The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent's human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship Spirit of Enderby, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by a passionate and knowledgeable expedition team. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.
The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the 'Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this 'heroic' or 'golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year, but they still occupy the same sites. The seals, which are no longer hunted for food, lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves, and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.
Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey also includes The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell Islands. They break our long journey, but more importantly, they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the powerhouse which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation, 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 1-2. Saturday 11; Sunday 12 January – Invercargill, Bluff and at sea
Noon position: Latitude 46o36’South; Longitude 168o.31’East
Positions and other data are taken from the Deck Log Book.
Air temperature: 14oC. Intermittent sunshine and light rain during day.
Over two days we arrived in New Zealand’s southern most city, Invercargill. Having settled in at the Kelvin Hotel, we enjoyed our last dinner ashore for some time and the opportunity to meet fellow expeditioners. Heritage Expeditions Operation Manager Nathan Russ welcomed us and gave a brief outline for activities next day.
In the morning David, Marcus and Max met us at the hotel where our luggage was checked, cabin numbers noted on labels and the luggage was loaded on a truck for transport to the Spirit of Enderby. David then took us to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, although a few of us had visited here yesterday. Tuatara reptile curator Lindsay Hazley, who had a 23 year old male tuatara named Gunther resting on one arm, provided a very interesting explanation related to the biology of the animal. Henry the oldest Tuatara is estimated to be over 110 years of age and has a vicious bite that could take off a finger. Lindsay informed us that the earliest Tuatara in Invercargill was in the Athenaeum during the 1870’s. The creature was kept in a shower and was found by the cleaning lady who was bitten. This unfortunate creature was then killed and preserved in a glass jar. Working with the Department of Conservation (DoC), Lindsay’s goal is to see the animals released on islands on Fouveaux Strait, but only once the islands are rat-free. Some of us touched Gunther and were surprised how soft the leathery looking skin and spines along the top of his back felt. Most of us then enjoyed a look at the outstanding Roaring Forties exhibit on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. The film was excellent and interesting artefacts associated with the shipwreck and castaway era, farming and World War 2, provided a perfect introduction to some localities we hope to visit.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed an excellent lunch and then boarded a coach for Bluff and the Spirit of Enderby. Our documents were inspected by a security officer who boarded the coach and at the ship, Agnes and other staff showed us to our cabins where we were reunited with our luggage and familiarised ourselves with the ship. At 3.30 we assembled in the lecture room where Rodney welcomed us and introduced staff. Agnes then provided a very useful introduction to various aspects concerning the ship. Rodney followed with a white board demonstration on the two ship alarms (General Emergency and Abandon Ship) along with life jacket use. We left on schedule at 4.30. It was interesting to see the Bosun (Yuri) and crew working at the bow including putting in a case, the ship’s bell. Preparations were now made for the two Pilots to leave the ship. With little effort they boarded the Takitimu 11 which at times as it approached our ship, was surfing on big waves.
Because the sea was a little rough and to make life easier for the chefs, Natalia and her staff, the ship was put in a ‘holding pattern’ by the Shelter Islands off Port Adventure. The practical life boat drill, which by international law must be held within 24 hours, took place at 6.30. We then enjoyed a convivial hour in the Globe Bar and Library followed by a superb dinner, with baked salmon or venison stew, roast vegetables or salad served at 7.30. Course was set at 9pm for the Snares Islands where we hoped to arrive about 7am. To Starboard the coast of Stewart Island was visible through mist and steady rain. This evening some New Zealand Fur Seals were seen and bird life included Cape Petrels; Stewart Island Shags; Sooty Shearwaters and a Royal Albatross. With sea conditions expected to be a little rough, we were advised to retire early in preparation for an interesting morning.
Day 3. Monday 13 January – Snares Islands
Noon position: Latitude 48o20.41’South; Longitude 166o34.30’East
Air temperature: 10.4oC.
The ship rolled and pitched during the night, however most of us managed a few hours sleep. In the morning we woke to a busy sea with white horses and those on the 300 level, being close to the waterline had a good view of the sea and passing sea birds. By 8a.m we were nearing the Snares Islands with Broughton to port and North East Island and its Dampion Rocks to starboard. Through the gap between the two main islands, we could see in the distance the Western Chain consisting of five islands. Steep cliffs were topped by a dense vegetation of Olearia Lyallii or ‘white tree daisy’ and Brachyglottis stewartiae or ‘yellow tree daisy’ with a few patches of grasses. Large numbers of sea birds were wielding around the ship including Sooty Shearwaters, Diving and Cape Petrels, a Giant Petrel, Fairy or Fulmar Prions and Snares Crested Penguins. By now it was clear we would be unable to do a Zodiac cruise and this will be considered on the homeward leg. The Captain again placed the ship in a ‘holding pattern’ which enabled us to enjoy breakfast and rearrange our cabins.
Rodney provided an excellent commentary from the bridge. The Snares Islands were discovered in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton (who had previously sailed with Captain James Cook). He later went on to discover the Chatham Islands. Sealing took place from around 1700-1800 with this activity decimating the population. Fortunately no rodents or other species established themselves. Today the Sooty Shearwater population is now estimated to be up to six million birds; more than all the sea birds combined around the British Isles coast. The birds live in burrows beneath the forest cover with the honeycombed ground hindering foot travel. We had a good view of ‘Penguin Slope’ which has been used by commuting Snares Crested penguins; perhaps for centuries. With the islands predator free, no one is able to land without a permit. There is just a castaway hut and a former Canterbury University hut (now used by DoC) on the Snares. At 10am we rounded Dampion Rocks and set a course of 140 nautical miles for Enderby Island. Sea conditions were then predicted to worsen along with reduced visibility.
After lunch, swells were getting up to around three meters and we had 13 hours to run until Enderby Island. By early afternoon, we were doing 8.8-9 knots and the swell had risen to 5m+ with wind gusting to 60 knots. Many of us lay down as it was becoming difficult to move around the ship. By the end of the afternoon, there was some superficial damage and the bar did not open as usual. Chefs Bruce and Michael did a superb job to ensure we had an evening meal. With the ship rolling and pitching it was far from an easy job, although was helped by a course change for 40 minutes. Margrit was fascinated with the view from the bridge saying the sea had ‘fifty shades of blue and green – I don’t have words to describe it.’ When the ship resumed course towards Enderby Island most of us retreated to our cabins.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 4. Tuesday 14 January – Off Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o.32.5’South; Longitude 166o13.5’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We reached our waypoint at Port Ross around 7am. A 10.4 knot wind was blowing and the sea had a generous coating of white. In places waves were shooting up the cliffs. As the sun came out the dense Southern Rata (Metrosideros umbellata) forest with some trees in flower and Dracophyllum scopoarium (Turpentine tree) looked beautiful in the early morning light. We assembled in the lecture room at 9am for a pre-landing briefing. This covered a number of important topics, all applicable to our landings. Rodney who has been venturing south since 1972, said the voyage from Bluff to the Auckland Islands, was one of the more difficult he had experienced. He then discussed the life jacket to be used for all landings, the tag board system, Zodiac embarking and disembarking procedure (there are five on board) and finally, the all-important quarantine measures. The landing on Enderby Island was postponed until the next day when more favourable winds of around 20-25 knots were forecast. Later in the morning Rodney gave a fascinating insight into the history of the Auckland Islands, as preparation for a visit to the site of Charles Enderby’s Hardwick Settlement (1849-1852) and nearby Terror Cove which was linked to the unsuccessful German Expedition (1874) to observe the Transit of Venus.
Lunch with a fine ravioli and parmesan dish was followed by Zodiac operations, with shuttles to Erebus Cove and Terror Cove. We alighted on a beach with basalt boulders, various species of seaweed, remains of large crabs with carapaces about 7cm across and numerous friendly sand flies. A stream flowing from beneath the Rata forest was stained black from trickling through peat and Samuel and some passengers obtained good photographs. The remains of a stores hut and a more recent boat shed stood nearby. From here we hiked up a board walk through Rata and Dracophyllum, to the lonely cemetery with poignant memorials such as those marking graves for Isabella Younger (died 1850) when just three months old; of Janet Stove (died 1851) when four weeks old, along with John Mahoney(died 1864)from starvation. The small cemetery has a nice picket fence and is surrounded by Dracophyllum and Rata with many trees in flower attracting Bellbirds. One pondered over whether any relatives were alive and knew of the lonely resting place. Returning to the shore, we then walked along the site of the Hardwick settlement road passing a quantity of bricks, perhaps indicating the site of a building or chimney, to inspect the Victoria Tree. The ancient Rata stump still has some of the original inscription carved in 1863. In due course the inscription will be lost and given the condition of the wood, probably little can be done to ensure its survival unless it is removed. It is perhaps better left.
Operating a shuttle system, from here we took a short trip to nearby Terror Cove and alighted on a similar boulder beach with wave-cut notch in the cliff of conglomerate. On a low terrace was the original instrument plinth of brick that once supported scientific instruments used by the German expedition in 1874, along with brick bases for other equipment on a low terrace beside the beach. While there many of us heard a Yellow-eyed Penguin calling. Soon after 5pm we were back aboard the Spirit of Enderby enjoying a convivial hour in the Globe Bar. Our chefs produced an exceptional meal with roast venison or John Dory fish, followed by pavolva with summer berry compote and Chantilly cream. The forecast for the following day was good so we hoped to have a full day on Enderby Island before moving south to Carnley Harbour on Auckland Island.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 5. Wednesday 15 January – Enderby Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o30.46’South; Longitude 166016.85’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 12oC
We had an early start today which began with a wake-up call from Agnes at 6.15. This was followed by breakfast at 6.30, a briefing at 7.30, then lunch making with an excellent selection of fillings at 8.15. The weather did not look promising as we started our day in a persistent drizzle along with a light westerly. However by 9am the landing operation began and as waves broke on the beach at Sandy Bay, we were put ashore. Two huts used by parties which annually record the New Zealand (Hookers) Sea Lion population were on high ground nearby. Rodney outlined the way we would spend the day. The focus was on two walks – one across the island; the other that would take the more agile of us around the end of the island and back to Sandy Bay. We could expect to see perhaps 15 species of birds during our time here.
Simon Childerhouse of Blue Planet Marine, the organisation contracted by DoC, told us what his team would be doing over the next few weeks. About 270 pups have been born here this season to 250 females. This is the lowest tally since the 1980’s with a 50% reduction over the last two years. Males totalled 140-180 with the large dominant ‘beach-masters’ around 12-15 years old.
Participants on the long walk left before us, while the remainder had a leisurely walk along the high ground behind the Sea Lions and viewed their antics. Pups were often congregated in crèches with one gathering estimated to have 50-60 animals. Near the start of the excellent board walk across the island, was a magnificent Southern Rata covered in crimson flowers. Cassinia bushes were also in flower with the leaves emitting a distinctive aroma. About midway along the board walk, a male Southern Royal Albatross was sitting on its nest, a raised mound of soil with vegetation. Ron made it possible for Christine along with her determination, to see the nesting Albatross. Bones of two Albatrosses along with Auckland Islands Shag were also of interest. Rodney told us that there are 60 pairs of Southern Royal Albatross on Enderby Island. Those of us on the island crossing party only were taken for a short walk across the hummocky surface of grass and mega herbs. By walking in a line, an Auckland Island Snipe was flushed by David from grass along with a tame Pipit. By now the yellow Bulbinella rossi had finished flowering but we were treated to a large area of purple Anisotome antipoda. At one stage Rodney said, only two plants remained on the island but since eradication of cattle and rabbits, the mega herbs have rejuvenated. We then waked back to Sandy Bay where time was spent enjoying the Sea Lions.
Those who had walked around the end of the island were treated with some wonderful bird life. Red-crowned Parakeets were seen along with two having yellow in the head plumage, although these were likely to be hybrids. Other species seen included Yellow-eyed Penguins, a juvenile Brown Skua, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, Teal, Dotterels, Snipe, Tui in the Rata forest, Tom Tits, Bellbird and Auckland Island Shags. Near Teal Lake, the remains of a number of Prions probably represented a ‘Skua larder’. On the rocks near Derry Castle Reef 20-30 New Zealand Fur Seals were seen. The plant life was also of great interest. Jane identified four flowering ground orchids which included Thelymitra; Chiloglottis and Pasophyllum, along with a Gentian Centiana Iiilum from a summary of plant life compiled by noted botanist, the late Dr David Given. Unfortunately three non-endemic Milk Thistles were recognised. As with those on the shorter walk, the New Zealand Sea Lions were of interest with Brown Skuas (‘angels of death’) hovering as they waited for a young pup to stray from the crèche. Many of us saw the Derry Castle plaque. The original wooden plaque now displayed in the Southland Museum, was replaced by a photometric plaque placed in 1973 and later souvenired. The present plaque made by a monumental mason, was carried to the site a few years ago by Eric Roy (Member of Parliament for Awarua) and placed by Rodney.
All agreed that the day had been a most rewarding experience. When it came time to leave however the timing for boarding the rear of the Zodiacs had to be carefully judged. Although a few gumboots were filled, this did not match Rodney who although encapsulated in his wet/dry immersion suit, was often up to his shoulders as he steadied the Zodiac bow. Later drums of helicopter fuel were taken ashore by Zodiac and with assistance of the shore party were rolled up the beach. The chefs produced another excellent meal and at 9pm Katya began the interesting daily discussion as a list of bird species seen during the voyage was compiled.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 6. Thursday 16 January – Auckland Island
Noon position: Latitude 50o48.80’South; Longitude 160o04’East
Air temperature: 12.1oC
Water temperature: 11oC
About 3am the Spirit of Enderby left Port Ross and by 7 am we were entering Carnley Harbour, which is the caldera of the ancient Carnley volcano. The westerly wind made the sea choppy and we were treated to seeing large numbers of Shearwaters. Although partially cloudy, by 7.30 the sun had lit up the hillsides and vegetation with Rata on the lower slopes turning olive green leading to the yellow-brown of the grasses above. Bands of volcanic rock stood out and one could imagine some of these perhaps with icefalls, during the last glaciation around 10,000 years ago, although there were multiple glaciations prior to this. As we proceeded at eight knots up the harbour toward Tagua Bay, the Captain had his radar going, along with an echo sounder which registered nearly 80 meters of water below and in places a rocky bottom. We then anchored in Tagua Bay off Musgrave Peninsula (the centre of the volcano), opposite Adams Island and the Bosun raised a black ball on the foremast, signifying the vessel was stationary.
From the human history perspective, this is an interesting locality. Historic sites include the remains of the Grafton (1864) along with remains of the rock-walled hut (Epigwaitt the ‘house by the sea’); near the southern end of Coleridge Bay, the site of a castaway hut linked to the Anjou (1905); finger posts for directions to castaway depots; at the head of North Arm, the ‘Erlangen clearing’ where Rata was felled for fuel by crew of the Erlangen (1939) and coast-watcher huts from the Cape Expedition (World War 2).
Rodney called us together in the lecture room at 9am when the plan for the day was outlined. We were fortunate to have good weather as poorer conditions were expected on the 360 nautical mile voyage to Macquarie Island. According to the forecast, winds of about 35 knots from the south-west could be expected. However having a day at Auckland Island meant with favourable conditions, landings at Macquarie Island were more likely.
Two parties went ashore today. Twenty two led by Rodney prepared to bush-bash and wade through tussock and fell fields to the summit of Hill 360(m). This was the first group to depart and left at 10am. The hill was surveyed by coast watchers during World War 2 and Rodney mentioned that some years ago, he had found the original chain. The other group took the less strenuous option, by hiking from the landing place to visit the remains of the coast-watchers No.2 station; the first of three to be abandoned, then to continue to the restored look-out a short distance higher up. From here is a commanding view to the entrance of Carnley Harbour.
About noon the weather deteriorated with wind gusting to 15-20 knots (later 30 knots) along with rain and spells of light hail. Those who visited the coast watcher huts arrived back at 1pm having enjoyed their time ashore and settled into excellent salad and nachos for lunch. The huts they found very interesting along with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets, Bell birds, also a green-flowering orchid Thelymitra longifolia and a club moss Lycopodium varium. No sightings were made of introduced pests such as mice, cats or pigs.
