true character, shared some great adventures and had wonderful encounters with its landscapes, seas, plants and wildlife.
4 – 11 January 2015
Spirit of Enderby
Sunday 4th January
Leaving Bluff, enroute to Snares Islands
The expedition proper got underway at 1430 when the Spirit of Enderby let the lines go and sailed from Port of Bluff. Before this we had all come together at the Kelvin Hotel in central Invercargill where we had been met by Alex Ferguson, the Expedition Botanist. He and the Cruise Director conducted the mandatory luggage security check, which seemed a bit laughable. You wonder who might want to highjack a vessel sailing to the Subantarctic Islands, but then rules are rules!
The ‘security cleared’ luggage travelled to the ship by special truck and was waiting for us in our cabins when we boarded the ship. We travelled in the comfort of a coach and had our own security check before entering the wharf area. Expedition Leader Don McIntyre welcomed us to the ship and staff showed us to our cabins, leaving us to unpack, settle in, explore the ship and meet our fellow expedition members.
The harbour pilot came on board at 1430 and guided the ship out of the harbour. The weather conditions were good but the wind was forecast to rise briefly to 40 knots overnight. At 1530 we were all summoned to the Lecture Room where Don introduced the staff, ship and gave us a safety briefing followed by a Zodiac briefing. Hopefully we would be using the Zodiacs at the Snares the following morning.
At 1745 we experienced the practical life boat drill when the signal sounded and took our life jackets to the allocated muster stations adjacent to the life boats. The bar opened at 1830 giving everyone a chance to enjoy a drink and meet a few more expeditioners. Dinner followed at 1930 and sea conditions remained calm as we continued our way south along the eastern coast of Stewart Island. The forecast was for gale force winds from northerly quarter and as we were a little ahead of schedule, the plan was to hove-to off Port Pegasus for the worse of the front to go over. The winds arrived and were spectacular, gusting to 70+ knots at times with the sea whipped into a white frenzy – an impressive if disconcerting sight. Despite this, the sky was clear and we had great views of the hills surrounding Port Pegasus. The Captain steamed off the coast until approx 0200 on Monday morning when the wind eased and we headed to the Snares Islands.
Monday 5th January
I think we all felt the movement of the vessel change as we headed past South Cape on the southern tip of Stewart Island and by morning the wind had eased and swung to the west. There was still about 3-4 metres swell on the beam and as a result the vessel was rolling a bit making it uncomfortable for some. Breakfast was served at 0715 and the planned Snares Islands briefing was postponed as we were running a little behind schedule. Our new ETA at the Snares was now 1000 and we did not know whether conditions would allow us to take a Zodiac cruise there or not.
The weather was fine and we had great views of the islands as we approached. There was a good variety of birds around as well including Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Pigeons, Buller’s Albatross, Diving Petrels and Salvin’s Albatross.
The decision was made to launch the Zodiacs as it was calm inshore, if a little lumpy at the ship. The transfer of passengers went well and when all 5 Zodiacs were full we cruised inshore and along the coast exploring the bays, caves and coastline. We could see Buller’s Albatross breeding on the cliff tops and there were numerous New Zealand Fur Seals and Hooker’s Sea Lions swimming around and hauled out on the rocks. We had good views of the Snares Island Tomtit, but only fleeting glimpses of the endemic Fernbird. The Snares Crested Penguin was a highlight, both in the water and on the land. We stopped to watch them clambering up the rocks in several locations including the large ‘Penguin Slide’ which was steep and a considerable distance up, demonstrating an impressive effort to get up and down. We could see the huts the researchers use when they are occasionally on this tiny island outcrop which is managed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.
It was a little easier to get back aboard the ship from the Zodiacs as the sea conditions had improved. Lunch was served at 1300 while the Captain kept the ship in the lee of the island. We then set a course for the Auckland Islands at 1400. The improved conditions meant that sailing conditions along the way weren’t too bad. It was a busy afternoon aboard as we all firstly underwent a Bio security check. Bio security is a concern for these islands and so we used the vacuum cleaners made available in the Lecture Room to ensure clothing, packs and footwear did not carry any seeds or dirt.
At 1530 Alex gave a lecture on the botany of the Subantarctic Islands which is of great interest to many of us. This was followed at 1700 by Don’s ‘Introduction to the Auckland Islands’ which prepared us for what was to come on our first landing. Some folk were still not feeling 100%, so there was not a full muster for dinner.
Tuesday 6th January
Enderby Island, Auckland Islands
The vessel entered the calm waters of Port Ross at Enderby Island and came to anchor around 0430, much to the relief of many aboard. The day dawned relatively clear and fine with about 15 – 20 kts of wind from the SW and the forecast indicated that it would remain much the same throughout the day. Breakfast was well attended and there was an air of expectation as everybody was keen to get ashore. Don gave a briefing and outlined the two options for the day. The first was a long walk around Enderby Island and the second a shorter walk across to the Western Cliffs and the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross nests before retracing our steps back to Sandy Bay. Before we went ashore we created our lunches to take ashore. The chefs had laid out the ingredients so we could choose what we wanted.
The large group of ‘long walkers’ got away first and made an easy landing on a wave platform. Rodney, Alex, Sam and Jenny accompanied us on the walk. The track started as a well constructed board walk across the island which certainly reduces the impact on the soils and vegetation. From the Western Cliffs there is no marked track, though there is an obvious route along the cliff tops. There were numerous highlights apart from simply being on the island. Some made a successful search for Snipe, the Anisotome flowers were prolific and abundant and there were still good numbers of Bulbinella flowers in full bloom. On Derry Castle Reef we had really good views of the Auckland Island flightless Teal (including one dead one), and there were also significant numbers of New Zealand Fur Seals on the outer edges of the reef. We stopped for lunch amongst the tussock on the northern cliffs and a small detour through the Rata forest with all the Stilbocarpa polaris was a highlight. The walk ended back where we had started at Sandy Bay Beach where we spent some time simply observing the sea lions. There was a considerable amount of activity on the beach with large bulls holding harems, females with pups and of course the younger males trying their best to get some of the action.
