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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Cruise: The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia

2012/2013 Tour Narrative

From confiding pipits pecking at our feet in calm sunshine to great albatrosses sailing effortlessly amid towering waves that crashed over the bow, this was a trip of contrasts, and a wonderful opportunity to visit some truly remote islands. Highlights were many and varied, from point-blank views of handsome Erect Crested and Snared Crested penguins to the beauty of Chatham and Buller’s albatrosses, from up close and personal Southern Royal Albatrosses at their nesting grounds to puzzling over prions, and from seeing both the very rare Magenta Petrel and Chatham Petrel in the same hour to the almost constant presence of one albatross or another as we sailed these wild waters. We saw 9 species of penguins and some 42 species of tubenoses (including 14 albatross species), plus many other specialties, such as the flightless Auckland and Campbell teal, and the elusive Campbell Snipe. Add to this some spectacular seas, lush golden and purple carpets of flowering megaherbs, and varied endemic landbirds, and this trip produced memories to last a lifetime.

Day 1 21 December 2012. We all arrived safely from our varied points of origin and gathered for an enjoyable buffet dinner to meet our fellow travelers and have an introduction to the trip from Rodney; as a bonus, the world didn’t end on this day, as some had suggested might happen.

Day 222 December 2012. The morning we were free to wander in Invercargill, with the ‘official option’ being a visit to the fine museum where, among other things, we got to touch the legendary Tuatara lizard and learn of its remarkable natural history. Birding in the park around the museum produced a few (mostly non-native) species before lunch and loading the bus for the short drive to the harbor in Bluff, where in the early afternoon we boarded Spirit of Enderby, our home for the next 17 days. After time to settle in to our cabins and explore the ship we had an introductory briefing and pulled away about 4 pm to head out into the Southern Ocean. The meaning of ‘harbor’ was graphically apparent as we headed from the flat water of Bluff into the howling wind and rolling sea of the Foveaux Strait, separating South Island from Stewart Island. Birding in the late afternoon was non-stop action before breaking for dinner and a well-earned sleep. Our first albatross (a White-capped aka Auckland Shy) was spotted as we left the harbor, and after that birds were constantly in view, with at least 5 species of albatross (including our first Royals and Wanderings), and many thousands of Sooty Shearwaters and Fairy Prions, along with good numbers of Cook’s Petrels, a few giant-petrels and Mottled Petrels, and the dapper little Pintado (or Cape) Petrels.      

  • 46o35’S 168o20’E (Bluff) ending 8 p.m. at 47o18’S 168o17’E; sea-surface temperature (SST) 15oC. Variably cloudy, sunny, 20-25 knot NW wind and cross swells.

Day 323 December 2012. After leaving the lee of Stewart Island in the early hours we got to experience the notorious ‘Southern Ocean Roll’ - which continued through the day and made for a challenging zodiac cruise at the Snares, where we arrived in early morning. On our second attempt the zodiacs were loaded and we were privileged to enjoy an up-close experience with the remarkable flora and fauna of our first island outpost.

The highlight was undoubtedly simply being among masses of the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, with groups standing around on the rocks and amid the lush kelp as well as swimming all around and right up to our zodiacs! The otherworldly forest, growing on burrow-riddled soil (homes to millions of shearwaters and petrels) held the endemic all-black tomtit and the somewhat elusive fernbird, while numerous Southern Buller’s Albatrosses, families of Antarctic Terns, scavenging skuas, lounging fur seals, and a few Hooker’s Sealions were also great. Remarkably we also encountered 3 vagrant seabirds - a Little Penguin, a stunning Chatham Albatross, and a Great Cormorant (aka Black Shag) that seemed to think it was a penguin. Back out to sea and heading south, most people took the chance to relax, while others were rewarded with increasing numbers of Mottled Petrels and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, among numerous other species.              

  • 48o00’S 166o40’E (Snares) ending 8 p.m. at 48o58’S 166o44’E; SST 14-11oC. Mostly cloudy morning, becoming variably cloudy, sunny p.m., 20-30 knot NW wind and cross swells.

