Heritage Adventurer

Fiordland, Sub-Antarctic, Ross Sea

December 28, 2022 - March 20, 2022

  This page is a way to save and share some images and words from my voyages on Heritage Adventurer. I was aboard for 5 voyages - first (V1) a 12 day voyage to Campbell Island, Auckland Islands, Snares. Stewart Island and Fiordland; then two Ross Sea voyages (V2 and V3) that included Campbell/Auckland/Macquarie; then Fiordland and Stewart Island again (V4); and finally a voyage up the coast of New Zealand from Fiordland to Auckland with stops along the way (V5).

  As I visited many locations multiple times I have chosen to organize this page geographically (more or less north to south) rather than chronologically.

  Sorry - I have made no effort to make this page work well on smaller screen sizes, and, as usual, my editor has been far too lenient.

  You can click on most images to get a higher resolution version.

Heritage Adventurer

   I had made 2 previous Ross Sea voyages with Heritage Expeditions - 2001 as a passenger and 2017 as a guide. These were aboard the 50 passenger ex-Soviet research vessels. That was great, but Heritage Adventurer is a whole different story. She is a lovely, comfortable, modern, superb, luxury cruise ship. Here is a little look.


  I was in cabin 319 - formerly a guest cabin - very comfortable. I mostly had it to myself. The bar/lounge was also the presentation space. The food was the best that I have had aboard any expedition cruise ship - with delightfully friendly service too. On Deck 7 are the Observation Lounge (with Observation Deck above), Swimming Pool (only filled with sea water for a polar plunge), spa pool, gym and sauna. The driver is lowered to the water with the Zodiac then the passengers board at the gangway.






New Zealand

  For V5 the Fiordland/Stewart Island visits were followed by a transit along the east coast of New Zealand. We visited cities including Christchurch, where I led a city tour and wondered if I would meet anyone I knew. I didn't, but it felt strange. Most stops were at nature reserves and predator free islands. The final, most northerly visit was to the Bay of Islands including the grounds were the treaty between Maori and Queen Victoria was signed in 1840.






  For V1 we spent most of our time in Dusky Sound visiting historic sites related to James Cook's visit of 1773 and Richard Henry plus making some bush walks through the rugged and muddy rainforest. The only real photo opportunity was our early morning cruise of Milford Sound including Bowen Falls and the bottlenose dolphins riding in the bow wave in the reflection of the bow.


  On V4 we had some wonderful light in Dusky Sound and more Bottlenose dolphins playing in the bow wake in front of the bulb.



  V5 was a last visit to Fiordland including an Oystercatcher and a dolphin encounter from the bobbing Zodiacs



Stewart Island

  V1, V4 and V5 all visited Stewart Island - but only on V5 did anything strike my fancy. On that voyage we had a nice visit to the nature reserve of Ulva Island with parakeet, sea lions and rainbows.




  No landings are allowed at the Snares - only Zodiac cruising - the Snares is one of my favorite spots for cruising. For the first 2 visits I was not confident enough in my driving to take photographs. In both cases conditions were difficult - with strong winds on V1 and big swells on V2. They were toward to edge of my comfort zone. I drove successfully in both, adding greatly to my confidence level. And in both cases the wildlife viewing was super. Seas and rocks full of Snares Crested Penguins and NZ fur seals, lots of tricky navigation in caves and inlets, and the most birds I have been among on the sea as we drifted in a flock of Bullers Albatross actively feeding on the fish we could see beneath the boat. Happy PAX and happy guide. On V2 someone caught a photo of me as a driver. On V3 I rode along as the Naturalist for crew driver (doing the blah blah in guide-speak).




  On V4 I was also doing the blah-blah. The penguins and Bullers were still there and I caught a Salvins albatross in flight too.



Auckland Islands

  On V1  we did Zodiac cruises in Carnley Harbour and Musgrave inlet - both great but again no pictures as I was driving. Then 2 landings on Enderby Island: at the site of the Hardwicke settlement and at Sandy Bay. At Hardwicke only the graveyard remains - with graves from the failed settlement and of shipwreck victims.


  For V1 at Sandy Bay, the Hooker Sea Lion colony was in full on pupping and mating season. More action, sex and violence than a Tarantino movie. The bulls were battered from their battles. The pups were cute.