The hill climbing party also had a rewarding trip. It took around four hours to reach their objective with five nesting Gibson’s Wandering Albatross seen at the top. On the initial climb through bush and without a track, they were rewarded with sightings of Yellow-crowned Parakeets. One participant reported that on this part of the climb “one had to be a contortionist, as you clambered over and under bush”. However on reaching the tussock the going was no easier with Stephen saying “because of the peat beneath the tussock, it was a challenge to find suitable foot placement”. Once past the tussock, low scrub was encountered and on arrival at the top, the excellent views included the site where the Erlangen crew cleared Rata forest. In addition to encountering nesting albatross this group also saw Yellow-crowned Parakeets and experienced excellent botany with plants including the following also identified by Jane - Damnamenia; Helichrysum bellidioides; Bulbinnela rossi; Astelia subulata along with orchids Lyperanthus antarcticus, Aporostylis bifola and Corybas spec. It only took two hours to descend and all were back on the ship by 4pm.
This evening our chefs provided a superb meal starting with an entreè of antipasto which included fresh salmon, mussels, prawns, cheese, olives and sundried tomato. For the main course we had the choice of pork belly or lamb rack both of which were superb. The desert was a coconut pancetta with fruit compote. Katya held the species list meeting then everyone retired to prepare themselves for possibly two days of rough seas.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 7. Friday 17 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 51o13.226 South; Longitude 165o49.090 East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 11oC
When Agnes gave us a wake-up call at 6.15am most of us had enjoyed a good rest. We arose to a bleak day with rain and the sun trying valiantly to shine through. The anchor was lifted at 7 and by 8am with breakfast over we were heading away from Carnley Harbour. Once we had left the shelter of Adams Island the sea became very rough and as Rodney predicted, this worsened as we made our way towards Macquarie, a journey of 360 nautical miles. By mid-morning we were experiencing 7-8m high waves which often broke over the bow and bridge windows. The horizon came and went as the Spirit of Enderby handled the viridian coloured sea at 7 knots in a 20-35 knot south-westerly. It was worth being on the bridge to see the magnificent albatrosses, one of which a large Wanderer which stayed around the ship, as it took advantage of the air currents to glide with its wing tips gently brushing the surface. The galley provided a fine butter chicken on rice dish along with excellent fresh salad for lunch which was a great feat under the circumstances. Although many preferred to stay in the cabins, others spent some time on the bridge and about 1pm a pod of dolphins was sighted. By 7p.m we were over 4000m of water. The evening meal at 7.30 featured diced beef cooked with a splash of Moa Noir (a dark beer) along with a good serving of fresh broccoli, baby carrots and peas, rounding off the day perfectly. In his evening announcement, Rodney said he expected the wind to turn to the south about midnight, die down and then turn to a north or nor-west blowing 20 knots.
Day 8. Saturday 18 January – en-route to Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o 13.207 South; Longitude 161o 29.9 East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 10oC. Fog, with occasional light rain.
We had a good rest and in the morning arose to a moderately calm sea below a blanket of cloud with a lone Wanderer keeping us company. With better conditions the ship was doing 11.2 knots. At 8am we were over the Emerald Basin with a water depth of 3700-4000 meters. Our position was Latitude 53o03.857’S Longitude 162o 17.969’E. The origin of the name is a little obscure. A ship named the Emerald reported what may have been a green iceberg in 1821 and the ‘island’ was so-named. The present name Emerald Basin probably followed although who named the locality has not been established. We had 146 nautical miles to go and Rodney announced, we should reach Macquarie Island at 9 pm (7pm local ie Australian time) and that the latest ice map indicated clear water which should benefit our entry to the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound. Another vessel, Kerry Packer’s Arctic P from Hobart had just left Macquarie and would be ahead of us. That vessel carries 12 passengers and has a crew of 25.
There was not a lot of bird life around, apart from the Wandering Albatross which was still with us. Other bird life up until that point had included (in addition to several species of albatross), Northern Giant, Cape (Pintado), White-headed, White-chinned and Mottled Petrels. Some Hourglass Dolphins were also seen off the bow. We were still over the Emerald Plateau with water about 4000 m deep and the ship rolling to 10 degrees. At noon we had 104.4 miles to go. After some of Bruce’s excellent bacon and egg pie for lunch, the afternoon was passed quietly. A few albatrosses and petrels were about and about five more Hourglass Dolphins were sighted. At 4.30 Rodney gave an excellent lecture on Macquarie Island. This introduction covered the history, geology (the island sits on the Australian/Pacific plate boundary), wildlife, pest eradication and the landings we hoped to do over the next few days. Fortunate to have Jane with us, we received further information on the origin of the iron and magnesium rich (ultramafic) rocks that had formed about six kilometres under the Earth’s mantle and have been pushed up.
Given the forecast, it was predicted that the wind on arrival should be from the west and 30-35 knots. The Spirit of Enderby would be on the east side of the north-south orientated island and we should stand a good chance of having perhaps two landings at the isthmus where the Australian station is located and further south at Sandy Bay. After a convivial gathering in the bar/library we sat down to an excellent meal after which we joined Katya for discussion of bird and mammal sightings today.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 9. Sunday 19 January – Macquarie Island
Noon position: Latitude 54o33.97’South; Longitude 158o55.72 East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 8oC
The ship arrived off Australia’s Macquarie Island at 30 minutes after midnight and at 8am we were positioned roughly mid-way down the island and opposite Mt. Law, one of several high points on the Macquarie Island Plateau. The westerly blowing as predicted, was whipping over the top and from around the southern end of the island, creating a choppy sea with white caps. A beautiful Light-mantled Sooty albatross was cruising around the ship. The vessel now moved back to Buckles Bay. By 10am there were spells of rain, the sea was still rough and in places spray was shooting up rock faces. We assembled in the lecture room for a briefing and met four staff who had been brought to the ship from the ANARE Station. They were Chris Howard a Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service ranger; Vicki Heinrich from the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne; Josh Tomasetti the station plumber and John Hodgson the station electrician.
By 11am and in better sea conditions, the first Zodiac was heading for Sandy Bay. This was a wet landing and Rodney again stood waist high as he helped the driver manoeuvre the Zodiac for stern disembarking. For three hours we enjoyed the groups of Elephant Seals with many sparring and attempting to bite, while others were content to lie on the beach and put up with others sprawled on top of them. There were the usual ‘trouble makers’ initiating sparring matches. We all enjoyed the experience of viewing the large Royal Penguin colony with 11-14,000 breeding pairs. Some of the birds had young chicks and the noise and smell was extraordinary, as birds entered the territory of others during their commuting to or back from the narrow stream that took them to the beach. The other large colony further north along the beach, was inhabited by many King Penguins. Not a lot of ground space here either and they too were maintaining a continual noise. A few chicks were visible with others or under the brood flap of vascularised tissue that folded down and over the young or un-hatched eggs. The birds did not take too kindly to an Elephant Seal moving through the colony to the water’s edge as we watched. A hut once used for field work with its roof covered in grass, appeared to be built from an early aircraft crate.
Back on board, Bruce and Michael had a wonderful selection of pizzas ready for our lunch. This set us right for the next part of our visit at Macquarie Island. At 3.30 we had a briefing in readiness for our landing at Buckles Bay. Again it was a wet landing requiring sliding over the rear of the Zodiac tubes and onto submerged, smooth rocks. The Macquarie staff met us at the landing place and kindly gave up a few more hours on their day off. In two groups we were taken for a walk along the western shore of the isthmus, where we saw Gentoo penguins, nesting Cormorants and Antarctic terns. Elephant Seals slumbering in clumps of tussock took exception to the intruders, snorting or grunting as we walked past. Many of us now know what an Elephant seal’s breath is like! We very much enjoyed our visit to the station and the hospitality extended to us. We were treated to scones with cream and jam, along with a cup of tea or coffee. Most of us had our passports stamped and the postmaster took delivery of our post cards. On the way back to the landing there was an opportunity to see some of Joseph Hatch’s steam digesters with excellent photographic displays mounted around the viewing platform.
When we reluctantly began our departure for the ship the wind had fortunately turned to the north and the sea was much calmer. Back on board we enjoyed a hot shower and a superb dinner with a choice of fish or rump of lamb. By 9pm we were passing the large King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay where two steam digesters could be seen in the middle of the colony. As Rodney said in his lecture, the digesters were set up to process the penguins for their oil, however the day will come when they have corroded away and the penguins will again be in charge. By 10pm we were passing Hurd Point and on the next stage of our expedition that would see us traverse the Southern Ocean to the Ross Sea. As we left Macquarie Island, a pair of Orca was sighted along with a large number (perhaps 100+) of Antarctic Prions. Conditions now became a little rough again and following the daily discussion on bird sightings, most of us decided to have an early night to dwell on our marvellous time on Macquarie Island.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 10. Monday 20 January – the Southern Ocean en-route to the Ross Sea.
New Zealand’s Scott Base 56 years old today
Noon position: Latitude 56o48.38’South; Longitude 161o39.121’East
Air temperature: 11oC
Water temperature: 5oC
The ship rolled occasionally during the night and in the morning we got up to a nice sunny day with scattered cloud. We were now on the Southern Ocean, en-route to the Ross Sea and Antarctica.
During the morning we made steady progress at 11.5 knots over water nearly 3700m deep. By noon we were in the region of the Antarctic Convergence (a temperature and salinity boundary of the Southern Ocean) about 90 nautical miles south of Macquarie. As the sea temperature falls 4-6oC (winter 1-3oC) to 2-3oC we expected to observe more oceanic birds owing to the upwelling of nutrients, then as we moved further south new species would appear. Before lunch we were shown a video relating to the pest eradication programme on Macquarie Island. This was an excellent production and complimentary copies were made available. Later Samuel delivered a lecture entitled ‘Seabirds of the Southern Ocean’. The well-structured pesentation was excellent and as a result we felt better informed about the various species of albatrosses, petrels, prions and other birds that we had already encountered, or would become familiar with during the expedition.
During the afternoon we enjoyed another excellent lecture in natural history with Katya’s introduction to ‘Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean’. This began with the origin of whales from land animals, followed by the various groups and different species. It was surprising to see what a wide variety we were likely to encounter. This lecture was followed thirty minutes later by the first of David’s lectures on the exploration of Antarctica. This focused on Sir Douglas Mawson and his first expedition to the establishment of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) including the founding on the continent of Mawson Station, later followed by Davis and Casey. Australia now claims 47% of the Antarctic continent. The sea was fairly calm with just an occasional roll. Of interest was the sighting of several King and Royal Penguins at Latitude 57o41’S 162o53.64E; a long way from home although Katya said this is not unusual for these penguins. After the excellent evening meal, the bird sightings were discussed and most people had an early night.
Day 11. Tuesday 21 January – the Southern Ocean.
Crossed 60o South and entered region of the Antarctic Treaty
Noon position: Latitude 60o22.943’South; Longitude 166o46.905’ East
Air temperature: 6oC
Water temperature: 5oC
We had a relatively calm sea during the night as we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, still evident in the morning with a little fog indicating the change in water temperature. At 8am we were at 59o 47.513S and 165o53.608E, and the fog was beginning to lift. A 25 knot south-easterly was blowing and the temperature outside was 2.8oC. Inside the ship we had a comfortable 22-23oC. There was not much colour to the sea today, which was a pale grey and only a Campbell Island Albatross along with a few Prions were about. At 8.28am we crossed our waypoint Latitude 60oS, a significant point as we were then in the region of the Antarctic Treaty. We were however still over deep water of about 4600m and during the day expected to pass over seamounts (mountains on the sea floor) with some rising to 201m, 264m etc below sea level.
To the south at Latitude 66o55’South Longitude 163o20’ East are the five Balleny Islands. Of volcanic origin and glaciated, these islands are north-north-west of Cape Adare. They were discovered in February 1839 by John Balleny commander of the vessel Eliza Scott and named in his honour by Captain Beaufort, Hydrographer to the Admiralty. With the most recent ice map (19 January) indicating little or no ice in the Ross Sea, Rodney planned to turn south at 165o East then continue southward at 175o with about 300 nautical miles to run before we reached McMurdo Sound.
Before lunch Part One of ‘The Last Place on Earth’, a film based on Roland Huntford’s book, also entitled ‘Scott and Amundsen’, was screened. From the bridge several albatrosses including Campbells, Grey-headed and Southern Royal were seen along with Shearwaters, Mottled and Black petrels. The best sightings of the day were three pods of 20-30 black and white Southern Right Whale Dolphins. These animals are distinguished by having no dorsal fin, a streamlined body and short beak. A pod of ten Pilot whales were also seen to starboard. During the afternoon our fine new blue Antarctic jackets were issued and these will no doubt feature in many photographs.
In the early evening Katya gave a further informative lecture on marine mammals. On this occasion the subject was the Pinnipeds (Seals) when the members of the three families were described - True Seals or Phocids; Eared Seals or Otariids and the Walruses. The Weddell, Crab eater and Leopard Seals were thought likely to make an appearance on our voyage and if we were lucky we could also see the Ross Seal. With the sea getting up from various directions, the captain turned the ship a few degrees to port to enable us to enjoy our evening meal of rib-eye steak or seared peppered fillet of salmon. At 9pm the ship moved back 10o to starboard. With a low pressure system hovering above the Southern Ocean, we took the hint from Rodney to make sure all was secured in the cabin and as usual, to have ‘one hand for the ship and one for your-self’. After a relaxing and interesting day we retired for the night.
Day 12. Wedesday 22 January – First icebergs and ice floes;
Denise’s birthday celebrated
Noon position: Latitude 63o 49’South; Longitude 172o 05’ East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 2.5oC
We had a very comfortable night and arose to a calm sea, with a patch of sunlight emerging from cloud to shimmer on the Southern Ocean. We had been crossing the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge with shallower water depths, including the sea-mounts mentioned yesterday. At 5.20 am Valeriy the Officer on Watch, picked up an iceberg on the radar. This was soon visible as two towers and a beautiful deep blue band above the water-line, eight nautical miles to starboard. The first passenger to see the berg was Tim and Margrit, who was also on the bridge, was able to obtain a nice photograph. Last year, the first iceberg was sighted on 17 January at Latitude 62034.35’E Longitude 172o41.2’ E. On the second voyage the first iceberg was sighted on 16 February at Latitude 62o 41.2’ South and 169o 29.05’East. At 8am we were over 1370m of water and at Latitude 63o09.036’S Longitude 171o15.989’E. A number of Shearwaters and a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross were seen. This morning our day began with Bruce’s excellent pancakes, then Part 2 of the ‘Last Place on Earth’ was screened. By 11 am further icebergs were visible from the bridge and a pod of 10-12 blowing Orca were also sighted off the stern.
Samuel started the lectures for the day, telling us all about Sir James Clark Ross. This was a very appropriate topic, since we would soon be entering the Ross Sea first navigated by Ross in 1841. We received an excellent background to Ross’s Antarctic expedition by way of his early Arctic journeys and finally after Antarctica, participation in the search for Sir John Franklin. Ross’s two 32m naval ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror used by Franklin have never been found, although remains of his men along with equipment were.
By noon some of the crew reported seeing more Orca as we sailed under sunny skies. At 1.30 two icebergs were still visible at a distance and for those with good lenses, they provided an opportunity for further photography. The afternoon programme included a lecture and briefing by Rodney. This focused on the present ice situation and our route south; the Antarctic Treaty System and its governance; IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators) obligations; along with what he hoped to achieve during our visit to the Ross Sea region. This was followed by the excellent documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ on the tooth fishing industry and the need for a marine reserve to be established.
During the afternoon three large Rorquals and ten Orca were seen and later a large male Sperm Whale accompanied by two other whales, was blowing as it moved along the surface. By late afternoon the weather was still fine with a little scattered cloud over the calm blue sea and we had good views of a few ice floes along with three large tabular icebergs. We passed a large berg to port, with a cave which had the most beautiful deep Prussian blue colour. The bar opened later than usual as the iceberg had precedence, and at dinner we celebrated Denise’s birthday, followed by the regular species list discussion which covered the last two days. By 11pm a superb sunset unfolded and together with a bright half- moon off the end of an iceberg, this presented a magnificent sight for the few people up and about.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 13. Thursday 23 January - Antarctic Circle 66o33’ S
Noon position: Latitude 68o02.514 South; Longitude 175o50.695’East
Air temperature: 5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
At 3am the crew sighted 10 Orcas and we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 03.43. It was appropriate that last evening the first Snow Petrels were sighted along with three Minke Whales. The temperature fell to -10C over night and in the morning the bright half-moon was high in the sky. This was a classic beautiful still Antarctic morning, with the sun out and a gentle swell perhaps due to a depression further south. The swell caused scattered ice floes and bergy bits, to rise and fall as if to music from an unseen orchestra. Ahead was a large ice berg tilted as if on the verge of capsizing.