Day 424 December 2012. A gray, misty dawn found us rounding the low bluffs of Enderby Island in the north of the Auckland group, with SST 12oC. After breakfast, a briefing, and a slide show on the history (natural and ‘unnatural’) of the Auckland Islands we prepared for what would be a memorable day ashore. Enderby Island, for which the Spirit of Enderby is aptly named, is a great example of an island that is reverting to its natural state thanks to the eradication of non-native mammals. Hence the birds are remarkably confiding, from ubiquitous pipits at one’s feet and flightless Auckland Teal to brilliant Red-crowned Parakeets and handsome Double-banded Dotterels running around at very close range. Add to this spectacular, eye-level courtship flights by Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, groups of Auckland Shags harvesting the lush grass for their nests, cryptic Subantarctic Snipe scurrying underfoot, a scattering of Yellow-eyed Penguins, and of course the spectacle of Hooker’s Sealions on the beach (with boisterous subadult males scattered around the island!). Oh, and then there were the wonderful carpets of flowering megaherbs, nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses, a brief but vivid fly-by New Zealand Falcon, the otherworldly rata forest, a vagrant Australian Shelduck, and on and on… Having a full day to explore the island was indeed a treat, and our individual memories of the sights, sounds, and smells of this Christmas Eve will be indelibly etched in our memories. A small contingent, accompanied by great live guitar from Tracey, stayed up to see in the Christmas Day - and what a day it would be…             

  • 50o30’S 166o16’E (Enderby); SST 11oC. Overcast and misty, brightening slightly before some afternoon rain; winds generally light and overall mild.

Day 525 December 2012. Overnight we moved south to Carnley Harbor, where a low cloud ceiling and strong north winds (gusting to 50+ knots and whipping the water in a swirling white frenzy) limited our choices for landings. We ship-cruised in the early morning and had a fascinating briefing from Rodney that discussed the storied history of wrecks on the Auckland Islands, after which there was a option to go ashore at Tagua Bay. One group climbed through the stunted forest to the old coast-watchers’ hut and lookout, while another tried birding around the beach. The howling gale made looking for bush birds a wee bit challenging, but being inside the forest with its lichens and gnarled understory was an incredible experience. Some great zodiac work got us safely back to the ship in the wind-whipped waters, after which we enjoyed a leisurely and very fine Christmas meal, prepared by chefs Linzy and Bobbie. Battening down the hatches we headed out from the sheltered waters and attempted to move onward towards Macquarie Island. The northwest wind continued to howl and rage, and the seas were spectacular, with waves crashing over the bow as we plunged into mountainous seas; albatrosses were dwarfed by the white-capped swells - we were really seeing the Southern Ocean. Many stayed safely in their cabins but birding was great, with numerous White-headed Petrels, some nice Gray-backed Storm-Petrels, and plenty of great Albatrosses (mainly the local-breeding Gibson’s Wanderers) riding out the storm and sailing around the ship. After a few hours of making very little headway and a memorably rocking dinner, the captain and Rodney made the very sensible decision to turn back and wait out the storm in the lee of the Auckland Islands. A wonderful night’s sleep was perhaps the best Christmas present any of us could have wished for!            

  • 50o48’S 166o04’E (Carnley Harbor), turning back 8 p.m. at 50o58’S 165o20’E; SST 11oC. Overcast and misty, 45-60 knot NW wind and mountainous cross swells (to 8-10m) upon a confused sea.

Day 626 December 2012. We awoke in the lee of the Auckland Islands and after breakfast pulled up anchor and headed back out to sea. The sea had abated somewhat but it was still a rather rocky day. Then again, the wind is what albatrosses like, and we enjoyed the constant presence of Gibson’s [Wandering] and Southern Royal Albatrosses, along with numerous Auckland Shy Albatrosses and our first Gray-headed Albatross. The spectacular White-headed Petrel was a regular feature, as were Antarctic Prions. Also seen during the day were Black-bellied and Gray-backed storm-petrels, a few Mottled Petrels, and our first cetacean - a Southern Bottlenose Whale.

50o47’S 166o15’E (Auckland Islands) ending (8 p.m.) at 51o49’S 164o22’E; SST 11oC to 9oC. Variably cloudy and sunny, with 30-40 knot WNW to WSW wind and 5-6m swells.

Day 727 December 2012. Dawn found us in gentler seas and in Australian waters, continuing southwest to arrive off Macquarie Island by about 9 pm. Birding through most of the day was relatively quiet over these deep ocean waters, although we had great opportunities to study Wandering and Royal albatrosses and practice some seabird photography. Adam gave a lecture on the world’s albatrosses in the morning, followed by shopping opportunities at the sea shop; and in the afternoon Rodney and Adam prepared us for our Macquarie Island visit, followed by vacuuming quarantine measures supervised by Igor. After dinner the island was just discernable in the fog, and the cloud ceiling lifted just enough to view the huge King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay, as the winds whipped up the sea and hundreds of seabirds flew around the ship, including our first Soft-plumaged Petrels and Black-browed Albatrosses.            

