After a magical 5 hours Zodiac cruising around the Snares we returned to Professor Khromov and made plans to head South. Stepping foot back on ship almost instantaneously reignited my seasickness so I skipped lunch and as it happened dinner - lucky for me Christmas dinner was delayed until the 26th when we would be at anchor. I made a little nest in my cabin and settled in for our overnight voyage to Enderby Island. At this point I would like to mention I had taken the strongest seasick meds I could find, sometimes you just take time to get used to the roll of the vessel. It shouldn't put you off a trip such as this... as Rodney said early in the piece 'No one has ever died of seasickness' *spoiler alert, I almost wish I had died in our next leg of travel...
As with the Snares we arrived in the early hours of the morning. The second we dropped anchor I was wide awake, starving and ready to explore... the only problem was that it was 3am, dark and no one else was awake yet. Due to my eager start, I was in the first Zodiac to land on Enderby Island. The landing brief went something like 'jump out of the Zodiac into thigh deep surf, make your way passed the sea lions (walk, don't run) don't disturb the Yellow-Eyed Penguins and wait at the shed for everyone else... ' simple, right? The photographs indicate otherwise.
Enderby Island was our first day with choices, there was a long walk around the island on an unpathed route (longer day, more species, harder work) or a meander across the island on a boardwalk (less species, more time to sit/watch/photograph, easier) I went with option 2.
Pretty quickly after heading across the island we broke into our groups and soon the 'small walk' group dispersed until it was just 2-3 people together. It felt like we had an entire island to ourselves. Light Mantled Sooty Albatross and Auckland Island Shags careened past in the high winds and Pipits and Dotterels scampered among the massive megaherbs and tiny gentians. I wandered with one of our guides stopping along the way to photograph Yellow-Eyed penguin chicks and Tomtits in the Rata forest.
Once gathered back at Sandy Bay we all sat for a while to watch the gorgeous interactions between day old Sea Lion pups and their parents. The bank provided the perfect spot to witness pups being born, Skuas scavenging the after birth remains, Yellow-Eyed penguins carefully timing their run from the forest to the sea past the pesky sub adult male Sea Lions and for us to eat our lunch.
After an unsuccessful hunt for the Auckland Island Teal we started to wander back to the shed when the guys easily jumped across one of the small streams on the island. Laughing at the lack of chivalry I stood contemplating my two options, jumping the creek and potentially sliding back down waist deep into mud and sea lion poo, or negotiating my way around sleeping sub adult male sea lions to try and find the stepping stones. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the richest brown feathers I've ever seen and I realised I didn't need to hunt for the teal, it had come to me! In my excitement, I completely forgot to take my camera out until it was too late, the only photographic evidence I have of my sighting is the rear end of this beautiful teal waddling into the flax bushes.
As the rain set in and the cloud lowered I snapped a few quick photos of the Yellow-Eyed penguins and Auckland Island Tomtits before being collected in the Zodiac and driven back to ship for our delayed Christmas dinner. My third day on Professor Khromov was a success meal wise, I had managed breakfast, lunch and dinner, my celebration and smugness were however premature - the next two days would be the worst I have had at sea
On the 27th of December, we were unable to anchor in Carnley Harbour and couldn't launch the Zodiacs to head ashore, this meant we missed visiting the main Auckland Island entirely. Such is the nature of the Subantarctic, and she was only going to become more wicked. We set course for Macquarie Island, beating down into a howling southerly aiming for 54 degrees south. With my cabin secured, and 7 metre waves outside I hunkered down for the next two days at sea. I couldn't keep down water or seasick medication and even when I started to feel better the thought of a steaming shower put me off any ideas of getting to the dining room for meals. This was the first time I truly regretted travelling alone and even contemplated whether or not I would leave the ship right now if I could, I never quite decided the answer to that question...
Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Subantarctic - things definitely improved and there will be cuteness overload on Macquarie Island.