Howling winds persisted all night and well into the morning for the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey team, which meant the penultimate penguin count on Enderby Island had to be cancelled. Getting ashore in the dark in 50 knot winds would simply have been too dangerous.
As predicted, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Expedition team have spent the last days of their trip battling 50km an hour winds. With gusts of over 60 knots, they spent a day confirmed to the yacht at Erebus Cove on Enderby Island. After ten days living in close quarters, for Christine it was a chance to reflect on the experience so far.
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.
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)!
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:
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 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!
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….
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:
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:
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.