We were all back aboard by 1700 and contrary to what had been forecast, the wind had increased, frustrating our plans to visit the old Coastwatchers hut in Ranui Cove. The Captain moved the ship across Port Ross and anchored close to Ocean Island but it was simply too windy to use the gangway safely. We went into a ‘holding pattern’ while we enjoyed dinner and then all of a sudden the wind eased and two Zodiacs were launched so a group of about 10 went and visited the old Coastwatchers hut. While they were away the chefs put out a desert buffet and the day concluded with a choice of sweets. The vessel remained at anchor with plans to leave for Carnley Harbour while we slept.
Wednesday 7th January
Carnley Harbour, Auckland Islands
We raised the anchor at around 0230 and set sail for Carnley Harbour in the south. Sea conditions were good although as we approached the entrance to the Harbour (which is in fact the caldera of an extinct volcano) there was a bit of swell. Don gave a wake up call and invited people onto the bridge as we sailed into the harbour. Don had explained in the daily programme that our activities this morning depended very much on the weather, so we had to wait for the team to assess our options. We sailed up the north arm of harbour where Rodney gave a commentary of the history of the area including the wreck of the Grafton and the vessel Erlagen which cut firewood to fire its boilers here at the outbreak of World War II. This event contributed to the origins of the Cape Expedition (codeword for Coast watchers). Rodney also pointed out Figure 8 Island, an important breeding ground for the New Zealand Sea Lions.
The south west wind was reaching all the way into the upper harbour and as there was very little shelter the team made the decision to go to anchor at Tagua Bay. It was an easy landing with Don and Dr Sam driving the Zodiacs so we could walk up to the old Coastwatchers hut. Rodney’s story of the history here was particularly interesting to Robyn (nee Fleming) who was born while her Coastwatcher father was on this island. We then climbed a little higher to the actual lookout where the men spent many hours scanning the horizon.
Everybody returned to the beach and was back aboard by 1130. Once stowed, the Zodiacs were washed out and boots were cleaned thoroughly ready for a new island. Lunch was served at 1230 and shortly after 1330 the Captain ordered the engines started and anchor up for our journey to Campbell Island. In the afternoon we attended a lecture from Alex on Environmental Change in the Subantarctic Islands in the last 200 years. Then at 1600 Jane opened the Sea Shop for those in need of some retail therapy. Travelling conditions weren’t too bad with westerly winds were coming just aft of the beam causing us to roll but not excessively and the weather actually improved later in afternoon. The chefs prepared a magnificent meal that was enjoyed by most folk with the notable exception being Dr Sam who was feeling a little under the weather.
Thursday 8th January
After a relatively comfortable night we came to anchor in Perseverance Harbour at Campbell Island and most people were woken with Don’s wakeup call at 0645 announcing breakfast. At 0745 everybody attended a briefing in which Don outlined the three options for today. They were:
a) A walk to NW Bay
b) A Zodiac Cruise in the Upper Harbour
c) A walk to Col Lyall Saddle.
Following the briefing it was time to make our packed lunches then the NW Bay walkers led by Alex with Dr Sam and DoC Rep Jenny was the first group away. This walk started from the Met Station buildings, travelled to the head of Tucker Cove and from there along Homestead Ridge and onto the ridge overlooking NW Bay. There was a steep descent into Capstan Cove. From the cove the route follows up the 1980 fence line until it intersects the track between Camp Cove and Penguin Bay. At this point it was a simple matter of following the poled track along the lower slopes of Mt Duma and then a muddy descent past Cave Rock to Camp Cove. The group was met by Don in a Zodiac about 1700 and brought back to the ship for hot showers and cool beers.
Those who did not take the NW Bay walk joined Don, Rodney and Marcus on a Zodiac cruise of the upper harbour. We started by cruising the coast line looking for Campbell Island flightless Teal and throughout the cruise we saw about 8 of these birds which were rediscovered in 1975 on Dent Island and subsequently reintroduced to the main island after it was declared rat free – a great conservation success story. The cruise included Tucker Cove where the war time Coastwatchers base had been and then we made a landing at the site of the old farm homestead (1895-1934). All that remains today is the old cast iron stove. From Tucker Cove we cruised into Camp Cove where we made another landing and visited the ‘loneliest tree in the world’ and also saw where Will Larson’s book ‘The Lady of the Heather’ was set. On our way back to the ship we cruised into Garden Cove and finally Venus Cove (the site where the French expedition to observe the Transit of Venus was based in 1874). Those on the cruise enjoyed their picnic lunch in the comfort of the ship before heading out again up to Col Lyall. There is an excellent board walk which starts from the old metrological base at Beeman Hill and from there it takes about 1 hour to climb (gradually) to the saddle between Mt Lyall and Col Peak and then to the ridge overlooking NW Bay. The wind had increased by the time we reached there but that was good for albatross. Those that stayed later enjoyed some speculator displays (both aerial and on the ground) of birds returning to the colony. There were also extensive areas of flowering mega herbs to enjoy and photograph. The views over into NW Bay were well worth the effort of the climb and having walked up as a group we were able to wander back down at our leisure. Don was there with a Zodiac to transfer us back to the ship.
The boys had worked their magic in the galley once again and we enjoyed a great meal in the company of the Sea Lion Research Team from the island who joined us for dinner. We remained at anchor for the night.