  • 52o57’S 162o06’E ending at 54o35’S 159o06’E (Macquarie); SST 9oC to 8oC. Overcast with spitting rain showers, 15-20 knot winds and 3m swells, with winds gusting to 40+ knots in the lee of Macquarie.

Day 828 December 2012. Macquarie Island. We awoke in Buckles Bay, off the Australian Base, and early risers managed to see all 4 penguin species around the ship, plus a breaching Killer Whale! The 8 Aussie personnel we had brought from Invercargill disembarked after breakfast, when we picked up 3 outbound personnel and 3 rangers (Richard, Paul, and Lauren) and 2 hunters (of rabbits and rats; Kelly and Stephen) to accompany us south to Sandy Bay. The non-native rats, mice, and rabbits were eradicated in 2011 and the vegetation is already showing signs of recovery - along with the bird populations; ongoing monitoring and diligence are still needed, but signs are good that Macquarie has become a success story in the annals of island restoration.          

Words cannot really describe the experience of arriving at a beach packed with stately King Penguins and groups of hurrying Royal Penguins, of watching skuas and lounging and lunging Southern Elephant Seals, with the associated sounds and smells, while giant-petrels wheel overhead against the green, well-vegetated cliffs, Antarctic Terns plunge-dive in the bays, and Macquarie Shags fly past. Despite the low cloud ceiling and misting conditions, this was one special day, and it seemed as if we were on another planet, the Planet of the Penguins; the rest of the world was so far removed as to be completely forgotten. The colony of Royal Penguins with chick creches, now accessible via a new and very sturdy boardwalk, and the mass of King Penguins with their ‘wooly’ youngsters were impressive for their sheer density - what perfect jigsaw puzzles they would make! And how many photos were taken?!

After leaving Sandy Bay we lunched on the ship and moved north to Buckles Bay, where the whipping wind and rocky beach made for a slightly tricky landing; and the driving rain didn’t help! The warmth of our Australian hosts more than compensated, however, and a fascinating tour of the base also featured a few Redpolls (much appreciated by some of the birders) as well as delightful Gentoo Penguins, numerous elephant seals (making themselves quite at home in the buildings!), and some striking white-morph Southern Giant-Petrels. Hot drinks with scones and cream at the mess allowed us a window into life on the base, but all too soon it was time to head back to the ship, now with 3 new Australian personnel to transport back to the ‘real world.’ Luckily, sea conditions had improved and the zodiacs were able to cruise by the Rockhopper Penguins at Garden Cove before we boarded for another fine hot dinner and a good sleep.

Day 929 December 2012. The rolling swells overnight slackened somewhat during our travel day at sea, heading ENE towards Campbell Island. Katya gave a lecture on the whales and dolphins of the region in the morning, and Rodney talked about the storied history of Campbell Island in the afternoon. Birding was steady, with a good variety of species logged by the day’s end, including 10-11 albatross species, some nice White-headed Petrels, and our first Fulmar Prion (in Australian waters!). We crossed back into NZ waters at about 1 pm.          

  • 53o55’S 162o11’E ending at 53o12’S 166o15’E; SST 6-10oC. Overcast and misting, becoming foggy in pm, 10-15 knot NW to W winds and 3-4m mixed swells.

Day 1030 December 2012. Campbell Island. An undercast, rainy dawn found us just off Campbell Island, with numerous albatrosses, Pintado Petrels, and giant-petrels around the ship. Our first Campbell Shags flew out to greet us as we turned into Perseverance Harbor, the cloud-shrouded island tops on either side and colonies of Hooker’s Sealions and shags on opposite shores. After dropping anchor and eating breakfast we had a briefing and outline for the day - some folks opted for ‘the long walk’ while others opted for zodiac cruises around the bay and then climbing the boardwalk to Col Lyall. The ‘long-walkers’ set off first and had an amazing day, even if the first half was in driving rain; as well as some spectacular views and megaherbs, they found a pair of Campbell Teal, two single Antipodes Albatrosses, and even the little-known endemic Campbell Snipe, discovered only in 1997! Both groups enjoyed close-up and personal experiences with nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses, the icon of Campbell; it really is quite a moving experience to be so close to these ocean giants.             

