Down South

6:30 am on Monday the 17th of November. Its pouring rain out (after a beautiful warm Wellington weekend) and I am up sipping coffee preparing for my departure. In two days I will be headed south to the Auckland Islands in the sub-Antarctic region of New Zealand. This will be my first stint of field work since arriving here and I am very excited, not just to get away from my computer and into the wilds of NZ, but also to get my hands on some live albatrosses. All I have dealt with lately are dead seabirds killed in fishing operations. This should be more uplifting.

 

The Auckland Islands are at about 51 degrees south. We will have a 2 day sail down to the islands from Bluff, the coastal town at the southern tip of mainland NZ. auckland-islands-overview

 

We will be on the sailing vessel Tiama, a 50-foot steel ketch, purpose built for research in the sub-Antarctic region. Looks like a pretty sweet boat. You can check it out here:

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/tiama/

 

We will also live on this boat for a month while we stay at the Auckland Islands. We will anchor up in a protected harbor and take the dingy to shore each morning and hike up the mountain to the albatross colony. auckland-islands-close-up I am looking forward to this since I have not been on a sailboat since leaving our beautiful Russamee behind. Plus, this means warm showers and a warm, dry bunk after long days outside in the elements.

 

We will mainly be working with white-capped albatrosses at a colony on the SW cape of the main Auckland Island. wca-adults-and-chick We will be putting GPS and satellite tracking tags on these birds for them to fly around with during their foraging trips and track where they go. We will also visit Disappointment Island where only ~10-15 people have ever been – mostly shipwrecked. This is a highly protected island by the Department of Conservation, full of endemic flora and fauna. Here we will also be working with white-capped albatrosses and a couple other rare seabirds. We will also get to hike up to the top of Adams Islands (very steep long climb, I hear) for a day of banding wandering albatross chicks (the largest of all seabirds) img_0269. Here we will put metal numbered bands on the legs of chicks that will stay with them for life so we can track who they are, where the came from, and when they come and go.

 

All of this will be new field experiences for me and I am very excited. I am of course taking my camera and a new video camera so you can expect lots of visual images of the trip when I get back. I only wish I could bring my Todd and Mango along but they will be having their own adventures. Todd has multiple trips planned for work (including out to the Chatham Islands) and Mango has a few different home stays ahead of her.

 

I am currently reading a book about a shipwreck at the Auckland Islands – a famous story about the Grafton and her stranded crew. While this may seem a bit ominous, it has given me a good sense of the islands and terrain. Plus, if we do get shipwrecked, I’ll know how to survive. Hoping that this does not happen, I’ll be in touch in late December!

 

Oh, just posted on the Radio New Zealand website: an interview with me and David Thompson, my supervisor, about the work we have been doing on white-capped albatrosses and fisheries. Listen here (about 15 minutes long): aft-20081117-1547-Environment_Story-048.mp3

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