Friday 9th January
The crew had to re anchor the vessel on at least a two occasions as we were dragging the anchor during a very windy night. When Don checked the weather at 0500 there was a small amount of cloud on top of Mt Honey and he hoped it would burn off during the day. He and Jane transferred 12 keen folk ashore so they could set off on a summit climb with Alex and Marcus at 0600 while the rest of the group slept. The wind had intensified by breakfast time at 0730 so Don cancelled a proposed Zodiac cruise leaving a walk up Col Lyall the only option. The weather conditions were still OK as the group started the walk up the boardwalk at 0830.
Rodney and Don managed to run the Sea Lion team back to Davis Point (saving them a 6 hour walk) at 10am despite wind gusting over 60 kts near the entrance to the harbour and driving rain. In the meantime the Mt Honey group had been battered by deteriorating weather conditions and had been forced back 50 metres from the summit with gale force winds and low cloud. The Col Lyall group were a little less exposed but they also encountered wet and windy conditions and were returned to the ship around 1100. Despite the weather everybody had had a good time, in what was the first rain for the expedition. Some typical Subantarctic weather had been encountered at last!
Pizza was served for lunch at 1230 and then the Bridge was closed while the Captain lifted the two anchors that had been struggling to hold us. It was still blowing a gale as we steamed out of the harbour and bid farewell to the Sea Lion team as we set a course for Port of Bluff some 360 nm miles to the north. Once we cleared Bull Rock off Campbell Island we felt the full force of the wind and sea. It was on the Port bow and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, more pitching than rolling but never-the-less some of the rougher weather we had experienced. The afternoon programme which had been promoted was cancelled and most folk went to their cabins while some of the more adventurous souls remained on the bridge to try and capture photos of the sea breaking over the bow.
Dinner was a slightly abridged version and the chefs had done a tremendous job under the circumstances. Extra staff went into the galley to help with the service and those who came for dinner totally appreciated the effort that had gone into getting it to the tables as well. A vote of thanks should also go to Natalia and Lena. Sea and weather conditions were forecast to improve from about midnight onwards so we all went to bed hoping for a better day tomorrow.
Saturday 10th January
At Sea, enroute to Bluff
True to the forecast the sea conditions had improved considerably by morning. The wind had eased to about 5 kts of northerly and the swell was dropping. Our day at sea began with breakfast at 0830 and was punctuated by various lectures and presentations. Marcus gave the first lecture of the morning on the ‘Geology of the Southern Islands’. This was followed by a talk from Rodney on the Russian Far East. This gave an overview of its human and natural history and covered the regions where Heritage Expeditions operates voyages.
Lunch served at 1230 was pretty well attended with everyone feeling much better after the storm. Don gave a presentation on some of his adventures including living for a year in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica and retracing Bligh’s small boat journey through the Pacific. Later it was time to settle accounts, just as the sea conditions chose to deteriorate as the wind and sea picked up from the NW. Fortunately this didn’t last long and at 1700 we all assembled in the lecture room for a disembarkation briefing and an Expedition Recap. Don acknowledged the work of the chefs who had done a great job and received a round of applause. Then Alex shared a Power Point presentation that he had put together showing images from each day of the expedition. This was very well received and was made available to anybody who wanted to copy it. The farewell dinner was a beautifully presented buffet with lots to choose from. Then everybody retired to their cabins to pack and enjoy a final night of sleep rocked by the now benign ocean.
Sunday 11th January
Bluff, New Zealand
We anchored in calm seas off Bluff Hill in the early hours of the morning. At 0630 we lifted anchor and moved towards the Pilot Station where the Pilot joined us and took us into the port. Rain greeted us in Bluff and the skies were claggy and grey. Breakfast was at 0700 and then the coach arrived to transport us to the Kelvin Hotel or Invercargill airport. The final act of the expedition was to capture the moment with a group photo alongside the ship before bidding farewell to the Spirit of Enderby, the Expedition Team and the excitement of the Southern Ocean.
23rd – 30th December 2013
Monday 23rd December
We converged on the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill at 1400 and Heritage Expeditions staff were there to greet us. Our luggage was loaded onto a truck to be taken directly to the Spirit of Enderby which was berthed in Port of Bluff and thirty minutes later we boarded a coach that took us to the ship. The Security check at the port seemed a little OTT (over the top), but we were eventually cleared to board the ship. On board we were directed to our cabins where our luggage awaited us and the process of unpacking began. Once this was accomplished we explored the ship and discovered a welcome drink and snack available in the Bar/Library.
The pilot came aboard and we sailed at 1600. Sea conditions in the strait weren’t too bad but the ship set a course for sheltered water south of the Northern Muttonbird Islands. When we arrived there we were summoned to a set of compulsory briefings which included an introduction to the staff and ship then a safety briefing. The later was divided into two parts, a theoretical part and a practical part. For the practical part we had to go to our allocated muster stations adjacent to the lifeboats and then climb into the boats. At the completion of this exercise, the bar opened and then dinner was served. Just before the briefings we had a good sighting of a Blue Whale – it was a great way to start the trip.
Tuesday 24th December
The Snares Islands
We arrived off the Snares Islands at approximately 0630. It had been a relatively comfortable trip south but there was a building NE sea and swell. When it was behind us the ship remained fairly stable, but it was not good for Zodiac cruising. The swell was clearly demonstrated by the pattern of the waves breaking along the coastline we wished to explore. The captain put the vessel into a “holding pattern” off the east coast while we had breakfast and watched the conditions closely. Despite the conditions there were some great views of Buller’s and Salvin’s Albatross, Snares Crested Penguins and there were thousands of Sooty Shearwaters massing on the water just offshore prior to going out to feed for the day.
