After three days at sea, we arrived at the northern end of the Antipodes Islands at 6am this morning. Everyone weathered the journey well but the rolling oceans took a few days to get used to and most retreated to their beds during the rougher parts of the journey. We all have our sea-legs now and spent the last few days in the wheelhouse watching cape pigeons, wandering albatross, giant petrels, and fairy prions duck and dive in the wind around the boat.
Overall, we have travelled 760 kilometres (410 nautical miles) to arrive in Anchorage Bay where we had hoped to unload building supplies to Hut Cove and start work on the main biodiversity hut. Unfortunately a heavy northwesterly swell has been rolling in and we are waiting for it to ease off before we attempt to land.
Three scientists will also try to get to Bollons Island if there is a gap in the weather long enough to get them safely ashore. Found to the north of the main island, Bollons is mouse-free and provides an example of what the main island may have been like before mice arrived with castaways in the late 1800’s. The team will put out tracking tunnels to ensure that mice have not made it to the island. They will also set up pitfall traps to assess the invertebrate population. Finally, they will survey the population numbers of endemic species such as the Antipodes Island Parakeet, Snipe, and Reischeks parakeet.
The weather has been erratic so far. After the sun went up over the main island, dark clouds began rolling in to unleash a few bouts of sleet and snow. It has been cold but calm where we are currently anchored in Alert Bay. The sun has come out again, but it is still too rough for us to land.
In front of the bow, to the east, Leeward Island looms above us. The cliffs are rough and exposed, with distinct layers of rock covered in green tussocks and ferns. The base of the cliffs are supported by dark columnar basalt that rises out of the ocean like organ pipes. The middle is sculpted tuff that varies in colour between green and red, a result of oxidation with the marine wind and crashing waves. The final layer is breccia – a matrix of broken rock that has been cemented together with volcanic lava.
We will attempt to land at first light tomorrow. Two people will steady the dinghy’s in waders on the beach while others take gear off and create a chain up the steep, 25 metre cliff to the only two huts on the island. The team will spread themselves and their gear between tents and what is left of the biodiversity hut where they will cook, sleep, and take shelter from the ever-changing weather.
For now, the team is waiting for the first opportunity to get ashore. We will try to update you again in a few days – hopefully from Antipodes Island.