Voyage Log: Expedition Albatross Latitudes

Milford Sound to Wellington

4 January 2024 –  20 January 2024

Authors: Oscar Thomas, Greg Lind, Taylor Davies-Colley

Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11| Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17

 

Day 1: Piopiotahi/Milford Sound

4 January 2024

The day began in Queenstown, Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud)/New Zealand’s premier, year-round tourism destination and one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Visitors and residents alike are drawn by the remarkable mountain and lake scenery, its proximity to popular ski fields and vineyards, and its reputation as the adventure capital.

To reach the Coral Geographer in Piopiotahi/Milford Sound four hours away, we travelled by coach down the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and crossed over the terminal moraine of the glacier that was once considered the richest alluvial goldfield in the world. A short stop for lunch in Te Anau saw us continue up the Eglinton Valley into Fiordland National Park. A break at Mirror Lakes saw numerous tūī feeding on harakeke/flax flowers. On exiting the 1.2km Homer Tunnel through solid granite, the flightless weka and cheeky mountain parrots known as kea were seen from the coach.

It was raining (as it so often does in Fiordland, with an annual rainfall of over 7000mm) but the crew welcomed guests then baggage onto the Xplorers for the short trip across to the Coral Geographer. Safely aboard and dry, we exited Piopiotahi past 1683m Mitre Peak, the most iconic symbol of the sound. Although the weather conditions dampened and shrouded the scenery, it meant for dramatic waterfalls, with over 100,000 of them appearing along the length of the sound every time it rains. The ship turned left and headed down the coast for our overnight stay in Poison Bay.

Milford Sound - Expedition Albartoss Latitudes

 

Day 2: Tamatea/Dusky Sound

5 January 2024

Dawn broke as we entered the stunning Thompson Sound and followed the steep forested shoreline of Secretary Island (8000ha) until we reached the junction with Pātea/Doubtful Sound. Back offshore we had flybys from four species of toroa/albatross, including white-capped albatross, Antipodean albatross, southern royal albatross, and Salvin’s albatross. Other seabirds such as Cook’s petrel and mottled petrel zoomed past.

After lunch we entered Tamatea/Dusky Sound via the northern entrance. Here, sitting at the entrance of the Sound is Breaksea Island (156ha) which was cleared of rats by DOC in 1988. Up to thirty bottlenose dolphins joined us in the Acheron Passage, playfully breaching and swimming in the bow wave of the ship, dwarfed by the backdrop of Resolution Island. Lucky observers also spotted the odd kororā/little penguin in the water.

Our Xplorer cruise was based around the Many Islands near the Pukenui/Anchor Island sanctuary. This yielded endemic spotted shags and lounging kekeno/New Zealand fur seals on the rocks, as well as nesting silver gulls with young chicks. A cacophony of endangered mohua/yellowhead and tīeke/South Island saddleback alongside glimpses of forest birds such as kākā in flight over the island were a testament to the incredible diversity of wildlife in Fiordland. The legacy of explorers gone by became evident in the many names of islands and coves left by Cook, and others who found reprieve from the southern ocean amongst these islands and inlets. Leaving the settled confines of Dusky Sound the southern fiords of Chalky and Preservation Inlet passed by as we joined Coral Geographer Captain Andy in the bridge deck lounge for pre-dinner drinks, before we passed the final headland as we entered Foveaux Strait.

Dusky Sound - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes - Jan24

 

Day 3: Rakiura/Stewart Island

6 January 2024

Morning found us anchored off Sydney Cove of Te Wharawhara/Ulva Island (267 ha) in Paterson Inlet of Rakiura/Stewart Island. Ulva Island is an open sanctuary now pest free following a rat eradication (1992 – 97) which has allowed introductions of some of the rarer New Zealand bird species such as tīeke/South Island saddleback, yellowhead/mohua. Using zodiacs six parties landed at Post Office Cove to be met by Ulva Goodwillie (Rakiura Māori, Ngai Tahu) and her team of nature guides. We enjoyed the splendour of this nature paradise encountering weka/woodhens and their chicks, kākā, korimako/bellbirds, kakaruai/Stewart Island robins as well as kākāriki/red-crowned parakeets amongst the rimu forest.