  Here is a short video to give you a little idea.


  There is plenty more to see at Sandy Bay with the Southern Rata in full blossom, the Yellow Eye Penguins, and the ever vigilant Skua




  For V2 the Sandy Bay action had cooled a bit as the season had progressed, and the drizzle persisted most of the day. The Light Mantled Sooty Albatross were nesting on the cliffs, the Southern Royals and Pippits were in residence, the megaherbs still in bloom, and likin' the lichen.




  For V3 the beach was empty but it was all about the Souther Royal Albatross soaring along the cliffs and "gamming" along the boardwalk.




Campbell Island

  For the V1 visit to Campbell Island the megaherbs were in full bloom, the Southern Royals were nesting, and the Zodiac driver enthusiastic. While not captured in pixels I spent an unforgettable 20 minutes in the evening on the way down from the Southern Royal breeding colony with many birds in the air riding the wind currents and swooping low (within a few feet) as the chattered to their mates in the tussock. Woosh. Wow.




Macquarie Island

  Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island is one of my all time favorite wild places. V2 was my third visit and did not disappoint, especially as we had a beautifully fine day - albeit windy. Within a few hundred meters walk along the beach and up into the hillside are active King and Royal Penguin colonies and piles of sleepy or playful Southern Elephant Seals.

  Elephant Seal breeding season was finished, so those on the beach were the molting young adults - often engaged in a bit of roughhousing.



  The Royal Penguins, one of the crested penguins, are found only on Macquarie with close to 1,000,000 birds. The colony at Sandy Bay is spectacle of movement and noise - and an assault on the nostrils as well. At this stage of the season the chicks are in creches so that both parents can be at sea for feeding. The movie may help to get some idea of the colony, heading to the sea on the beach, and returning to curiously check me out.




  The Royals are stout busy little birds. We saw one attacked by several Giant Petrels and Skua and fight them off. And they have these gorgeous hairdos.





  The stars of the beach for most people are the King Penguins. These are second in size only to the Emperors. They are awkward and humorous on the beach but extraordinary in the water diving to 250 meters to catch their prey.


  They are extraordinarily beautiful. I find the interplay of the shining silver, white and orange and the patterns that they create irresistible.



  Kings take more than a year to fledge after the egg is laid - and the later stages are brown down. Naturally there are other interesting in the Bay including the Macquarie Shag (coromorant), kelp and a successful Skua.




  Macquarie was raped and pillaged over the years by fur sealers then elephant sealers (for oil). When these were all gone they started rendering the penguins for oil too - in "digesters". This was all stopped in the early 1900s and, happily, the wildlife has recovered.


  For V3, as I now have nearly enough penguin photos, I just let the curious Kings and a Skua come to me.


At Sea

  The majority of Sea Days are between Macquarie and the Ross Sea but sometimes in the sub-antarctic too. We are always on the lookout for icebergs, whales and flying birds. I especially enjoy the Pack Ice. On both V2 and V3 we had relatively severe storms - 50 knots and 12 meter swell at the worst - lasting 36+ hours. The programme was cancelled and we rode it out. We had a bit of broken crockery, but no injuries. The ship performed superbly and few people were seasick.



  On V3 we had an excellent afternoon with many Humpback Whales very near the ship. You can hear a bit of excited chatter on the video clip.



  Then, on some evenings when the sun set, we had sunsets. This one is from the last evening of V2 as we approached Bluff - with dolphins swimming by the ship.