All of the zodiac cruisers also had great views of the flightless Campbell Teal, with a record-breaking 7 birds being seen - something unimaginable even 3 years ago; the island fauna is steadily recovering, which is wonderful to witness. As well as ‘the world’s loneliest tree’, an Eastern Curlew was a little out of place, as were 3 Great Cormorants (aka Black Shags), while feeding frenzies of gulls and Antarctic Terns, along with the handsome endemic shags, made the rain little more than a vague background effect. After a chance to dry off and eat picnic lunch at leisure on the ship, the ‘short walkers’ ferried ashore to the boardwalk as the sun came out for a welcome warming.             

Despite low clouds the pm remained dry, if breezy, and the majesty of up-close nesting and displaying Southern Royal Albatrosses will be forever etched into our minds, amid lush slopes painted in verdant greens, varied purples, and golden yellows by carpets of flowering megaherbs where confiding pipits made their homes. Those staying late enjoyed some spectacular ‘gamming’ as groups of pre-breeding albatrosses gathered to display, and a few people even managed to glimpse the elusive Campbell Snipe. Overall an exhilarating day, followed by a fine dinner and a well-deserved sleep.

  • 52o39’S 169o09’E (offshore in am) to 52o34’S 169o14’E (Perseverance Harbour); SST 10oC. ‘Undercast’ and rainy through lunchtime, becoming mostly cloudy with sunny spells and a cool NW wind in the pm.

Day 1131 December 2012. At sea heading ENE towards the Antipodes. A day of albatrosses and sunshine, with a following sea making things very pleasant. We awoke to the classic ‘Southern Ocean’ spectacle of numerous albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels circling the ship, and by the day’s end we had enjoyed some 10 species of albatross, with countless chances to see that elusive ‘honey eye’ on the handsome Campbell Albatross. At times there were upwards of 20 Southern Royals and 2 Northern Royals around the ship, and in late pm an optimistic skua tried his chances by harassing these ocean giants - but without success. Videos were shown that discussed the rat eradication from Campbell and the successful reintroduction of the teal there, followed by a talk from Steve entitled Seabirds of the World, part 1 - What is a Seabird? In the afternoon Adam gave a fine lecture over-viewing the penguins of the world, and after dinner and the bird list a select band of hardy souls stayed awake to sing in the New Year as the seas rolled beneath us.           

  • 51o54’S 171o31’E to 50o47’S 175o18’E; SST 10-11oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 15-25 knot NW winds.

Day 121 January 2013. It’s not a bad start to the year when 5 of the first 7 species you see are albatrosses! The first few hours as we approached the remote Antipodes Islands were packed with birds, from good numbers of the endemic Antipodes Albatross to the diminutive Subantarctic Little Shearwater, plus White-headed and Soft-plumaged petrels, a surprise White-faced Storm-Petrel, and plenty of prions, (including Fairy, Fulmar, and Broad-billed), plus a briefly seen Sei Whale. The towering cliffs of the Antipodes were bathed in welcome sunlight as the braying choruses of penguins carried out to the ship, Pintado Petrels circled all around, and we entered the lee of Ringdove Bay. A surprise was finding a yacht already here - the Tiama, which had just delivered some albatross researchers for the season and was heading back to South Island.            

We had a break for a briefing and lunch before some amazing zodiac cruises at these rarely visited outposts of volcanic rock. The lush, green, vegetated steep slopes and the amazing, kelp-fringed shores held hundreds of Erect Crested Penguins, smaller numbers of Rockhopper Penguins, and hundreds of New Zealand Furseals, among which were a few Subantarctic (aka Subtropical) Furseals. There were Pipits seemingly everywhere and the endemic Hochstetter’s (Red-crowned) Parakeet was also quite conspicuous, but it took considerable work, and luck, to find the less common Antipodes Parakeet. Antarctic Terns dived at skuas, Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses wheeled overhead, smoky-blue Fulmar Prions flitted in and out of magical caves, and the cliffs, caves, waterfalls, kelp, and crystal-clear waters were mesmerizing. After dinner back on the ship we headed on northward, towards the Bounty Islands.       

  • 49o51’S 177o23’E to 49o35’S 178o51’E; SST 9-12oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 15-25 knot NW winds.