Part 3 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and then we headed outside to view another large tabular berg with its upper surface harbouring numerous snow-filled crevasses to port. By now the floes had left us although we still had Snow Petrels along with the occasional Antarctic Petrel about the ship. Rodney advised that we hoped to be off Cape Adare at 8am in the morning. At 11.30 and in our newly issued jackets, we assembled on the bow for a special ceremony to commemorate crossing the Antarctic Circle. There was even a ‘hybrid Emperor Penguin’ present, although while the head was obscured, the body profile tended to give it away! Rodney dispensed a mug of mulled wine for each of us then read the following.
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion-very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So on this occasion we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each one of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way, but giving us courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hillary and others, who pioneered new routes south of the Circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it responsibility - a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the Circle, I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin - as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigours of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward and receive the Mark of the Penguin.”
The Mark of the Penguin was then bestowed by Agnes. Ron then gave a moving tribute to his wife Christine who five years ago suffered an accident when scuba diving and against the odds, has proved she had the courage to bounce back and achieve a life-long dream of visiting Antarctica. The ceremony now over, some of us lingered on deck to enjoy the freshness of the weather with a 10 knot south-east blowing, before retreating inside. We then continued on our southerly course.
At 3pm David presented his lecture on the Southern Cross Expedition (1899-1900). This was the first expedition to winter-over on the Antarctic continent. Although a complex character, Borchgrevink had a team of competent scientists that left a remarkable record of observations. That ‘First Antarctic Winter’ the beautifully presented diary of Louis Bernacchi was available from the Sea Shop on board and makes compelling reading. The lecture was followed by the excellent documentary on the Adelie Penguin entitled ‘Icebird’ and a further two Minke Whales were seen at 3.45 pm. The bar opened earlier than usual and the evening meal with an entree of excellent prawns, a main of roast beef or Gurnard fish followed by a delightful desert was enjoyed by all. The bird list only contained a few species after which we prepared for a possible landing in the morning.
Day 14. Friday 24 January - Cape Adare, Robertson Bay, Possession Island
119 years ago today a landing was made on Ridley Beach (24 Jan.1895) from the ship Antarctic, during Henryk Bull’s whaling expedition
Noon position: Latitude 71o15.632’South; Longitude 170o17.427’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 0oC
We made an early start this morning in anticipation of a landing on Ridley Beach at Cape Adare. Cape Adare on the northern tip of the Adare Peninsula was named by Sir James Clark Ross for his friend Viscount Adare MP for Glamorganshire, Wales. We awoke to a slightly rough sea from a stiff westerly and were soon passing through scattered areas of brash ice, bergy-bits and floes with occasional Adelie Penguins. By 6.30 am the sun was breaking through and the supply vessel Italica en-route to Italy’s Mario Zuchelli Station was briefly sighted. An hour later peaks of the Transantarctic Mountains were sighted with between peaks, great glaciers descending below cloud. As we neared the Adare Peninsula we could see it was capped by a ‘whale-back’ cumulus cloud and Rodney drew our attention to many prominent landmarks beginning with Cape McCormick in the south along with the Downshire Cliffs of reddish brown volcanic rock. We also had an excellent view of dramatic Mt. Herschel(3335m) near the Hallett Peninsula, first climbed by the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition on 27 October 1967. The mountain was named by Ross after John F W Herschel the noted English astronomer.
Soon after rounding Cape Adare, we entered Robertson Bay in 40-50m water. It was a beautiful sunny morning, the westerly had dropped and around us were nearly 50 icebergs of various sizes, many of which were along the coast and further north. On floes Adelie Penguins were also enjoying the outstanding Antarctic morning. As one floe passed and the obligatory penguin photo was taken, a passenger announced “Put there by the tourism board”. Great photographs were also captured of a hovering South Polar Skua. As the cloud base lifted great peaks on the Admiralty Range manifested themselves in all their glory. Mt Minto (4165m) named by Ross after Earl Minto First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, and with Mt Adam (4009) named after a senior Naval Lord to the right, both peaks were prominent against the pale blue sky. Mt Minto was first climbed by an Australian expedition led by mountaineer/geologist and prominent Antarctic personality, Greg Mortimer on 18 February 1988. Other peaks of interest included Mt Sabine (3718m). Unfortunately ice had built up from the westerly along the north and south shores of Ridley Beach, preventing a Zodiac landing. However Rodney was able to point out to us the historic huts on the edge of the large Adelie Penguin colony, along with the location of Nicolai Hanson’s grave which he and David had visited on various occasions. Sarah, Samuel, Dr Eric and others were able to obtain excellent photographs of the huts, which we hoped to be able to visit on our return north.
Many on deck were interested in the blue ice within small caves of a berg. The reason for the colour can be explained as follows. Firstly, snow appears white because air trapped between ice crystals making up the snow scatters, reflecting all wave lengths of sunlight back into our eyes. This is seen by us as white however, compacted glacial ice from which many icebergs are derived, retaining small ice bubbles which scatter light allowing the penetration of sunlight in particular, deep into the ice. Ice crystals absorb six times as much light as the red end of the spectrum as at the blue end. Since the ice absorbs most of the red light, only the blue end of the spectrum is reflected back at us to see. The best viewing is normally very old multi-year ice, although under certain conditions including with no sunlight present, the observer can be rewarded.
We left Robertson Bay and rounded Cape Adare at 11.40 and continued southwards off the Adare Peninsula, towards the Possession Islands where a message post was placed by Henryk Bull’s expedition 24 January 1895. As we progressed a belt of pack ice could be seen to the west. Late in the afternoon Rodney called us together for a briefing when he discussed the possibility of making a landing on historic Possession Island with its large colony of Adelie Penguins. There is some doubt as to which is Possession Island and which is Foyn; as charts vary. By 6pm two Zodiacs driven by Samuel and Katya, were shuttling us to a boulder beach on Possession Island. We had an interesting wet landing on the rounded shingle cobbles that rolled beneath our feet and on departure one of us had a rather unusual way of boarding the Zodiac. This was a most interesting landing and gave an opportunity to observe and photograph penguins along with their chicks at various stages of development and to enjoy the interesting volcanic islands and landscape. Cast high up on a beach ridge of the spit, was a wrecked wooden US landing craft still with its engine. This was lost from USS Edisto during a storm in the 1960’s and was rediscovered by Rodney in 1995.
Back on board we had a most convivial time in the Globe Bar, before enjoying a sumptuous dinner. The chefs really did us proud at a later hour, with seafood chowder, venison on rice/pork belly followed by a gorgeous desert with Black Doris plums, crumble and ice cream. The reading of the bird list was postponed, however there was some discussion over dinner at the non-appearance of the Southern Fulmar. Very few were seen last season. Late in the evening HMNZS Otago on fishery patrol was sighted. Although the early hours of the morning were particularly beautiful, most of us having enjoyed a special day turned straight after dinner.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 15. Saturday 25 January - Ross Sea – Terra Nova Bay – Inexpressible Island
Noon position: Latitude 74o06’ South; Longitude 169o 01’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Before breakfast (with eggs benedict made by Trudy) the Spirit of Enderby was passing volcanic Coulman Island. This large island was named by Ross in 1841, for his father-in-law Thomas Coulman. In 1902 Scott at the beginning of his National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition, left a message post for the relief ships the following summer. The ice-capped island is three miles (4.8km) long and the highest point is 1998m (6555ft) while at the northern end is a point at 640m. A beautiful icefall was seen near Cape Anne at the southern end and talus cones had formed below steep couloirs. A large tabular berg perhaps 30 metres high, gave an approximation for the height of the island above.
We were passing over water 340 metres deep, the sea was very calm and two Minke Whales were seen. There was extensive brash ice with patches of water having an oily appearance in some places. To the west in Wood Bay lay extensive pack ice. We had some 120 nautical miles to run before we entered Terra Nova Bay later in the day. At 10am Part 5 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ was screened and Samuel followed this with a lecture entitled ‘Sea Ice – the eighth continent’. The lecture was well illustrated with easy to follow explanations which in addition to the present situation in both the Arctic and Antarctic, also covered such aspects as the importance of sea ice to indigenous peoples and wild life. By 2pm we were moving over a calm sea, a pale grey colour with reflection from the overlying cloud layer. To the west the coast and mountains were very bright and we could make out the beautiful volcanic cone of Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross after the British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. The volcano is not active though there are areas of warm ground along with fumeroles (chimneys of ice) near the summit. A long tongue of land extending to the entrance of Wood Bay terminates at Cape Washington.
During the afternoon many of us worked on our photographic collections or read in the excellent library. By 2pm Mt Melbourne (2733m) named by Ross for then British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, became more prominent along with Cape Washington(275m)named for Captain Washington R.N., Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (1836-1840). Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard seals were also spotted. At 4.30 David gave the first of his two lectures on Scott’s expeditions. Today’s lecture focused on the National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904 with the ship SY Discovery, led by Commander R.F.Scott RN. The lecture emphasised the extent of science and geographical discovery achieved, including discovery of the Polar Plateau; the first Dry Valley, the Emperor Penguin colony at Cape Crozier and the farthest south journey at the time, to Latitude 82o11’South.
The weather outside was beautiful when Rodney called us for a briefing in preparation for a landing at Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay. The anchors were lowered and our position was latitude 74o90.759’ South Longitude 163o45.8’ East. The landing got underway at 9.30pm and was a dry landing from the Zodiac in a small cove with large granite boulders we could step directly onto. From here we had about an 800m walk to the site of one of the most historic locations associated with Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) indeed part of the ‘heroic-era’ of Antarctic exploration(1998-1917). Here following the winter spent at Cape Adare in 1911, the six-man Northern Party led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell RN, was forced in 1912 to excavate a cave in the ice as an emergency shelter when the Terra Nova was unable to collect them because of pack ice. After negotiating a way through granite erratic boulders left by retreating ice, we walked along the edge of an inlet where Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals were seen. The rocks were of great interest and soon we arrived at the site of the ice cave which ablated away a few years ago. At least ten seal skeletons with skulls cracked where they were killed, an Emperor Penguin with parts of skin and some plumage and a rusty provision tin (perhaps Hunter’s oatmeal) were poignant reminders of some of the privations the Northern Party suffered when incarcerated for nearly 200 days. In the spring the men then sledged down the coast and arrived at Cape Evans. Before the end of summer two members of the party took part in the second ascent of Mt. Erebus. To cap the evening off, many of our party returned via the hill nearby from which a great view was enjoyed of the Priestley Glacier named for Sir Raymond Priestley geologist with Shackleton’s 1907-1909 expedition and of the Northern Party. Many had photographs taken with the midnight sun. Although it was a very late night, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the historic site.
Day 16. Sunday 26 January - Australia Day
Terra Nova Bay – Gondwana Station; Ross Sea – Drygalski Ice Tongue
En-route to McMurdo Sound
Noon position: Latitude 74o42.415’ South; Longitude 164o 20.69’ East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 2.4oC
During the night the Spirit of Enderby relocated to Gerlache Inlet. The day began with a 7.30 am breakfast where Eleanor and Robyn proudly displayed a tee-shirt with Australia’s flag, along with another on a stick in a glass, as they enjoyed vegemite (from a tube) on toast. Later several of us sang Waltzing Matilda. Breakfast was followed by a briefing for a landing in Terra Nova Bay. By 9am we were ready to begin our next outing which would also see us make a landing on the Antarctic continent. Nearby was the Korean supply ship BBC Danube and along the side BBC Chartering. The ship registered in St. John had a Russian crew.
We were soon enjoying the chance to photograph several Weddell Seals beside the beach and many of us walked up the hill to view Germanys summer only Gondwana Station. This was a tidy complex first established in the 1970’s with the initial hut on metal poles and beside the hut, containers and the main station building. A meteorological screen was nearby. An easy walk over gently elevated ground of granite and gneiss rocks and finer material, all products of freeze thaw weathering processes, provided an opportunity to photograph two Emperor Penguins. Although not with the bright colouration about the head, they were nevertheless still attractive and kindly posed for the many photographers – what would we do without digital cameras? We continued to the top and over a ridge from which nesting Skuas showed us their resentment at our intrusion. We then had an excellent albeit slightly distant view, of South Korea’s fine new Jang Bo Jo Station. This was a large complex and this year will have a winter-over party of 40. Sadly the quiet we had been enjoying was shattered when a Korean helicopter flew overhead to the ship. There was certainly much to see, including a rich array of plant life with red, yellow and grey lichens, mosses and algae requiring careful walking to avoid damaging the plants.
By 11am it was time to depart and after photographing a second Emperor Penguin, we made our way to the landing place. On the ride back to the Spirit of Enderby, a lone Adelie Penguin was seen sitting midway up the steep side of an iceberg. Some of the bergs were the most beautiful light turquoise, with one near the Italian Station, a deep ultramarine indicating that is was comprised of very old ice.The landing was certainly a highlight on our expedition as there was something of interest for everyone. It was also good to have a chance for a walk over the interesting natural landscape. Christine too was able to land and enjoy seeing the Weddell Seals, the nearby German station, the interesting geology and numerous icebergs from her wheelchair. As it was Australia Day, Richard who viewed from a distance in a look-a-like 1920’s balaclava pretended to be Mawson raised their National Flag and proclaimed:
‘I hereby proclaim Buxton Land. All land one kilometre north and south of 74 degrees 42.8 minutes South Latitude, of Terra Nova Bay, together with the Low Water Mark, to Longitude 163 degrees 54 minutes East, is hereby proclaimed Buxton land, this land being ideally suited for a retirement village in 2064, when the mean average water temperature is predicted to rise to 20 degrees Celsius and the air temperature to 25 degrees Celsius owing to Global Warming. God Save the Queen!’
The Captain had us moving southward while we enjoyed a lunch of hot chicken curry with coleslaw and cinnamon doughnuts. We then took an opportunity to have a rest and enjoy our photographs. After lunch we watched episodes 5 and 6 of ‘The Last Place on Earth’. By early afternoon we were well off the coast however looking at the landscape it made one think of the Northern Party and their long sledging trip back to Cape Evans, only to learn of the loss of the Polar party. Because of heavy pack ice built up against the south side of the Drygalski Ice Tongue and a light fall of snow, we only had a partial viewing of this vast floating glacier. The Drygalski Ice Tongue which is nourished by the David Glacier (after Prof. Edgeworth David), features in the South Magnetic Pole journey made during Shackleton’s expedition in 1908-09. After the evening meal when Australia Day was again marked with the National Flag on display, toasts and an excellent bottle of Main Divide pinot noir, the day ended quietly with the bird and mammal list discussion and preparation for our next landings.
Day 17. Monday 27 January – Ross Island – Cape Bird; Cape Royds; Cape Evans
Noon position: Latitude 77o33.586’South; Longitude 166o11.584’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2oC
We arrived in Backdoor Bay on another fine morning with Mt Erebus standing majestically to port. The summit had a cap of cloud which gradually dispersed during the day. Other peaks, including Mt Discovery to the south, were concealed by cloud although the Western Mountains were clear, with viewings of the Ferrar Glacier, the entrance to the Taylor and Wright Dry Valleys along with Marble Point clearly visible. After a briefing the landing began at eight o’clock with us being dropped on the ice-foot at the head of the bay, where Rodney had previously broken off over-hanging ice with a spade. Here we saw four Weddell Seals including a pup from the latest breeding season and a number of Adelie Penguins from the Cape Royds colony; the most southern in Antarctica for this species. We had an enjoyable 25 minute walk over fresh snow and the dark scoria to Antarctica New Zealand’s green field wannigan (hut) where David had spent many enjoyable nights and devoured two Christmas dinners. We assembled at the edge of the ASPA (Antarctic Specially protected Area) and then 40 of us (the maximum allowed in the area at any one time) walked 100 metres down to Shackleton’s hut.
The hut was erected in 1908 and after brushing out feet, seven of us were able to enter the historic hut at a time. Inside David answered our many questions and provided interesting anecdotes acquired during the course of his research. Of particular interest was Shackleton’s signature on a label attached to a crate used as the head board on an improvised bed once occupied by Frank Wild in the area where the book Aurora Australis was printed. A total of 15 men spent the winter here. It was fantastic that Christine was able to visit the hut and by 10.30 having completed our visit including a walk around the edge of the ASPA and the Adelie colony, we were on our way back to the landing place. Of interest here was a young well-developed Weddell Seal born perhaps last October, that was using its teeth in addition to its flippers to enable it to reach the top of the ice where our group was assembled. Michael took a video and one could hear the rasping noise of the seal’s teeth on the ice.
