Friday, February 24, 2017

Campbell Island - New Zealand

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Hike Track Link

The Spirit of Enderby sits at anchor in Perseverance Harbour
Next up in the sub-antarctic hit parade was Campbell Island. It was a long cruise south through some big water. The "king of seasick" (Bob) didn't fare so well on the journey. Thankfully much of it was at night so he could sleep it off. We awoke at anchor in Perseverance Harbour at Campbell Island. This island is about as remote as any on the planet and such a treat to visit. Throw in the continued amazing weather streak we were having and we were in heaven. Campbell has a long history of whaling and an attempt at livestock grazing. Introduced predators were an issue through much of the 20th century. By 1934 the island had been abandoned with only a coastal watch station in WWII and a meteorological station through 1995. 

From the Rockjumper Tour Company brochure: 

In the early 1970's the island was fenced in half, and stock was removed off the northern half. The impacts of the remaining livestock were monitored, before they were all eventually removed in 1990. The vegetation recovered quickly, with the local feral cat population dying out naturally. In a very ambitious eradication program (never before attempted on such a large scale), the New Zealand Department of Conservation successfully removed the rat population. With the island declared predator free, the way was clear to reintroduce the endangered Campbell Islands Teal that had been rediscovered on an offshore island in 1975. Subantarctic Snipe, which were formerly unknown from the island found their way over and recolonized the islands themselves. The great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker described the island's vegetation in 1841 as having a 'flora display second to none outside the tropics', is flourishing again, being nothing short of spectacular.

Campbell Island Teal

Susan writes our narrative for the day:

Today we did a six mile hike – the North West Bay Walk. This was interesting cross-country hiking with spectacular views, flowers, and those ever annoying and aggressive New Zealand sea lions. 

An easy landing site on the island
The group sets out. It may look like bad weather but this is
an exceptionally good day in the "Furious Fifties"

The hike took us up one ridge, down to the sea, then back up to a separate ridge and then to another bay where the zodiac picked us up. Yep, up and down and back up and down …

Subantarctic (Campbell Island) Snipe
Along the way, we had nice views of many nesting pairs of Southern Royal Albatross, Australasian pipits, and Antarctic terns. The highlight was a wide open look at the secretive Subantarctic (Campbell Island) Snipe. This distinctive subspecies may very well be elevated to species soon.

The flowers were also stunning with many megaherbs.  They are lovely masses of purple, some looking like Dr. Seuss plants. Megaherbs were new to me and are giant flowers - who would know based on the name? These perennial wildflowers grow in the subantarctic islands and are huge, very unexpected in a land of plants that are small and stunted by the islands harsh climate of cold and wind. 



Not sure if this is considered a megaherb, but it sure is pretty


Our hiking route was a bit difficult with mud, tussock grass, and steep long steps. By holding onto the plants along the way we were able to keep upright and on our feet most of the time. The tussock grass concealed more of our friends, the sea lions and we had three unpleasant encounters with them.  The first was one that lunged at Susan and our guide, Mitch, had to fend him off with a hiking stick.  The second was another young male guarding a wash that gave us access to the beach and again Mitch had to beat him back.  The third was another young male that chased our group up a canyon as we left the beach.  We only heard about this one as our other guide, Conner, was on the radio urging Mitch to get the group up the wash as he was being pursued and the folks at the back of the group were none to happy about it.  As part of our safety talk prior to our hike we were all told that the best way to deal with aggressive sea lions was to stand perfectly still and make no eye contact.  The sea lions then get bored and eventually lose interest.  We all found that impossible to do on a hike.

Tussock Grass hiking

Mom and a young pup

Mitch stares down an aggressive young male sea lion
Look closely - a sneaky sea lion lies in wait in some ferns...
The view into Northwest Bay and Dent Island

The view north from the ridge

We also got to go through a bit of forest.  It was a completely different habitat than the tussock grass and quite lovely. 

Forest hiking

It was another magical day in a place most people will never visit. And we still had one more day to go...

Heading home toward the Spirit of Enderby

Antarctic Tern

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross 

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross 

Southern Royal Albatross

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