Shipping Out

By Alison Ballance

An expedition team is currently on the Antipodes Islands. It includes builders and scientists who will follow up on work done during the last expedition in August. Alison Ballance will be updating the blog from the Antipodes Islands.

How time flies … the spring expedition has been on Antipodes Island for two and half weeks already, and today is pack up day. Evohe set sail from Dunedin yesterday and we’re expecting to see her about midday tomorrow. The forecast looks promising both for getting off Antipodes Island, and for scooting up to the Bounty Islands to try and get ashore for a day there. Hopefully we’ll load the boat tomorrow afternoon and be on our way north overnight.

So, everything is going back into sealed buckets and fish bins, and is being hauled down to Landing Bay. Unfortunately we don’t think we can use Hut Bay, where we came ashore, where the derrick and flying fox is set up, so this time it’s a much harder, more time-consuming job to carry everything about 300 metres down through a  penguin colony and along the reef to a dry spot where the gear can sit for the night.

Andy is still doing some final work inside the hut, lining the new bunk room, but the other building guys are lugging gear. The hut has been transformed – it’s got all new piles and the header tank for the water system is on its new stand. Unfortunately there was much more peat digging than had been planned for so some of the builders’ jobs haven’t been completed, but the hut is secure and watertight and it won’t take much to complete.

On the biodiversity front, Brian has done more than 30 vegetation plots and is planning some more later this afternoon. Denise and Brian have been pit fall trapping for invertebrates, running tracking tunnels to measure mouse density, and trialling holding pipits in captivity.

We’ve counted thousands of erect-crested penguins, including more than 9500 in the Mother of all Colonies, which is the largest colony on the island.

Yesterday Jo, Kathryn and Alison banded 63 Antipodean wandering albatross chicks for Kath Walker and Graeme Elliott’s long term population study of wandering albatrosses here and on the Auckland Islands.

We had our best weather day yesterday: fine and sunny all day. Today started misty, but has turned into another lovely day although as I type this outside it’s feeling a little windier and cooler. Weather-wise we’ve had everything on this trip, from gale to wind-less, and from snow, hail and rain to glorious sun.

There is a pipit bopping around in the tussocks in front of me, the elephant seals are all asleep (as usual) on the beach directly below although occasionally you can hear them honking and snoring, and one of the fat little pups petulantly telling the world it’s still hungry. Two pups have died since we’ve been here, which means a feast for the northern giant petrels that are the island’s clean-up brigade along with the skuas. There are parakeets chattering on the other side of the slip, and the occasional light mantled sooty albatross soars past.

The trip has been hard work for everyone but the rewards of being on this wonderful island are immense. We all feel it has been a great privilege to spend time here, and we look forward to coming back one day when the mice have gone. Keep checking the blog – I’ll post something about the Bounties leg o the trip when we get back to New Zealand, and once we’re back we’ll also post some photos, which we haven’t been able to do from the island.