While we were having lunch the captain repositioned the ship eight miles south, passing the Barne Glacier. A further briefing was held followed by our next landing at Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans, named for Lieutenant Edward Evans, second in command. The term ‘hut’ is a perhaps not appropriate for the prefabricated building erected in 1911. To enter this hallowed place from which Captain Scott left for the South Pole destined to never return, was a real privilege. The darkened interior had a unique ambience and unnerving tranquillity. We quietly conducted our own exploration of the many areas linked to Scott and other famous names who occupied the Wardroom, along with his men from the lower ranks who lived on the Mess Deck. Glenda found the place ‘sad but inspiring’; Tony was taken by the ‘magnificent conservation’ while Sherrel considered the hut ‘thought provoking’. Again David answered questions and we found the plan of the interior showing where the 15 officers (including scientists) and 9 men (including two Russians) spent the winter of 1911. For the second winter over, some staff left and new people arrived. Many artefacts such as two anchors from the Ross Sea Party ship Aurora, left on the beach in 1915 and the memorial cross on Wind Vane Hill to Mackintosh, Hayward and Spencer-Smith of the Ross Sea Party were seen and photographed. All too soon it was time to leave. Anchors were raised and we departed on the next stage of our expedition.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 18. Tuesday 28 January – Ross Ice Shelf; Ross Island – Cape Bird; McMurdo Sound ice edge. Chef Bruce’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 77o13.004’South; Longitude 166o24.780’East
Air temperature: 7oC
Water temperature: 2.6oC
At 1.30am Rodney made an announcement that we were approaching the Ross Ice Shelf. The sun low in the sky was very bright however, as we neared Cape Crozier and the vast ice cliff, it was less of an influence and by 2am we were busy taking photographs. The rugged landscape of windswept Cape Crozier was interesting. We glimpsed the location near The Knoll, where Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry- Garrard, built their ‘rock igloo’ during the famous ‘worst journey in the world’ in July 1911. The large Adelie Penguin colony still has a message post from Scott’s Discovery expedition (1901-1904). The vast floating Ross Ice Shelf discovered by Ross in 1841 which is the area of France certainly attracted our attention. At 2am we were positioned at 77o25’S 169o33’E. In winter a series of ‘ice canyons’ provide comparative shelter for Emperor Penguins breeding here on the sea ice. The face of the ice shelf appeared to have been sculpted by a giant artist’s pallet knife while below the 50m high face, wave cut ice was a beautiful turquoise colour. With wave action a sucking and crashing sound could be heard from beneath the over-hanging ice. The average thickness of the ice is 330m or 1100ft - to 700m or 2300ft with about 1/7th below the surface.
By the time we woke for breakfast at 9am the next morning the Spirit of Enderby had moved to Cape Bird and we were positioned just off the research station of Antarctica New Zealand; the second hut on the site. The morning was beautiful when we landed on the beach below the field station. Here two enjoyable hours were spent viewing and photographing Adelie Penguins and seals. Some of us walked up the well-constructed steps to the terrace where we saw the two field huts which sat below an automatic meteorological station with solar panels. We did not enter the ASPA which is an area with significant vegetation. Unfortunately the swell meant the ‘Polar Plunge’ had to be cancelled and in the afternoon the ship departed for the west side of McMurdo Sound. By 3pm we were crossing McMurdo Sound and making our way towards the ice edge. The ice breaker USCGC Polar Star could be seen amidst a cluster of icebergs. An Emperor Penguin was sighted amongst the delicately coloured blue ice floes where the snow had been washed off, while the sea was a deep aquamarine. It was still sunny but the moderate breeze had a bite to it. We really enjoyed our views from the bridge and bow. Beyond the ice floes the Western Mountains, glaciers and Dry Valleys were clearly visible. Jane was very helpful with identification of landforms, familiar from her own geological research in the region. The afternoon passed quickly and we had an excellent meal with baked salmon or Coq au Vin (chicken) as main choices. It was Chef Bruce’s birthday so we made certain he enjoyed it. Michael made a cake decorated with a few candles and ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung in the galley. The ship moved to a new position from which we had a clear view of Observation Hill and the three Meridian wind turbines. At 10 pm we were positioned at 770 48.894’S 165o 28.422E. The meeting to discuss bird and mammal species seen was held, then with a long day expected tomorrow, the evening drew to a close.
Day 19. Wednesday 29 January – Ross Island – Furthest South for Spirit of Enderby
McMurdo Station, Scott Base, Observation Hill, Hut Point – Discovery Hut
Noon position: Latitude 77o 51.145’South; Longitude 166o38.527’East
Air temperature: -5oC
Water temperature: 0oC
As we neared Winter Quarters Bay in McMurdo Sound at 5.30am, many landmarks that feature in Antarctic history came into view. Mt Erebus was largely obscured, however visible in a clockwise direction were:Turtle Rock along with on the Hut Point Peninsula, Danger Slopes, Arrival Heights, Castle Rock, The Gap, Observation Hill and Cape Armitage followed by the McMurdo Ice Shelf which links into the Ross Ice Shelf, White Island, Black Island and Mt Discovery (2680m). Further to the west the low morning sun lit up the snow and the pale brown slopes at the entrance to the Taylor Dry Valley. In the foreground we were confronted with the massive infrastructure comprising the US McMurdo Station established here as AIROPFAC (Air Operating Facility) in 1955 for the USN Operation Deep Freeze One. To port was Hut Point with Scott’s Discovery Hut (1902) and on a nearby promontory Vince’s Cross; both almost lost and dwarfed by the fuel tanker Maersk Peary at the artificial ice pier. This had carried super refined diesel fuel all the way from Greece. On Crater Hill above ‘The Gap’ which leads to New Zealand’s Scott Base, sat the three wind turbines which have contributed to a substantial energy cost saving for the NZ and US programmes.
We anchored in Winter Quarters Bay at 6am in 63 metres of water and prepared for what would be a busy day. Rodney had gone to a considerable effort making arrangements with the cooperation of both McMurdo Station and Scott Base in order that we could visit the bases. The timing was excellent as the fuel tanker had discharged and a container ship was still two days away. We also hoped to climb Observation Hill and visit Discovery Hut. It was a cool -5oC and a brisk wind was ruffling the sea. Following an early breakfast we set off in Zodiacs in small groups 20 minutes apart. The sea ice had gone out and to land we nosed into a bank below the US station, with the permafrost clearly visible at around 30cms depth. Then it was a simple matter to carefully step from the bow onto land. There we were met by Kimbly, an IT specialist, who led us on a walking tour. Our first stop was at the Crary Laboratory (Albert P. Crary 1911-1987) and Eklund Biological Centre (Carl Eklund 1909-1912) opened 4 November 1991. The tour of this impressive building began in the marine science lab where live fish are usually held in the large tanks. Beverly explained the research being undertaken on tooth fish and invertebrates. Various informative posters were viewed along with glass display cabinets housing seal skulls, marine invertebrates and assorted artefacts including a ship’s kerosene lantern ca.1930-1950 found in 15 metres off Hut Point.
Liz then met us at the NSF (National Science Foundation Division Programs) Chalet where we viewed the Felix de Weldon bronze bust of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, beside which were plaques commemorating the US Navy and 50th Anniversary of Operation Deep Freeze. The next stop was Building 155. This contained the Mess hall, some accommodation, offices and ship’s store or PX where a few souvenirs could be obtained. Other accommodation was in three large three-storey blocks with such names as Mammoth Mountain Inn and Hotel California. A short walk led us to the Chapel of the Snows. A peaceful building with beautiful stained glass window and outlook across the Sound, it had the altar allegedly from the former St. Saviours Church at Lyttelton, where Scott had worshiped. In a cabinet was the Erebus chalice thought to be linked (by the Hallmarks) to Scott’s last expedition. This is stored in Christchurch Cathedral each winter then handed over at the start of the new Antarctic season. At one stage David, a friend of the donor Miss Betty Bird of Auckland, had the silver-gilt chalice in his possession. Summer Chaplin Mike Beyer of the Air National Guard, provided a commentary on the use of the Chapel; the most southern in Antarctica.
The final places visited were Mac Ops where Shelley discussed pre-field trip communications; Mac Centre (air traffic control and not a job for everyone), where JT (Jerry) said three flights were due from Christchurch, five were being flown to the South Pole today and ‘texting’ can even be done from the aircraft. At present the Pegasus blue ice runway for wheeled aircraft had over a meter of water on it; hence the use of ski-equipped LC130 Hercules, one of which we saw from Cape Evans and now using the snow ski-way at Williams Field. We also met Sandy the Helo Ops Controller, then moved on to Mac Weather where Arthur with computer screens, carefully explained climate modelling and problems with forecasting in Antarctica. We had a coffee and cookies (it was ‘Mexican Day’) in the coffee shop/wine bar with movie theatre that occupies the oldest building on the station. Finally after a photo shoot at the McMurdo Station sign we said goodbye to the very friendly and hospitable staff. They had given up their time to assist us and extend our knowledge of the United States Antarctic program (USAP). We then returned to the ship for lunch.
During the afternoon our time was largely taken up with a visit to New Zealand’s Scott Base – our furthest south. The same landing was used and here we were taken in two vehicles over the hill to the station three kilometres away. From The Gap we could see the sea ice had largely broken out. A science team was busy observing whales of which pods of to 30 Minkes have been reported and Rodney said a helicopter had observed 100 Orcas. At Scott Base we were welcomed by Julie Patterson, Antarctica New Zealand’s HR officer. Staff then took us on our tour of the complex. This began at the TAE/IGY Hut which for David’s group was led by Anna Ryder one of the base Domestics. The prefabricated building was the first erected at Scott Base and was opened in January 1957. Hut A as it was then known, then contained the mess/lounge, galley, radio-room and the late Sir Edmund Hillary’s bunk (which he had built himself) and office. Later the hut was used for additional accommodation. David who allegedly said “Well it’s great to be home”, briefly explained to his group the history of the building. This is about to be taken over by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and a new Conservation Plan, edited by Conservation Architect Chris Cochran was recently compiled. The base staff, who are expecting supplies from the cargo ship made us very welcome. We enjoyed seeing the gallery of winter-over photographs then, in the salubrious new dining room, we enjoyed afternoon tea cookies baked by Bobby’s, who is the winter-over chef and a former Spirit of Enderby chef. Off this area is the Tatty Flag Bar along with a comfortable lower-level lounge area. Our tour of Scott Base concluded with a visit to the retail shop operated by the Armed Forces Canteen Council Burnham Military Camp, then a photo shoot beside the “pou” (Maori carving) and sign in front of the base.
On leaving the base we were taken up a side road that once led to the former US nuclear power station and from here, were able to join the walking track up the 230m Observation Hill, named during the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904). While here the USCGC icebreaker Polar Star WAGB10 after escorting the tanker out, pulled up by the ice pier. We then returned to the ship which required an interesting boarding of the Zodiacs as the tide had lowered the sea level. At 7pm some of us were able to visit Hut Point. This visit was courtesy of Al (‘Fast Owl’) Fastier from Glenorchy, iconic Programme Manager for Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Ross Sea Conservation Project. Only the hut is within the SPA. Although many artefacts have been packed away to enable essential carpentry to be done, sufficient remained for us to appreciate the history of this historic Australian building. Inside David explained that each of the huts we have seen is quite different. This hut in particular has ‘layers of history with the main focus the Ross Sea Party 1914-1917 and the privations of the men who lived here in the dark days of early winter 1916, including the loss of Mackintosh and Hayward who had been saved and then needlessly gave their lives away. The three post-Discovery expeditions all used the hut as a staging post before heading south.
The bar was a focus for many of us after such an interesting, albeit long day for which we were grateful to Rodney for making it so special. It was fitting that our capable chefs should provide a sumptuous meal of Monkfish or Southland tender rack of lamb. What a day! Christine had not only visited McMurdo Station but also joined us on our visit to Scott Base. An early to bed night followed.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 20. Thursday 30 January – Ross Sea
Noon position: Latitude 75o40.129’South; Longitude 167o57.93’East
Air temperature: -1oC
Water temperature: 2oC
A light fall of snow occurred during the night and in the morning we woke to a gentle rolling of the ship caused by a south-east wind. No birds were about. At 8am we were at 76o17’South 187o84’E. The temperature was -3oC and water at +1oC. To starboard although not visible, was Franklin Island named for Sir John Franklin Governor of Tasmania while to port was the Mawson Glacier leading into the Nordenskjold Ice Tongue that feeds to Oates Piedmont Glacier. Our next rendezvous was Cape Ann at the end of Coulman Island and there a decision would be made on our future movements. During the morning we watched the final episode of ‘The Last Place on Earth’ and then Samuel gave us a lecture about Penguins. This well-illustrated, well-presented presentation gave us a further insight into these birds which have adapted from land animals millions of years ago to a life in the sea. They only live south of the Equator and Samuel presented an insight into the biology of these special birds. By early afternoon it was snowing steadily.
At 3pm David presented his lecture ‘A Charismatic Hero’ which focused on Ernest Shackleton’s second expedition to Antarctica. The achievements were considerable with the first discovery of the South Magnetic Pole and the furthest south yet achieved for the South Geographic Pole. This lecture was followed by a very useful lecture from Katya regarding the ‘World of Contrasts’ which looked at the differences between the Antarctic and the Arctic, supported by excellent illustrations. The bar was rather quiet in the evening and after an excellent dinner, with no bird or mammal discussion following (only a Giant Petrel, a Snow Petrel and some unidentified whales seen) we called it a day. Rodney advised we had 135 miles to go to reach Possession Island which would take about 12 hours and because of ice build-up, it would not be possible to visit Cape Hallett. A decision would be made in the morning about our future plans.
Day 21. Friday 31 January – Ross Sea; Southern Ocean
Philippa announces her engagement
Noon position: Latitude 71o 16.18’South; Longitude 172o02.8’East
Air temperature: 2oC
Water temperature: 0oC
Last evening all the ice went out from in front of Scott Base so Rodney announced that the passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy following a week behind us would be landing from the Zodiac in front of the base. We had a relatively calm night but in the morning woke to a fairly rough sea with thin layers of foaming white and white horses on the larger waves. A 35 knot southerly was pushing us along and we were doing nearly 11 knots. Below a layer of grey cloud, we had a good view of the two island groups making up the Possession Islands; including the beach we landed on below the Adelie Penguin colony. More seabirds were seen than yesterday, mostly giant petrels including a White Morph, several Antarctic Petrels and a Wilson’s Storm Petrel. Doing 10.6 knots, we followed the Downshire Cliffs that were away to port and Rodney advised the ice was moving west and that by necessity we had to continue north. Still we were very grateful for a visit to Robertson Bay from which we viewed Borchgrevink’s huts (1899) along with remnants of the Northern Party Hut (1911) with information supplemented by David’s lectures. We must also not forget that we have already landed on the Antarctic Continent.
At 10am David gave his lecture entitled ‘Triumph and Tragedy – Scott’s ill-fated expedition 1910-1913’. This was a very complex expedition with various field parties, the Northern Party that wintered as well as at Cape Adare, on Inexpressible Island along with reference made to Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian Expedition and Nobu Shirase’s second Japanese Antarctic Expediton. Having visited Cape Evans hut the lecture reminded us of what we had seen along with further information. The next gathering in the lecture room was to view a documentary called ‘Blackfish’. This focused on the Orca and the how corporate business has been reaping rich financial rewards at the expense of keeping and breeding the whale species in a captive situation. In the meantime lives have been lost and it was admitted that little is still known about the biology and other aspects concerning these magnificent creatures. One must ask how many have seen the Orca in the natural habitat.
By this time we were heading for Campbell Island and were looking forward to the natural history of this amazing place, which had already been introduced by Rodney’s lecture. The sea was beautiful when seen in sunbursts which made it look like burnished metal as we made 12.3 knots across the Southern Ocean. Lunch today was in the form of a buffet where we made our own sandwiches while Philippa announced her engagement. At 3pm Jane gave a lecture regarding ‘Antarctic Geology – Field Mapping in South Victoria Land’. In this excellent lecture Jane began with a description of the five main rock units for the region – Basement of metamorphosed sediments (480-650 m.yrs); Beacon sedimentary rocks 200-420 m.yrs); Ferrar Dolerite sills (180 m.yrs); McMurdo volcanics (0-20 m.yrs)and the ‘Cover’ or ‘Drift’ consisting of glacial, freshwater and marine deposits (also 0-20 m.yrs). This was supplemented by wonderful photographs and a description of life in the field.