After breakfast we abandoned our plans for a Zodiac cruise and set a course for Port Ross in the Auckland Islands some 140 miles away. Conditions weren’t too bad during this voyage as the NE wind/sea swung throughout the day to SE and there was periods of heavy rain and fog making the journey more real and magical. At 1030 Alex gave a lecture entitled “The Botany of the Subantarctic Islands” which was well attended despite the motion of the vessel. Then at 1200 Katya gave a presentation on Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean and again there was a good turn out for this. Rodney’s briefing on the Auckland Islands scheduled for after lunch was postponed because the sea conditions had deteriorated somewhat, but by late afternoon we were all absorbed quarantine measures required for our landing the next morning. This involved the vacuuming of all clothing and equipment being taken ashore to rid it of seeds which could seriously affect the island ecosystem. The bar opened at 1830 and dinner was served. Folk retired early in anticipation of a calm anchorage in the early hours of the morning.
Wednesday 25th December
When we awoke the vessel was anchored in the upper reaches of Port Ross near Shoe Island. It was beautifully calm and the wind had eased and sun was trying to come out. The ship had arrived at anchor at about 0130 and Rodney woke us at 0615 to begin the busy day. It started with a briefing at 0645 which covered the safe use of Zodiacs, an overview of the history and natural history of the Auckland Islands and a description of our first landing at Hardwick (Erebus Cove). Breakfast was scheduled for 0730 and by 0815 the Zodiacs started shuttling people ashore. At Erebus Cove we had the opportunity to visit the small graveyard and inspect the Victoria Tree. Our two hours ashore went very quickly and we were soon back aboard so we could steam the few miles to Ranui Cove. Once there everyone again boarded the Zodiacs and this time we visited the abandoned No 1 Coast Watchers hut. The weather had improved remarkably and by our arrival it was warm and sunny. Ranui Cove is very sheltered and we enjoyed hearing great birdsong from both Bellbirds and Tui. We inspected the hut and then walked to the smaller lookout hut where the coast watchers looked out over the harbour. There were magnificent views from a small promontory above the huts out over the entire expanse of Port Ross which sparkled in the sunshine. The track to and from the lookout was a little muddy and slippery in places, but all felt it well worth the effort. Everybody was back on board by 1300 hours and the captain didn’t waste any time in lifting the anchor and heading to Carnley Harbour while we enjoyed lunch.
The trip south was very pleasant despite the fact that we couldn’t see a lot of the coast as we were quite a way offshore and there was some cloud over the tops. We cruised into the eastern entrance of Carnley Harbour at 1600 where conditions were prefect – blue sky, calm seas and no wind – and steamed up to Epigwatt in the North Arm where we dropped anchor. Rodney had all 5 Zodiacs lowered and we went ashore at the site where the Grafton was wrecked in 1864. There we could see the remains of the ship in the form of timber lying on the shore and the remains of the hut survivors built in the Rata forest. We had about 30 minutes here before re-boarding the Zodiacs and cruising further up the harbour as far as Figure Eight Island where a small number of New Zealand Sea Lions were breeding . As we made our way back to the ship we encountered a group of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters feeding just off the coast. The Bar opened at 1830 so we could enjoy refreshments after our busy day and prepare for our Christmas dinner. Bruce and Colleen the chefs had prepared a sumptuous feast and the staff had decorated the dining rooms beautifully. The atmosphere was buoyant and the table settings were spectacular. The meal began with soup served to the table and then we helped ourselves to the lavish buffet which offered seafood, meats, salads and vegetables – much more than we could possibly eat. Dessert was also served buffet style with a wide variety of dishes available. The meal finished at about 2130 and we retired in anticipation of another great day at Enderby Island. The anchor was lifted at 2230 and we cruised back to Port Ross during the night.
Thursday 26th December
It is unlikely anyone heard the anchor drop at 0200 at which time there was a slight change in the motion of the ship as she rolled gently on the easterly swell that was still running. Rodney woke us shortly after 0600 for breakfast at 0630. This was followed at 0715 with a briefing, lunch making and Zodiac departures at 0830. There was still a swell breaking on the beach but Rodney and Sergey were in the water with drysuit/waders on catching the boats and guiding them in through the surf. Alex was on shore to guide us across the beach and up to the Department of Conservation (DOC) huts where we were able to change into walking boots. When everyone was ashore the last Zodiac was sent back to the ship with one of the sailors and we were organised into two groups (as had been described in the briefing). One group set out to walk around the island and the other group visited the Western Cliffs and the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross colony before returning to the beach. Alex, Katya, Agnes and Dr Roger led the group making their way around the island. Rodney and Samuel looked after the rest.
The weather was absolutely perfect for our excursion, with some high cloud which broke up later in the day and not a breath of wind, a very rare and unique experience in this part of the world. Most returned to the beach by lunchtime and watched the Sea Lions or looked for Teal along the shoreline. We were eventually to see a group of seven Teal on the wave platform, but there weren’t many Yellow-eyed Penguins seen. This wasn’t surprising as most of the birds move either early in the morning or late in the evening.
The “around the island” walkers made good time as everybody had to be back by 1500 for our departure to Campbell Island. They watched the Sea Lions for a while before walking across the island to the Western Cliffs. Lunch was enjoyed in the Rata forest near Pebble Point. Jessie was able to collect all the plant specimens she needed for her thesis and most people had good sightings of Snipe. Teal were abundant and most enjoyed great views of Yellow-eyed Penguins and Parakeets.
Samuel starting shuttling people back to the ship at about 1400. With the tide a little lower we were able to work from the wave platform which made it a little easier. Everybody was back on board by 1500 and the captain lifted the anchor and set a course for Campbell Island. ETA at Campbell Island was about 0600 and the sea and weather conditions in the evening were superb. Most folk chilled out reading, downloading photos or talking. Agnes opened the Sea Shop for a short while as we cruised and the bar opened at 1800 for pre dinner drinks.