The local guides possessed an incredible depth of knowledge matched by their passion and commitment for the place. The Open Sanctuary provides visitors with a glimpse of what Stewart island could be like if rats and feral cats were removed. In the afternoon, the ship repositioned close to Golden Bay enabling a visit to the township and a brisk walk along the scenic Golden Bay track, through lush rātā and rimu forest. Guest Lecturer Greg Lind provided a presentation on Rakiura including the creation of the National Park in 2002 and the history of the island.

Dinner that night was a veritable banquet of seafood which was very appropriate as Stewart Island is known for its crayfish, blue cod, pāua (abalone), oysters and marine farmed salmon. After dinner, our NZ Department Of Conservation representatives (Chris Hankin and Scott Freeman) resolutely introduced us to the quarantine procedures to prepare us for the landings on the NZ subantarctic islands. These requirements are essential to protect the World Heritage values of the islands which are recognised as outstanding in the world setting. Any introductions of plants, insects or pathogens not only threaten the wildlife but also erode the unsurpassed uniqueness of each island. Visitation rests on maintaining and protecting these values. Later in the evening we headed south for our first taste of the vast New Zealand subantarctic region, towards Tini Heke/Snares Islands.

 

Day 4: Tini Heke/Snares Islands

7 Janyary 2024

Arriving at 6:30am over 100km to the south, we were able to view part of the spectacular mass exodus of tītī/sooty shearwaters from their nightly burrows on Tini Heke/The Snares, so named as they were considered a hazard for their potential to ensnare passing ships. These islands may only be 3.5km2 in size, but they harbour an enormous quantity of life, including no less than five million of these tītī.

The overcast conditions soon gave way to a clear day, and Xplorer and zodiac cruises along the protected coastline of North East Island allowed us to appreciate up close the curious Snares crested penguins and stunningly patterned Snares cape petrels. The excitement amongst the guests and staff was obvious with rafts of seabirds around the ship and skyward, wheeling sooty shearwaters filled the air.

Nesting Buller’s albatross sat high on the cliffs above, while fearsome New Zealand sea lions lurking in the bull kelp below. Brown skuas and Antarctic terns circled around us and the little Snares tomtits sang from the forest of tree daisies. Hundreds of penguins made their pilgrimage up and down the aptly named penguin slide. An unexpected Antarctic visitor spotted after lunch was a leopard seal, taking a rest on a rocky islet. As we sailed south again towards the Auckland Islands, a few distant whale blows were spotted out the window during dinner. Like all of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, the Snares hold World Heritage status and are as near to pristine as possible in this modern world.

As the islands faded into the distance, and sights of penguins and shearwaters faded we joined Purser Manfred for an incredibly informative wine tasting and lesson about all things wine, including but not limited to the four S’s of wine tasting.

 

Day 5: Enderby Island, Motu Maha/Auckland Islands

8 January 2024

Our overnight cruise from the Snares saw us enter Port Ross at dawn, at the northern end of the Auckland Islands. It was typical subantarctic weather – misty, breezy and light intermittent showers. Anchoring off Sandy Bay for our landings on Enderby and following a quick beach reconnoitre to check if the rookery of pakake/New Zealand sea lions were receptive. With many hundred sealions dotting the beach, Sandy Bay is one of the major rookeries. Massive adult male ‘beachmasters’, dark brown with bulging shields of thick hide and weighing up to 450 kg dominate harems of sandy coloured females with small pups. During the breeding season the beach is a battleground of competing males. A large blob on the far end of Sandy Bay was revealed to be a 1500-kilogram subadult male southern elephant seal named ‘Boris’, who had returned for a second season to moult. Still less than half the size of a fully grown one!

