Continued from Page 1
Left - Snares Penguins
Back at the open area, near to the beach, we had flypast views of two New Zealand Falcons. This species can be tricky to find on the mainland and this pair seem to have set up residence on remote Enderby Island.

The return shuttle to the ship ran hourly with the last boat at 1915. Dinner was served soon after, followed by convivial conversation in the bar.
28 November
We had arrived at Carnley Harbour, a natural anchorage within Auckland Island itself. We had entered the caldera of a very large volcano, which had eroded to now leave the various islands. It was grey and overcast early but the sun was trying to break through and for these remote islands it was a pleasant day indeed.

After a 0700 breakfast a briefing in the lecture room explained today’s options: firstly, a hike to a White-capped Albatross colony, described as 'moderately difficult', or secondly, a zodiac cruise. Our group split, some on both.

The zodiac cruise went along the inner coastline of the crater. Auckland Island Shags flew by, some perched on close rocks awaiting their photograph being taken. Occasionally a Tomtit or Bellbird appeared at the edge of the clumps of Rata. A New Zealand Falcon was seen to fly past at the speed of a bullet but our zodiac missed it.

The boats powered out past sea stacks and into the open sea at South West Cape. Rodney said later this was a rare event, to take a zodiac through to the western side of the island; even so it was a bumpy ride. We drove to a cove with steep grass-covered cliffs lined with breeding albatrosses. This was the colony the hikers were heading to overland. A few of them appeared at the top ridge to wave to us below. The Auckland Islands are the main breeding ground for the White-capped Albatross and it is estimated that 72,000 pairs are here.

After a short diversion to see two feral pigs, which were very wary, we returned to the ship. Sailors and whalers had released the pigs on the island during the early 19th century but they are now a pest to the flora and fauna.

The hikers were back aboard at 1245 and soon we were being served lunch whilst the crew prepared for departure. We had in front of us a day-and-half sailing to Macquarie Island. The seabirding from the upper deck was again superb. Albatrosses, petrels, diving-petrels, gadfly petrels, storm-petrels were coming and going with species changing constantly. Hours passed quickly as we tallied star birds like Gibson's, Light-mantled, Grey-headed and Southern Royal Albatrosses, White-headed, Mottled and Soft-plumaged Petrels, Black-bellied and Grey-backed Storm-Petrels. The weather changed late afternoon giving us a mist with light rain but by early evening we had a blue sky with just wispy cloud, incredible weather for this region.

After dinner some went to watch the film in the lecture room, whilst others on deck saw a red sunset with silhouetted albatrosses in the foreground.

29 November
We had entered Australian waters. The early morning birding was slower than yesterday, no doubt due to our position some way from the breeding islands. During the morning the wind speed increased and we found birding was becoming difficult on the upper deck, most retreated one deck lower looking for a windbreak. Albatrosses were still following the ship; Southern Royal, Wanderers of different forms (we had the first Snowy-type), Black-browed and Campbell Albatross plus more Grey-headed. Occasionally a bird would fly close to the handrails - to see a majestic Wandering Albatross with a ten-foot wingspan glide by was memorable. A Campbell Albatross came so close to us that the honey-coloured iris could be easily seen.
After lunch a film was shown on the plight of the great albatrosses and their continuing deaths from long-line fishing. The afternoon shift outside, still seawatching, had Soft-plumaged and Mottled Petrels and the first of two Blue Petrels (we did not see this species again during the cruise). Prion recognition was being discussed at length; they must be one of the most difficult genera in all birding. We were happy today with the identification of Antarctic and Fulmar Prions.

There was a presentation in the lecture room late afternoon on Macquarie Island. The main briefing regarding landings at Macquarie would be tomorrow morning, once we had the island in sight. Early evening the wind dropped and the sea became calmer. Dinner was served and a video was shown in the lecture room. There was time to simply relax, take it easy, and maybe have a casual drink in the bar.
Right - Royal Penguin, Macquarie Island
30 November
Macquarie Island was in view early morning, before breakfast. It was terrific weather at this remote island where the wind, or swell, can be dire and often restricts landings. Meteorological data from Macquarie shows the month of November averages 24 days of rain and 21 days of strong winds - we were very lucky!

‘The island is dreadfully dreary to the ordinary observer, but to the naturalist it is full of fascinating interest’
                                                                         J R Burton, aboard ‘The Australasian’ 1900, Macquarie Island

Three of the park rangers came aboard to attend the presentation to the passengers. Attendance was mandatory, covering behaviour with the animals on the island and details about the landings. Ahead of us, would be an outstanding day.
Continued on next page