Friday 27th December
We dropped anchor off the old Metrological Base in Perseverance Harbour on Campbell Island at about 0530 in flat calm conditions. Breakfast at 0630 was followed by Rodney’s briefing on the history and wildlife of Campbell Island. He then outlined the options for the day which included a walk to North West Bay, a Zodiac cruise in the upper harbour to the main historical sites and a walk to the Col Lyall Saddle. The group was split about 50/50. Alex, Samuel and Sergey led the North West Bay walk while Rodney, Katya and Agnes led the Zodiac excursion and Col Lyall walk. The North West Bay walkers got away immediately after making their lunch and then the Zodiac Cruise departed for Tucker Cove. Here the group landed at the site of the abandoned farm homestead which was guarded by Sea Lions. From there we cruised around to Camp Cove and made a landing at the site of the ‘loneliest tree’ (a Sitka Spruce) and the ‘Lady of the Heather’. After leaving there we cruised into Garden Cove and past Venus Cove, arriving back aboard the ship at about midday. We enjoyed our picnic lunch on board and then were shuttled ashore to the abandoned metrological base at the start of the boardwalk to Col Lyall. It took about an hour to climb up onto the Col Saddle under sunny skies. The views on the way up were speculator and as Rodney had promised, the albatross activity increased as the afternoon wore on. Later in the day the number of birds increased and the amount of activity increased correspondingly. It was a little early in the season for the megaherbs to be at their best, but they still looked quite beautiful dotting the hillsides.
The North West Bay walkers had made exceptionally good time and Alex called up for a pickup at Camp Cove shortly after 1600. Rodney went back down from the Col Lyall Saddle to do that while Katya and Agnes stayed up at the top. Due to their early return, some of the walkers were able to make their way up the boardwalk towards Col Lyall while the remainder returned to the ship. Alex and Jessie headed off so Jessie could collect more plant specimens for her PhD studies (she had a collecting permit to do this) and didn’t get back until 2200. Everybody else was back on board for dinner at 2000. After dinner Chris (Todd) and some of the crew helped Rodney and staff unload 7 x 200 litre drums of helicopter fuel to be stored as an emergency supply on the island. With that done and Alex and Jessie back on board, everybody retired for the night.
Saturday 28th December
The Expedition staff were up at 0500 to check the weather and were happy to report to the six people interested in climbing Mt Honey (the highest peak on the island) that conditions were clear so they could make their ascent. Fortunately for the remainder of the group they were woken individually, leaving the rest to snooze on until 0715. After breakfast Rodney gave a briefing on the options available for the day. We could walk from Tucker Cove to the old Coast Watchers hut then to Beeman Base with Agnes, return up the board walk with Samuel or take a Zodiac cruise with Rodney.
Rodney and Samuel dropped the Coast Watch hut walkers off at the head of Tucker Cove where the group saw a Teal and several Elephant Seals. Samuel’s group was next ashore and then Rodney picked up those for the Zodiac cruise which followed the shoreline and had great views of Campbell Island Shags, Antarctic Terns and Yellow-eyed Penguins. They also took the opportunity to photograph the Elephant Seals in Tucker Cove. In Camp Cove Charlotte wanted to have a swim, simply to claim that she had swum at Campbell Island. It was perhaps a highlight for those on the Zodiac cruise to watch her being chased out of the water by a very indignant Sea Lion. There was some discussion over whether he was more upset about that fact that she was swimming at his beach or the fact that her dress code was not up to his standard (she was skinny dipping). It was rather hilarious and fortunately for Charlotte, everybody was too polite to photograph or film it!
At 1100 it was time to collect all the groups. Agnes ran her group out to the ship and picked up those that had been on the board walk while Rodney went up to Garden Cove to collect those that had climbed Mt Honey. We departed Campbell Island at 1200 and set a course for the Port of Bluff whilst keeping an eye on the weather to see if the Snares would be workable. During the afternoon Samuel screened two documentaries about Campbell Island which detailed the rat eradication project and the reintroduction of the Campbell Island Teal. Later Alex gave a botanical recap and Jessie spoke about her studies. After dinner we were invited to a presentation by Olga on Killer Whales (Orca’s) in the Pacific. She talked about her studies in the Commander Islands plus work being done in New Zealand and Antarctica.
Sunday 29th December
Being Sunday and a day at sea, breakfast wasn’t scheduled until 0830 so everyone could enjoy a relaxing start to the day. The sea conditions were quite comfortable, with the wind from the NE. We had experienced 8 days of easterly weather, which is unheard of in this part of the world where the prevailing weather is from the Westerly quarter. This meant that unfortunately the Snares remained unworkable. It was still calm enough to use the lecture room so Samuel gave us an interesting talk on the Sea Birds of the Southern Ocean, focusing on the ones that we had seen on this expedition. At midday Katya screened a video called “Blackfish” which is a thought provoking documentary on Killer Whales in captivity. After watching this chilling film it is unlikely anybody from this voyage will go to the SeaWorld Park to see Orcas again. Lunch was served at 1300 and the afternoon was taken up with settling on-board accounts. At 1730 we all gathered in the lecture room for a briefing on disembarkation and a recap of the expedition. The recap, compiled by Katya with photos supplied by herself, Alex, Samuel and Agnes, was excellent and very nicely captured the essence and the spirit of the expedition. We were all invited to download this power point presentation to take home so we could show friends and family. The bar opened at 1830 and most attended for a final glass together before our last dinner on board the Spirit of Enderby. Packing was then the focus of the evening for most.
Monday 30th December
The pilot was booked for 0700 but arrived a little early so we were alongside by that time as breakfast was served. The luggage was left outside our cabins before we went to breakfast and the crew delivered it ashore for transfer to our chosen destination. We gathered for a group photo before joining our coach for the trip to Invercargill hotels or airport and said our farewells. It had been a unique and memorable Southern Ocean Christmas for us all.
