Travelto the city of Invercargill, New Zealand's southernmost city, with a population of 54,000. Invercargill is also one of New Zealand's most hospitable cities and you will enjoy your time here. On arrival please transfer to the Kelvin Hotel, in the central city. (Dinner, bed and breakfast are included).During dinner at the hotel tonight you will meet other expedition members and some of the staff.
Breakfast at your leisure in the dining room at the hotel. Your programme will advise a time for bags out and then we will be transferred to the Southland Museum for your opportunity to view the special Sub Antarctic display in the Museum before being transferred by coach to the Port of Bluff (27 km south of Invercargill) to board the Spirit of Enderby. Depart for Snares Island.
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 Bulbinellarossii 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 becauseof 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.
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 BlackBellied 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. Whilst specific landings cannot be guaranteed, we hope to visit the following,as well as explore for new, perhaps previously unvisited areas:
Cape Adare’s bold headland and the Downshire Cliffs greet us as we approach (subject to local ice conditions) Cape Adare, at the tip of the Ross Sea, the site of the largest Adelie penguin rookery in Antarctica.
Blanketing the large flat spit which forms the Cape is the huge rookery which now, at the height of summer, numbers up to one million birds - an absolutely staggering sight. You will never forget your first experiences in a ceaselessly active and noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors Our naturalists point out various aspects of their lifestyle and by sitting down quietly, one may observe the often comical behaviour of the penguins, courtship displays, feeding ever-hungry chicks, territorial disputes and stealing of nest material. The curious penguins will often approach us very closely, presenting superb photographic opportunities. Surrounded by a sea of penguins we find Borchgrevink’s Hut, the oldest in Antarctica, built during the first expedition to winter over on the Antarctic continent in 1899. It is a fascinating relic of the ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic exploration and we are able to inspect the interior - containing artefacts of the early explorers. One thousand feet up in the hills behind Cape Adare is the oldest grave in Antarctica, that of 22 year old Nicolai Hansen, a member of Borghgrevink’s expedition.
The enormous Admiralty Range heralds our arrival at Cape Hallett, near the head of the Ross Sea. The scenery here is wild and spectacular. Mountains rear up from the sea to over 4,000 metres. Giant glaciers course their way down from the interior to discharge their icy load. We land next to an abandoned American-New Zealand base, home to large numbers of Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals.
Terra Nova Bay
Surrounded by the spectacular Society Ranges is BaiaTerra Nova, an Italian summer research station, one of the most modern and attractive in Antarctica. The scientists and support staff here are always most hospitable and show us around their lonely but beautiful home. The Italians conduct many streams of scientific research and also claim to have the best ‘caffe’ expresso in Antarctica!
This rugged island, deep in the Ross Sea, is gouged by numerous glaciers and is home to a large Adelie Penguin population and other nesting seabirds. We attempt a zodiac landing near a rookery as well as explore the coastline. If a landing is achieved there will be an opportunity for those who are feeling fit to climb to the summit of the island.
Ross Ice Shelf
This is the largest ice shelf in Antarctica, and the world's largest body of floating ice. Just 800 miles from the South Pole, this daunting spectacle prevented many early Antarctic explorers from venturing further south. A natural ice barrier, at times it creates hazardous weather conditions, with sheets of snow blown at gale force by the katabatic winds coming off the polar ice cap. From Ross Island we cruise eastward along the shelf front, with its 30 metre high spectacular ice cliffs continuing to the horizon. Imposing tabular icebergs sometimes calve from the ice shelf.
Ross Island - Mt Erebus / Cape Bird / Shackletons Hut / Scott's Hut
At the base of the Ross Sea we arrive at Ross Island, dominated by the13,000 foot high volcano, Mt Erebus. At Cape Bird the New Zealand Antarctica programme maintain a field station where scientists study many aspects of the regions natural history including the large Adelie Penguin Colony. Scientists may be at the field station when we arrive. At Cape Royds we visit Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut, built during the Nimrod polar attempt, 1907-1909. We learn much of Shackleton's amazing expeditions from our lecturers. Shackleton was possibly one of the greatest, and certainly one of the most heroic of the Antarctic explorers. Though the legendary explorers are long gone, the hut is far from deserted. Reclaimed by the original inhabitants of the area - thousands of Adelie penguins- it is the world's southernmost penguin rookery. Also on Ross Island is Cape Evans, the historic site of Captain Scott’s second hut, erected in 1911 and beautifully preserved by the staff at New Zealand’s Scott Base. It stands as a testimony to the rigours faced by pioneering explorers. We see inside the hut and witness the living conditions almost exactly as they were when Scott, Wilson and Ponting occupied these quarters. Behind the hut Mt.Erebus looms above us with its plume of white smoke spiralling up from the boiling caverns of this still active volcano.
McMurdo Sound -McMurdo Station / Discovery Hut / Scott Base
The U.S. Antarctic Base, McMurdo Station is located at the foot of Ross Island in McMurdo Sound, which at nearly 78 /S, is within 780 miles of theSouth Pole - nowhere else in Antarctica are you able to penetrate this far south on any vessel! McMurdo is the largest research centre in Antarctica, and the site of Scott’s Discovery Expedition hut, from 1901-04. At Scott Base, the friendly New Zealanders take us on a tour including Discovery Hut and show some of their scientific work. The souvenir shop at the base has patches, tee shirts and other Antarctic memorabilia. A hike up to the Memorial Cross to Scott at the peak of Observation Hill offers magnificent views over the sound and the vast Ross Ice Shelf. McMurdo Sound is also home to many Orca (Killer whales), and we keep a close watch for these magnificent animals.
These small, rugged islands lie offshore Cape Hallett and have only been rarely visited. An Adelie Penguin rookery,numbering tens of thousands of birds, blankets Foyn Island. Here are further enjoyable opportunities to observe their busy activities, with the superb backdrop of the Admiralty Mountains across the water.
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.
Day 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 wella s 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.
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.
We arrive at the Port of Bluff. After breakfast and customs formalities have been completed we will disembark.
PLEASE NOTE : 6th Feb departure returns to the Port of Lyttelton (Christchurch) and is 31 days in duration.Landings at the Sub Antarctic Islands are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at Snares Is. Circumstances may be encountered during our voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed during the voyage.