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 March April May June 

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, 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. (Post Script - This was the only expedition to land at Cape Adare for the entire season). 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.
   And use these links for the Log, Slideshow and Species List for the January Ross Sea trip

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









   February 13 - in the Southern Ocean enroute to Cape Adare - the changeover day allowed me a few hours on dry land including a chance to visit a supermarket to resupply with snacks and have a souvlaki for lunch - woo hoo. It was also time to farewell the members of the expedition team off-signing - and greet the new team. It was tough to say farewell to the January team as I knew many from previous voyages and we had just competed a remarkable journey. The letdown was palpable, but there is never time to linger on these thoughts on changeover day. So, it was onward to meet the new team, greet the new PAX, and leave port heading south.
  I am now 6 weeks into an 11 week contract. My teammates ask me about burnout - but, honestly, I have none. We do work hard, and there are no days off. But, there is time off, and I do make sure to get plenty of sleep and not too much grog (wine with dinner and a wee dram every night). I seem to thrive in this environment - PAX and staff tell me that they really like my presentations, so that helps. There is always something to do, or someone interesting to chat with. The ship is large and comfortable, with my own private space in my cabin. The wild places that we visit are different each time - each voyage is unique. I count myself very fortunate.
  We expected ~6 meter swells the first night but got ~12 meters with cupboard doors flying open and the bed sliding - so diverted south to skip the Snares. Our day at Enderby Island was almost tropical with the Southern Royals continuing to steal the show. Our stop at Macquarie was blown out except we had a wonderful ship cruise at Lusitania Bay and squeezed in a landing at Sandy Bay. In a first for me at Sandy Bay, I took zero photos on the landing.
  The Southern Ocean looked like giving us a bumpy ride with several low pressure systems set to overtake us along the way. At the start we had consistent westerly swells of around 6 meters. This ship is stable enough that most PAX were up and around and we are running the presentation programme. As we headed south the condition as moderated quite quickly. We crossed the circle while passing down the west side of the Balleny Islands (my secod ever visit). It was cool having some rugged cliffs for our introduction to Antarctica and our last susnset for awhile.
  Some scenes from this period - Enderby Island: Southern Royals - Macquarie Island: Lusitania Bay King Penguin colony, digesters used 125 years ago to process penguins for their oil surrounded by penguins, window where drivers board/exit Zodiacs, swimming penguins - Southern Ocean: A screensnap from showing our position on the morning of February 11 in a big blob of rough seas - Balleny Islands: icy cliffs and susnset









  February 23 - heading north leaving the Ross Sea. We had a very successful 10 days in the Ross Sea, making the 3 historic huts and plenty of other highlights.
  We were not able to land at Cape Adare on arrival due to ice, but had a wonderful Zodiac cruise at the head of Robertson Bay with the folded rocks nicely outlined by a dusting of fresh snow. We also Zodiac cruised at Franklin Island, ship cruised into the "cracks" of the Ross Ice Shelf, landed at Cape Bird. Then it was on to McMurdo Sound for the historic huts and the sea ice edge. This is always a busy time for me as my role requires me to be around to help guide the PAX through the history. These landings occurred during the longest sustained spell of really cold weather that I have experienced in the Antarctic. It was ~-20C consistently with strong winds and wind chills of ~-30C. I have good gear, but even with that it was a struggle to stay warm. At least it's a good excuse for a second helping of dessert! It was sunny, just very cold, and as we cruised the sea ice edge the re-freezing had started. The sea was an ever-changing pattern of pancake ice in the glorious sunshine.
  Headed back north we called into Terra Nova Bay for a landing by the Korean Jang Bogo station. This area is known for strong katabatic winds, and we got our share. The strong wind combined with the slushy freezing sea made the most remarkable display. For the PAX log I wrote "The thickened surface of the sea flowed in waves that were mesmerizing. From the Captain to the EL to all of the members of the expedition staff to all of us, we were dumbfounded. No one had ever seen anything like it before. The sea was a silver satin sheet undulating in the evening sun. It was indescribable. You just had to be there." People sometimes ask me how I go back to the same place time after time. I answer that every trip is different - which they truly are.
  Our last stop in the Ross Sea was another failed attempt to land at Cape Adare followed by a visit to the tabular icebergs that ground just off the cape.
  Some scenes from this period - Robertson Bay: Folded rocks at Duke of York Island - McMurdo Sound: "MacTown" (note historic hut at far left), Emperors, Pancake ice - Terra Nova Bay - Landscape with silhouette, Weddell Seal, Korean Jang Bogo station, map of katabatic winds, Undulating sea - Ross sea: Tabular bergs in the waves



  and if you liked that then try this longer clip


  February 29 - at sea enroute from Campbell Island to the Snares. We had a routine crossing of the Southern Ocean to Campbell Island where we had a rare encounter with a pod of Southern Right Whales and a delightful Zodiac cruise with playful juvenile New Zealand Sea Lions.
  Some scenes from this period - Campbell Island: Right Whales and Sea Lions



   Use these links for the Log, Slideshow and Species List for the February Ross Sea trip.

