After the massive day that was Christmas yesterday we were knackered.
Being anchored overnight in the quiet Sandy Bay meant a great nights sleep was had.
In fact we only just made it to breakfast in time before it finished and we had to get onto the Zodiacs!
Leaving the ship wasn't quite as easy as just jumping off.
Plenty of safety conscious procedures including "turning our tags", exiting on the opposite door to the gangway, washing our boots etc then lining up for the next Zodiac, going all the way to the bottom step before stepping on etc etc...
forgot my life jacket again!
sorry everyone, coming through....
We'd apparently left the sheltered bay during breakfast/sleeping and were now somewhere further south along the coast of Auckland Island.
The Zodiacs took us along another spectacularly rugged coastline with sheer cliffs made of.......rocks
Pretty sure Katja our awesome geological guide said something about them being rocks
Actually I just read a book and I'm going with "volcanic basalt" :)
What can I say,
I'm a birder.
And probably lucky for you guys that I am a bird photographer,
because I reckon a blog full of rock photos would be about as interesting as my Dad's photos of electricity substations and transmission towers.
These guys are Southern Rockhoppers (Eudyptes chrysocome)
yet another new Penguin species for my list!
They have the coolest hair style so far, although even being so funky looking they are struggling, with populations crashing.
Ok so I have to admit that while the penguins were obviously the best
the rocks did get pretty awesome.
Big caves carved out of and into the cliffs made for some atmospheric and 'hushed in awe' type cruising.
It really was pretty spectacular
Watching Light-mantled Albatross soaring along the cliffs was a big thrill to this birder.
My sister travels the world and sends me photos of sea gulls.
This one's for you sis :)
boring isn't it....
Less boring are these gorgeous little guys
Cannot get enough of penguins
*free photography tip*
In a constantly moving boat, always good to keep an eye on the ever changing background behind your subject.
I found the green much more pleasing personally.
Auckland Island Shags are also pretty special.
Eventually we made our way up into Musgrave Inlet
The plan was to take a little used track from the inlet up to Lake Hinemoa.
Probably a good reason the track was little used....
Monty Python quotes fell quickly to mind....
"None Shall Pass!"
"Run Away! Run Away!"
We did eventually make it past the Black Knight and headed into the forest.
Botanists were going nuts!
People were bending down looking at sticks and grass left right and centre!
not really sure what this is... maybe an orchid?
If it was good enough for my new friend Atsushi to photograph then i might as well jump in and try to copy what he was doing
Shame his lens got in the way
I'm going with Southern Rata for these trees
They're kind of cool actually
seriously though I'm not that into botany (I know right! You never would have guessed!)
My brain simply can't take any more species and names etc
So no more time for stopping
...maybe if i just press the shutter while I'm walking.....
After numerous little creek crossings and constant checks to make sure we really were on the path and not just following botanists aimlessly into the green mist,
we walked out of the forest straight into this...
Such a great vista
with winds so strong the waves were breaking on the stony shore
I just got set up to do a quick time-lapse when disappointingly it was time to head back again
I don't think 2 frames are going to cut it for a time lapse :(
Reluctantly we headed back to the beach and jumped in the zodiacs, mindful of a certain bull who still wasn't the happiest.
The wind and chop were picking up in the bay and Conor (star chef and zodiac driver) thought we were in a Mission Impossible movie, racing up the inlet to the ship!
It was kind of cool - he was wearing black and everything.
Once back on the Spirit of Enderby, we were off towards Macquarie Island
Although this next leg will be another day and a half at sea before we get there.
Really hoping the weather stays ok and that my run of not being sea sick will continue.
But nothing I can do about that now
Time to get on deck and watch the incredible coastline pass by.
This truly is amazing
Albatross of various species have been hanging around and I've seen my first Black-bellied Storm Petrel!
Spent most of the afternoon sea watching until it got a bit rough again so started the long painful process of looking over the thousands of images already taken and attempted to cull some.
Back out on deck after dinner for more and still not sick!
Still not used to the sun setting so late.
Wandering and Royal Albatross plus the relentless unidentified prions coupled with great light meant that we stayed out on deck until well after 10:30pm
So great being able to photograph seabirds in sweet late "afternoon" light - not something I am used to from single day pelagic trips from Australia so really wanted to make the most of it tonight.
and just like that, another day was gone.
And it was good.
Day 6 - 27/12/2015 : at sea
Today was once again mixed with exuberance and sadness.
I was celebrating my birthday away from my family and missing my daughters birthday at the same time - the first one i have missed since her birth.
Didn't have the best sleep which probably isn't helping.
Kept waking to the sound of the chair and other things in our cabin sliding from one end of the room to the other. Hard to sleep when your legs feel like they're trying to move into your stomach.
Certainly a rough old night but very thankful that I'm still not sea sick!
The most important thing about today from a birding perspective was that we are in Australian territorial waters!
For those who don't carry binoculars or wear camouflage, this means that any new bird seen today is able to be added to my Australian list!
I started the trip on 651 species and hoping to add another 10 or so before we leave Macquarie Island.
I think this is the 1 millionth stupid prion we've seen that is most likely Antarctic Prion but looks identical to the other 4 or 5 possible species that I'd like to see.
We did also see Mottled Petrel but the photos were absolute rubbish
Another interesting and somewhat mind-blowing fact was that we were now in waters over 4000m deep!
That's almost twice as high as Australia's highest peak!
Ok so maybe that isn't the most impressive comparison...
But better than this has been the company.
Having Henry along has been great
even if he was taking some cracking photos that are better than mine, and no longer wearing his santa hat
He also shoot Nikon
But that's ok.
Because I'm one of those crazy people who strangely believes that the type of camera is a lot less relevant than the eye behind it ...
If you haven't seen his photography you'll find it winning categories and being exhibited in past ANZANG competitions. His bird shots are great but his herp photography (snakes, lizards, frogs to most normal people) are another level again and a constant source of inspiration to me.
There was also Team Bird.
There are always a group of more hardcore birders on any trip and this particular Heritage Expedition was no different.
Ok so maybe not on 'any' trip...
But on this trip my birthday was spent mostly sea watching from the bow, bridge or any other vantage point that wasn't too perilous, in the company of Henry, Edin, Mark, Ollie, Atsushi and Liz.
For a more articulate blog perspective check our Edin Whitehead Photographer. Well worth the read.
Edin as well as Atsushi have captured some amazing images and were also pushing me creatively.
Another great blog you have to check out is Liz's Voyaging South!
Mark was the most vigilant and knowledgeable and definitely the go to pelagic birder for us.
Ollie was self confessed to be pretty rubbish with a camera. He was a good birder though...
So as the day wears on,
many more photos are taken and many more birds seen
although if I'm honest
I could probably cope with never seeing another Cape Petrel or Antarctic Prion again
Capturing three species of Albatross together in the one frame is pretty cool though
Sincerely touched that the lovely Jessie our wonderful 'hotel manager' worked out that it was my birthday and had chef make me a birthday cake.
Everyone even sang Happy Birthday!
Feeling a bit teary
might just be all the seasickness drugs
Once again the clock has gone past 11pm
Time for bed,
for tomorrow we rise at daybreak!
and that island will be waiting.