Cape Adare

  The day of the V2 landing at Cape Adare was truly exceptional. The conditions were flat calm, some sun, and minor swell. Here is how it went for me: Up for coffee then 2 lectures - geology and photography. Lunch from the buffet with Queen of Pudding and Custard for dessert (desert at lunch is decadent, but I am getting used to it). A slow approach to the rugged Cape through the pack ice and tabular bergs - with a stop for an extremely rare Ross Seal spotting. The clouds were low and the lighting subdued - a dramatic backdrop for this dramatic place. The Adelie Penguins were everwhere - in the water, on the ice floes, and especially on the land as there are ~500,000 nesting pairs at the Cape. The earth is stained red from the gauno. Then into the Zodiacs at about 3:00pm to land on a steep rocky beach. As the shore party walked down the beach to access the historic huts we disturbed ~100 Skua which rose and wheeled overhead. Magic. The huts are from 1898 (Carsten Borchgrevink) and 1912 (Scott Northern Party). The Borchgrevink hut is the first structure build in Antarctica and the home for the 10 men who first overwintered. Many of the artifacts have been removed for preservation, but a few, and the artwork over one bunk, remain. I spent considerable time monitoring people in/out and cleaning the penguin guano off their boots. Not a great deal of fun, but there was ample time to wander around the colony. The chicks were in the creche stage - with both parent going to sea to return with to feed them. Adelies are fun birds anyway - actively stealing pebbles from each other for nest building - but the feeding chases in which the chicks pursue the returning parents are hilarious. Apparently this helps to confirm that they are feeding the right chicks and gives the chicks some exercise. The aroma was pungent to say the least, and there was always something to see. The landing didn't end until 10pm by the time both groups had been ashore (we are not allowed to have all 140 PAX ashore at the same time). By then the light was just getting better and better as we lingered on the beach. Back to the ship for a 3 course meal, then a shower and up onto the Observation Deck for the midnight sun. Going to bed was difficult, but sleep was a requirement for the next morning's landing.











  The difference in Cape Adare in the 4 weeks between V2 and V3 was stunning. V2 had ~1 million birds going wild. V3 had a few hundred stragglers. At least we had a beautiful day, it was easier to get closer to the historic huts, and the guano had all dried up.


Victorialand Coast

  The western edge of the Ross Sea is bounded by an area of the continent called Victorialand (for the Queen of course). The trans-Antarctic mountains run along it, and there are several landing sites including the Possessions Islands were we landed on V2. I like monochrome in the evening/night of our 24 hour daylight.







Ross Sea and Pack Ice

  Traveling in the Ross Sea in V2 meant passing through or dodging the sea ice. I certainly slows the ship, but can be beautiful, especially at "night" and is quite full of life including leopard seals and snow petrels - and when away from the ice the sea can be a mirror and play with the light in the wake.





  As with the sea further south, during V3 the sea was re-freezing by making pancake ice floating in the gentle wave of grease ice .



Ross Ice Shelf

  The southern limit of the Ross Sea are Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf. The shelf extends 800 kilometers east. I have come to expect ends-of-the-earth type places to be wild and dramatic. This end-of-the-sea place is certainly both.Spot the porpoising Adelies for scale.



Ross Island

  On V2 our time at Ross Island was extra extraordinary. Certainly the most remarkable of any period that I have spent on any expedition. It went something like this:

  Tuesday January 24

8am - 10pm After our cruise along the Ross Ice Shelf, we were off Cape Bird and could see that McMurdo Sound was packed with sea ice. The weather forecast was for a clearing southerly wind so the Captain turned the ship into the ice and we picked our way slowly along, breaking and pushing ice floes as required. We made 1-2 knots and were passed by the US icebreaker Polar Star. By mid-afternoon the wind had not arrived and the swell was piling the ice up behind us. The Captain judged that there was risk of the ship being trapped by this ice build-up, so we turned and made our way back to Cape Bird.

10pm - 1am The sea ice had cleared from the immediate Cape Bird coast, so we navigated into the clearing, launched the boats, and had a nice cruise along the ice cliffs, penguins, seals and ice floes. As we cruised the ice closed in and it was a bit of a maze getting back to the ship. The wind was starting to blow from the south.

  Wednesday January 25

8am - 1pm We had a normal morning. I gave my talk on the Nimrod Expedition, had lunch and sorted photos. The wind continued from the south.

1pm - 5pm The sea ice had again cleared from the Cape Bird coast so we approached and launched the boats into moderate to heavy seas with 25 knot southerlys for a landing at the Adelie colony. I drove in conditions that were at the limit of my comfort zone, but was able to swap with another driver ashore. During the landing the winds built to 30 knots with gusts to 45. The colony was great, but walking the beach was not easy in the sandblast, and the conditions for the Zodiac transfers were gnarly. The winds eased while we were ashore back to a more manageable 20.

6pm - 7pm Aaron and Samuel were landed and climbed a hill with a view south - old fashioned ice charts! They reported a section of thick pack ice - then open water to the south!

