Subantarctic adventure part 3 – Campbell Island

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This is the continuation of the travel log from parts 1 and 2. If you haven’t read them yet please start there!

Day 10, Campbell Island

Having arrived in the sheltered waters of Perseverance Harbour overnight, after breakfast we headed out in two groups for all-day activities (again with packed lunches). One group went off for “The Long Walk”, an all-day trek over part of the island. Like the Enderby Island walk they saw lots of different wildlife, although not many people took big camera gear. I took the other option (“the Board Walk”) which involved a walk of about 1.5 hours up a boardwalk to an area where the Royal Albatrosses nest.

A2_187474  Close Approach Looking towards Dent A2_188232

100 Mp panorama
Taken handheld during a brief pause in the climb, this panorama shows the view back to our ship just visible in the harbour.

Some people climbed up to the top, had lunch, and walked back down the hill. The Zodiacs were available to take them back to the ship when they were ready. But the last Zodiac was scheduled for 6pm, and I was keen to spend as much time as I could with the albatrosses at the top of the hill.

Heritage’s permit allowed us to get off the boardwalk in one specific area, and approach the birds no closer than 5m. Some birds looked like they were sitting on eggs, so I gave them a wide berth. I approached a small group of birds, knowing that as the winds strengthened in the afternoon they would probably be doing a lot of displaying (“gamming”). So I settled in for the afternoon, and was well and truly rewarded. I had to drag myself away by 4:30 for the long trek down the hill, having taken thousands of amazing photos.

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I wasn’t alone: there were a few of us camped there:

Image courtesy Gillianne Tedder A2_189864

The day had been amazing! Macquarie Island had been great for me, but I suspected Campbell Island may have actually just surpassed it.

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Day 11

We woke up still in the same location, and we had another morning of activities here. Again we split into two groups. Some of those who had done the Long Walk the previous day took the opportunity to race up to the albatrosses, although they weren’t going to have all day. I took the option instead to explore the harbour by Zodiac. We saw sea-lions, elephant seals, shags, penguins, and more. We also went ashore in several places to look at things like early settler ruins. It was steadily raining, but again it was quite productive photographically.

Hooker's Sea-lion Campbell Island Shag

In the afternoon the ship left Perseverance Harbour and headed north. If the sea conditions allowed us a fast-enough trip, we hoped to reach The Snares which we had had to miss early in the trip. So the afternoon, the night, and most of the next day was spent at sea.

The Snares

On day 12 we did reach The Snares, although it was fairly late in the day and the sea conditions and timing didn’t let us get out in the Zodiacs to explore. However the ship did spend some time sailing up and down as close to the islands as it could, and everyone was out on deck watching and photographing.

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“The Penguin Slide” (not really a slide).
Covered with Snares Erect-crested Penguins (which were also in the water beside us).

The place was teeming with wildlife! Petrels, albatrosses, and shearwaters filled the air (look at the large versions of the images). It would have been even better to have been close up to the shore in the Zodiacs as originally planned, but I think everyone was still happy with the spectacle. With expedition trips like this we’re always at the mercy of the weather, and the plans always have to be fluid.

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The following morning our voyage came to an end with our arrival in the port of Bluff. After breakfast we headed off to Invercargill by bus, and my flights from there got me home to Australia via Christchurch by the end of the day.

Looking back

The trip was one of my most exciting, enjoyable and productive voyages for a long time! Each island group supplied new and amazing experiences, seeming better each time. And in-between the sea and the seabirds provided still more opportunities. I’ve already mentioned the seasickness issue many people worry about so I won’t go over it again other than to say I think the possible discomfort is worth it.

Another issue some people worry about is protecting their camera gear. Rain is often around. We did have dry days, but we did also have some rainy days. Most of our camera gear is actually fairly resistant to rainwater, but it can be good to have some added protection for peace of mind. A few people had large plastic garbage bags they used to cover their cameras between shots, while some had “quick-draw” holsters to tuck the camera and lens away.

Being chased by a sea-lion There's a camera with 100-400mm lens in that hip bag

My own setup started with the LowePro DryZone BP40L waterproof backpack (with a quick-to-access roll-top seal) which often held one camera with the big 120-300mm/2.8 lens attached, plus the other camera with a short zoom attached, along with one or two extra lenses. Of course I also needed to fit food, water, and a few other odds and ends in there, but it worked great. In the Zodiacs the bag is on the floor between my feet, and I can quickly access either camera inside. When on shore most of the time the cameras were out of the bag, and the light backpack was on my back and out of the way. If it was raining steadily I would have the cameras protected with rain covers. I use the Kata (now Manfrotto) E-702 cover for the shorter lenses (up to a 100-400mm) and the E-705PL for the 120-300mm/2.8 monster. This (and the hoods on the lenses) meant that I could shoot in heavy rain without worrying about the gear. I would occasionally check the front element for rain spots (only happened a few times) and wipe them off with a microfibre cloth.

David looking for shag. Image courtesy Angela and Leah O'Meara Image courtesy Gillianne Tedder
In that second photo I have my jacket hood up not to protect me against the rain, but rather the constant wind which let the albatrosses take off.

At the end of the trip I brought back over 10,000 photos and video totalling almost 300 GB. Lots of great images, and lots of amazing memories! I’m really looking forward to taking photographers on the December 2016 trip! (hint, hint)

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