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!

Preparing to Depart: Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey Expedition

Saying Goodbye: The Maritime Museum team send Frazer on his way with an essential penguin survival kit. Hmmm, maybe he should rely on his own packing!

Museum Educator, Frazer Dale, is on his way to the Auckland Islands to count Yellow-Eyed Penguins as part of a Department of Conservation (DoC) survey of the endangered birds. In the final few days before his departure the Education team have been busy spreading the word to schools who can follow the expedition on this blog or via the Sir Peter Blake Trust website. They've also organised lots of school visits for Frazer’s return so he can share the stories from his trip.

Top 20 sailing superstitions

Because of the dangers faced by sailors and fishermen, there are countless superstitions around safety and luck on the sea. Some seem a little strange today.

From banning bananas to fearing flat footed people, here are our favourite picks from the old European sailing superstitions. While most no longer apply, we're guessing that some still linger in sailors’ minds....

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey Expedition

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Museum educator Frazer Dale is setting off on the expedition of a lifetime.

Meet the rarest penguins in the world

Yellow-eyed penguins are the rarest penguins in the world and unique to New Zealand. Their natural habitat is cool coastal forest, but by the late 1980s much of this had been cleared for pasture. Livestock trampled their nests, and to make matters worse, ferrets and stoats killed and ate their chicks. With the population falling fast, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust was established to set up a conservation programme to stop the decline.

How to strengthen your sea legs: Take a trip of Spirit of New Zealand (Part 1)

The Museum’s Education team is always keen to build their sailing knowledge and skills so they can offer more training to visitors, including a Coastguard Education programme. Building up sailing time on a range of different vessels is key, so they were thrilled when Spirit of New Zealand offered a FREE training opportunity. The lucky staff member would get to climb on board the Trust’s tall ship, Spirit of New Zealand, for a four day sailing adventure from Wellington to Napier.

How to strengthen your sea legs: Take a trip of Spirit of New Zealand (Part 2)

Day two of Spirit of New Zealand’s coastal journey from Wellington to Napier saw the crew putting extra safety lines around the boat. This was to mitigate the risks of travelling up New Zealand’s most exposed coastline as a bad weather front came in. Spirit also moved 10 nautical miles off land to give the crew a safety buffer.

Excitement (and nerves) quickly rose as waves started crashing over the bow! And the waves weren't the only thing creating excitement among the crew as they also began to see Albatross, dolphins and seals.


NZ Defence Force assistance to OP Rena, 11 October 2011 (New Zealand Defence Force photograph)

Salvage teams have to try to prevent or limit the environmental damage they might cause, while dealing with uncertain and changing circumstances. A recent and dramatic example is the salvaging of Rena, a container ship which ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off the Bay of Plenty on 5 October 2011.

HMS Orpheus

Wreck of  H.M.S. ORPHEUS  On Manukau Bar New Zealand Feb 1863.Richard Beechey 1868. On loan from the Edmiston Trust. On display at New Zealand Maritime Museum

The ORPHEUS disaster is often called ‘New Zealand’s worst sea disaster’. Although the WAHINE disaster would be New Zealand’s most famous shipwreck, the ORPHEUS was the greatest loss of life. Out of the 259 men assumed to be aboard, 189 lost their lives.

It happened on the 7 February 1863 on the Manukau Bar, on the west coast of Auckland.

The Merchant Navy

Medals awarded to George Henry Davis (1999.21.17), part of the NZ Maritime Museum reserve collection. During World War One Davis served as a soldier in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps; the first two medals of this set represent his service during this conflict. George Davis also served in World War Two as a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy, for his service he was awarded The 1939 - 1945 Star, The Pacific Star, The War Medal 1939-45 and the New Zealand War Service Medal.  The last medal of this set is

On Wednesday 3 September we remembered the bravery and sacrifices of the civilian seamen known as the Merchant Navy. They were not a military force; they were the men who sailed the civilian ships requisitioned by the New Zealand and British Governments for war service.

100 years since New Zealand joined WW1

Union Steam Ship Company steamship MOERAKI, oil painting attributed to Frank Barnes (1859-1941). Fraser Collection,  NZ Maritime Museum (8673). The passenger steamship was built for the company in 1902, and was employed in the trans-Tasman service.

Friday 29 August marks one hundred years since what is considered New Zealand’s first military action in World War I.