Penguin alley proved busy on arrival, with hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin parties leaving shore throughout the morning. Auckland Island shags and light-mantled sooty albatross battled the gusty winds along the cliff tops where they nest. The enormous Southern royal albatross could be found on the tundra either side of the boardwalk, where they socialised and continued to incubate eggs, Auckland Island banded dotterels and pipits walking amongst them. In the rātā forest lived Auckland Island tomtits, korimako/bellbirds, and red-crowned kākāriki/red-crowned parakeets.
Those for the “long walk” – 12 km around the eastern half of the island were lucky to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic Subantarctic snipe. The initial section was through the wonderfully twisted and contorted Rata forest which was flowering beautifully. Its red flowers littered the trail. So after we emerged onto the moorlands of stunted vegetation fully exposed to the prevailing gales. The megaherbs especially the Azorella polaris (“Macquarie Island cabbage”), Anisotome latifolia (“Campbell Island carrot”) and the tall tussock grasses (Chionachloa antarctica and Poa foliosa) now dominate the landscape. Bulbinella rossii (“Ross lilly”) also was flowering prolifically.

A more sombre part of our hike was passing the grave marker near Derry Castle Reef. On a stormy day in 1887, the sailing ship Derry Castle struck the reef and fifteen of the crew perished on this bleak and jagged shoreline. The survivors were rescued after four months. Finally turning the northeast corner of the island and into the shelter of Port Ross eventually the Coral Geographer came into view and it was a tired but satisfied party that arrived back at Sandy Bay after a six hour hike. A quick visit to the 1881 Stella castaway depot reminded us that others had been here before us in much more trying conditions. The earliest humans to visit here were Māori, somewhere between 1250 and 1400.

To finish off a fantastic day, an Auckland Island flightless teal emerged from the kelp to farewell the guests from Enderby Island while the valiant crew staved off curious sub adult male sea lions (or SAMs).

Enderby Island - Expedition in to Albatross Latitudes

 

Day 6: Port Ross, Motu Maha/Auckland Island

9 January 2024

Starting from Port Ross at the northeastern tip of Auckland Island, the parties separated into two groups with one heading to Hardwicke Settlement site in Erebus Cove and the others a shoreline cruise as far as Ranui Cove (site of the World War Two Coastwatchers Base and lookout). Hardwicke settlement was established as a resupply base and whaling station on the false premise the land was suitable for farming and crops and that whaling was viable.

Twenty years earlier, botanist Joseph Hooker had commented on the peaty soils being unsuitable for much. As for whaling, only one whale was taken in three years. The settlement was closed and dismantled amid a high degree of controversy and disappointment. A small party of 40 Māori and Moriori had already settled on the Auckland Islands in 1842 after fleeing the Chathams after a fiery altercation, and greatly assisted the settlers’ attempt to adapt. Four years after Hardwicke was abandoned the last of the Māori also departed. All subsequent attempts to farm and settle the Auckland Islands failed. Interestingly Port Ross now is a major Southern right whale congregation with 370 whales using the area in the course of a winter to calve and breed – 70 calf/mother pairs alone were seen in 2011.

Our visits ashore at Hardwicke took us to the small cemetery containing six graves – three from the settlers and three shipwreck fatalities. We saw the remains of the Castaway Depot and boatshed and a stroll along the main “street” took us to the Victoria Tree. This signal to castaways was constructed by the HM Colonial Ship Victoria in 1865. Over the period since Hardwicke settlement’s demise survivors of at least six shipwrecks made their way to Erebus Cove. Though little remains of the settlement it certainly serves as a poignant reminder of the trials and tribulations of humans in these remote and harsh extremes.

The area left behind by these pioneers has now been reclaimed by rātā forest, creating an eerie setting to this rich history. Those that looked up noted this forest exhibited exquisite crown shyness, with the canopy like a jigsaw perched above us.

The Xplorer shoreline cruise, as far as Ranui Cove, provided an opportunity to understand the Coastwatch era in the subantarctic. In 1939 just before the declaration of war in Europe, the German ship SS Erlangen escaped from Port Chalmers in Dunedin, and lacking coal supplies sufficient to get the neutral countries in South America, steamed south to Auckland Islands. There they cut and loaded 250 tons of rata wood and steamed/sailed to Chile. The Erlangen was intercepted in the Atlantic and scuttled by her crew.

