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Cabin Fever: Getting to know the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Expedition Team

Trapped on board the yacht by bad weather, Frazer reflects on how the weather influences the team's mood and behaviour, and introduces us to more of the team.

"Bad weather in the form of extreme high winds gusting well over 50 knots and heavy rain has meant no penguin counts for the last two mornings. Yesterday we couldn't even leave the ship. It was just too dangerous to use the dingy.

Out and about in the Auckland Islands: Exploring Carnley Harbour

A Sooty Albatross photographed by the Australian Antarctic Division, Department of the Environment.

With some time for island exploration, geography teacher Christine tells us more about the unforgiving landscape of the islands surrounding Carnley Harbour.

“Carnley Harbour is an amazing place, very peaceful and impressive. After the penguin count on Adams Island in the morning, we headed back to the boat for an early lunch and then went ashore for a hike up the south west cape. This was probably my favourite day of the whole trip so far. The weather was perfect; blue sky, not too windy - one only 56 days of no rain in the whole year (apparently)! 

All’s calm in the Auckland Island

On 25 November the team awoke in Waterfall Inlet to be greeted by calm, still and sunny weather – at last! Rather than going ashore, they were able to watch for penguins from the yacht. Frazer explains what a treat the settled weather is:

Facing off a sea lion in the Auckland Islands

Human habitation has never succeeded on the Auckland Islands. And even on a still, calm day, nature can be unpredictable, as Christine explains:

“I had a sea lion keep me company while I was counting the penguins. He cruised up and down the shore, occasionally standing up to get a better look. That was fine until he hauled himself up the stream bed and into the forest behind me. I reassured myself that he was off for an early morning snooze and focused my attention back on the beach where two penguins were making their way down to the sea. 

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey team visit historic Carnley Harbour

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin Expedition crew spent the first part of this week in Carnley Harbour, a body of water between Adams Island to the south and the larger Auckland Island. And for seasick Frazer, the calm tranquillity of the water is very welcome!

A Penguin Record! Counting up a storm on the Auckland Islands

Friday 21 November was the team’s second day of counting Yellow-Eyed Penguins – this time at the northern tip of Rose Island with views over to Enderby Island. After a 4am breakfast and a dinghy ride to shore, the team were in position by 5.30am. With the weather easing up, it was a good day for counting penguins, and Museum educator Frazer spotted a record number of 16. He got lucky with two of them though….

Counting Yellow-Eyed Penguins on the Auckland Islands

A typical coast watcher's hut from the Second World War on the Auckland Island. Most are now in a state of disrepair.

Thursday 20 November marked the first official penguin counting day for the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey expedition team. The dedicated volunteers were up at 4am to be at their counting sites by 5am. Luckily being so far south, it’s light by the time they’re in position.

Museum educator Frazer is one of two teachers chosen to take part in the survey. The other is Christine Greenwood from Wanaka who arrived at her counting spot to discover two Yellow-Eyed Penguins already there. She sent back the following observations:

Squaring up to sea lions on the Auckland Islands

A New Zealand Sea Lion on the Auckland Islands, where DoC reports that numbers are increasing slowly.

Now that the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey expedition team have made it safely to the Auckland Island, they’re taking some time to get to know the locals. With no permanent human inhabitants, the Islands are a haven for wildlife including southern skuas, giant petrels, yellow-eyed penguins and – as they soon found out – rather territorial sea lions.

Sufficiently recovered from his debilitating seasickness, here’s what our favourite Museum educator Frazer made of day one:

Auckland Islands Depot Boat

During the 19th century, sailing ships were sometimes lost to the stormy Southern Ocean. Eleven were shipwrecked on bleak islands to the south of New Zealand’s mainland.

To help marooned mariners, the New Zealand government set up castaway depots on the desolate sub-Antarctic islands providing food, clothing, fuel, shelter and often a boat.

A seasick sailing to the Auckland Islands

SV Evohe at dock in Bluff. After the testing crossing to the Auckland Islands, Evohe will remain the crew's home for the rest of the expedition.

The 2014 DoC Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey expedition team have made it to the Auckland Islands! And it was a testing trip on board their 28 meter yacht, SV Evohe. Museum educator Frazer isn’t known for his sea legs, so he had a particularly miserable time during the 37 hour crossing from Bluff.

Here’s what he had to say about the experience.

“The last few days have been a blur. Of the 37 hours it took to sail down here I was in bed for 35 of them. 35 hours I would like to forget!