Friday, February 24, 2017

Campbell Island - New Zealand

Google Map Link

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. 


Megaherbs

Megaherbs

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



Megaherb

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




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Auckland Islands - New Zealand (Day 2)

Google Map Link

Auckland Island hike track link


Just above the landing spot on Auckland Island
Our second day in the Auckland Islands had the ship moved south and into the large sheltered straight between the main Auckland Island and Adams Island. These relatively protected water provided for some better sailing and ability to do some zodiac cruising and a shore landing. We decided to do separate activities today. Susan did a zodiac cruise having repeat looks at things we saw on the hike yesterday and Bob joined a small group of intrepid souls who hiked up to take photos of nesting White-capped Albatross. 

The landing for the albatross hike was dodgy - jumping off a bobbing zodiac onto a rock shelf at shore.  No photos since all the gear was packed away for a potential swim in the drink...  But all ended well with everyone making it ashore with no more than wet boots. The hike to the albatross colony was short but steeply up a very muddy track through Rata trees and waist high tussock grass. Fun, fun, fun! Once up the slope the scene opened to magnificent views of the islands and ocean below. Once again we had magical (for the Furious 50's) weather. After an ascent of about 800 feet in a little over a mile we were at the breeding colony. 

We spent most of an hour watching the antics of the albatross before continuing a short distance to the top of the ridge for a view one of the few pairs of nesting "Gibson's" Wandering Albatross.  What a treat!

All good things must end so it was back to the ship for the long sail south to Campbell Island.


Tim and Gary pushing through the trees



Climbing the tussock grass slope

Auckland Island Gentian and Creeping Button Daisy
The "Spirit of Enderby" sits at anchor in the Carnley Harbor

A panoramic view of the straight and passage. Not going through that in a ship!

The albatross nesting cliffs on the right
A closer look at the nesting cliffs

White-capped Albatross


White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

White-capped Albatross

Gibson's Wandering Albatross

Gibson's Wandering Albatross


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Auckland Islands - New Zealand

Enderby Island




Taking zodiacs from the ship to shore
From the Snares, we continued sailing further south through the afternoon and night to arrive early the next morning at Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands group at about 51 degrees south.

We spent a glorious day on Enderby Island walking a 6+ mile circuit around the island. It is a small island in the archipelago and an Important Bird Area (IBA) completely free of all introduced predators.  The IBA status was conferred by BirdLife International for the breeding seabirds, and Auckland Island Shag, Teal, Rail, and Snipe.  All of them are unique species or subspecies.

On our hike we saw the Auckland Island teal and shag, the snipe, and many Yellow-eyed Penguins. The snipe is also known as the subantarctic snipe.

Most of the flowering plants still had at least a few in flower and some were in their full glory.

We got to experience the sun, the rain, and a whole lot of wind. The wind riding birds like the giant petrel and southern royal albatross were in their element.

We also spent time dancing around the New Zealand sea lions, especially tricky in the tussock grass where they could hide until we almost stepped on them. They are on the island to give birth and breed so are especially touchy right now. Our guides had to spend time fighting them off as the young males are especially aggressive.



The landing beach complete with many New Zealand (Hooker's) Sea Lions


A "wet" landing

The "Spirit of Enderby"
The "Spirit of Enderby" anchored offshore
Auckland Islands Shag
Auckland Islands Shag
Auckland Islands Shag
Auckland Islands Shag
Auckland Islands Teal
Australasian (New Zealand) Pipit
Australasian (New Zealand) Pipit
Brown Skua 
Double-banded Plover
Double-banded Plover
One of the "megaherb" flowers
Female Hooker's Sea Lion hiding in the tussock grass
sub-adult male Sea Lion (they are grouchy)
Rata Tree forest
Contemplating running the gauntlet back to the beach
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross on nest
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Considered by many to be one of
the most elegant species on earth (I would agree).
Immature Northern Giant Petrel. A face only its mother could love...
Southern Royal Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross 


Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Yellow-eyed Penguin
Tomtit