The NZ Government was aware of the risk posed by the subantarctic islands for enemy bases, so Coastwatch Stations were established. From the time of establishment to cessation (March 1941 to June 1945), no enemy ships were sighted. The staff on the three bases were productive with botanical, zoological and meteorological studies in addition to their official observation duties. In terms of wildlife on the day, we enjoyed a group of foraging Eastern rockhopper penguins and Auckland Island shags all around the boat while terns followed along from above, associating the diving birds with food.

Making the most of the reasonable sea conditions, Captain Andy hoisted anchor and we headed down the east coast to Carnley Harbour. Our evening voyage along the eastern side of Auckland Island came with stunning vistas and close flybys of the majestic light-mantled sooty albatross, while guest lecturer Taylor discussed the weird and wonderful origins of Aotearoa’s unique and endangered wildlife.

Hardwicke

 

Day 7: Carnley Harbour, Motu Maha/Auckland Island

10 January 2024

With strong winds and rain (and more rain) whipping down the North Arm of Carnley Harbour it was, in hiking terms, a “pit” day. As the day progressed it was clear that the proposed landings at Tagua Cove (Coastwatch base) and Epigwaitte (wreck of the Grafton – 1864) would not go ahead for safety reasons, but swirling clouds of thousands of tītī/sooty shearwater kept guests entertained. Lectures included Te Ao Māori – exceedingly well delivered by Guest lecturer Taylor, and Islands of Disappointment – the shipwreck era and also the plans to eradicate pigs, mice and cats from the Maukahuka/main Auckland Island, presented by Guest lecturer Greg. Greg’s lectures highlighted the difference in experience from us on our cosy ship, to those wrecked in days gone by in similar weather looking for refuge in these harbours.

 

 

Day 8: Carnley Harbour, Motu Maha/Auckland Island

11 January 2024

Similar weather conditions prevailed even though the ship was in the lee of Tagua Cove having repositioned, but we managed to get off for a shoreline Xplorer cruise. This proved to be an excellent two hours where an invasive feral pig was sighted on the beach, along with plenty of Light-mantled sooty albatross and black-bellied storm petrels on the wind. The absolute highlight was a raft of Yellow-eyed penguins feeding in the middle of the cove.

Guest lecturer Oscar spoke on birds that we did and did not see that day, touching on some of the regional subantarctic oddities such as the Auckland Island rail and extinct merganser. Fellow lecturer Taylor introduced the incredible megaherbs present on the islands. Let’s head to Campbell Island, decided Captain Andy just as the sun came out at 3.30pm. Four metre swells and a brisk westerly wind greeted us on the exit of Carnley Harbor, as well as an array of local seabirds including the mighty Gibson’s albatross, striking white-headed petrels, and little Antarctic prions with neat blue and brown markings.

Auckland Island - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes

Day 9: Perseverance Harbour, Motu Ihupuku/Campbell Island

12 January 2024

At dawn, the magnificent Campbell Island came into sight, with the towering cliffs at Bull Rock making the island seem somewhat foreboding. The welcoming arms of Perseverance Harbour closed around us and the tussock slopes of Mount Honey were being flattened by the strong westerly. With the Coral Geographer anchored off the former Beeman Hill Meteorological Station we had an excellent view all around Perseverance Harbour – the caldera of a long extinct volcano. Following breakfast, we readied ourselves for the wonders that Campbell Island had to offer.

