Twenty Twenty-Four

  I have often stated in these pages that they are as much about the future me as the present reader. I have decided to test this theory by making one page that contains a full year of my life. As I write this on January 4 I expect 2024 to be a full year of travel for guiding contracts and for personal enjoyment. My intention at the start is to include fewer photos and more reflections. Time will tell.

  Most images will give a higher resolution version when clicked. I expect that this will get to be a big page, so here are links to various chapters of the year:

  February

January - aboard Heritage Adventurer

  January 3 - enroute to Auckland Islands - New Year's Day found me at the Snares at the start of a 4 voyage contract with Heritage Expeditions. The Snares is one of my favorite Zodiac cruises, and for this visit I was not driving - allowing the possibility of photography. It was an exceptional outing with the wildlife in full abundance. Most remarkable was the volume and diversity of the seabirds feeding in the ocean. There were birds from the smallest diving petrels to large albatross. The Penguin slide was as active as I have ever seen it. A great fun start to the year.

    

  January 12 - enroute to Antarctica - The remainder of my first voyage of the year continued in fine form. We made all the landings/cruises at Auckland Islands, Macquarie and Campbell despite constant high winds. While nothing of special note occurred, and I had been there before, it is always a pleasure to visit these wild places. At the changeover in Bluff, all of the expedition team was buzzing - for me because I was getting back together with many mates from last year - for others looking for their first time to the Ross Sea. As always we have a large, strong team. Let's go.
  The Ross Sea voyages start with visits to the sub-Antarctic and we again made all the landing/cruises.
  Some images from this period - Enderby Island: megaherbs, NZ Sea Lion colony, squabbling skuas, rata blossom, Auckland Island shags nesting, Light mantled sooty albatross nesting, Zodiacs at anchor - Campbell Island: Campbell albatross in flight, pleurophylum, Southern Royal albatross - Macquarie Island: sleepy elephant seal, yours truly with inquisitive Royals(photo credit Lindie Nelson), Royal Penguin pair, King Penguins x 4

        

        

        

        

        

        

        

        
    
        

   During this period I received the Log, Slideshow and Species List for the pre-Christmas Birding Down Under voyage. While this was not in 2024, it was a fabulous wildlife experience, so I have included the links here.

   January 25 - cruising the sea ice edge in McMurdo Sound - we had remarkably smooth and easy 4 days at sea from Macquarie to Cape Adare. Our good luck continued as we were able to make our landing there in near perfect conditions. The Adelie colony was full of fun and activity - the chicks were in the creche stage and pebble stealing was in full swing. The hut was still in the process of conservation. I drove for the Zodiac cruise in the evening with the most fun display of porposing penguins that I have ever seen plus a gruesome leopard seal kill. Excellent conditions persisted as we continued south to Coulman Island for our first real pack ice and Emperor Penguin of the voyage. Then into Terra Nova Bay for the first antarctic conditions we have seen - colder and snowy. A highlight for me was an evening visit to the site of the snow cave where Scott's Northern Party overwintered on Inexpressible Island. Conditions cleared for an evening Zodiac cruise at the Drygalski Ice Tongue (the pattern of this voyage being after-dinner activities in the 24 hour daylight) - but I was wiped out and went to bed early. From there we pushed south to land at both Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds and Scott's hut at Cape Evans in the same afternoon/night. The operation started at about 2pm and finished at 4am with a quick break for dinner as we relocated. Conditions at Cape Royds were stunning - Mount Erebus towering and light streaming into the hut. As the "historian" I spent hours inside each hut as the PAX visited as only 8 people are allowed inside and one must be a guide. There is so much to see and ponder inside as the work done by the Antarctic Heritage Trust has brought history to life. When we awoke the killer whales were off the starboard side by the ice edge and the light was stunning.
  Some images from this period - Cape Adare: panorama, Adelie colony x 4 plus a video clip of the activity - Coulman Island: snow petrel, emperor - Terra Nova Bay: snowman on the pool deck, Dygalski Ice Tongue cruise - Ross Island historic huts: Mount Erebus, Cape Royds hut, exterior detail, interior detail x 5 - Cape Evans: sleepy Weddell Seal pup, hut from ship and with ship - McMurdo sea ice edge: killer whales, sky

    

        

        

    

        

        

    

        

         


    
    

    
    
   
        

        

  January 31 - in the Southern Ocean headed north - the remainder of our time in McMurdo Sound and the Ross Sea included return visits to Cape Evans and the sea ice edge. We made a long landing at Cape Bird where the Adelie colony was fun as always but the highlight for me was the aerial ballet of the Skuas. We stopped for an early morning landing at Franklin Island on the way north.
  Some images from this period - Cape Evans: McMurdo Sound from Cape Evans with silhouettes - Sea ice edge: sea ice floes and trans-Antarctic mountains monochrome, sea ice floes, a rather abstract view of a subsurface killer whale, Yours truly at the tiller - Cape Bird: Adelie with Beaufort Island, Penguin parade, Skuas x 3

    

    

    

    

        

    

        

    

   During this period I received the Log, Slideshow and Species List for the first voyage of the year - Galapagos of the Southern Ocean.

February - aboard Heritage Adventurer

   February 5 - in port at Bluff - our passage north was smooth and uneventful so we arrived at Campbell Island with 2 days to spend instead of the normal 1. Day 1 featured 2 excellent Zodiac cruises - the evening cruise with ~150 Southern Royal Albatross soaring overhead and then skimming the surface to pass the boats below head height was magic - one of my top wildlife experiences ever. Day 2 included a landing to walk up to the Albatross colony - along the way the "gardens" with all three species of the megaherb Pleurophyllum were stunning. The night and day at sea to Bluff were the roughest of the season so far - maybe up to 7 meters with 50 knot gusts - but still no problem in this ship.
  Some scenes from this period - Campbell Island: Light mantled sooty albatross in flight in front of Campbell albatross colony, ferns, Antarctic tern chick and adult. Sooty shearwaters taking flight from a silver sea, Southern Royal albatross on the nest and in flight, Yours truly driving the evening cruise (photo credit Christian Engelke), Pleurophyllum Criniferum and Pleurophyllum Speciosum closeup, Pleurophyllum gardens