#972. Antipodes Subantarctic Islands Tundra Ecoregion Expedition

By Dallas Thomas | Travel Photography

Feb 29

We departed Hobart, Australia, in the evening on a sunny January day in early 2020 on an expedition cruise. Our destination was the Subantarctic region south of New Zealand, this is located immediately north of the Antarctic region. This translates roughly to a latitude between 46° and 60° south.

Our expedition was scheduled to take us to Macquarie Island, Campbell and Auckland Islands and The Snares then on to New Zealand plus one of the wettest places on earth the Sounds of Milford, Doubtful and Dusky. Little did we know that this would change due to the weather patterns.

Our first destination was Macquarie Island which is located at 54 40 56 S, 158 42 44 E. Macca (the local name for the Island) is 1542 kilometres from Hobart and 2877 kilometres north east of Casey Station. The weather was horrid, we sailed for 24 hours in force 10 – 12 winds with rough seas. The photos, as usual with sea conditions, don’t do the conditions justice by any means. But once arriving all was forgiven of the weather. The captain’s call on the fast transit to beat the weather to Macquarie was well informed and genius.

It only dawned on Anne and I how special this cruise was, when our expedition leader, Mick, gave us these statics from 2018 for visitors during our first briefing:

Galapagos >275,000 people
Antarctica >51,000 people
Everest Base Camp >37,000 people & 807 summited

2018/2019 Australian Summer Season:

Campbell & Auckland Islands <430
Macquarie Island <430
The Snares <260

Birds were evident 1 day before we arrived at Macquarie Island. A great indicator of land-ho.

Pest eradication has been a major challenge for Macquarie Island, Australia, and the remainder of the other New Zealand territories, to be visited. Before and after visits to each landing site, a full clean and inspection of clothing, boots bags etc was undertaken by us, then the expedition crew and was overseen by a government inspector.

Macquarie Island is the most southerly part of Australia and is a World Heritage Area and a remarkable place.

Royal Penguins Endemic to Macquarie Island

Royal Penguin

King Penguin

Giant Petrel

King Penguin

Its home to significant Royal and King Penguin rookeries as well as a breeding colony of Southern Elephant Seals and several varieties of birds.

Elephant Seal Weaner – eight weeks old

King Penguin Colony

The weather can change so rapidly in this part of the world one minute overcast and drizzle then suddenly sunshine as we headed for the our next stop.

Campbell Island is the most southerly of the 5 New Zealand subantarctic groups. It is known for its megaherbs, perennial wildflowers characterised by their greta size, with huge leaves and very colourful flowers, which have developed as an adaption to the harsh weather conditions on the islands. The island is also home to 6 species of albatross. Flowering season for the mega herbs is December to early February.

Enderby Island is the 2nd largest island in the group. The eradication of introduced species achieved in 1994 has seen a significant increase in the abundance of native flora and fauna. It has become the stronghold for the rare yellow-eyed penguin and the primary breeding location of the New Zealand Sea Lion Colony.

Yellow Eyed Penguin

Giant Petrel

Sea Lions

Royal Albatross


Royal Albatross

Old Man Sea Lion – a beach master with harem

Yellow Eyed Penguin

Our next destination was the Sounds of Milford, Doubtful & Dusky but a severe weather system of force from 10 – 12 seas changed our plan. After punching into these seas for 6 hours at an average of 6 knots the captain, Fabien Roche, decided for passenger comfort to return to the Aucklands and wait out the storm system. We were asked to all sit on the floor or to make sure that our chair was firmly fixed to the floor before he made the turn across the huge swells.

You may think we’d have more excursions to the Aucklands, unfortunately this could not occur due to the strict permit requirements which state specific dates and times for each boat as well as restricted numbers of people on the island at any one time.

Our time was then spent listening to more lectures on nature and enjoying the luxury offered by Le Laperouse and its excellent staff. It was quite pleasant just sitting off the island, safe and dry, and watching the changes in the weather and seas.

Images were captured using Nikon Z7 using mostly Nikon 80 – 400 and Zeiss Milvus 18/2.8


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  • Pascal O. says:

    Thank you for a most interesting article and, as always, stunning photography, Dallas!
    Not being a good sailor, I can only say hats off to both of you for undergoing force 10 – 12 winds for 24 hours at that!! Horresco referens ;-).

  • philberphoto says:

    Antarctica fauna and fine cuisine… puffins and muffins… I feel for you, Dallas! But your brilliant images tell an amazing story to those of us who, thanks to you, get to travel vicariously. Thanks and congrats!

  • percy seaton-smythe says:

    What a wonderful description and series of excellent photographs, much enjoyed, much appreciated!

  • jean pierre guaron says:

    Brilliant post, and I am hoping this is one of those “Demtel” deals – where the announcer informs us all at the end of it “and there’s more!” – so we can expect to see the photos you took after leaving the Aucklands and reaching the Milfords.

    I spent a fair bit of time with fairy penguins on Granite Island, off Victor Harbour SA, when I was a kid – and I’ve seen them on one of the islands off the coast here in Perth WA, along with seals – but that island is also notorious for its snake population, so I won’t popularise it by naming it here.

    I love your photos of the birds, Dallas. Most people could try for a lifetime without anywhere near as many perfect shots as you’ve shared with us, even in this short space.

    • Pete, no Demtel offer I’m afraid due to the bad weather we headed straight to Dunedin from the Aucklands. It was disappointing but it goes with the place. Your comments regarding teh bird shots is very much appreciated.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Thanks for sharing your stunning images and travel tale, Dallas! I feel as if I were right there with you – up close and personal to those amazing birds and animals…..and a bit seasick while reading your description of riding the wind driven waves!

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Thank you for an interesting narrative and excellent images.

  • Patrick says:

    What a wealth of fascinating photos, superbly captured, especially the wild life creatures and plants.
    Wish I were there as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ken Meredith says:

    Feel like I was there, but given my land based legs, I’m more than happy to see your experience. Olga and I are off to Cornwall & Spain in May, I’m sure we will have a coffee at our usual place before!

  • Lad Sessions says:

    Dallas, great pictures–really stunning seabirds!–and a great story. A journey you doubtless will remember the rest of your life. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  • Paul Watson says:

    Loved that, I felt a bit nostalgic, although I have never ventured that far South, I been to Saint Helena Island 5 times. One thing I noticed when I was Sailing the southern Oceans, was the Albatross ( We Had Indian Yellow Nosed Albatross, Royal, Wandering ) These magnificent birds would com effortlessly from who knows where, and circle the yacht out of curiosity, and they would watch you. I learnt very quickly if you bring out your Camera, they pull away from the yacht very quickly. I suspect that they have had encounters with men with telescopic sights, and so they see a human put something up against their face. That’s trouble and they disappear like ghosts.
    Thanks for the great photos and great write up.

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