The island was discovered in 1810 by Captain Hassellborough on a sealing expedition aboard the “Perseverance”. Our day’s adventures commenced at 10am with 25 hikers heading to Garden Cove for a three-hour trek over the lower slopes of Mount Honey. We were warned of the muddy conditions and so it proved – the hikers soon learnt that a “route” track is considered moderately challenging, and only lightly marked and maintained. It was a slightly muddy but happy group that emerged from the dracophyllum scrub back into Garden Cove, then into the zodiacs for back to the ship. The other landing party had several close engagements with male New Zealand sea lions with Expedition Leader Wayne doing well to keep them at bay with a broomstick. The ‘World’s Loneliest Tree’ required stout sea lion defence. A lucky few even spotted the bizarre flightless Campbell Island teal fossicking in the rocks.

The harbour Xplorer excursions after lunch proved to be a real highlight. It was clear that 30 knots of wind was ideal conditions for birds in flight. Dozens of Southern royal albatross flew up the harbour into the wind to gain enough lift to reach their nest sites on the tops of the hills. Photographers were greatly animated and the shoreline was all action, with hoiho/yellow-eyed penguins coming and going, nesting light-mantled sooty albatross, and a large New Zealand Sea lion rookery lined the shore, bull males with their harems of females and puppy piles attracting the guests’ attention.

Campbell Island - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes

 

Day 10: Perseverance Harbour, Motu Ihupuku/Campbell Island

13 January 2024

All in all, a pretty typical Campbell Island day – gale force winds and freezing misty rain. But it was clear that most of the guests were up to the task and there were forty who landed at Beeman base camp and headed up the Col Lyall boardwalk for the three hour return hike. Around the same time, the Xplorer headed out from the ship for a harbour cruise to make the most of the wildlife on this now thriving island. All this coincided with even stronger winds and heavy rain showers which meant a turnaround of the Col Lyall party after an hour, and the cruising party took a vote to return to the ship as well.

The weather kept us on board after lunch. This change however did allow Phil Moors, one of the guests and who had been based on Campbell in the 1980s to give a lecture on his experiences researching eastern rockhopper penguins. His insight on island life highlighted the vast changes in how the island has recovered since the removal of sheep and rats, as well as how a changing world has seen a decline in the penguins he once studied. Guest Lecturer Greg presented a lecture on the Campbell Island rat eradication in 2001, the planning, organisation and execution that led to its success – the highest density of Norway rats ever recorded (26 per ha) and at the time the largest island cleared of rats.

We cruised out of Perseverance Harbour to turn north for the first time following the coast at first allowing a better look at the Bull Rock albatross colony, where tens of thousands of endemic Campbell Island albatross, notable for their yellow iris, line the cliffs. A remarkable sight to see and ponder to finish our visit to the Southernmost island on our journey.

Campbell Island - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes. - Day 10

 

Day 11: At sea

14 January 2024

The Coral Geographer continued its voyage northeast today, heading closer and closer towards one of the most isolated islands on Earth. As the ocean passed by out the window, we learned more about Māori culture and language from Guest Lecturer Taylor. Later on, the globetrotters were tested with a geography quiz, and guests’ culinary knowledge enhanced with a cooking lesson by the talented Chef Dylan.

Despite no sight of land, albatross still sailed past the ship from time to time. Guests were better equipped to make out which of these remarkable birds they could be following Guest Lecturer Oscar’s presentation outlining how to tell Albatross apart. An obvious sign of us travelling in the right direction were increasingly frequent flybys from the enormous dark-capped Antipodean albatross.

An evening screening of the documentary “Ocean to the Sky” by guest Michael Dillon (cameraman and director) covering Sir Edmund Hillary’s (“best adventure of my life”) 1977 jet boat trip up the Ganges from the Bay of Bengal to the river’s source. The upper reaches of this sacred and mighty river had seemingly unbeatable sections of rapids – which footage revealed, but the New Zealand designed and built jet boats managed to go where no one previously had succeeded. An outstanding documentary and thank you to Michael for sharing this masterpiece!

 

Day 12: Motu Mahue/Antipodes Islands

15 January 2024

Still sailing at sea in the morning, Guest Lecturer Greg and DOC rep Chris Hankin presented a documentary entitled the Million Dollar Mouse project. This outlined the successful eradication of mice in 2016 on the main island of the Antipodes which, at the time, was the largest in the world. It was estimated that there were 200,000 mice on the island and they were competing with endemic snipe, parakeet and other species. There were concerns that the rodents might shift to attacking the nesting seabirds, as had occurred on Gough Island. The success of the operation can be attributed to lessons learnt on previous operations as much as the new generation of skilled staff.