Day 1: 15 Dec 2013
We all gathered at the Kelvin Hotel in central Invercargill as checked our bags through the Heritage bag security system with the help of Dave, Max, Martin and the radio operator from the Spirit of Enderby. Bags were loaded onto the truck which left for Bluff immediately. Martin checked us aboard the coach and found that two of the group were not present. Undaunted, we set off for Bluff, leaving Dave to search them out. The trip through the flat countryside past paddocks dotted with herds of red deer, occasional sheep and dairy cattle, took about 30 minutes. We stopped at the wharf security office where we were once again checked by the jovial Port of Bluff wharf security officer. Fortunately Dave located the two missing passengers in the pub in Invercargill having a quiet beer and delivered them to the ship. Aboard the Spirit of Enderby, staff and crew directed us to our cabins where we found our bags, name tags and information about the ship and the Subantarctic islands.
At 1530 Nathan gave a welcome aboard briefing and introduced the expedition team. At 1630 Nathan gave a comprehensive safety briefing followed by Agnès, who described the operation of the domestic side of the services provided on the Spirit of Enderby. The Bluff Harbour Pilot boarded at 1800, mooring lines were dropped and we proceeded slowly out of Bluff Harbour passing the Sterling Point light on the starboard side. Twenty minutes later the pilot launch burbled alongside, the Pilot leapt nimbly aboard and waved us away. Our expedition to the Subantarctic islands had begun! Samuel, Agnès and Alex opened the bar and did brisk trade as we crossed Foveaux Strait. Dinner was called as we progressed south in the lee of Stewart Island where conditions were thankfully calm with just a slow, gentle roll. By 2115 we were due east of the Breaksea Islands and Port Adventure. Most people took advantage of the calm conditions and took to their bunks early.
Departing Bluff. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 2: 16 Dec 2013
Conditions were not comfortable for new sailors as we headed south east for Campbell Island. At 0700 the wind was NW 20-25kts with a westerly swell of 4m.
The Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov) is an icebreaker and as such, does not possess such niceties as large, active, wing-like stabilisers protruding from the hull which would be ripped off in the ice. The consequence of this is a propensity to roll like a crewman heading home from the pub after a night of serious drinking. The best place to appreciate this is in the galley. There the chefs produce top quality dishes while under fire from jars of olives escaping from the cupboards, pots slopping mysterious boiling liquids over the stove and jars of sun-dried tomatoes in oil and peeled garlic cloves leaping from the fridge to smash on the tiled floor. Then there are the feats of extraordinary balance and athleticism as the stewardesses, Natalia and Zoya, carry armfuls of food-laden plates through the dining rooms without touching the walls or dropping a thing.
A few hardy souls trickled in for breakfast but left soon after to wedge themselves into the relative safety of the seats in the Bar/Library or take to their bunks – the best place to be in those conditions. Despite this, some of the more vertical bird enthusiasts roamed the decks adding to their lists. The unpleasant conditions prevailed all day.
Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 3: 17 Dec 2013
We could see the outline of Campbell Island through the murk and entered Perserverance Harbour at about 0715. Martin was up on the bridge deck counting the Sea Lions at the breeding rookery on Davis Point and later the cynically named Paradise Point where Sea Lions have bred in smaller numbers over the last few years. The counts were as follows:
Davis Point: Males (including Beachmasters) 45; Females 35-40 Pups about 6
Paradise Point: Males 3-4; Females 1; pups 0
The Captain dropped anchor opposite Beeman Base, the old Meteorological Station and suddenly all was quiet and still. Passengers we’d not seen since Bluff emerged from their cabins, pale and relieved. At 0815 Nathan gave a comprehensive briefing and introduction to Campbell Island and outlined the plan for the day. There would be a walk to Northwest Bay led by Alex or a climb to the Col Lyall Saddle up the boardwalk.
After breakfast, everyone prepared their own packed lunch for the day with the help of the chefs. The first Zodiac left the ship at 0930 with Alex, Dr Lucinda, Kathryn Pemberton the DOC representative and the Northwest Bay walkers. Later Zodiacs ferried the remainder of the group to Beeman Base from where they could walk up the boardwalk at their own pace and according to their agility. Along the boardwalk the prickly shield fern Polystichum vestitum and the water fern Histiopteris incisa were common, mosses are everywhere and spectacular lichens cling to the trunks of the grass trees Dracophyllum longifolium and D.scoparium. Progress was leisurely as there was a keen group of botanists among the walkers and the temptation to photograph orchids, mosses, lichens etc was constant. About 500m from the first platform on Col Lyall progress for some of the walkers was briefly held up by a large 5-6year old male Sea Lion which had found a pleasant place on the boardwalk to rest. He saw no reason to move when confronted by a group of brightly coloured people but eventually huffed his way off into the tussocks. Surprisingly, Yellow-eyed Penguins are also frequently found way up the boardwalk considerable distances from the sea. The most common bird encountered is the Pipit which is unafraid of humans and will obligingly pose near the camera. Up around Col Lyall three species of the megaherb daisies Pleurophyllum are common as are the two large relatives of carrots Anisotome latifolia and A. antipoda, along with the iconic bright yellow subantarctic lily Bulbinella rossi. The gentian Gentiana antarctica is endemic to Campbell Island as is the beautiful blue flowered hebe H.benthamii found next to the boardwalk.
