We have spent the last two days on the second of the Sub-Antarctic Islands on this trip – Auckland Islands. We are at around 50 degrees south – a much higher level of latitude than Antarctica but still s long way south.
Our first stop at these islands was Enderbee Island, the subject of my previous post. It is a wild life reserve and we were not allowed to land.
Yesterday, we continued to the south of this volcanic island group and we reached Musgrave Inlet on the eastern side of the island. The island is volcanic in origin and layers of basalt and volcanic ash stand out on the hills. At one time, the island was glaciated and the resulting fjords provide access and shelter
Our first outing in zodiacs was to explore the coast. Our transfer from the ship was much calmer than the previous day where the swell was about 2 meters high and we had to time our crossover into the boats at the peak of the swell. We sauntered along the coast underneath hexagonal columnar basalt cliffs.
Overnight, we sailed to the southernmost area of the island to Musgrave Inlet. Our morning outing was a zodiac cruise to a cave and enclosed little bay with lots of moss, lichen and tree roots overhanging the vertical walls. Along the Ford, I was intrigued by the masses of kelp that floated in the water and which moved with the egg and flow of the waves.
We found a few of the local Penguin species – the Yellow Eyed Penguin. They are large birds and live individually rather than in large colonies. The other sea birds were a variety of cormorant.
In the afternoon we did a 2 1/2 kilometre walk across an island (and back) to see the exposed bird cliffs and wild ocean. We landed on a beach that was inhabited by large male sea lions – each waiting for the females to arrive for breeding. They were sleeping and looked like large lumps of lard as we walked across the beach between them. In another few weeks it won’t be nearly as peaceful as they fight over space and their harem of women with whom to mate.
The first part of our walk was through a stretch of forest and we had our first b glimpse of giant mega herbs – low latitude plants with large leaves and big flowers. Across most of the way, we walked on a narrow board walk with albatross and gannets soaring overhead. Over a large stretch of land (like a meadow) were thousands of herbaceous plants with bright yellow candles-like flowers. Our walk finished with a tough stretch of difficult walking through tussock grass to where we could overlook a few pairs of sooty albatross on the cliffs.
Overnight, our ship sailed further south to Canley Harbour where another zodiac ride took us along the gentle waters in the harbour to. a narrow harbour entrance where the cliffs provided a breeding area for thousands of Shy Albatross were breeding. This are has once beeb farmed and hundreds of feral pigs are a threat to the birds, They only nest in places that the pigs find inaccessible. To reach this location, we had to travel through a stretch of very rough water caused by the swells hitting the cliffs and then bouncing back in a confused way. I don’t think we were really in any danger as we booked around madly in these very durable little zodiacs but we would not have wanted to fall over the side!i
Tonight, we are on our way to Macquarie Island. We will have scout 30 hours of sailing to get there and do far there the seas have been quite smooth.