A few months ago I was lucky enough to be awarded an Enderby Trust scholarship. The Trust was set up by Rodney Russ, the founder of Heritage Expeditions, and the scholarship aims to provide young people with an opportunity to visit the sub-Antarctic and Antarctica, who otherwise wouldn't have the financial means. The scholarship pays for 70% of the Heritage Expeditions voyage fare, and the recipients pay the rest. For all four of us scholarship recipients who went on this voyage, it was a rare opportunity to visit an amazing part of the world which, but for the scholarship, we would not have been able to experience.
The voyage I went on was called "Sub-Antarctic Islands: Forgotten Islands of the South Pacific", in reference to the fact that most people don't know they exist. Indeed, most of my circle of friends had visions of icebergs and Antarctica when I told them I was going to the sub-Antarctic. However, the furthest south we went was Campbell Island, which, at about 52° S is further from the pole than Scotland is, and definitely not in iceberg territory. This particular voyage visited two of the larger islands in the region, Auckland and Campbell, with a short visit to the Snares on the way down.
So, this is where the sub-Antarctic islands are! They exist! They are not Antarctica. They are their own unique ecosystem, with amazing flora including spectacular megaherbs, and an incredible diversity and number of nesting seabird. The islands sit to the south of New Zealand, between the sub-tropical and Antarctic convergences, and smack bang in the middle of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties. The weather isn't actually very cold here, perhaps averaging 7° C on Campbell Island, but it is the wind and rain which can really make these islands inhospitable.
The sub-Antarctic islands of NZ are the world centre for albatross diversity, with 10 species nesting, almost half the global total. There are a further 21 species of nesting petrels, shearwaters and prions and 4 species of breeding penguin. There are also a number of endemic land birds and a some unique nesting sea mammals, including Hookers Sea Lion and New Zealand Fur Seal. In short, the islands are a haven for all sorts of sea-dwelling animals which converge on the islands to breed.
Vegetation on the islands range from stunted rata forest on Auckland Island, to bleak, windswept tussock grass on Campbell Island, to barely vegetated rock stacks such as the Pyramid near Chatham Island. In summer, the unique megaherb flora explodes into life, with supersize daisies, carrot-related plants with giant purple flower heads and a so-called cabbage (not related to cabbage) with huge leaves and thousands of tiny flowers in one inflorescence.
For this expedition, our itinerary ran something like this:
Day 1: board the ship at Bluff, sail in the afternoon, pass Stewart Island.
Day 2: wake up near the Snares, cruise past the islands, set sail for Auckland Islands by midday.
Day 3: wake up at Auckland Island, have the whole day ashore at Enderby Island (smaller island near Auckland Island).
Day 4: have the morning exploring Auckland Island, set sail for Campbell Island by early afternoon.
Day 5: wake up at Campbell Island, either spend the whole day ashore hiking, or zodiac cruise in the morning and time ashore in the afternoon.
Day 6: have the morning either ashore on Campbell Island or zodiac cruising around the harbour. Set sail for Bluff by early afternoon.
Day 7: whole day at sea.
Day 8: wake up near Bluff, disembark.
I'll get around to doing a proper trip report at some stage, but in the mean time, I'll post some blogs on various things which took my fancy during the trip.