Day 132 January 2013. A misty but sunny dawn and rocky seas found us just south of the Bounty Islands, a rugged group of exposed stacks. These islands are one of nature’s untold spectacles, absolutely packed with nesting albatrosses, penguins, and fur seals, along with Fulmar Prions and the handsome Bounty Shag, perhaps the rarest (and certainly the most localized) shag in the world. The rough seas and dashing white surf added to the atmosphere as thousands of Salvin’s Albatrosses wheeled about or sat on the water, along with hundreds of Pintado Petrels and a few Southern Royal Albatrosses, while groups of shags flew out to greet us and circle the ship. Leaving the dizzying spectacle of the Bounty Islands behind, we headed on north, towards the Chatham Islands, the last island group on our itinerary.        

The afternoon at sea was somewhat bumpy (including a memorable 45o roll as we crossed the 180o meridian in mid-afternoon!) but good numbers and an increasing diversity of birds kept us out and looking. New species added included Northern Buller’s Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwater, and three species of gadfly petrel - Gray-faced, Black-winged, and Pycroft’s petrels. Somehow the chefs kept to their work in trying seas and once again produced a wonderful meal, served as always by the redoubtable Natalia and Ala.          

  • 48o05’S 179o02’E to 46o13’S 179o20’W; SST 9-12oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 20-25 knot NW winds and cross swells.

Day 143 January 2013. At sea heading towards the Chatham Islands. A strong weather system made this a challenging day, both for simply moving around the ship and for watching birds. Even so, the waters we transited today are arguably the richest in the world for seabirds, and an impressive 25 species of tubenoses were recorded. Squadrons of weaving prions accompanied us for a while, allowing great comparisons of Broad-billed and Fairy prions (yes, they really do look different!), while 10 species of albatrosses included the stunningly handsome Chatham and Northern Buller’s, plus both royal albatrosses as almost constant accompaniment. The commonest bird, however, was the wonderful little White-faced Storm-Petrel, which could be seen almost all day long, skipping and splashing over the waves. Instead of heading to Pyramid Rock as planned (which would have been an even more uncomfortable course!), we headed to the lee of the main island and anchored off Port Hutt for a pleasantly calm night, as the storm passed by and the wind dropped.

45o19’S 178o10’W to 43o49’S 176o41’W at anchor; SST 12-16oC. Variably cloudy and sunny, with 25-35 knot NW winds and 6-8m confused cross swells, changing to 5-10 knot S winds by late afternoon.

Day 154 January 2013. A gloomy and rainy dawn found us getting ready for a day ashore on the main Chatham Island, which is 45 minutes’ ahead in time from the rest of New Zealand. After 2 weeks of visiting remote and largely pristine islands, the pastoral landscape and human habitation of the Chathams came as a bit of a shock to the system. We landed at Port Hutt, where some Pitt Island Shags decorated a dilapidated fishing boat, and then headed by bus south through Waitangi (where a vehicle reshuffle allowed us to stretch and see the Chatham Oystercatcher) and on to the Awatotara Valley. This private reserve, under the stewardship of Bruce and Liz Tuanui, gave us a taste of what there once was, and what can be done with some foresight and commitment to conservation. We split into groups to walk along the valley (for some down to views of the coast) and along the road, both options enabling us to see some native and re-vegetated forest habitats.       

The rain mostly held off, and all groups enjoyed good views of the endemic pigeon and warbler (or gerygone), as well as the tui, fantail, and pipit, along with roadside harriers and Wekas. Back in town there was time to relax, wander, do some shopping, and stop at the hotel for a drink and some fish and chips. All aboard by 5 pm we headed south along the coast to waters off The Horns where a dedicated small band forewent dinner and maintained a petrel vigil - and what a vigil it was! A distant Magenta Petrel was followed by a closer Chatham Petrel, and then a second Magenta Petrel made a close circuit of the ship and, in the fading light, another Chatham Petrel whipped across the bows before a memorable sunset. Two of the world’s rarest seabirds within an hour, and even photos of both! A euphoric bird list and recap of the day was followed by a welcome sleep.

  • 43o49’S 176o41’W (at anchor) to 44o09’S 176o51’W; SST 15oC. Overcast and misty with morning rain, brightening and drier through the day; 15-25 knot fresh and cool S winds.

