Snares Island also known as the Snares, is a small island 200km south of Invercargill, the snares have a land area of 3.5km Square. The island has been first sighted by European on 23 November 1791 by the Captain George Vancouver and LieutenantWilliam R. Broughton, both of the Vancouver Expedition, and called the island as the Snares they believed that the island is a shipping hazard. Unless other sub arctic islands that where affected by whaling and sealing in the late 19th the Snares remain one of the pristine islands of New Zealand.
The Island is uninhibited. The Island has the privilege that is highly protected, and get monitored by DOC. Visitors are not allowed to visit, from time to time research monitor the impact of the wild life, special permit must be asked for.
The Snares are home to the Snares Penguin, Seal Lion and Buller Albatross.
All the Snares Islands are bordered by high cliffs expect to few eastern parts. Climate is mostly influenced by weather constellation, which moving in from Australia or Arctic, weather can change rapidity.
The Snares are part of the New Zealand sub arctic Islands and are protected by UNESCO and have a world heritage status.
Auckland Island is the biggest subarctic island, which belong to New Zealand, and is 465 km southeast from Bluff peninsula. With a combined area of 625sq km, the Island is uninhabited by humans, there is a wide variation of wild life all over the island, yellow eyed penguins, albatross, elephant seals and the nearly extinguished snipe enjoy the idyllic isolation on the island.
On the Island are 2 hikes, both of them start close to the landing site by research station, from there on; for the first few meter you need to pass sea lion colony, usually the seal are very relaxed and sleep. One of the walk is a 3 hour return broad-walk very easy to do, which winds up to a higher altitude, you pass wetlands, small forest and rata trees. Yellow eyed penguin’s nest very close to the broad-walk, and are not shy by passing tourists as long they keep a safety distance of a few meter. All the way long the scenery change, to take a look back to the harbour is magnificent. At the far end is a small rest area, which invite you for a while to stay and have a snack. From that point the second longer walk turn off, and it takes around 5 to 6 hours back to the starting point.
The walk follow the cliff line, and pass many different fauna and landscapes. Albatross nests in December and early January, Elephant Seals are playing on higher altitude in the fields. As we took our lunch break one of the seals came very close to check out what is happening in his isolated area, it was a great experience to see the seal that close, not more than a back pack in between us, the seal was nearly the same high than me as he stood up on his flippers. But soon he lost his interest and he turned around and disappeared in the high grass. We continued our walk close to the cliff the view from there is overwhelming, the look down to the roaring sea open a variety of rugged rocks and dancing sea weed in the water, the swell was very thundering as soon it hit the cliff and the waves look like he explode in all directions with thundering noise. We took a rest in the sun in an open area it must be the location where the Derry Castel sunk in 1887, a monument remind to that tragedy that time. Soon we continued our walk through high flex and toi toi, on that part was no marker just we knew that we need to keep left and leave the forest on the right; it took some time to walk through that area. But we needed to turn back few times and look for a new track, all the tracks are made by seals and penguins, and going in all directions.
Penguin and seals are nesting in the overgrown area, if you get to close both animals make some noise, as a warning before you get to close.
After we walked through the flex we passed an open area from there we could see already where we need to go, we passed a beach, walked through an forest I never seen before.
Our last few meter back to the starting point where the most exiting for me, we need to pass an elephant seal colony.
It was just one more normal day as I boarded the Ship Spirit of Enderby in Bluff, with a different destination I travel to; this time I t will take me more than 30 days for the round trip to Antarctica, with stops at the Snares Island, Macquarie Island and on the way back at Champbell Island.
The ocean lower a 45 Lat until 60 Lat, is usually very unpredictable it belong to the roughest sea on earth. I did experience the motion of the ship every early not far away from Stewart Island the wind was around 40 knots and the swell was moderate 7 meters, but the small ship started rolling constantly from port to starboard side un aware what will come later that trip. The ship traveled to the rough sea very slow through the rough sea, the sell was as high as 18 meters chilly cold gale-force wind hit the small boat from all directions on the incredible trip, at the end it take us around 9 days on sea harsh sea to reach Ross Sea, every stops on the way, was very welcoming, to get a few hours sleep in a harbour the ships was anchoring. Some days it was impossible to find a good sleep at night time due the rolling ship, I laid on my bed and moved constantly from top to bottom of the bead in the same movement and ankle the ship was rolling, there was no mercy to stay in bead in the morning I had to get up around 6.30 am to prepare breakfast for 58 passengers which experienced the same on this trip, the menu changed daily everything what was cooked took longer than normal on land, what is absolute normal, due the rough sea and rolling ship. After the breakfast was finished I need to start to prepare lunch, and dinner. I found out that the work on a small ship is more to be very good organized and use every spare minute to do enough preparation, you simply just don’t know how rough the sea will be few hours down to Antarctica. There where days I had only 3 hours sleep following with a very busy day of cooking and do all the expeditions as well.