We arrived at the Antipodes at lunch time, and proceeded to unload the Xplorers in Ringdove Bay for shoreline wildlife viewing and scenic excursions. Allowing for the uncharted nature of this coastline, we saw small rookeries of Erect-crested penguins and their fluffy chicks, with flocks in the water around the boats, as well as a rare sighting of a small green Reischek’s parakeet endemic to the island. Recovering New Zealand fur seals were plentiful, among them the odd southern elephant seal. Having left the leeward side of the island into Anchorage Bay where the ship had relocated, the wind and swell forced us to head back early. Despite this, it was a most excellent and rewarding excursion.

Before long, the Coral Geographer turned northwards and we set sail for the Chatham Islands. The views of nearby Bollons Island completed our visit to this tiny speck in the vast Southern Ocean.

Antipodes Island

 

Day 13: At sea

16 January 2024

The morning began with an introductory lecture by Guest Lecturer Oscar on the Chatham Islands, known as Rēkohu (misty skies) by the indigenous Moriori who discovered and settled the islands in the 1400s developing their own distinct culture. Due to the harsh nature of the environment they were primarily hunter gatherers over farmers, harvesting albatross and seals. They are also known for strong religious beliefs and a vow of peace, which outlawed war and killing. Europeans discovered the islands in 1791 and named the place “Chatham” after their ship.

A scavenger hunt and cocktail masterclass kept us entertained throughout the afternoon. Seabirds including broad-billed prions, white-faced storm petrels, and northern royal albatross (all with major colonies on the Chatham Islands) whizzed alongside the Coral Geographer as we edged closer to land.

As if to remind us all of the comforts of our modern ship, another of Micheals documentaries of adventure was played. This time following a group of intrepid men as they sailed to and scaled Heard island. Isolated in the Southern ocean and Australia’s highest peak. The shot that sunk in for many was the men all packed into the hull to sleep, in areas that more resembled our wardrobes rather than our cabins.

 

Day 14: Rēkohu/Wharekauri/Chatham Island

17 January 2024

Rēkohu is home to 730 people, whose livelihoods focus mainly on fishing – blue cod, paua and crayfish being the most popular. We sailed into Petre Bay and anchored out from the township of Waitangi, the island’s wharf facilities and transport fleet ready and waiting. The guests were divided into three groups which then visited three key sites in a random order. One, the basalt columns at the northern end of Petre Bay, a half hour drive away. A short walk down to the shoreline columns assembled by nature millions of years ago. A very impressive structure and though we had seen them from a distance in the subantarctic, here we got to experience them up close.

Next was the Admiralty Gardens (named after the distinctive Red Admiral butterflies) filled with a diversity of plants for birds, bees and beauty, the result of the hard work of the owners Lois and Val who gave us the royal tour. Then it was back into town to visit the island’s newly refurbished and impressive museum. Covering a breadth of the culture, biodiversity and geology of the islands, it was a remarkable museum for a small place. Down the hill at the Chatham Hotel awaited an excellent feed of blue and chips. Any ‘a-fish-ionado’ of this New Zealand delicacy would know it can’t be beaten fresh. Back on the bus, it was off up the hill to the Kopinga Marae for an introduction to the culture, history and renaissance of the Moriori people of Rēkohu/Chatham Island.

The Marae Wharenui (“meeting house”) was impressive and almost matched by the wonderful view. With its central “Pou” or pillar with its base inspired by the five-sided basalt columns of the island. The whole complex, from the air, is built in the shape of an albatross in flight, a bird of great cultural significance to Moriori. Back to the ship, made ready to set sail, after we all enjoyed a successful day. At the evening’s recap it was abundantly clear both guest and staff felt the Chathams was an unexpected treasure, with more to offer than many know.