Day 165 January 2013. What a difference a day makes - dawn found us south of The Pyramid, in low seas and with the spectacular sight of tens of thousands of albatross circling around this striking islet, home to ostensibly all of the world population of the very handsome Chatham Albatross. The sun shone, and blue skies made for glorious views of the islands. After circling The Pyramid while chumming in scores of squabbling albatrosses (thanks Adam!) we headed over to Southeast Island, where zodiac cruising was somewhat compromised by the big swells. Despite the seas we all had great views of the very local and unique Shore Plover, along with nesting White-fronted Terns, lounging fur seals, and the distinctive but as-yet-unnamed ‘Chatham Skua’ - a member of the Brown Skua complex but in some ways looking more like a South Polar Skua. Moving between the islands we all enjoyed the sun out on deck as Chatham Shags flew around the ship, and after lunch we made a close pass of Mangere and Little Mangere islands, historic features in the story of the Black Robin, a conservation icon. By 2.30 pm we started to head west and away from the Chathams, still in warm sunshine and low, rolling seas with a liberal scattering of White-faced Storm-Petrels and albatrosses. Some mid-afternoon chumming by Adam offered us great views (and more photo ops) of 6 species (!) of albatrosses, as well as Pintado Petrels, giant petrels, and even a few prions and storm-petrels. Sailing west into the night the calm seas continued and we enjoyed a great dinner, followed by a fabulous group of Southern Rightwhale Dolphins porpoising off the bow - a stunning and rarely seen mammal.           

  • 44o26’S 176o50’W to 44o26’S 177o40’W; SST 15oC. Sunny and partly cloudy, 5-10 knot S wind with mixed swells.

Day 176 February 2013. At sea heading WSW back towards the South Island. A relaxing day in gently rolling seas, with many folks taking the opportunity to be outside and enjoy the sunshine. A trio of the very rarely encountered Shepherd’s Beaked Whale was seen in the am, while in late pm a trio of Killer Whales made a brief appearance. We crossed back over the 180o meridian in the morning and birds were steady throughout the day, with numerous albatrosses (some recognizable individual Wanderings being with us all day), White-faced Storm-Petrels, and ‘Cookilaria’ petrels (mainly Cook’s but with a few Pycroft’s identified courtesy of digital images). Steve gave part 2 of his Seabirds of the World (penguins and albatrosses) lecture in the am, and in the pm Katya gave a fascinating lecture on the human history and natural history of the Russian Far East. After dinner and the bird list, a showing of the movie The Big Year took place in the lecture room.             

  • 44o40’S 179o43’W to 45o02’S 176o58’E; SST 15oC. A sunny morning, becoming mostly overcast in the pm; 15-20 knot N wind in am, becoming 5-10 knots in pm, with generally low and rolling seas.  

Day 187 February 2013. At sea continuing WSW back towards the South Island. The seas stayed gentle through lunch, with the light changing from overcast to sunny and blue, and back again. A good am to rest and pack, starting our preparations for re-entry into the ‘real world.’ Birds and mammals were still ‘out there,’ dominated by good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters along with a few Hutton’s Shearwaters and our last Wandering and Royal albatrosses. Steve gave the third and final part to his Seabirds of the World presentation, and after lunch the wind continued to freshen as the sea started to roll (again!) while Mottled Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters towered high in the winds they are built for.           

In the pm we had a recap of this remarkable voyage, followed by a briefing for our arrival tomorrow in Dunedin. Meghan put together a wonderful slide show of the trip and Rodney and the staff gave an overview of the places we had visited and the things we had seen on our expedition to a little-visited but magical corner of the planet. Folks gathered in the bar for drinks as the skyline of the ‘mainland’ and the Otago Hills appeared on the horizon, followed by a great last night dinner buffet - thanks again Linzy and Bobbie!

  • 45o20’S 174o16’E to 45o42’S 170o50’E; SST 13-14oC. Variably cloudy, sunny, some rain and near-sleet showers; 10 knot SW winds, increasing to 25 knots in the pm.

Day 19 8 January 2013. The pilot came aboard at 6 am and we cruised up the long harbor channel to Dunedin, still adding a few new species to the trip list as folks absorbed the sights of the New Year in the real world. Despite the ‘beautiful sunny weather’ (as viewed from inside) a howling wind made it quite cold outside - had we brought the subantarctic back with us? After customs formalities and a group photo it was time to disembark and begin our travel homeward. Thanks to all for making this such a wonderful and memory-filled trip to one of the special places on the planet, some 2718 nautical miles and seven remarkable island groups.

- Steve Howell

Updated: January 2013