The final lecture of the day was provided by New Zealand Government Representative Trudie Baker. She gave a good overview of Antarctica New Zealand, its structure and functions along with reference to international collaboration in logistic support and science. To conclude the presentation she showed James Blake’s (son of the late Sir Peter Blake) wonderful videos with time-lapse photography done at Cape Evans and other localities along with a tour of Scott Base which we had enjoyed in person just a few days ago. After a superb dinner Rodney indicated that we had 1034 nautical miles to go before Campbell Island. At a speed of 11.5 knots an ETA was expected on 4 February. During the evening the wind was expected to ease and we hoped it would remain benign for the last few days of our expedition, which was rapidly coming to a close.
Day 22. Saturday 1 February – Southern Ocean – last iceberg
Noon position: Latitude 66o 33.3’South; Longitude 172o37.3’East
Air temperature: 0oC
Water temperature: 1oC
Today the supply vessel for McMurdo Station and Scott Base was scheduled to arrive at the Winter Quarters Bay ice pier.
We enjoyed a comfortable rest during the night and by 8am were well past Cape Adare and at 67o28.209’S 172o35.163’E.
It was a fine day with a small amount of cloud and a few more birds were beginning to appear. This included a large number of Snow Petrels, Campbell Island Albatross, Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross, a few Antarctic Petrels and the first Southern Fulmar although this was debated amongst the group. To port was a large iceberg and several fragments of ice were scattered over the ocean. Mid-morning, Karen managed to capture a photograph of a large gathering of birds on an iceberg. It was decided that these were probably Antarctic Petrels due to the overall brownish colour. There seemed to be thousands of them. This morning David gave his last lecture on the ‘heroic-era’ of exploration. This was one was called ‘Fortunes and Misfortunes’ and focused on the generally little known Ross Sea Party of Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (1914-1916) with most people familiar with the saga of the Endurance. David was co-author of the book Polar Castaways (taken from a BBC Interview with expedition member Alexander Stevens) which was compiled over 30 years. He had the great joy of knowing several expedition members including Richard Richards who became a close friend.
The second lecture before lunch was an outstanding presentation by Samuel regarding his 2005 winter-over at the French Station Dumont d’Urville in Terre Adelie, East Antarctica. Samuel described the long history of France’s involvement in Antarctica, the station and its composition along with the environment. His own work as a naturalist focused on ornithology and the Weddell Seal. He told us about his work environment, special celebrations including France’s National Day, Midwinter Day and of course the long travel including the one week sea voyage from Hobart on L’Astrolabe (nicknamed L’Gastrolabe). The day continued to be beautiful with the deep Prussian blue sea and more birds about, whale sightings and a large number of ice bergs. The latter included a tabular berg calculated to be three and a half to four nautical miles long.
Our blue Antarctic jackets were handed in after lunch following which we viewed part one of the documentary ‘Longitude’. This film focused on John Harrison’s obsession to construct the first chronometer to aid mariners and after 40 years earning him a prize, with Harrison dying soon afterwards. In the early evening Rodney presented a most interesting lecture which he called ‘Pelagic whaling in the Ross Sea 1923/24-1932/33; A decade of shame or ignorance’. This very appropriate lecture began with a biography of the pioneer of whaling, the Norwegian C.A. Larsen. From his research including interviews completed with whaling men while undertaking university study, Rodney gave us a good insight into the overall origins of whaling in Antarctica, but more so that in the Ross Sea. Along with the whaling were political aspects which also involved New Zealand, the setting up of a New Zealand company, the station set up at Kaipipi on Stewart Island and statistics concerning whales taken. The latter included for the Ross Sea a total of 10,487 whales processed by the James Clark Ross and C.A. Larsen in the 1923-33 decade, with perhaps 9161 whales taken by other companies.
By 9pm we were under the influence of an easterly and beginning to roll a little. Our speed was still 11.5 knots with 750 nautical miles to go to Campbell Island. The weather forecast looked good for the next two days although was expected to swing to the west. We had an interesting bird and mammal meeting - two Fin Whales and three Minke were seen today. To finish, the following quotation was found in The Last Explorer, an excellent biography of the great Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins by Simon Nash (Page 314). It is attributed to Apsley Cherry-Garrard of Scott’s last expedition.
‘Exploration is but the physical expression of the intellectual passion”.
Day 23. Sunday 2 February – Southern Ocean – Antarctic Convergence
Bosun Yuri’s birthday
Noon position: Latitude 62o14.485’South; Longitude 171o18.621’East
Air temperature: 4oC
Water temperature: 3oC
We had a comfortable night with the ship rolling a little and got up to a calm sea and 8/8ths of light grey cloud; a spell of light rain; fog coming and going and air temperature at 3oC. We were doing 11.9 knots and at 8am were at 62o57.963S and on our course of 171o28.974E. A few birds seen included numerous Sooty Shearwaters, a Grey-headed Albatross and a prion.
At 10am David gave a lecture entitled ‘Icons of Exploration’. The main focus was the run-up to the formation of the Antarctic Heritage Trust previously discussed by Trudie; work achieved; conservation problems along with the work by Australia’s Mawson’s Huts Foundation and other work by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust; Chile; Argentina and the United States at other sites. By 11am the fog had become quite thick and the sun was trying to break through but not doing very well. At 11.30 the film ‘With Byrd to the Pole’ was screened and focused on the first flight made to the vicinity of the Geographic South Pole by Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd during his United States Antarctic Expedition 1928-1930. The Sea Shop opened at 2.30 then the final episode of ‘Longitude’ was screened. This film was very enjoyable with excellent acting by Jeremy Irons and others. We assembled in the Globe Bar at 6pm for Rodney to hold his Antarctica quiz. This was a lot of fun and was won by a group scoring 29 our of a possible32. A great achievement which netted them two bottles of wine. There was no team leader and as Andrew said “we were very egalitarian - it was all for one and everyone to himself”! Following dinner and the bird and mammal discussion most retired early as Rodney predicted the ship may roll in the night.
Day 24. Monday 3 February – Southern Ocean
Noon position: Latitude 57o48’South; Longitude170o16’East
Air temperature: 8oC
Water temperature: 7oC
Very few of us had a comfortable night. With a westerly air flow, the ship rolled, pitched and we surfaced to a grey morning on a rough sea. Some of us braved breakfast, however most then retired to the bunk and then resurfaced for a light lunch. By early afternoon the sea had begun to calm, although this did not necessarily mean we had a good afternoon. Many of us continued to catch up with sleep, looked at our photographs and read or played cards in the library. The calmer sea provided an opportunity to sort luggage in preparation for our landing on Campbell Island and disembarkation on Saturday. Time had moved quickly and it did not seem like nearly a month since we departed Bluff. We were however making good progress at just over 11 knots and passing over the South-west Pacific Basin with water depths approaching 5304 metres. The day passed quietly and at 8.45pm we had a mere 216 nautical miles to go before our arrival at Campbell Island. By now the wind had picked up from the north although Rodney expected it to swing to the west. The final gathering of the day was to discuss the species sightings where Katya refused to accept a change of name from Grey-headed Albatross to Pensioner Albatross and similarly to accept a new species named after its finder Albert Ross. We then prepared for a restless night at sea.
Day 25. Tuesday 4 February – Southern Ocean – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 53o’50.897’South; Longitude 169o30.280’East
Air temperature: 10oC
Water temperature: 8oC
Occasional light rain earlier
Many of us had an uncomfortable night and at 7.40am the Spirit of Enderby was at 54o28’ south 169o37’E with our expected arrival at Campbell Island around 7.30 in the evening. A small pod of perhaps three Long-finned Pilot Whales was seen by David, Andrew and crew, off the starboard bow as an occasional light rain was falling. This morning the ship occasionally rolled as by now we were encountering waves from the north-west so we looked forward to finding calmer waters once we arrived in Perseverance Harbour. Some of us had already been to Campbell Island, including Bob who made frequent visits with the New Zealand Meteorological Service and was on occasions taken there by Rodney. The volcanic island has a magnificent natural history along with a rich human history. With the sea becoming rough, only a few observers were on the bridge this morning. Bird species were increasing including six species of albatrosses (White-capped or Shy; Campbell (a mollymawk); Black-browed; Southern Royal; Wandering and Grey-headed. All of these species, plus the Antipodean Albatross (not seen today) breed on Campbell Island and some of the smaller outlying islands. Petrels included White-chinned, Cape and White-headed. A few shearwaters were also seen. Chris was a great help with identifying the species observed. It was a great pleasure to watch these magnificent birds as they soared at times with a wing-tip just a few centimetres above the water surface, then rising with the occasional wing flutter, before swooping, rising, changing direction and gaining height, as they picked up speed to soar on air currents about the ship.
With the sea getting rather choppy with scattered white caps due to the westerly conditions, many of us rested after lunch. Our speed at noon had slowed to 8.5 knots over water around 470m deep. The occasional wave broke over the bow. Just before 6pm Rodney announced we had 21.7 nautical miles to reach our way-point at the entrance to Perseverance Harbour, followed by 40 minutes to the anchorage. We had been doing 9.8-9.8 knots and the wind had been dropping. We had the first visual sighting of the main island as it loomed in the mist, at around 6.15pm when Mt. Honey the highest point (558m) was seen with Mt Dumas (500m) beyond. On the bridge Andrew asked Rodney “Are there any teal here?” As Rodney replied “Yes!” some teal took flight right in front of us so there were laughs all round. At 7pm we had an interesting view of a Sea Lion just below the surface with something in its mouth. By now on a heading of 346.8o, we were at the harbour entrance at a speed of 11.7 knots. On the bow the Bosun was preparing the anchors and used a hand crank to release the ‘Devil’s claws’ which hold back the anchor chains. We were escorted into Perseverance Harbour by a pair of Southern Royal Albatross along with numerous Giant and Cape Petrels. We turned into the harbour with Erebus Point to starboard and South Point to port with good views of vegetated lava flows, old glacial terraces, ice sculptured landforms and olive-green scrub reaching up from the water’s edge and merging with tussock higher up. Rodney pointed out a ‘haul out’ area to starboard, on which were three Sea Lions lounged. The anchors went down in 22 metres of water and dinner began with a vegetable and meat Borsch (soup), followed by a main with fillet steak or chicken, then a desert of Tiramisu (Greek/Italian), a cake soaked in coffee and Kahlua.
There is very little on this island that Rodney is not familiar with. He has spent a lot of time here over many years. In 1975 with New Zealand’s former Wildlife Service, he re-discovered the Campbell Island Flightless Teal on 26 hectare La Dent Island on his first visit there. This small bird was at the time thought to be extinct. Campbell Island is important for the breeding or presence of several species of albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Shag and very important species of ‘mega-herbs’ that have flourished since the pest eradication programme. The human history has included early scientific Antarctic and Subantarctic expeditions, whaling, farming (initially 2000 Leicester-Merino sheep, 8 cattle and 2 horses), the World War 2 Cape Expedition, former manned meteorological station (closed 1995 then replaced with an automated system) and pest eradication since 1990. It was good to be on calm waters again and following the compilation of the species list, we retired and prepared for a 6.30 am wake-up call.
Day 26. Wednesday 5 February – Campbell Island
Noon position: Latitude 52o32.991’South; Longitude 169o09.577’East
Air temperature: 9oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Most of us had an excellent sleep on calmer waters. It had rained a little in the night and we got up to a generally fine day, with scattered cloud and the sun appearing from time to time. A good breakfast set us right for the exertions of the day. At 7.15 am we assembled in the lecture room for the first time for a few days. Rodney gave a superb, well-illustrated introduction to Campbell Island and before setting out for our landing we were instructed to adhere to quarantine requirements with special emphasis on clothing including footwear and back packs. The day’s activities were then discussed. A total of 14 opted to do the ‘Samuel Safari’- a 14km all-day walk from Camp Cove, with an ascent of 200m taking us across the island to Capstan Cove, followed by the inevitable 200m descent and return to the ship. The remainder of us chose the interesting Zodiac cruise to Tucker and Camp Cove. This focused on the history with a return although no landing, via Garden and Venus Coves. After lunch, those of us who did the latter, then selected the shorter boardwalk journey to view nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses and mega herbs at Col Lyall (named after Lyall on Ross’s expedition) with a view down to Northwest Bay, the site of early whaling.
Passengers on the long walk were the first away and reported seeing five Campbell Island Snipe, two Antipodean Albatross with low flights of about 300m, an amazing field of purple Pleurophyllum speciosum along with other vegetation on the glaciated landscape. Those in the Zodiacs enjoyed calling at Camp Cove and Tucker Cove, with the rusting Shacklock Orion stove the only visible remnant from the farm homestead, attracting most attention. Birds seen included a Giant Petrel, Campbell Island Shag and gulls. The visit to Tucker Cove was significant as it was near here that flightless Campbell Island Teal were seen. The hike up the board walk from the former meteorological station began with us being confronted by an arrogant bull Sea Lion who was jealously guarding his harem of three cows. Bob then explained what the various buildings had been used for. After passing through flowering dwarf Dracophyllum scoparium scrub in the Sub-alpine Vegetation Zone below Beeman Hill (187m), we entered the Lower Alpine Zone with interesting ground cover. From Col Lyall we looked across to Northeast Bay and back to Perseverance Harbour. The highlights were nesting Southern Royal Albatross including some paired birds among the tussocks, flowering Pleurophyllum and for those who briefly battled the gusting nor-west wind, a view to Northwest Bay. It had been a great day and after a convivial hour, we enjoyed as always a wonderful meal from Bruce, Michael, Natalya and Zoya, followed by an often humorous discussion on the bird and mammal sightings.
Photo credit: K.Ovsyanikova
Day 27. Thursday 6 February – Campbell Island - en-route to Bluff
Waitangi Day in New Zealand
Noon position: Latitude 52o33.072’South; Longitude 169o09.617’East
Air temperature: 10.8oC
Water temperature: 9.8oC
Heavy rain and fog prevented a climb of Mt. Honey today. Instead after breakfast we gathered in the lecture room to consider options for morning activity. These included a further trip to Col Lyall; a muddy walk to the old Coastwatchers’ huts; Zodiac cruise in the outer harbour and tours of the galley and engine room. By late morning the sun endeavoured to brighten the day and Bill was delighted to find his wedding ring; on the cabin floor under a suit case. Those in the Zodiacs had a very interesting trip. Emma very much enjoyed viewing a Rockhopper Penguin, along with the other species that included three Yellow-eyed Penguins, two Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross chicks on nests and two New Zealand Fur Seals. Old lava had flowed over sedimentary rock and volcanic basalt columns, some vertical and some curved. They were coloured yellow, white, black and brown. A dyke was examined with caves at the base. The party which visited the remains of the Coastwatchers’ hut and a red-painted meteorological hut followed a muddy track through Dracophyllum scrub and Bracken. The met hut was in good repair and had furniture along with beer signs on the walls. An unusual stove or boiler was marked ‘UNIQUE’. A stop was made at the memorial to the three who died (Capt. Hasselburgh, a young woman and a sailor) and an aggressive male Sea Lion was carefully avoided on the way back to the ship.
Samuel’s party trekked up to Col Lyall. It was very foggy, blowing hard and a few Antarctic Terns were sighted. Because of the time of the day, the albatross were less active compared to yesterday, although there was still much to enjoy. Mike for example considered the hike to the top of the board walk enabled one to gain “a good cross section of Campbell Island from bottom to top, including the landscape and vegetation”. On board Bruce provided an interesting tour of the galley including storage areas, food preparation and cooking appliances. Rodney showed two groups through the immaculate engine room with green painted floor and the two bright yellow, six cylinder 1400 hp locomotive engines. Every five years the engines which are each connected to a ‘Ka me wa’ (now part of Rolls Royce) gear box, are stripped down. There are three generators.