At the Col Lyall saddle the Southern Royal Albatrosses begin flying around in the mid to late afternoon and most of the walkers had started back down the boardwalk by then. True to form, we saw albatross soaring overhead between 3-4pm. We watched a couple of greeting ceremonies but activity was slow and the last walkers departed from Col Lyall around 1630. What you miss with one species you often make up for with another however. As the last group of walkers reached Beeman Base they flushed a Snipe and watched Teal and a young Elephant Seal puddling about just off the wharf. Once everyone was back on board and rigorous boot washing was completed, most made their way to the bar for a refresher while Nathan set the activity plan for the next day.
Spirit of Enderby at Campbell Island. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 4: 18 Dec 2013
At 0500 Nathan, Samuel and Martin met on the bridge to assess weather suitability for the Mt Honey climb. Unfortunately it was raining backed by a stiff north westerly wind and the fog was down to sea level so the walk was cancelled. The botany enthusiasts were ferried ashore at 0800 to begin a short walk up Col Lyall boardwalk once again while the remaining passengers took a Zodiac shoreline cruise. We noted that the ‘resident’ Sea Lions, Teal and young Elephant Seal were still present at the Beeman Base and then made our way to Tucker Cove. This was the site of the ill fated farm where the jetties and the fence line up the hill could still be seen. Giant Petrels and Antarctic Terns were present near the entrance to the cove. We motored on into Camp Cove where people could see the lone Sitka Spruce, reputedly planted by Lord Ranfurly in the early 1920s, and now known as ‘The loneliest tree in the world’ if you believe the Guinness Book of Records . The Zodiacs then moved on into Garden Cove, where sealers reputedly planted root vegetables to sustain themselves. By this time the wind had risen and the rain started. Nathan called the boats back to the Spirit of Enderby, and arranged for the botanists with Alex to be picked up. By 1100 we were all back on board, the Zodiacs stowed and secured for the passage north. An early lunch was announced so we could eat in the relative lee of Campbell Island’s east coast.
At 1130 Captain Dimitry lifted the anchor and the Spirit of Enderby departed Perserverance Harbour. We steamed up the coast, passing North East Harbour and the Bull Rock albatross colony before rounding North Cape and setting what was to be a lumpy course into the wind and sea northwest en route to the Auckland Islands.
At 1500 Martin gave a lecture on Hooker’s (New Zealand) Sea Lions in the Bar/Library. He covered the natural history and population status of this animal, which we would see in good numbers on Enderby Island.
Campbell Island Coastline. Photo credit: A.Fergus
Day 5: 19 Dec 2013
The Spirit of Enderby dropped anchor at 0430, 500m offshore from Sandy Bay, Enderby Island, the northernmost of the Auckland Islands. After a dreadful night the weather had improved and the southerly wind had dropped. By 0800 the sky was clear and the sea calm delivering perfect conditions for our landing.
The first Zodiac went in to assess the landing site and dropped wader-clad Alex and Martin off to assist with landings. The group was then ferried ashore by Zodiacs where they landed on the rock platform west of the beach. When the tide is right, landings there are easy and all stepped ashore to be met by two pairs of Auckland Island Teal dibbling about in tide pools and under the kelp. We walked past territory holding bachelor Sea Lions and climbed up to the old boatshed constructed originally in 1888 by the crew of the Stella (Capt. Fairchild). There the lifejackets were stowed in bins and gumboots changed for walking boots before setting off. Nathan gave us three options to choose from: a short walk to the top of the boardwalk taking in the Sooty Albatrosses before returning; a walk concentrating on botany with Alex; or a long walk around the eastern end of the island back to Sandy Bay.
Choices made, we passed the Stella shipwreck provision hut (1880) and set off up the boardwalk through the wind-twisted Rata forest. Red-crowned parakeets and Bellbirds were seen flitting through the canopy. The boardwalk wound its way out of the forest and through the wind sculpted rata, myrsine and aromatic Cassinia bushes. About 200m up the boardwalk a Royal Albatross was sitting serenely on its nest about 1m away. We walked through the meadow of yellow Bulbinella rossi interspersed with pink flowering Anisotome megaherbs and beautiful clumps of gentians ranging in colour from white to deep magenta. At the top of the boardwalk Martin flushed two Snipe as we walked toward the Sooty Albatross which were nesting on the cliffs. Those feeling like a short walk or botanising went back down the boardwalk, while the long walkers set off at a rapid pace as they had to get back to the beach by about 1600. Martin went down to spend time watching Sea Lions which had only recently begun pupping.
While walking between Derry Castle Reef and Northeast Bay, Isabella and Yuin saw a whale rolling about not far offshore, which Yuin managed to photograph. The animal turned out to be a Right Whale. Observations of Right Whales in the summer are unusual but not rare. At this time they are seen solo or in pairs. During June-July these whales come into Port Ross to breed and more than 150 have been recorded there in a single day.
By 1430 people had begun to drift back toward the Boatshed. The first Zodiac took passengers back to the ship at 1500 then hourly after that. The long walkers began to arrive back at the beach around 1600 and spent time watching the Sea Lions pupping. At 1000 Martin had counted 15 pups and 1 stillborn pup. By 1600 there were 32 pups and 1 stillborn pup. Watching pups being born, bonding with their mothers then suckling is an unforgettable experience for most people. Also unforgettable is the speed and efficiency of the ever present Skuas in cleaning up the beach! By 1800 all expeditioners were back on board and the Bar/Library was buzzing with conversation after a superb day.
Enderby Island - Expeditioners and Hooker's Sea Lion. Photo credit: ABreniere
Day 6: 20 Dec 2013
As we proceeded south toward Carnley Harbour in the lee of Auckland Island we could see the clouds speeding downwind at a good 25kts. At about 0800 we entered Carnley Harbour between the main island and Adams Island and were confronted by a very strong northerly wind lifting whitecaps everywhere. The wind was driving heavy rain showers and dense clouds hung well down the hill slopes. The Captain dropped anchor in Tagua Bay in the lee of Musgrave Peninsula and those wanting to go ashore made ready for a walk through the Rata Forest to the Tagua Bay Coast watchers hut and lookout.
