A Report on a Seabirding Trip to
‘The Subantarctic Islands’
The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie, Campbell, Antipodes, Bounty and Chatham Islands of
New Zealand and Australia
Aboard the 'Spirit of Enderby'
25 November to 12 December 2005
                         This is a shortened version of a cruise diary sent to those                             that came on this trip
25 November
We were taken by coach to Bluff at the tip of South Island, New Zealand and entered through the security gates of the docks. In front of us the Spirit of Enderby, our home for the next eighteen days, was alongside the quay. We were shown to our cabins where our luggage had already been delivered. An announcement over the p.a system asked everyone to attend a mandatory briefing where the staff was introduced and we were told about the emergency procedures on the ship.
At 1615 we cast off and were underway, our journey to the Subantarctic had really begun. Spotted Shags and Bronze, or Stewart Island, Shags were fishing in the harbour. Soon we were on the open sea and the first birds, Cape Petrels, came into the wake to follow the ship.  These were the form from the Snares with large white panels on very dark upperwings. Our first albatross was sighted and, as expected, it was one from the Shy complex, a White-capped Albatross.  Next came a Salvin's Albatross, another of the Shy group. Dozens firstly, then hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters came into view and the first of the Pterodroma petrels, a Cook's Petrel was followed shortly afterwards by a Mottled Petrel that zoomed across in front of the bow. Before dinner, by 1930, we had recorded fifteen of the latter.
We gathered in the dining room where there was an open-seating policy. We sampled the ship's food for the first time, but most of the group were still quite tired, not yet over the jetlag, so we retired early. Ahead lay an exciting voyage, and tomorrow we would be close to the Snares.
King Penguin, Macquarie Island
26 November
An early morning call came at 0630. Our group was nominated for the first zodiacs to go inshore to the islands. Nobody is allowed to land on the Snares (except accredited scientific parties) so this was to be a cruise along the shoreline.

Our group would have a Naiad inflatable to ourselves. These Naiads are a brand of rubber boat, similar in design to a zodiac but with a floor of aluminium, stronger and much better adapted for these waters. As the first to board from the lowered gangplank we acted as the guinea pigs. There was a fierce swell, the ship going one way and the Naiad the other, and getting everyone onto the boat, especially this first time, was easier said than done!
The Snares coastline was rugged. There were forests of Olearia, their trunks gnarled and bent over by the wind. The first bird seen just had to be a penguin, the Snares Penguin that breeds only here. Soon the cameras and videos were put into use as we had hundreds of these crested penguins only twenty feet from us. We found a Tomtit, an interesting subspecies here that is completely black, and also a Fernbird, much easier to see than on the mainland.

The boat ride back to the ship was bumpy, the sea was rough and the waves had increased in height. We were soon back aboard where the groups rotated – now we went for our breakfasts whilst others went inshore.

The day was spent on the decks looking at seabirds. In the lecture room a video was shown and late in the afternoon there was a recap. The seabirding in these southern waters was fantastic - albatrosses galore, both the 'great albatross' were around the ship, the Royal and the Wanderer. The gadfly petrels, like Mottled, Cook's and Soft-plumaged, hurtled past whilst dozens of Black-bellied Storm-Petrels danced over the water. There were always birds to be seen, the spectacle as thousands of Sooty Shearwaters moved as a dense dark cloud before us, and hundreds of prions watched feeding on small crustaceans at upwellings.

27 November
We had arrived at the Auckland Islands and the entire day was to be spent on Enderby Island. After breakfast there was a briefing telling us about the island, and importantly, how to behave at this wildlife haven. The zodiacs were launched and took us ashore at Sandy Bay. New Zealand Pipits were all over the place and an immature Yellow-eyed Penguin, tucked-up in the tussock, welcomed us ashore. We soon found flightless Auckland Islands Teals feeding in the kelp beds whilst another specialty, Auckland Islands Shag, flew just offshore.

There were two options, a short walk and a longer hike. We split up with some plumping for the short, others the long. The long one was going around the coastline of the island, about six miles in total. At the beach, and lazing around in the long grass, were many Hooker’s Sea Lions, a New Zealand endemic with more than three-quarters of the population occurring on the Auckland Islands. At some places we had to divert to get around groups of animals and, for such large lumps of blubber, they easily remained unseen in the vegetation. We had to be particularly careful of the males as at this time of the year they were setting up territories and building up their harems. There was plenty of fighting going on and we saw females being gang-raped by young males trying to climb the hierarchal ladder.

The path went through a stand of Rata forest, which looked as if it could hold goblins! No wonder 'Lord of the Rings' was filmed in New Zealand. Inquisitive Tomtits and Bellbirds were common, jumping around the buckled trunks and boughs of this weird woodland. There was a short climb to the plateau where a Subantarctic Snipe had been found; a small snipe that scuttled through the megaherbs like a mouse, preferring to run rather than fly. Southern Royal Albatrosses bred on this flat area, the colony though was small compared to what lay ahead on Campbell Island. The shorter walk ended looking out at a cliff face where a pair of stunning Light-mantled Albatross had their nest.
Continued on next page - click the storm-petrel