The chefs produced a variety of excellent pizzas for lunch after which we prepared for a quiet afternoon with cabin effects secured. At 1.10 pm we departed for Bluff with 360 nautical miles to go and wind expected from the west, likely to cause a roll on the beam. Unfortunately it would be not possible to do a Zodiac cruise at the Snares Islands. It took little time to leave the harbour and we were soon beginning to roll. Many still found the library a good place to sort photographs and to catch up on the last month. Following the usual excellent evening meal, the bird list, a rather varied one for today, was compiled. At 9pm we were maintaining a good speed and were at Latitude 51o24.316’ South Longitude 169o967’ East. The sea was still lumpy, however Rodney suggested conditions may improve by tomorrow.
Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 28. Friday 7 February - en-route to Bluff.
The Penultimate day of our expedition. Stephen’s birthday.
Noon position: Latitude 48o52’ South; Longitude 168o38’ East
Air temperature: 15oC
Water temperature: 12oC
After a comfortable night with pale grey sea now calming, we rose to a cloudy day with a pale sun. Of interest this morning was a dead seal being eaten by numerous birds. At 10am two excellent documentaries on Campbell Island were screened by Dr Eric. With 42 species of New Zealand birds now extinct and many on the endangered list, ‘The Battle for Campbell Island’ focused on the eradication programme of an estimated 50,000+ Norway rats in the winter of 2001. Rats had been released by sealers and soon became a natural history problem. The second documentary entitled ‘The Impossible Dream – the Campbell Island Teal’ with the rediscovery in 1975, led to a subsequent successful release by the Department of Conservation in 2004. Progeny of ‘Daisy’ a female captured on La Dent in 1984 (she died in 2002) re-appeared at Beeman Station the following year. These programmes were followed with an excellent presentation by Katya about ‘The Russian Far East – The Wild Frontier’ and focused on the human and natural history, from the Kuril Islands in the south to Wrangel Island in the far north. This is another fascinating and beautiful area, where Heritage Expeditions operates a range of itineraries. The pictures of indigenous peoples, villages, wild life, botany and landscapes, were outstanding with many photographs taken by Katya herself who spent a lot of time with her parents on Wrangel Island, a World Heritage area with Arctic diversity.
By afternoon the sea was very calm with some dolphins sighted and bird life including a Back Bellied Petrel feeding on the surface. We enjoyed a quiet day which included packing and a passenger de-brief, with crew and staff already preparing for the next voyage. This evening as we passed Stewart Island to port, Bruce and Michael provided a sumptuous farewell dinner. This included a ravioli entrée, main course with hot ham and roast beef carvery, chicken fricassee, roast potatoes and assorted vegetables, a seafood selection with salmon, prawns and salads and deserts including lemon curd and chocolate cheese cakes, mini-Pavlovas and a cheese board. After travelling 4675 nautical miles (8658 kms) the final de-brief was held in the lecture room when Rodney and staff farewelled the group and thanked them for contributing to what has been a highly successful expedition. Samuel then screened his superb 22 minute slide show and made copies available to all who wanted them. We then retired with just a few hours remaining on board before departure in the morning.
Day 29. Saturday 8 February – Bluff and departure
Latitude 46o35.630’South; Longitude 168o20.35’East
The pilot boarded at 6.30am and our time aboard the Spirit of Enderby was fast drawing to a close. We breakfasted together for the last time and New Zealand Customs and MAF Quarantine officers boarded at 7.45am. After a group photograph was taken to record this momentous journey, we said final farewells. This expedition may have ended but we will take with us enduring memories of so many wonderful experiences in both natural and human history, relating to our extraordinary time on the Subantarctic Islands and in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. As compiler of this Log, the author very much appreciated receiving pictures for his personal archive following the loss of his camera while swimming at Macquarie Island and for what he has learned. Best wishes to everyone for happy travels in the years ahead. Who knows, some of us may meet again some time, somewhere in the future. Thank you.
Fifty excited expeditioners from around the globe arrived at Invercargill to begin a journey in the footsteps of Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. All mustered at the Kelvin Hotel for an introductory dinner where they met their travelling companions: with whom they would spend the next 4 weeks travelling to Antarctica. Fine dining was enjoyed by all and excited introductions were made. Most voyagers retired early in the evening, in anticipation of boarding the Spirit of Enderby the following day. On board ship they would meet the remaining Heritage Expeditions staff and begin their journey south.
Following breakfast, bags were checked by security and loaded on the truck to head to the ship. Soon after this, most people made their way to the Southland Museum and enjoyed the informative Roaring 40’s display on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Shortly after lunch all guests boarded the coach to drive to the Port of Bluff; arriving on board the Spirit of Enderby, travellers finally got to see their cabins and started to settle in. All guests enjoyed an afternoon of waving goodbye to the Port of Bluff, exploring the ship and attending briefings; we then sailed south through rafts of Sooty Shearwaters with the first of many Albatross following behind. Some New Zealand Fur Seals and an unidentified dolphin were both seen not long after leaving the shelter of the port. Sailing south past Stewart Island gave some protection from the wind and it was a very pleasant start to the voyage. The bar was opened in the early evening and a good turnout proved that not too many were affected by seasickness. The first night on board was then finished with a lovely meal prepared by our wonderful chefs Nicola and Brad.
The seas had strengthened over night and as we arrived at the Snares Islands early the decision was made by Rodney that it was too rough to Zodiac cruise. The ship traversed the islands, giving all early risers on deck a good look at the geography and the masses of birdlife living there. Buller’s Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, White Chinned Petrels and Cape Petrels were just some of the species seen from the ship as the sun rose over the sea. Some Snares Crested penguins were spotted porpoising in the water, and several of the colonies on the island were viewable with binoculars. After this good look at the islands, the Spirit of Enderby steered back on course towards the Auckland Islands. The Southern Ocean gave us a taste of what she can be capable of with waves reaching approx 6 meters high - most on board travelled well and it was a good chance for everyone to test out their sea legs. Dean presented a lecture on the biology and ecology of seals and a documentary on the Roaring 40’s was enjoyed by many. This gave us a glimpse of what to expect tomorrow and we were all very excited about the thought of arriving at Port Ross early tomorrow morning, partly to see new lands, but also in anticipation of the ship being relatively still! The bar opened at 6.30pm and not long after another fine meal was served. We all retired to our bunks, weary from travel and knowing that tomorrow we would be walking the lush earth of Enderby Island.
We awoke at anchor in Port Ross, off one of the Southern Ocean’s most amazing islands: Enderby. The ship was still and we had all managed some good hours of sleep; the sun rose over flat waters and a blue sky showed promising signs for the day. After breakfast, a briefing from Rodney and making lunches we boarded the Zodiacs for our first ride, quickly assembling near the research station and moving along the beach as a Search and Rescue Helicopter came in to land for an annual fuel delivery operation. Our group headed off towards the western cliffs where Auckland Island Tomtits and pipits greeted us and were a sign of things to come: the variety and tameness of birds is one of the highlights of Enderby. Entering into a small patch of rata forest, we carried on up the boardwalk past nesting Southern Royal Albatross and through spectacular fields of flora on to the western cliffs where we could admire the nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and feel the fresh wind on our faces.
A few people returned to the beach to spend some time with the sea lions and Yellow-eyed Penguins, while the majority carried on around the island enjoying an amazing walk. Auckland Island Shag colonies were in full swing, with adults caring for chicks and rebuilding nests. Birders ticked off Red-crowned Parakeets, the elusive Subantarctic Snipe and of course the Auckland Island Shag. The terrain varied from easy on the grassy sward to challenging through the tussock grasses. Everyone had fun dodging the feisty sub adult sea lions who simply wanted to play. Many young pups could be seen grouping together as their mothers were out to sea foraging to provide them with the milk they need to grow big and strong. The scenery was always changing and dramatic; some people took time out from the coast to explore inside the haunting rata forest. Yellow-eyed Penguins nervously waddled to and from the water. At last it was time to return to the ship having had a sublime day ashore with beautiful blue skies and sunshine almost all day long. The bar was lively and full of chatter as we swapped stories of the day: we all went to bed quite exhausted after the fresh air, sunshine and a good long walk.
When we awoke for breakfast we were entering Carnley Harbour and had a scenic cruise of this haven of calm in the Southern Ocean. To our starboard was the main Auckland Island and to our port the pest-free Adams Island. The harbour was filled with seabirds: mainly Sooty Shearwaters, but also some Gibson’s Albatross, Auckland Island Shags, Yellow-eyed Penguins and also the occasional Hooker’s Sea Lion. Given the weather for the day, Rodney had decided to show us one of the more historical and significant sites in the harbour, the coast watchers hut in Tagura Bay. Here we walked along the peninsula through forests of rata and dracophyllum to one hut and up the hill line to a smaller lookout hut. It was very interesting to see them and try to imagine what the men endured during those long, cold and lonely months so many years ago. What hearty souls they must have been! Once back on board we had lunch in the calm waters and then ventured towards the exit of Carnley Harbour. We had blue skies and the sun was shining as we sailed out and many people enjoyed an afternoon on deck watching the masses of birdlife around the ship.
We awoke this morning to the Southern Ocean giving us some good rolls, shakes and shudders. A southerly wind made the ship’s journey south the roughest for this voyage yet. However, many brave souls made it to breakfast and, shortly after, Dean presented an introduction to Macquarie Island - covering historical and natural aspects of an incredible little island in the middle of nowhere. In case some of us were suffering from the inability to shop, Marie set herself up a little stall in the dining room to sell postcards - we could now send loved ones in faraway lands messages from the Furious 50s on our way to the frozen continent. After lunch, Tess gave us an insight into what it was like to live on Macquarie Island– she and Dean had lived and worked there for 12 months, researching the fur seal population. It was a great opportunity to get an insider’s perspective, and made us all want to apply for a position on the island! Later in the evening the bar opened and we enjoyed the social aspect by playing cards, sharing stories and writing postcards. Many retired early to their bunks to endure another night of rough southern seas. All were looking forward to waking at Macquarie Island the following day.
After a lie in, we ate breakfast in the calm lee of Macquarie Island. Zodiacs were launched to pick up four ranger guides from the Buckles Bay station. Once they were aboard we had a briefing about our plans as the ship sailed south the short distance to Sandy Bay and came to anchor in calm conditions about a mile off shore. A low cloud hung about the shoreline as King and Royal Penguins swam out to greet the ship. Zodiacs were quickly launched and we were all ashore after an easy landing; the welcoming committee was composed of curious King Penguins and smelly, moulting adult male elephant seals. We had several hours to spread out and enjoy ourselves surrounded by overwhelming quantities of wildlife at every turn. Elephant seals (due to their huge size) were one of the most obvious: the young males wallowed in tight groups - hard to believe that these are small compared to the fully grown adult males! King Penguins were spread about the beach; by sitting quietly with them some great encounters were had. They would often come right up and peck at our boots, as fascinated by our presence as we were by theirs. Down the north end of the beach was a colony, quite a few chicks were around and some adults were still incubating their eggs, their feet held up at a 45 degree angle to cradle the egg. The other penguin at Sandy Bay is the Royal Penguin, which is of particular interest because Macquarie is the only place on earth where this species occurs. Good numbers were coming to and from their inland nesting colony and a short boardwalk led up the hill and into that colony, passing a severely rabbit-grazed patch of Pleurophyllum hookeri enroute. The penguin colony itself was busy, with moulting adults and growing chicks all mixed in together. It was a very smelly and noisy colony, particularly when the Brown Skuas came flying over in hopes of a meal. By early afternoon it was time for us all to head back to the ship to warm up and have a lunch.
About half the group joined the shuttles back to the beach for the afternoon. The fog had lifted a little and presented us with better photographic opportunities and the weather stayed quite good for the day. It was another opportunity to sit quietly and appreciate a Subantarctic island at its finest. The last of us left the beach with the final Zodiac at 6pm, tired after a long and most exciting day ashore. After dinner a few people enjoyed the pleasant conditions on deck and got some good photographs of the King Penguins still swimming around the ship.
We awoke anchored on the eastern side of the isthmus of Macquarie Island in Buckles Bay. The wind was blowing from the south west and a lot of fog covered the island. There was a light drizzle of rain early on but regardless of the conditions we were all very excited to be at this little wonder spot of the world!
Rodney gave a brief talk in the lecture room to let everyone know about the plan for the day. The conditions were not ideal, so Rodney and his team decided to bring the Zodiacs in to Garden Cove. It was a little tricky getting people off the boats and onto the slippery beach, but the team managed to get everyone ashore safely, with only a few wet gumboots! On shore conditions were quite good and, as we wandered around the station limits with our Macquarie Island guides, we got to meet not only the human inhabitants but also more of the local wildlife. Today we added the Gentoo Penguin and the Rockhopper Penguin to our list as well as seeing many more Kings, Royals and elephant seals. It was fantastic to see this working Antarctic Station and be able to go to the mess and share a cuppa and a scone with the expeditioners that spend so much time here.
We spent many hours walking the coast, learning so much and making new friends. It was an incredible experience that we will not soon forget. In the late afternoon we jumped back into the Zodiacs and returned to the ship where we ate, drank and had a delightful afternoon and evening sharing stories and downloading photos. Another great day was had by all thanks to the fantastic rangers on Macquarie Island and everybody else that we met at the station.
We awoke this morning to a calm ship heading south east for the Ross Sea. There was blue sky and sunshine overhead and a following sea pushing us along so we were already making good time. The day’s activities began with a viewing of documentaries filmed by Dean and Tessa on Macquarie Island. After this it was time to hand out the warm Antarctic jackets that we would be spending the next few weeks almost living in. A lovely lunch was enjoyed, followed by a screening of The Last Place on Earth – a documentary about the race by Scott and Amundsen to the South Pole. This was the very expedition we were retracing.
Many of our voyagers spent hours on deck or on the bridge spotting birds and enjoying the sunshine. Outside temperatures had now started dropping and a few extra layers were needed for the adventurous ones, bird-watching on the outside decks. The first good whale sighting of the trip occurred when a friendly Minke Whale surfaced twice very close off the port side of the ship. The iceberg spotting competition was also announced and we all guessed at what time we would see the first berg. The bar opened for shenanigans and most people made it there for a drink and a chat with their fellow travellers. Another great dinner was served by the chefs, and on a full stomach, many retired early for another good night’s sleep.
The weather deteriorated late last night which caused the ship to move around and roll quite a bit. Some didn’t get a full night’s sleep but all were still in good spirits at breakfast time as they held their cereal bowls to stop the milk from spilling. The morning’s activities in the lecture theatre were postponed as the seas were still quite rough so a relaxing morning was had, with many catching up on lost sleep from the night before. After a delicious lunch, it was decided that the lecture room was now safe again as the rolling had abated quite a bit so first up was Rodney with a briefing on what our plans in the Ross Sea would be. He showed ice and weather maps of the area so that we could get an idea of what to expect over the next couple of weeks. After this, we watched a documentary called The Silence Calling, which celebrates 50 years of Australian research on Antarctic bases. The bar opened in the evening and a drink and chat was welcomed by many; the first iceberg had still not been spotted and stakes were getting higher for those that had guessed we would see it tomorrow.
It was a lot cooler this morning. Sea surface temperature was now around 1 degree and the outside temperature colder still. The wind had swung to the north and provided us with a following sea speeding up our progress south and we were now cruising at an average of 12.5 knots. All this meant another fantastic day in the Southern Ocean! Dean gave a great lecture on the biology and ecology of cetaceans and how to best spot and identify them. This sparked great interest on decks and we all went out with new knowledge to try and glimpse one of the ocean giants for ourselves. At 11:24am the ship was cruising through some thick fog when we spotted our first iceberg for the trip. Everyone rushed out to see this first sign of the frozen continent: it was a non-tabular berg, big enough to qualify for the contest (being bigger than a London double decker bus). Liz was the winner of the competition and she was awarded a bottle of wine for her good guessing efforts.
After lunch Tess provided us with an excellent talk on icebergs and the origin of ice, so we then all spent more time on deck and on the bridge spotting icebergs through the mist, using our new found terminology.
At about 6:30pm we all made our way to the bridge. A special moment was at hand. At latitude 66.33.66 is the Antarctic Circle, the true boundary for the frozen continent. Crossing this frontier was a privilege that few of us had encountered before. In a scene not unlike a New Year’s Eve party, we all assembled to watch the various GPS displays count down the minutes of latitude. 64, 65, 66.34’S Hooray! Rodney announced the news and invited us on deck where we would join a select minority of the world’s population: very few have ever gone so far south.
