Day 1: Arrive at the City of Invercargill and check into the centrally located Kelvin Hotel. Meet your fellow travellers and some of the expedition staff over dinner in the hotel.
Day 2: After breakfast we will visit the Southland Museum to whet the appetite for the journey ahead. After lunch we board a coach to transfer to the Port of Bluff where the Spirit of Enderby awaits. Settle into your cabin then join expedition staff for an orientation to the vessel.
Day 3: The Snares is the first of the Sub Antarctic Islands that we will be visiting. It is an amazing island - more birds nest on this small island than there are seabirds around the entire British Isles. We will arrive early morning, landings are not permitted so we zodiac cruise the sheltered eastern side. Cruising in the sheltered bays we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguins, Tomtit and Fernbird. Cape Pigeons, Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Red-billed Gulls are around the coastline. There is an estimated 6 million Sooty Shearwaters nesting on the Snares Islands (Bullers Albatross nest here later in the season).
Days 4 - 5: The Auckland Islands, one of the largest Sub Antarctic Islands also has a most colourful history of discovery and attempted settlement. During our stay we will visit Carnley Harbour and spend a day ashore on Enderby Island. Enderby Island is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Sub Antarctic Islands. Forested by gnarled and windswept rata, it has a low plateau of scrubland and cushion bog. We will enjoy the extensive Bulbinella rossii fields, the regenerating patches of Anisotome latifolia and the red and white gentians. The island enjoys a much milder climate than most Sub Antarctic Islands because of its location. It is home to the rare Hookers sealion which breed each year on Sandy Bay beach. In the forest behind the beach we find Bellbirds, Red-crowned Parakeets and the friendly Tomtits. Yellow-eyed Penguins also nest in the forest and under the tangled divaricate shrub Myrsine divaricata. They can be seen as they travel backwards and forwards across the beach to their nests, especially in the evenings.
On the more open country beyond the Rata forest we will find Royal Albatross nesting and the endemic Auckland Island Dotterel. There is a good chance that we will see the endemic flightless Teal at Derrycastle Reef as we explore this island. It is a day with fabulous photographic opportunities. In Carnley Harbour we will offer the energetic the opportunity to climb up to the SW Cape Shy Mollymawk or Albatross Colony. It is a reasonably difficult scramble but worth the effort - the views are spectacular and the colony is readily accessible allowing great photo opportunities. Wandering Albatross can sometimes be seen nesting in the tussock beyond the Mollymawk Colony. For those who don’t climb, there will be a zodiac excursion to explore parts of this magnificent harbour. We depart the Auckland Islands in the mid afternoon and head south west to Macquarie Island.
Day 6: At sea we will have a series of lectures supported by videos of the biology and history of the Sub Antarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean. The Subantarctic Convergence Zone is traditionally very close to the area we are sailing through so we should expect the birdlife to reflect this as we get closer to Macquarie Island. We will be at sea all day, another opportunity to see pelagic species, including Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Shy (white capped) Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Grey Headed Albatross, Black Browed Albatross, White Chinned Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White Headed Petrel, Cape Petrel, Diving Petrel, Grey Backed and Black Bellied Storm Petrel.
Days 7 - 8: Macquarie Island, Australia’s prized Sub Antarctic possession, is a small but impressive sliver of land supporting one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the southern hemisphere. Millions of penguins of 4 different species - King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and the endemic Royal breed here. We plan to spend two days observing the best wildlife areas on the island and visit the Australian scientific base where Tasmanian Park Rangers take us on a tour of the station and nearby areas. The King Penguin rookery at Lusitania Bay is spectacular. A welcoming committee porpoises around our zodiacs as a quarter of a million King Penguins stand at attention on shore. In the centre of the rookery, rusting condensers are grim reminders of a time when many penguins were slaughtered for their oil. Now, their forgiving offspring have reclaimed this territory.
At Sandy Bay, a Royal Penguin rookery teems with feisty little birds trotting back and forth, golden head plumes bobbing as they march to and from the shore. All 3 million Royal Penguins in the world breed on Macquarie Island. Large groups of Elephant Seals slumber on the sandy beaches and in the tussock grass further inland. These giant, blubbery creatures barely acknowledge our presence, lying in groups of intertwined bodies undergoing their annual moult. Younger bulls spar in the shallow water preparing for their mature years when they will look after their own harem. Other wildlife includes Fur Seals, four species of nesting albatross - Wandering, Black Browed, Grey Headed and Light - mantled Sooty as well as many other species of birds. Macquarie Island is certainly the richest single wildlife area on our voyage and we aim to fit in as much as possible. It will be a superb experience.
Days 9 - 12: Soaring Albatrosses and Petrels circle the vessel as we move ever southward through the Southern Ocean. Our lecture programme will continue. Sea water temperatures will be monitored, so we know when we cross the Antarctic Convergence into the cold but extremely productive Antarctic waters. Drifting icebergs are sighted, with vivid colours and extraordinary shapes. Each is an unique example of natural sculpture. The Captain will manoeuvre the ship close in for your first ice photography. There will be special celebrations as we pass the Antarctic Circle and into Antarctica’s realm of 24-hour daylight!
Days 13-22: During our time in the Ross Sea region we visit the highlights of Antarctica's most historic region. Due to the unpredictable nature of ice and weather conditions, a day by day itinerary is not possible, however the Captain and Expedition Leader assess daily conditions and take advantage of every opportunity to make landings or zodiac sightseeing tours. Our program will emphasise wildlife viewing, key scientific bases and historic sites, as well as the spectacular scenery of the coastal terrain, glaciers and icebergs in the Ross Sea. Zodiacs and/or our hovercraft will be used for landings and sightseeing on a regular basis.
Days 23 - 26: At sea en-route to Campbell Island, we will see a similar range of species as we saw en-route to Macquarie Island from the Auckland Islands. There will be a series of lectures preparing us for our visit to Campbell Island. Also a time to rest and enjoy shipboard life.
Days 27 - 28: We arrive at Campbell Island, a place of rugged scenery, unique flora and abundant wildlife. At Perseverance Harbour, there is a now abandoned New Zealand meteorological station. Around the harbour are Campbell Island Shags, as well as penguins, Fur Seals and rare Hookers Sealions. The highlight of our visit is a walk to the hilltop breeding sites of Royal Albatross. Over six thousand pairs breed on Campbell Island. These magnificent birds, close relations and the same size as the Wandering Albatross, have the largest wingspan in the world and are very approachable, making superb photographic subjects. The wildflowers which have made a dramatic recovery since the removal of sheep should also be in full flower.
Day 29: At sea en-route to the Port of Bluff. A chance to relax and reflect on what will have been an amazing experience. Lecturers will take the opportunity to recap the highlights of the Expedition and we will enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we cross the last few miles of our journey.
Day 30: We arrive at the Port of Bluff. After breakfast and customs formalities have been completed we will disembark.
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