Once all the walkers were ashore, the Zodiacs were anchored and we set off up the track toward the Coastwatcher site. The walk to the hut site took about 20 minutes through dripping Rata forest. At the midway point along the track we got reasonable views of the harbour toward Figure of Eight Island which was just visible through the rain and murk. The accommodation hut is now a sorry ruin of delaminating plywood panels and rusting iron. The kitchen still contains the original Shacklock Orion wood stove, now descending through the rotting floor. On the shelves opposite there were tins which once held raisins, sugar, powdered ginger and other necessities, rusting away. We moved on to the Tagua observation hut with its view straight down Carnley Harbour to the entrance. This 2m square building, in contrast to the main accommodation hut, is in good condition and still dry inside. By 1130 the weather had not improved and we made our way back down to the shore of Tagua Bay where the Zodiacs began ferrying us back to the ship.
Everyone was back aboard for lunch as the weather began to clear and the clouds were lifting. After clearing Carnley Harbour, Captain Dimitry set our course for the Snares Islands, our last stop on the way back to New Zealand. During the afternoon Samuel gave an excellent lecture on Sir James Clark Ross one of the most eminent polar explorers of the 19th century. Port Ross is named after him.
Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 7: 21 Dec 2013
In the morning we arrived off the Snares Islands where conditions looked promising for a Zodiac cruise, despite the quite heavy swell which made boarding both Zodiacs and the ship at the end of the cruise quite an athletic event. The Spirit of Enderby was hove to and as the weather cleared, 4 Zodiacs were launched, collected their passengers without incident and motored close inshore. The sun came out and the weather could not have been better for Zodiac cruising. The drivers explained the geology and vegetation of the islands and introduced us to the very special birdlife. We saw Snares Tomtits, Snares Fernbirds, Snares Crested Penguins, Sooty Shearwaters (over 1.5 million pairs), great rafts of Cape Petrels, Buller’s Albatross and Antarctic Terns. Along the shore the local Hebe elliptica bushes fringed the vegetation beneath the dominant tree daisy forest of Olearia lyalli and Brachyglottis stewartiae. As we cruised around the coves near the Biological Station we were followed by juvenile male Sea Lions. The last site visited along the shore was the spectacular Penguin Slide. Here the glittering muscovite granite cliff rises from the sea at an angle of about 35°. At the tide line a small patch about 3m wide has been scraped clear of kelp by penguins landing. Above this, the rock face has been cleared of vegetation and peat all the way to the colonies on top by generations of penguins daily passing up and down. At 1030 we had to move back to our rendezvous point and 30 minutes later we were safely aboard again with Zodiacs secured for the trip to Bluff.
Our course was set for the 64nm trip north to Stewart Island. The rest of the day was taken up with settlement of onboard accounts with Agnès, Nathan’s disembarkation briefing and our final dinner onboard. The chefs really did us proud with a buffet style final dinner which included roast turkey or roast beef with vegetables and all the trimmings, followed by Dean’s famous tiramisu which, if lit, would burn with a blue flame. At 2010 we dropped anchor off The Neck in calm seas with no roll so all enjoyed a restful night.
Snares cruising. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 8: 22 Dec 2013
After breakfast all bags, colour-marked for their destination, were put out into the corridors then quickly offloaded onto the wharf and into the luggage truck. At 0900 it was time to bid farewell to our fellow travellers and board the bus which took us away from the The Spirit of Enderby, our home for the last 8 days.
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" Thank you, Heritage team and Russian Captain and crew - I really loved this trip, every minute. The islands, the birds, the sealions, the megaherbs, the lectures, the people I met - the whole experience occupies a special place in my memory. Thank you also for slideshow, the log and the list of birds. You did a great job - your enthusiasm for the islands and the wildlife was catchy and your care of us was much appreciated.
" Thank you for your email Jane! We are glad that you enjoyed yourself and would love to have you back onboard one day! "
" Firstly I would like to thank Heritage for another memorable trip. This time we made it to the Snares and what mysterious and memorable islands they are. My last visit to Enderby Island 2 years ago (en route to the Ross Sea) was a very wet and windy affair, this time it was blue skies and light winds,
Light Mantled Sooty Albatross with a chick on the wild Northern cliffs, a NZ Falcon at arms length, fearless Flightless Teal and Hookers Sealions covering Sandy Bay beach with tiny pups
and huge sparring bulls, so much going on. Campbell Island with it's Royal Albatross and fields of Megaherbs can never fail to lift the spirits, these islands are very special places indeed.
I'd like to thank the whole crew of the Spirit of Enderby for their friendly professionalism, especially to Alex and Jessie for keeping us so well informed on all aspects of the expedition, to Martin Cawthorne and Tui de Roy for their very informative and entertaining lectures, to Robin and Dave for producing fabulous meals under really difficult sea conditions and last but not least to Dr Konrad Richter for his
attentiveness when I suffered a damaged wrist from a fall on deck. I must also mention the other passengers on Heritage Expeditions, on both trips I have met really interesting people and have made lasting friends, this I think
is due to the small ship with it's 50 passengers of like minded souls, 30 days on a small ship you get to know people quite well!!
I'm sure this won't be my last trip with Heritage, maybe the Bering Sea next time...keep up the good work.
" Hello Cally,
I have been meaning to email you for ages to tell you how much I enjoyed the Forgotten islands expedition 15- 22 December. The whole trip was fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed it......meals were amazing, great cabin and room mates, lectures superb and the zodiac trips and land content were something I will not forget (great displays of megaherbs) If you can please pass on my thanks to the expedition staff, they were so good.