As soon we passed 60th Lat we have had 24 h daylight, our goal was to leave the ship at any time and as fast as possible, as soon the weather and sea allowed to go on land; it could be at 2.00 am or 5.00am it doesn’t matter. We did a lot of multi hour hikes; one of my favorites one was; to visit Scott Hut and Shackelton Hut. Both Huts are perfectly conserved by Heritage Trust everything is set up, as it was the time the most sophisticated explorer used to live. It has been looked at all little details from the past. In Shackelton Hut is the original newspaper for display, which dated back to 1909. Shack Elton’s hand written signature is still visible on the head of the bed.
We did few more landings one of them was Franklin Island which is famous for the Adeline Penguin, as we arrived the sun was just on the right spot to lighten up the whole place it was at 2.30 this time the temperature was 6C and no wind, great to sit beside the penguin colony to take many pictures photographers are waiting for, I need just sitting beside the shore and need to wait that the penguins passing by. It was a incredible experience despite we walking around and keeping the respected distance to the wild life, the penguins didn’t bother we where around, as soon I sat still at one spot the penguins got nosy and came closer to investigate what happen around them, one of them was that cheeky and investigated my camera bag which was just sitting beside me.
We even so visited the first build hut, which dated back to 1899. At Cape Adore to my surprise the hut was build without any window, may there must be a good reason to keep as much warmth as possible in the hut. Today the whole place where former the explorer used to live are taken over by penguins.
Sadly we couldn’t visit Mc Murdow Station and Scott Base, the ross see was completely frozen, instate we cruised around the open sea and looked at Ross Sea Orca, Mink Whale and more Penguin’s. This day we have had an unexpected highlight for every one, we anchored or ship at the ice, transferred tables and hot chocolate to the ice and served our dessert open air, what a great experience that was I cant explain or describe, blue sky mild breeze from the water, and out of no where few fin’s from hunting orcas, penguins jumped out of the water on save ice one after another that was an lucky escape for all penguins, all Orcas dissapierd as fast the show up.
It was already time to move more north on the way we planed a stop at Champbell Island it took us 5 days at sea non stop sea was not to rough to say a swell of around 14m, the ship was rolling from side to side again but not to serious, live in the galley was good and the moral in good form, despite we traveled already more than 20 days with many challenges and many days and nights with only few hours of sleep. As Spirit of Enderby arrived at Champbell Island every one was relived to have solid ground underneath the feet, this was my only time I didn’t went on land. I decided to bake some more fresh bread as long we where on anchor. The next day looked very rough and the sea rougher than every condition we have experienced before, northerly 60 to 70knt!!!! Live in galley will be challenging once more and all of us will need all our experience to do a good work to satisfy our customer. The sea was already rough in the harbour at Champbell Island as soon we hit the sea holly cow, ship was dancing and rolling on the swell from side to sides, one crew member showed up in the galley and said that we reached an ankle of 52 degree port side, every thing, pots, trays, boxes moved from one side of the galley to the other side even I slide into the oven, my arm was bruised and showed two days later a blue mark. It was a rough day.
The last two days where the most challenging days on the whole trip; full of challenges in the galley, still today I don’t find an answer how we managed to cook in those rough condition and more to my surprise how we served the food, starter, main course and dessert without broken china and plates. The only conclusion I have we had a very good team spirit on the ship, every one helped the time the help was needed, operation manager, team leader, hotel manager to keep the service moving, it was a great experience for me to work for Heritage Expedition for those trip. The time I write this blog I’m back for 5 weeks and I miss the everyday challenge already. I am not surprised that the sea to Antarctica is called the roughest sea on earth. I loved to be there every day.
If some one juice to go to Antarctica on the first cruise, every other cruise will be plain sailing, may a bit disappointing too.
At the end I have to say a big thank you to every one, Nathan to give me the change to prove my self in the galley, Joss to encouraged me to take the job, and Don McTyre our very experienced Expedition leader, and all the team who support me all the time.