I awoke on the morning of 6 March to discover that we had very rapid progress over night and were approaching the rugged columnular basalt cliffs of the Antipodes Island, crowned with green tussocks. The home to the Antipodean albatross,the Antipodes Island parakeet and the erect-crested penguin (to name just a few of the birds!). It is almost pest free, but sadly mice still live in this barren place.
The only native mammals found on shore here are elephant seals and the New Zealand and Sub-Antarctic furseals. 1804 saw the first sealing gang arrive at the Antipodes. This American gang killed about 60,000 seals over the course of the year they were stationed on the islands. While the location of prime sealing grounds was jealously guarded at the time, the evidence they took home led to a sealing boom on the islands.
After 1807 sealing was occasional and catches small. By the 1830s seals were all but wiped out and sealing in the Antipodes came to an end.
Incredibly sealing in the Southern oceans saw some 7 million furseals (Arctocephalus spp.) were killed for their skins. Essentially by 1830 all populations of furseals were so depleted to make fursealing unecomonic.
Populations of furseals have bounced back, but interestingly it seems that the Bounty Islands may be the main breeding area with the Antipodes islands being primarily a haul-out area.
The erect-crested penguins endemic to the islands, and like many penguin species, they are showing signs of decline.
Once again after a night of travel we found ourselves in the early hours of the morning at our next location, the jagged and totally inhospitable looking Bounty islands.
These are projections of rock sticking out of the sea, yet home to numerous furseals, Salvin’s albatross and their very own shag.
Sadly we could not go ashore on Spider island in the group to look for the species of Spider that Phil Sirvid would have liked me to collect.
Sadly our trip now is coming to an end and this will be my last blog post from the boat. It will be weird to be on land again in just a couple of days.