It has been a few days since our last update. During this time, we have been island hopping on the way down to the Auckland Islands.
After refuelling and restocking the food cupboards, we departed Bluff on a lovely sunny summer’s day, hoping that the good weather will to stay with us for the next leg of the voyage. During our 27-hour journey, we stopped off at two other poorly sampled islands.
The first stop was Stewart Island, a five hour trip from Bluff, where we spent the night in a comfortable anchorage at Pegasus Inlet. We managed to deploy a few overnight fish traps which were recovered at first light and had caught red cod, hagfish, carpet sharks and conger eels.
Next stop along the way was the Snares Islands. These are a small set of remote islands that jut straight out of the ocean and are home to very large numbers of seabirds, especially the sooty shearwater or titi. These were a fantastic sight for the team.
We anchored for the evening on the east side of the Snares Islands, a great spot for collecting by rod and line. This site proved to be very interesting as we sampled eight fish species, including the girdled wrasse, trumpeter, small scaled cod, and blue cod. It was a late night completing tissue sampling and photography of the catch.
Finally, we are on the last leg of the trip to the Auckland Islands. The ocean yet again played in our favour with very mild seas. Even the skipper was amazed with how we have got this far and not seen any severe seas. At 8 pm in the evening, after a 12 hr transit, we can see the faint outline of land, arriving to a cool grey Auckland Island evening.
Thursday 23 Feb. What a welcome to the Auckland Islands! After spending the night at anchor in Terror Cove inside Port Ross on the northern side of the islands, we awoke to a great sunrise, despite being a rather fresh 10°C. The forecast was looking good, so we headed out to the north-west side of the islands. To try and see what the tides and currents were doing in the area, we deployed a relatively shallow video unit at 300m depth. No unmanageable current was encountered. This enabled us to deploy ten units from 300 to 900m. Some units took a little longer to retrieve than others due to the rough terrain, but we had success in deploying our video systems at the Auckland Islands, that is a first for the project and New Zealand.
Upon evening review of the videos, we can see there is an abundant life on the seabed, like sea feathers, basketwork eels, a six gill shark and even Maori chief cod.
Tomorrow the forecast is for the weather to change later in the day. At first light, we will evaluate the conditions and decide whether to head out to sea or stay in the shelter and do some coastal collecting. What will the morning bring? More later.