On the bow we all met, with mugs in our hands and warm, warm clothing. To aid in celebration Nikki and Brad had concocted a special mulled wine, steaming hot and ready to serve to us out in the cold conditions. Cups full we listened to Rodney induct us into this special group and we all made an oath that we would do all we could to protect and conserve this incredible part of our planet for future generations for with opportunity comes responsibility. We all cheered and drank our wine.
In Rodney’s words:
“By anyone’s standards this event is an auspicious occasion – very few people have crossed the Antarctic Circle by ship. So we want to both celebrate the occasion and acknowledge its importance.
Today each of us joins a unique group of explorers that have gone before us, not only showing us the way but giving us the courage to follow and to make our own destiny. We follow explorers such as Sir James Clark Ross, Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Sir Douglas Mawson, Richard Byrd, Sir Edmund Hilary and others that pioneered new routes south of the circle. Today we acknowledge them and their efforts.
Crossing the Circle also carries with it a responsibility – a responsibility that those explorers who went before us took seriously which is part of the reason that we are here today. They advocated for the protection of these lands and the wildlife that inhabited them, ensuring that future generations would have them to enjoy.
So today as we cross the circle I would like each of you to take this vow and receive the Mark of the Penguin – as evidence that you have crossed the Antarctic Circle and have taken the pledge which I am going to ask you to say after me.
Having endured the privations of the Roaring Forties, the rigors of the Furious Fifties and the ice-strewn waters of the Screaming Sixties to cross the Antarctic Circle, pay homage to those early explorers who have not only shown the way, but have demonstrated what it means to advocate for the continued protection of Antarctica and its wildlife and history. I [repeat your own name] hereby pledge that in accepting the Mark of the Penguin I will, until I take my last expedition, advocate to everybody, even those who will not listen, the importance of the Antarctic and its wildlife and history.
Would you please step forward to receive the Mark of the Penguin”
Dean was ready and waiting with the Mark of the Penguin which he stamped on each of us and we wore these badges of honour proudly into the night. After yet another incredible meal we lay to rest another day in the beautiful Southern Ocean... but this time we slept in the Antarctic!
Well, we woke this morning to fog, fog and more fog. The ship was still heading south at a good speed and even though the outside temperatures had dropped, there was less ice around than the day before.
First up this morning Rodney alerted us all to a very important issue: the illegal Tooth Fishing industry that takes place in the Ross Sea Region. It is sometimes called the ‘Last Ocean on Earth’ when in its pristine state. He showed two documentaries and we all left a little saddened with the world we live in: a world that demands a fish for our culinary pleasure, not considering where it comes from, what it looks like and what is its plight. Very enlightening! Thank you to Rodney and The Last Ocean Campaign.
In the afternoon a great documentary on Adelie Penguins was screened downstairs and then Rodney gave a briefing on Antarctica, preparing us for our imminent landing at Cape Adare.
After a delicious meal from the chefs we dropped anchor. Rodney made the decision to land this evening, as the weather was quite good, and conditions aren’t always great here. We went ashore and stepped foot onto the icy continent for the first time. Many enjoyed going through Borchgrevink’s hut and seeing all of the historic memorabilia. There were also a few last remaining Adelie Penguins wandering around so people got to get a great first look at these quirky little birds. It started getting quite dark at 11:30pm so everyone returned to the ship for a warm cuppa and bed. A fantastic first landing was had by all, and I’m sure many of us dreamed of those beautiful little Adelies that night.
Snow, snow everywhere! This morning the decks were covered in several centimetres of snow that had fallen all night, as we found ourselves now in cold, cold waters. 0.2 was the water temperature, while the outside temperature showed only 0.3, with a wind chill of approx -9.8. On decks now was only for the very brave and not to be attempted without gloves and beanie - the icy winds are quick to draw away all your heat. Out in the Ross Sea the winds picked up significantly and the waves seemed to be getting a bit bigger again. The wind kept picking up throughout the day and by about 7pm we were getting gusts of up to 50knots. Due to the strong winds there was less ice in the seas and some fog had returned.
We were now being led into the south by Antarctic and Snow Petrels, two types of beautiful birds who play around on the winds created by the ship with very little effort. They cruised past all of the windows on the ship making sure we could all see them in their habits. They were feeding all the time on tiny organisms on the surface of the water and seemed to be doing very well indeed.
Some bad news was brought to the ship this afternoon when we were notified of a large earthquake hitting Christchurch; the afternoon’s lectures were postponed and people spent time contacting loved ones in the area.
The bar was opened in the early evening and it was a nice release for some who had endured a difficult afternoon. Another delicious dinner was served by the chefs as we rolled our way south through the Ross Sea.
We awoke this morning to the ship rolling quite substantially – in the heart of a storm blowing from the south and with waves up to 8m high.
Most people braved it to breakfast but were soon back in bunks as Rodney had suggested that this was the safest place to be in seas like this. Not too long after breakfast Rodney announced over the loudspeaker that Maritime NZ had contacted us about a distress signal being released further south, near Ross Island. It seemed that there was a 14m Norwegian yacht in that area and their emergency positioning device had been activated. At this stage no one had been able to get in contact with the yacht and we had been asked to make our way to the area to assist in a search. The Steve Urwin, another ship, was also in the Ross Sea and also heading in the same direction to offer assistance. However, with the sea conditions the way they were, it was estimated that we wouldn’t get there until tomorrow afternoon sometime.
The sea conditions didn’t abate during the day so people held tight in their bunks. Due to the low air temperature, a lot of the water sprayed onto the ship had frozen onto the steel, creating a thick layer of ice on all of the outside surfaces.
Brad and Nicki did very well to serve us up a meal in these trying conditions and shortly after dinner people were back in the safety of their bunks. Rodney told us that this was the worst storm he had ever seen in this region of the Ross Sea, but I’m not sure if that made us feel better or worse!
After a very hard night’s sleep spent hanging on in our bunks due to the continuing rough sea conditions, quite a few made it for breakfast. Again it was a tricky meal, people hanging on to cereal bowels and trying not to slide off their seats at the same time. All survived though and headed straight back to their bunks for shelter shortly afterwards. The sea conditions were just as bad as the day before and now even more ice had frozen to the decks. The Spirit of Enderby was now looking like a different ship covered in this thick layer of white ice.
The search for the Norwegian yacht was still on and we were notified that the Steve Urwin vessel had now started to search in the area. They were searching by ship and by helicopter but hadn’t found anything in the ocean so far.
At around 3pm our sea conditions finally started improving and by 4:30pm it was hard to believe we had ever been in such a storm. The seas were calm enough for the crew to get out on deck and start chipping ice off surfaces. Everyone felt relieved to be in much calmer waters once again.
At about 5pm in the afternoon our ship reached the area we had been allocated to search and began a grid search between Franklin and Beaufort Islands. We searched all through the evening and night in a zig zag pattern going north to south.
After searching in vain through the night for the Norwegian yacht Berserk, our part of the search finished at 5:30am after completing our assigned search area. Nothing had been found; the Steve Urwin was to continue searching for a little longer today.
Rodney woke us this morning at 5:30am telling us about the spectacular sight of Mount Erebus. Sure enough, once we’d all managed to drag ourselves out of our warm beds and up to the bridge we soon realised it was well worth it. Wow. There it was right before our eyes, in perfect view, no clouds, nothing to stop us seeing the immense volcano. It was beautiful. We could see steam rising from its summit, and at 13000 feet this active volcano sure was impressive. We were at Cape Royds, the site of the Shackleton Nimrod expedition. This section of the Ross Sea was stunning. The Trans-Antarctic Mountains were clearly visible, running the length of our vision across the body of water opposite Cape Royds. Their sharp peaks were separated by countless glaciers. This was rugged country.
The anchor was dropped in Back Door Bay just off Cape Royds and the staff went ashore in the Zodiacs to cut some steps into the ice for our landing. It was an interesting landing, climbing off the front of the Zodiac onto a 2 meter high ice shelf. Once all were safely ashore and standing on strong ice we marched off as a group towards the historic hut. The site was a fascinating mixture of volcanic rock, Adelie Penguin colonies and the manmade relics. The hut was in good condition and had been partially restored - inside it was different to the other huts we had been into. It had a very homely feel to it with a couch and a very large living area. We explored its contents in great detail and even found Shackleton’s own signature on one of the bed heads. Once finished we marched again across the ice and back to the ship where the captain took her toward Cape Evans.
Still with beautiful blue skies and sunshine, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for the day. Ahead lay Cape Evans with a stunning backdrop supplied by Mount Erebus. After a bite of lunch we lowered Zodiacs and moved swiftly to the small gravel beach where we landed right near Scott’s Hut. This was the site of Scott’s last expedition and the hut itself was in incredibly good condition, although it has been restored to some degree. Outside was no shortage of interesting artefacts to look at and the terrain was fun to explore. Inside though was most certainly the highlight. As you walked through the doorway you immediately stepped back in time to 100 years ago, when Scott and his men mounted their campaign for the South Pole and the collection of scientific data that would help shape our understanding of this frozen continent. There were bottles on the shelves, pairs of socks on the beds, Ponting’s darkroom, Scott’s den, scientific samples and papers of the day. It really was a highlight of many of our lives to be right here in the very spot that these men had lived and worked, laughed and eaten and wintered the brutal Antarctic conditions. Dogs were to be found - long dead - but still with collars on and chained to railings; seal blubber stored for burning, stables and workspaces intact. There were some Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals scattered around the site and most people got an opportunity to spend some time with these little characters. Rodney surprised us all by helping Allegra and Adrian to renew their wedding vows right there on the ice. All too soon it was time to leave and we crossed the bay back to the ship.
Just after returning, we got a brief visit from the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Urwin as it sailed by before heading home to Hobart. Waving goodbye to them we headed up to the bar to drink champagne and celebrate with Adrian and Allegra while the ship made its way further into McMurdo Sound toward McMurdo Station. We were to stay in the turning basin here and what a fantastic place to spend the end of a truly spectacular day.
We awoke early this morning to the sound of the ship’s engines starting. A catabatic wind had blown in over night and started moving the ice around in McMurdo Sound - Rodney and the Captain decided it was too risky to stay as the risk of getting trapped by ice at this time of the year is very real. So our visit to the McMurdo and Scott Bases was cancelled for today and we steamed out of the sound as quickly as possible. Around Cape Evans we were in more safe and sheltered waters, the ship cut its engines and we drifted for a while. The weather outside was truly Antarctic with strong winds and the outside wind-chill temperature as low as -32 °C. A few people braved going out on deck for a few minutes just to feel how cold it can really get down here. After drifting for a while and assessing the weather forecasts, Rodney made the decision to start heading east towards the Ross Ice Shelf. After lunch we had made it as far as Cape Bird and the conditions here were quite a lot better than those further to the west. The staff got the Zodiacs in the water and started ferrying people to the beach to stretch their legs on this beautiful piece of coast. Along the shore of the beach were many spectacular rolled icebergs washed up. As we wandered up and down it was fantastic to be able to get such a close look at this pure glacial ice. There were quite a few Adelie Penguins around for people to look at and one very friendly one who came right over to the life jacket bins and stood with the group as they put their life jackets on. It was very curious and looked at us as if it wasn’t scared at all. There were also some Weddell Seals relaxing on the ice and many Antarctic Skuas in the air; some of the Skuas still had mature chicks with them so a few of the visitors found themselves dive-bombed and followed by these cheeky birds.
We were all back on board the ship and off towards the ice shelf again by about 3:30pm. At 4 o’clock Rodney gave a very interesting lecture downstairs covering some of the history in the Ross Sea from the last two centuries. Afterwards a lazy afternoon was spent while we made our way further east.
We arrived at the ice wall just after dinner. It was massive and stretched for many miles out to sea. Along its face were a myriad of caves and sculptures created by the violent weather conditions of the area. Off to the east were icebergs that had recently calved off. All in all it was a spectacular way to end another incredible day in Antarctica! To top it off, as we sailed away from the ice shelf a pod of Orca was spotted in the distance showing some feeding behaviour. They were viewed by many tired eyes through binoculars before people headed off to bed for the night.
We were up for an early start this morning and much to everyone’s delight found ourselves anchored back in McMurdo Sound. The weather was much calmer than the day before, though air temperatures remained low, with the outside temperature at -11°C. Brrrrrrrr chilly! After a quick breakfast and a briefing by Rodney we all rugged up in many layers and prepared to go ashore for the day.
It began with a tour around the American station, with some of the highlights being the science lab, the coffee shop, the chapel and of course the souvenir shop. After spending the morning with the very accommodating Americans we then got picked up in 4WD’s and taken over the icy hill to Scott Base where we got a taste of Kiwi culture. Some very kind guides showed us around this smaller but homely base. We got to see some historic artefact restoration underway and even visited Sir Edmund Hilary’s TAE hut which had many interesting historic stories. Back in the 4WD’s we were taken back over the hill to the famous Discovery Hut, where Shackleton and his men had spent long, cold, dark hours all those years ago. By this time it was mid-afternoon and some people were starting to feel the cold. A brisk walk back to the Zodiacs warmed everyone up before groups were ferried back to the ship for a hot cuppa and a warm shower.
Later in the afternoon, once everyone was back on board, we had some visitors from Scott Base. Some of the lovely base residents came to the ship for a tour, a warm scone and a chat in the bar.
A game - and maybe slightly crazy - group assembled at 6pm to climb to the top of Observation Hill. Rugged up in many layers and prepared for the freezing winds at the top, the group went ashore and proceeded in their ascent. The view from the top was spectacular, a 360 degree view over McMurdo Sound, the vast Ice Shelf and those mind-blowing Trans-Antarctic mountains. It was cold, and the wind chill on top was -30°C, our eyelashes formed crystals and froze together so we didn’t hang around up there for too long. A quick descent and back across the bay and we were back on the ship just after 7:30pm - a record-breaking time to the top and back.
As we ate a delicious meal prepared by the chefs, the captain pulled anchor and we started to sail further south. As soon as dinner was finished, all passengers were up on the bridge or out on decks to watch the Spirit of Enderby get as far south as it had ever been in McMurdo Sound. At 9:30pm we made it to 77°54.1166’S and 166°39.5714’E where the water temperature was -0.4°C and the air temperature was -10°C. It was only possible to get this far south because the ice in the sound had broken back further than it had done in 15 years. As we came to our most southern point, a huge group of Emperor Penguins (approx 60 birds) appeared on an ice floe up ahead. The captain slowly inched the ship closer until, on the bow, we were just meters from these majestic birds. This was a highlight for many on the trip: to see this many Emperor Penguins here at this time of the year is so rare that it was hard to believe it was real. On the ice and in the water around the Emperors were also many Snow Petrels feeding off something on the sea’s surface. Flocks of these stunning pure white birds flew around the ship and gave us a chance to really appreciate their beauty.
Conditions remained calm as we left the south of the sound and Captain sailed the ship north, on a course towards Terra Nova Bay. All were very weary from the eventful day and it was finally time to rest. It had been a spectacular evening and a perfect way to finish off another amazing day down here in Antarctica.
We all enjoyed a bit of a lie-in this morning and awoke to Marie telling us about the beautiful calm day outside. Sure enough, we were sailing through millpond conditions with pancake ice all around the ship. As we made our way north throughout the morning many photographs were taken of the fascinating ice forming on the sea’s surface. This was the beginning of the freeze! It looked like we’d timed it well, as it was obvious that the Ross Sea was beginning to freeze over for the winter. We would be north of it just in time.
The last episode of the documentary Last Place on Earth played during the morning and all watching bid a sad farewell to Scott and his three companions. After lunch Rodney gave a very interesting talk on whaling in the Ross Sea in the early 1900’s, accompanied by a short documentary. A couple of hours later and a little further north, a documentary called Solid Water, Liquid Rock screened downstairs. This was a film by TVNZ on Mt Erebus, the breathtakingly-beautiful mountain that we’d all been staring at for the last few days.
We continued heading north throughout the day and at just after 6:00pm arrived at Inexpressible Island. This was where Scott’s northern Terra Nova party got stranded and had to spend 8 months in an ice cave. You could see from the ship how harsh and unforgiving the landscape was: it gets its name because it was ‘inexpressibly uninhabitable’. The staff went ashore in the Zodiacs but couldn’t find a safe place to land so the decision was made to continue up the coast towards the Italian Base. We arrived shortly after dinner but there was a huge iceberg sitting right in the bay blocking our landing position. We cruised past the base but unfortunately were not able to go ashore. The Italians had all left for the winter time and it was an empty base so we weren’t disappointing anyone onshore.
