One of the delights for a kiwi naturalist visiting the French subantarctic is enjoying French cuisine. Each of the five cabanes (field huts) we stayed in had been provisioned in advance by helicopter or boat, and on our arrival we would find a cluster of brown or blue plastic barrelsRead more

The purpose of our visit to Ile aux Cochons* was to undertake a pilot study of the foraging ecology and at-sea distribution of South Georgian diving petrels (’jojos’) to compare with the closely related (and similar-looking) common diving petrels (’plon plons’) that we had studied on Ile Mayes the previousRead more

I have yet to find an explanation for why this gem of an island is called ‘Ile aux Cochons’*. The nearest beasts to hogs that are on the island are the fat slugs of juvenile elephant seals that lie snorting and belching along the shoreline, and there is no evidenceRead more

Isles Kerguelen harbour an astonishing diversity and abundance of seabirds, with 33 breeding species. We had seen breeding colonies of several of the larger species on Grand Terre, but Mayes provided a taste of what the islands would have been like before their discovery – and the introduction of cats,Read more

After 36 hours at Port aux Français, it was time for Charly Bost and me to head into the field again. We were accompanied by Aymeric Fromant, another IPEV ‘VSC’ (Volontaire Service Civique) volunteer. There are a dozen such ‘volunteers’ on Kerguelen each year, with two (Côme Rebaudet and AymericRead more

Snow blanketed the ground when we awoke on Boxing Day, though it had largely melted before we left camp about 2:30 pm, to start the walk east to Cap Noir. Our task for the day (and the next) was to count Antarctic fur seal pups, and also any vagrant subantarcticRead more

The reason for our visit to Cap Cotter was to continue Charly Bost’s long-term studies of the macaroni penguins. During our 1-week stay we undertook five separate projects, beginning with attaching GPS loggers and dive time/depth recorders to eight breeding females. Like most crested penguins, macaroni penguins are highly synchronousRead more

The name ‘macaroni’ to most people means short, curved tubes of hollow pasta, or they may have recollections of Yankee Doodle Dandy sticking a feather in his cap. However, bird enthusiasts associate the name with one of the larger species of crested penguin that breeds at remote sites in theRead more

We sailed into the Golfe du Morbihan at dawn on a cold, grey, drizzly day. The dozens of islands (including Mayes and Cochons that we will visit) were to port, and a flat, featureless land to starboard. The TAAF base (Port aux Français, PAF) is a scatter of about threeRead more

Our passage from Crozet east to Kerguelen was uncharacteristically calm. For two days barely a white-cap was to be seen, and the sun set on a clear horizon, producing a vivid green flash as it disappeared. The conditions were ideal for whale spotting, but we saw very few until lateRead more

The Crozet Islands are one of three subantarctic island groups in the southern Indian Ocean that together form the ‘Terres Australes’ of the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF). They are large islands (though much smaller than Kerguelen, which we visited next), with the two largest islands both exceeding 13,000Read more

Even after sending reams of (French) documents to the Institute Polar Emile Victor (IPEV) over the past six months, I had a slight unease that I would arrive at the security gate at Le Port (Reunion Island) and discover that I was not on the passenger manifesto for the MarionRead more