The objective of this project is to raise New Zealanders’ awareness of the importance of the area between Stewart Island and the South Pole.
Our Far South Expedition
One of the key aims of the Our Far South expedition is to bring the region to the attention of New Zealanders and help develop a better appreciation of New Zealand’s connections to the region and indeed as far south as the Ross Dependency in the Antarctic. Professor Gary Wilson, who heads Otago University’s Marine Science Department, is sailing as a scientist on the expedition and is collecting marine sediment samples and cores from the ship with aim of defining the sediment characteristics associated with the different currents, water masses and fronts south of New Zealand and then applying the knowledge longer term records to track the change with time. He is only aiming to take discrete samples and short cores on this expedition and then target areas to collect longer record in future trips.
Highlights of Gary’s progress on the
February 14, 2012
The pack-up and preparation
What a marathon getting ready to go. Not only did we need to have all the equipment all packed into transportable boxes, but we need to take our own fridges and freezers for storing samples. Thankfully Bob got most of this ready and packed up while I focused my attention on permits for sample collection from each of the marine reserves along the way. The New Zealand Subantarctic Islands are administered by the Department of Conservation Southern Islands Office, Macquarie by the Tasmanian Parks Service and the Ross Sea by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Fisheries. Last but not least we also need permits to import the samples from Biosecurity NZ. So plenty of different agencies to deal with.
Six am departure from Dunedin to get to Bluff in time to start loading at 10am. The loading to about 4 hours by the time we worked out where we could stow and tie down all the equipment. It was out first attempt to communicate with the Russian Crew. Fortunately the sign language for driving cranes and winches is universal so even though we didn’t have a word in common, a quick point followed by a hand gesture made light work of the job once we got going. Then it was back to Invercargill to meet our fellow crew and get some last minute supplies, including collecting the passport that had been couriered down to me. Who’d have thought to bring it, not me! Still I guess we are actually visiting Macquarie Island enroute to the Antarctic which means we are officially entering Australia.
The Snares Islands have one of the highest levels of conservation status so we didn’t get to go ashore. And the water around the Snares is too deep to anchor so the ship stood off while we had a close up look from Zodiacs. We were able to go into the small bays and even traverse through a few of the many Caves and passages between the Islands. The Snares themselves are granite, similar to that on Stewart Island and the southern ocean has managed to wear away at the many joints and cracks in the rock to form the caves and passages. By a curious twist of fate, maybe because they are relatively inhospitable in the first place, the Islands have managed to avoid introduced rodents, thus they are a haven for seabird life. A highlight was seeing the Snares Crested Penguins clinging to the steep rocky margins of the Islands. They are endemic and nest up in the stunted forest on the tops of the Islands. The water was lovely and clear and we were able to identify many seaweeds swashing in the waves