It was another lovely evening in Antarctica, if a little chilly outside, and most people lapped up the beauty before hitting the sack for a calm night’s rest. Next stop Campbell Island!
This morning we awoke to the ship rolling a little bit, conditions weren’t too bad but it was strange being out of the dead calm seas that we had become used to over the last few days. The ship was set on a course for Campbell Island and overnight we had come far enough north that we were no longer seeing any icebergs in the water as we travelled. It was a strange feeling to be in the open ocean again, slightly lonely without those beautiful white bergs around.
In the late morning Katya gave a very entertaining lecture on the ‘Arctic VS Antarctic’ taking a look into the two polar regions, and the differences between them. It was fantastic to learn a little more about the northern polar region and compare it to what we’d been seeing on this trip.
At 12:51pm we gathered in the bar and had two minutes of silence to pay tribute to those affected by and the lives lost in the earthquake that hit Christchurch the week before.
After lunch we stepped back in time with a documentary called With Byrd to the South Pole, about the ‘Little America’ expedition party. This was an older piece of film covering the trials and tribulations of the Americans and their trip to the South Pole. Later in the afternoon Rodney gave a lecture on the Antarctic Treaty System and how it plays a role in the tourism industry in the area.
In the evening we opened up the bar and had a drink and a chat with fellow passengers. A Ross Sea recap was held, questions were asked and answered and everyone got the chance to review our fantastic Ross Sea experience.
It was a good turn out to dinner and many retired to their cabins early to catch up on rest as we continued our journey north.
Many were relieved to awake this morning to somewhat calmer seas. We were at the approximate equal latitude to Cape Adare when breakfast was served and thankfully the seas had definitely abated quite a bit. We noticed throughout the morning that there were many more sea birds around the ship this morning, including the first of our Light Mantled Sooty Albatross and a lot of petrels and prions.
First up on the programme this morning was the documentary Scott and Shackleton, Rivals for the Pole - a fantastic take on both Scott and Shackleton’s stories and the differences and difficulties they faced on their journeys south.
Later in the morning, and very fitting for today, Tessa gave us a very informative lecture on albatross in the Southern Ocean and how we can distinguish which birds we were looking at. We were all looking forward to getting to Campbell Island now, which is home to many albatross species, including the wonderful Southern Royal.
After lunch Nicki and Brad gave a tour of the galley: it was great to see behind the scenes and be able to see the space in which these two produce such delicious meals day after day.
Later in the afternoon part one of Longitude was screened downstairs – this is a series on the first reliable measurement of longitude, which changed forever how we navigate the seas.
The bar opened in the early evening and another lovely meal was shared downstairs for dinner. All expected to sleep well tonight as the sea conditions were still quite calm heading north.
We awoke at 8am to Rodney on the loudspeaker telling us that we were in a Category One storm. This meant that the sea had strengthened once again - the ship was certainly a lot more animated than yesterday. We were told that there would be no going outside at all and that all lower level port holes would be fully fastened down by the crew. But the salty old sea dogs were doing well -nowhere near the incidence of sea-sickness that we had encountered when we began our journey. Lectures and movies were out of the question today as the ship was just too active so it was another day of books, photos and movies in our bunks. I can think of worse ways to spend a day The staff put together a very comical quiz and many guests spent the afternoon in the bar/library area participating and having a good laugh. The bar was opened in the evening, and people hung on tight as they sipped their drinks. Dinner was slightly fast and furious, as it always is in these conditions, but still a good turn out considering the circumstances. We hoped that tomorrow the storm may have passed but, still, we were heading steadily north and with the wind behind us, were making good time.
This morning we awoke to slightly calmer seas. Everyone was relieved to see that the storm conditions had dropped off over night.
After breakfast, Dean kicked the morning off with a lecture on the research that he and Tessa performed while living on Macquarie Island for two summers. They lived there between 2008 and 2010 and spent 6 months each summer working very closely with the Fur Seal population on the island. After the seals were wiped out almost to extinction in the 1800’s the resident population on the island is recovering very slowly; we all learnt a lot about the work that Dean and Tessa carried out and a lot about these beautiful marine mammals.
After a delicious lunch we handed back our warm Antarctic jackets - back in the 60’s we would no longer need such heavy clothing. At 3pm the Sea Shop was opened up by Marie for anyone that needed some last minute shopping before our last week at sea.
The bar opened in the early evening for some drinks and fun and after a somewhat calmer meal, a Friday night movie was shown downstairs. The night finished off with a viewing of the hilarious Australian film The Castle. Many laughs were enjoyed by all who attended.
The seas had remained quite calm over night, which was a relief to many. As we headed further north, the sea and outside air temperatures climbs each day. This morning the outside air temperature was up to 10°C and the water a balmy 6°C.
This morning’s activities started off with a documentary on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. The story outlined the hardships endured by Shackleton and his men on an expedition that went so wrong. It furthered our appreciation for modern day sailing and all of the gadgets that go with it.
Later in the morning Katya gave a talk on the Russian Far East, another of Heritage Expeditions’ voyage destinations. The Spirit of Enderby heads north in early April and spends the Northern Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This talk perhaps inspired a few people to start planning their next big trip, maybe in the north this time.
After lunch Rodney presented an introduction to Campbell Island. This included plenty of great history and wildlife stories and we learnt about what we could expect over the next couple of days at the island. After Rodney’s lecture a short documentary called Battle for Campbell Island was screened downstairs. This is a homemade documentary on the famous rat eradication programme which was undertaken on the island in 2001. It was very interesting to learn about the eradication and to hear that the island is recovering from the removal of this pest so well.
The bar opened in the evening and we all enjoyed a drink and a chat while we could - the forecast was that sea conditions were going to ‘pick up’ overnight. After a great meal we retired to try and get some rest before we started rolling again.
Well, sure enough, the forecast was correct and we began rolling once again in the early hours of this morning. We were awoken by Rodney at 7:30am on the loudspeaker warning us to take extreme care when moving around, as the ship was getting hit by seas beam on. Breakfast was an interesting event. People managed very well as they clung to plates and cups and stayed upright all at the same time.
Because of the conditions most people spent the morning in their cabins and bunks where they could stay safe and horizontal.
We were finally able to see Campbell Island in the distance at about 11am and by 1pm were coming up to the south side of the island. Refuge at last! We ate lunch in the shelter of the east coast and then did some ‘chumming’ off the back deck. Thousands of Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island Mollymawks and other seabirds followed the ship as we cruised along the eastern side of the island.
When the chum was all gone the ship headed for Perseverance Harbour. Coming to anchor here in the sheltered waters of the harbour and just off Beaman Base, the old weather station, people felt great relief to be still at last. This afternoon, most people came ashore and stretched their legs on the wonderful boardwalk that takes one up to the Col-Lyall saddle; here we sat and watched the elegant Southern Royal Albatross. Many birds sat on chicks and the younger ones that were around showed some great displays of gamming. They truly are a magnificent bird and to be able to just sit and watch them is a very special treat.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 8pm for a late dinner and a nice calm sleep in the sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour.
Everyone awoke excited this morning as a day of great activities was ahead of us. It was a wonderful day for a tramp, a few light showers, but mostly a very pleasant Subantarctic temperature. One group of walkers covered an 8hr circuit that took them over to North West bay where they had spectacular views down the coast, saw a research hut and walked for hours along beautiful hillsides past many albatross. It was enjoyed by all even if there were a few tired legs that evening.
The other option for the day was to participate in a Zodiac cruise in the morning and to do the boardwalk again in the afternoon. The cruise took us past many historical spots including the Old Homestead, the Loneliest Tree in the World, the Lady of the Heather and Venus bay. There were some very friendly sea lions in the water this morning too, and they followed the boats for a long time, playfully swimming right up to the back of the boat and jumping high out of the water. What a display! If was truly great to see these beautiful mammals playing and having so much fun - it also made us realise just how graceful and agile they are underwater.
After the Zodiac cruise we came back to the ship to warm up for a couple of hours and have some lunch and a hot cuppa out of the wind and weather. In the mid-afternoon those that still had energy and were feeling adventurous headed back over to Beaman Base and headed back up the boardwalk to Col-Lyall. It rained throughout the afternoon, but we still got another good look at those beautiful birds - with temperatures not too cold some people hung around for quite a while taking photos and enjoying being on the island.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 7:30pm and at 8pm the sub-polar plunge took place. Ten people jumped from the ship into the icy waters of Perseverance Harbour, at approx 10°C, to help raise money for the Last Oceans fund. It was a great effort by all involved.
After such a big day most people had their dinner and then retired weary and content. Goodbye Campbell Island - we would be setting sail once again at midnight tonight.
The last leg! We awoke this morning to pretty calm seas and good conditions as we sailed north. We departed Campbell Island at midnight last night and now had about 3 days sailing ahead of us for the last leg of the journey.
This morning’s activities started of with Bruce, our government representative, showing us a short documentary and giving us a talk on the Campbell Island Flightless Teal. Bruce has been involved in a reintroduction programme, bringing these unique birds back onto the main Campbell Island after pests were eradicated there. It was a very interesting movie and talk and there were lots of questions for Bruce at the end as everyone was very interested in the programme.
After lunch another New Zealand documentary was screened downstairs, this one about the ever elusive Kiwi Bird. There was a good turnout in the theatre and all enjoyed learning more about these beautiful native birds.
Later on in the afternoon Katya gave a talk on Polar Bears and the threats that they face. It was a consuming presentation and sparked many conversations about the issue.
The bar opened early this evening as the staff had prepared a cocktail party. The bar was decorated up with snow flakes and everyone came dressed as something reminding them of their time in Antarctica. Some crazy concoctions were created by the staff behind the bar and the chefs brought up platters of tasty snacks. Dinner was served downstairs later on and many were still in their creative costumes. A good time was had by all!
This morning, during the wakeup call, Marie announced that the air temperature was up to 12°C and the water temperature a balmy 12.5°C. This showed that we were moving north at a steady speed now, and it wouldn’t be too long before we were off the coast of mainland New Zealand.
During the morning, Ridgeway gave a talk on his time spent in Antarctica. It was a great way for people to understand what it’s like to live on an Antarctic station and to learn about the logistics of living in such a remote location.
The weather just got better and better during the day: we had sunshine, blue skies and glassy seas as we headed north along the coast of mainland New Zealand. Just before lunch a Humpback Whale was spotted off the starboard side, surfacing a few times to give people a great view.
After lunch many people headed up to the monkey deck to enjoy the warm sunshine. We were approaching the Otago Peninsula and there were still some albatross and other seabirds following the boat and quite a few Fur Seals lounging on the water’s surface as we glided past. It was lovely to be outside and enjoying such nice weather.
Later in the afternoon Bruce gave a talk on the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the second rarest bird in the world and one of New Zealand’s more protected species. Bruce has spent many years assisting in the research of these birds and was able to give us a really good idea of what is happening to their local population.
After a group photograph taken on the ship’s bow, the bar was opened and it was a lovely flat day to sit and have a drink and socialise with fellow passengers. Another great meal was served by the chefs and everybody went to bed happy to be in calm waters for the night.
Well, our last day at sea. This morning we awoke as the ship sailed along the coast of the Banks Peninsula. Marie announced that the outside air temperature was up to 16°C and the water temperature up to 14.5°C, significantly warmer than anything we’d felt for a month.
In the late morning we all gathered downstairs for our final briefing. Rodney led an expedition recap and then we all enjoyed watching a fantastic visual presentation that the staff had put together. Seeing the photos of all of the places we’d been over the last month brought back so many great memories. What a way to recall all of our experiences, and what an amazing trip it had been.
After lunch Marie settled up accounts as we got to the heads of Lyttelton Harbour. We anchored with several other ships just off the heads, it was a calm day with blue skies and warm temperatures. It felt HOT to all of us, who had spent the last month south.
That evening we enjoyed a final night dinner. Once again, and for the last time, the chefs put together a delicious meal. Everybody talked of the trip and of the experiences they’d shared. Most people went to bed with a full belly and a smile, ready for the final wake-up call early tomorrow morning.
This morning we awoke to find the ship tied up to the wharf in Lyttelton Harbour. After breakfast and immigration formalities, we boarded our bus and set off on the journey home. The trip had been a great success and all will carry their own memories as they go their separate ways. You are of the lucky few to see these incredible places and it is our hope that you become advocates for their future protection. Thanks for travelling with us and we hope to see you again on a Heritage Expedition in the future!
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" We have been back from our amazing trip for just over a week now so I thought it was time to give you some feedback. The whole trip was fantastic and we were very glad that we had the Heritage Suite for a voyage of that length because it was great to have the space. It did mean that we noticed the rock and rolling of the ship more than the lower decks but we do not get seasick so that was no problem. Overall the weather was great but we did have a few days typical of the roaring forties, furious fifties and screaming sixties as well as katabatic winds off the Ross Ice Shelf one day and Mount Erebus on another. The latter were phenomenal, particularly as we were trying to visit the Historic Huts, so we could really appreciate the conditions that those early explorers had encountered - and we were in a nice warm ship with all the latest technical clothing!!
Rodney Russ was the expedition leader and what a legend! If there is something he doesnt know about the whole area - history, wildlife, weather, economics, you name it, we didnt find out what it was! He certainly went to every length to make sure all the passengers achieved their aims whether it was the history, the penguins, the albatrosses or the Barrier (or in our case all of the above!). His team was also first rate, and Heidi as the cruise director was quite outstanding. She was always working but never seemed rushed or flustered and she never had to be reminded about any request no matter how trivial. The two chefs worked wonders as well!! How they produced the food they did so efficiently and sometimes in such bad conditions was nothing short of incredible!!
The subantarctic islands are a real wonder and far exceeded our expectations. We are not ones to be ticking of species we havent seen before, but to have had real quality views of eleven different albatross and eight penguin species, plus all the other birds was amazing (sorry, I keep using that word!). The Ross Sea component was, for us, definitely a one-off simply because of the number of sea days to get there and back. We were lucky with the weather and although we had some rough seas we could usually manage to get out on deck somewhere sheltered (relatively) to watch the sea, birds, whales or scenery. The historic huts were very, very special and we were delighted that we could spend quite a bit of time viewing both the sites and the interior of the huts themselves. The visits were very tightly regulated in terms of numbers of people ashore and also in the huts at any one time, and of course we could not touch anything, but beyond that we could spend a decent amount of time in the huts and return if we wished for a second look (which we did at both Scott's and Shackleton's huts). Scott's hut in particular we found very moving, and we could recall all Ponting's superb photographs of Scott's party in the huts, and see exactly where they had been taken.
The Ross Ice Barrier and Mount Erebus were stunning, and we cruised along the ice edge at McMurdo seeing many Antarctic Type C Orca and more penguins including distant Emperors. We coudnt get to Cape Adare becasue of the ice conditions but that gave us the chance to sail near the Balleny Islands and we were once again blessed because as we arrived at Sturge Island in the early hours of the morning a lunar eclipse was taking place!
Our final port of call was Campbell Island and definitely one of the best wildlife experiences I have had, with groups of gamming Southern Royal Albatrosses at times literally within touching distance. What a finale!!
One last thing to note about Heritage and Rodney was the quality of the documentation that they sent out, and then once on board Rodney's drawings of each landing site with all the relevant information included. I dont think we have ever had such detailed and pertinent information from any company.
Last but not least I have put a selection of images on my web site - http://www.jennymvarley.co.uk/Ross-Sea-and-Subantarctic-Islands/. "
" This was a wonderful trip to the Ross sea. Highlights were the magical rata forest of Enderby Island with its bellbirds, parakeets and sealions that stuck their heads out of the bushes and roared, the Ross Ice Shelf with the penguins calling and the booming of the surf in the caverns under the ice, Mt Erebus steaming in the sunshine, the ice-covered Balleny Islands in the lunar eclipse....
" I have been home a week now from my expedition "In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton voyage" from the February 8th voyage.
I had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were several highlights, overall the calm seas and the great weather that was put on; the time saved because we were able to do the Ross sea in just a couple of days enabled us to sail to the Balleny Islands. Rodney kept on saying "You don't know how blessed you are", and he was so right. And also to experience the historic huts and especially to go into Scott's hut at Cape Evans where my grandfather had been in 1910 to 1913, and again in 1963. Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime and memories to last for ever.
I would like to thank you for your help, advise and assistance you gave me in the months leading up to my departure.
Thank you so much. "