The ship rounded the western shore of the island and headed across the Pitt strait. The afternoon light lit up the surrounding islands including the appropriately named Castle Rock, Sail Rock. As well as Mangere and Little Mangere Islands, synonymous with the remarkable rescue from extinction of the black robin, one of the most well known stories in NZ’s conservation history. The fabled Chatham Island albatross (affectionately known as the flying banana, for their bright yellow bill) made a brief appearance during dinner service, causing a bit of a stir!

Chatham Island - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes

 

Day 15: Rangiaotea/Rangiauria/Pitt Island

18 January 2024

A “propitious” start to the day, light winds and high clouds likely to disperse. Shortly we were whipped ashore by the deck team, using zodiacs to expertly get everyone on the beach below the Flowerpot Lodge. Two walking parties were formed with the 6km “Long Walk” over to the cliffs of Waihere Bay on the east coast; and the “Short Walk” up the valley behind the Lodge – 2km.
We were met by our lovely hosts from the Flowerpot Lodge (Brent Mallinson) and soon the long hike was away over the rolling paddocks to the cliffs. After 30 minutes we were rewarded with outstanding views across Wairere Bay and Mangere (Big and Little) Islands. From Red Cliff Tuff, Brent gave an excellent summary of the

geological history of the unique place that Pitt Island is. The islands were formed by several underwater volcanoes around 65 million years ago. As we approached Waihere Bay Brent also described the fossilised forest remains along the beach area which sounded extraordinary. Maybe for another day and a full day hike.

We turned away from the coast and headed down through the paddocks passing the little church (“Lady of the Antipodes”). New Zealand’s most remote church – certainly no others spring to mind. We were warmly welcomed into Flowerpot Lodge by our hosts (Brent and Bernadette, fed delicious pāua patties, home baked bread and baking and given a brief history of human settlement on the island. Suitably nourished, (but regretting not eating all the pāua patties) we headed for the beach and into waiting zodiacs to arrive back to the Coral Geographer, thereby reducing the island’s population by 2/3rds.

Like the Hobbits (think “second breakfasts”) we enjoyed another meal as the ship headed out on our final leg to Wellington. The farewell fleet arrived shortly after anchors aweigh, with no less than a thousand albatross of six different species cruising by the ship in the span of an hour, an amazing sight captivating those guests lucky enough to witness it.

Pitt Island - Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes

 

Day 16: At Sea

19 January 2024

With the last of our islands behind us we steamed across the Chathams rise on our way back to mainland Aotearoa. With the cruise almost done a certain feeling that this was almost over could be felt throughout the day. However, this day was too filled with fun.
We began with a talk from Guest Lecturers Oscar and Taylor, as well as Expedition Crew Ben about photography. Learning about the use of light to enhance our photos, and how photos taken on trips like this can contribute to science, conservation and advocacy. We really learned who was paying attention, with a quiz covering everything from which penguin is this? to sheep to people ratios. The winning team not only answered almost all questions correctly, but managed to guess the total trip length almost to the kilometre.
Expedition Crew Jesse, having amassed well over a thousand photos from the ship’s crew across the voyage, presented his favourites to a packed lounge with a killer soundtrack. A highlight was then being able to see a selection of the guests’ best photos. Jim’s roaring leopard seal took the top prize. Expedition Leader Wayne led the farewell drinks, along with a moving speech by Captain Andy, and we applauded all the ship’s incredible crew.
Dinner was filled with joy, as people reminisced about the adventures they had, and discussed future plans. We also got an opportunity to thank our galley and hospitality teams. Who had been working hard sometimes completely behind the scenes to make this cruise as magic as it was.

 

Day 17: Pōneke/Wellington

20 January 2024

Early in the morning the ship slipped through the mouth of the Wellington harbour to find its berth. With full hearts we farewelled our fellow passengers and new friends, as we all headed off our separate ways. Some travelling home, some staying on to further explore Aotearoa, all of us with a new appreciation of one of the last great wild places on earth.