Koromiko newsletter 2005 and some of 2006....        Home   

In Auckland Island Expedition 2005/6 - by Andy

For the third time, I headed for the Auckland Islands in late November as part of the Department of Conservation's Sea Lion team. Once again, I looked forward to the miserably cold, wet, windy subantarctic summer.

Our team for the first part of the expedition (till mid January) consisted of only 3 people- myself, Amelie (a post-grad student at Dunedin University), and Matt (a DoC employee). The workload had been cut back a little (hence the smaller team), but as the only one with previous Auckland Island experience, I had a greater responsibility. However, without Wally the Beachmaster, this trip proved to be much more fun. (All the strictly enforced rules were relaxed considerably!).

As it turned out, the weather was superb- December was as warm as it usually is in Wellington, with lots of sun and light winds- shorts and tee-shirt weather the whole time, spoilt only by a southerly storm on January 2nd (which washed tonnes of seaweed on the beach, and dumped a couple of inches of rain). Following the storm, the weather returned to the normal pattern of windy, cool and changeable (sunshine and squalls) till we left on the 11th January.

Notable incidents included seeing a giant squid washed up on the north side of the island (the best wild-death sighting we had!). I estimate it was 100kg, and its body was about two metres long. Its saucer-sized eyes looked quite alive still, staring from the water. The arms added a couple more metres to its length. Not the sort of thing you'd want to meet on a dark night!

Our work involved counting the sea lions every day, as the breeding season progressed. Only a handful of females were on shore when we arrived, and no pups. The height of the pupping season was around Xmas, and by the time we left, about 370 cute pups were running around the beach. As usual, I had to autopsy the pups found dead. This year, there was no epidemic, and the commonest causes of death were starvation and trauma (squashed by adult males or killed by bites).
After years of banding albatross, the orders this year were to de-band them, an odd reversal of policy, but working with albatross is always fun. We found 66 nests (about the usual number), spread over the centre of the island.

Xmas was quiet- just the three of us and a quantity of booze, but for once we stayed up late enough for the daylight to totally fade (about 12.30am) and were rewarded by a fantastic display of the aurora australis (southern lights).

Several cruise ships stopped by- including one on New year's eve, so we spent the last evening of the year having Lobster Thermidore on board ship, and seeing in the new year with an interesting bunch of people on board the ship (including one guy I cadged a drink from who casually mentioned that he was getting a lift to Antarctica to do a  manhauling expedition right across the continent!

I had bought a new digital camera (SLR) before the trip, and Enderby Island was a great place to test it out. I spent many hours experimenting, and got some great photos- which are easy to post on the net - and available for viewing at
this website:  www.koromiko.photosite.com/aucklandislands/

For DOC reports on these trips see Working Group Documents on this page.


Mum sniffs her newborn pup
for the first time
Juvenile penguin
Pengin enjoys the view
(maybe!). Anisotome latifolia
in background.
Rata flower