7pm - 8pm The Hotel Crew had planned a BBQ on the aft deck, so we ate and drank for the quick navigation through the ice and through the open water of McMurdo Sound to the edge of the sea ice.

8pm - midnight We had good views to McMurdo Station and Hut Point to the south. The sea ice was breaking into large thin plates in the evening light as the Orca and Minke Whales fed along the edge. We spent several glorious hours there.

  Thursday January 26 - Australia Day

Midnight - 6am - Heritage Adventurer took us back north to Cape Evans and we disembarked in groups to visit the hut built by Captain Robert Scott and his team in 1911 for his Terra Nova expedition. It was from here that he left for the South Pole and never returned. Due to restrictions only 40 non-staff are allowed ashore at any time, and only 7 non-staff in the hut. So the landing was done in 4 groups - each group getting 1.5 hours ashore. Naturally the Expedition Team needed to be there for each group. The weather was around minus 5 Celsius with a moderate to string wind. Luckily the queue to enter the hut was in it's lee. I was in the hut for several hours as security - but mostly helping to help PAX get a better understanding of what was there.

6am - 9am Back aboard, Aaron made a radio call to set staff standby for 9:30am. I got 3 hours sleep.

9am - 3pm We were unable to make our landing for Cape Royds hut at the closest approach, Backdoor Bay, so we landing at Black Sand Beach and set a flagged route for the 1.5 kilometer walk over the hill to the hut. This hut was built for Earnest Shackleton's 1907 Nimrod expedition. It is smaller than the Cape Evans hut, but I like it better. The Antarctic Heritage trust has done a magnificent job in the restoration/conservation of both. The PAX who could make it enjoyed the hike with Mt. Erebus towering above. Unfortunately, in my too normal careless way, I fell and cut my hand an a sharp lava rock.

3pm - 8pm For me it was back to the ship to get my wound patched by the doctor. Bugger. The operation finished at about 4pm - at which time we had a special afternoon tea with Vegemite sandwiches and Lamingtons for Australia Day as we navigated back south to McMurdo Station.

8pm - 11pm Overnight the thin sea ice had broken out. After a quick dinner the boats were launched for a quick shuttle for a landing at Discovery Hut. This one was built by Scott in 1901 for his first expedition in Discovery and is now dwarfed by McMurdo Station and it's 1500 summertime residents. I was in the hut as PAX had a quick tour.

11pm - midnight We had a quick shower and a double Laphroaig.

  Friday January 27

midnight - 11am Sleep - glorious sleep

  Visits to all three of the principal huts of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration on the same day! Truly uniquely amazing - not to mention the wildlife and chatter among the PAX and staff. Also an dramatic demonstration of the quickly changing conditions in the Antarctic. It is unheard-of for the sea ice to be out of McMurdo Sound by 26 January. A sign of things to come?

  The Heritage Expeditions philosophy of making the most of every opportunity has never been more clearly on display. Thanks team.










  The reason that I had decided to do the 2 Ross Sea trips back to back is the shortness of the seasons. In the Antarctic January is spring/summer and February is summer/autumn. In a normal season the January trip is about the Adelies and the ice and getting to the huts is problematic. So, when we reached all 3 huts in January I was thinking that the February trip couldn't live up to it. I was wrong. Firstly, the February group got simply stunning weather - day after day of sunscreen and light winds. Then, because with a return visit to any of the huts you see and feel different things. Finally, the February trip always has more Emperor penguins and whales - and this trip had both in great numbers and activity - especially along the sea ice edge during an amazing afternoon/evening.







  A couple of video clips may help. The shaking in the second section of the Emperor penguin clip is me shivering!



  Even though the sea ice had only blown out a few weeks before, it was already starting to freeze again.


  As ever the best light was at night.


Trip Logs and Slideshows

  For each voyage Heritage Expeditions sends every guest the trip log and slideshow as compiled by the expedition staff during the voyage. Here are links - note that some of the slideshow files are quite large - up to 1.5 gigabytes:

  V1: Beyond Fiordland:                                 Log           Slideshow

  V2: In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton:   Log           Slideshow

  V3: In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton:   Log           Slideshow

  V4: Unseen Fiordland                                  Log           Slideshow

  V5: Best of New Zealand                             Log           Slideshow

  For the Expedition Show on V3 I wrote a bit of haiku