Bounty Islands

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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Our day at the Bounty Islands was a bit bizarre for me: on the zodiac, I felt a tad tired, and uninspired. I was a perfect day, though, the absence of wind leaving the sea glass-like. These were conditions we hadn’t encountered so far, maybe that’s what set me off.

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My voyage carries on

Life goes on, and another year comes. As you read that, I’m (hopefully) in India, traveling for two weeks with my family. This is my first time in this part of the world, and I’m probably enjoying it.

Oh by the way… happy new year!

Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae)

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Antipodes Islands

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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After more than a day at sea, we reached the Antipodes Islands. Initially, this congregation of islets were can the Penantipodes, or “almost-antipodes”, because they were very close to be exactly on the other end of the world from England. The Pen- prefix was lost with time, and actually, the exact antipode of the Antipodes lies in a small French village near Cherbourg.

Clouds were very low when we arrived, and an unusual wind direction forced us to discard the usual zodiac cruising site. We circled the archipelago, enjoying premium views of its indomitable cliffs and numerous nesting seabirds.

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Home of the kiwi

I leave the hostel after dusk, and it’s already dark. Others have gone earlier, telling me they get out before dark in this period because nights are so short, but it took me longer to have dinner. I see people coming back from the Church Hill but I do not dare to ask if they have seen one. I keep walking.

I’m in their territory now. It’s a residential area, but there’s no one around. I walk, alert, my head lamp scanning the roadsides, my ears trying to pick up any unusual noise. It’s not raining, there’s very little wind… it should be a good night. I turn the corner. Suddenly, on the left, some rattle in the understorey. Could it be one?

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Campbell Island

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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Campbell Island is where it all clicked, where I really got rid of the photographic pressure to enjoy the voyage to the fullest, where I had the most outstanding wildlife encounter… in short, where I felt the most alive! It was not as spectacular as Macquarie, but it was phenomenal in different ways.

Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora)

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Macquarie Island

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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Macquarie Island. Macca. Jewel in the crown of our trip, if conditions allow to enjoy it properly. The hardest place to visit, when it comes to weather. The island is a narrow patch of land jutting from the ocean, 38 kilometers orientated north-south: the rock was originally formed at the bottom of the ocean, in a dorsal, and was then pushed towards the surface. Because our only authorized landing sites are on the eastern coast, any non-westerly wind makes any visit practically impossible.

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Auckland Islands

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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“Port Ross is a very sheltered bay, we never have problem getting to shore there”. These optimistic words came from our staff as Judd, the expedition leader, announced conditions would get a bit tougher, with wind picking up significantly. Indeed, our shelter proved good enough to visit Enderby Island, the piece of land at the north of the Auckland Islands archipelago.

New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri)

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The Snares

Between November 12 and 29, I went on an expedition to the Subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia. Two and a half weeks on a ship through the Southern Ocean, hopping from island to island, watching birds and making photographs, away from civilization… it was a true adventure. I’m telling here the tale of this voyage.

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We set sail from the port of Bluff in the late afternoon, past Stewart Island and south onwards. Pills and patches were used to fight seasickness and help us adapt to the roll, which would be our faithful companion for the whole trip. Dinner on the rocking ship proved to be a challenge, and so did the shower, but we all survived the night and woke up as we approached the Snares archipelago.

Brown skua (Stercorarius antarcticus)

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Dear diary #6

05.11.2018

It was difficult, but I managed to shake myself off sleep early enough to be at Sandfly Bay for sunrise. On this remote beach, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) leaving its dwelling for the sea, but the bird was far away. Like the evening before, there were a few New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) resting in the sand. Ironically, in this wild place, I only made pictures of common birds: gulls, oystercatchers and shelducks.
In Dunedin, I met Karen Connor, coordinator of the volunteer program in coastal Otago. I will be a volunteer at Sandfly Bay next year, welcoming the public to the area, so she explained me the job.
Then I drove to the Catlins, the rugged coast between Dunedin and Invercargill. My first stop was at Nugget Point, a picturesque outcrop where sits a lighthouse. Nearby, Yellow-eyed penguins nest, and I was lucky to see one come to shore, hopping from rock to rock back home.
After nightfall, I went to the tip again to make pictures of the stars. I wanted to capture the Milky Way, but guess what I found? That’s right, Southern Lights! I didn’t expect them at all, but here they were, first revealed on a long-exposure before showing up loud and clear to the south, forming a tall band with high pillars. An amazing sight, what a surprise!

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