March - aboard Heritage Adventurer and Campervan tour of the South Island

  March 11 - In Westport in the rain. We had a super visit to the Snares. The Sub-Antarctic Islands are all different and all wonderful - but this cruise at the Snares was to a part of the coast I had never visited. Tortured granite, crashing surf, soaring Albatross, it was like nature as a work of art (but no photos as I was driving). Switch-over day was in Bluff on day 2 of the Oyster season - 6 oysters on the half shell with chips and a beer - only? $NZ49! Yummy. The final voyage of the season was Fiordland, Stewart Island and the Snares. We had a nice voyage including, in an odd sort of way, the Snares, where we had the strongest winds and among the roughest seas of the whole season. In the 24 hours after leaving Invercargill I had a quicj visit with Jill and Lesley then drove to Karamea in my van to meet Peter. Our visits were to the fabulous Oprara Arches, the Nikau wak at the start of the Heaphy and the historic Denniston coal mine. Along the way we came to a one-lane bridge with a horse and rider at the other end. They had the right-of-way but generously allowed us to go first. Only in New Zealand?
  Some scenes from this period - Bluff: End of the road sign, lunch - Milford Sound: Milford Wanderer in Stirling Falls, Stirling Falls detail, Mitre Peak with snow dusting - Snares: Angular rocks, View over the bow as we turned into the swell and sun, video clip from our ship cruise (note the wind blown camera strap - and perhaps not for those sensitive to motion sickness) - West Coast: Oparara river stained with tannin, Moria Gate Arch, Nikau fronds, Historic Denniston





   Use these links for the Log, Slideshow and Species List for the March Snare, Rakiura, Fiordland trip



  March 17 - Glenorchy. We continued south and struck Punakaiki at high tide in a strong surf. The blowholes and surge pools were pumping like I had never seen them before . We made several nice walks through the west coast bush, and dodged the rain which, luckily, seemed to come only while driving or at night. At our stay at the Hokitika Holiday Park, our neighbor was growing a crop of hemp weed in his van! Only in New Zealand? We had a quick visit to Fox Glacier (a sad remnant of what I saw 40 years ago), then through Haast Pass for a night at the beautiful Kidd's Bush DOC camp and a mountain bike ride in Wanaka (my butt and wrist both ached for 3 days), and a gelato in Queenstown. (Post script - for the entire trip we escaped rain as it fell only overnight or while driving - the most dramatic time was coming over the Haast - we were in driving rain and wind at Makarora but then spotted a glimmer of light and within 10 minutes we were in the glorous sunshine - it was truly remarkable).
    Some scenes from this period - Punakaiki: pancakes and splashes including blowhole rainbow x 4 - West Coast bush detail x 7 including blue mushroom (Entoloma hochstetteri) and tom tit - Hokitika - yours truly with a double scoop - Fox Glacier: the pathetic remnant - Kidd's Bush campsite: Crested Grebe on Lake Hawea in the evening light, campervan caravan - Queenstown: panorama from the Remarkables ski field road.










   March 31 - Christchurch. We spent a couple of nights in Glenorchy (the scheelite mine was fun). Then did the huge road loop to cover the 25km as-the-kea-flies to our next campground. We had selected Cascade Creek (the last campground on the Milford Road before the Sound) so that we would at the Sound before the hordes arrived. A day before I twigged that if we made an early start we would have a chance to walk to Key Summit in the afternoon, so we did. Key Summit is one of my favorite mountain sites in NZ. This was my third visit. It as as close as you can come in NZ to an alpine meadow - with dramatic views over 3 valleys and beauty in the details of tarns and tussock too. The plan also worked well for Milford, in that the weather was better than forecast, and Peter had a calm sunny morning for his cruise. We then had a couple of day in Manapouri including a visit to the Te Anau Caves and night at Curio Bay in the Catlins walking on the 170 million (170 million!) year old petrified forest. Quick stops at Nugget Point lighthouse and Tunnel Beach got us to Portobello for a day of albatross and penguins (I have been lucky enough to see many albatross and penguins many times - but still to was fun to see and hear the excitement of the people having their first chance). A drive up the coast to Shag Point and the Moeraki boulders was followed by a quick loop inland including the Clay Cliffs of Omarama before lunch with Jill and dropping Peter at the airport

  Some scenes from this period - Glenorchy: Sheelite crushing battery and the view from there - Road trip: Key Summit: tarn, peaks and tussock twirls - Milford: a picture postcard morning - Curio Bay: petrified forest on the tidal shelf - Nugget Point: lighthouse - Tunnel Beach: natural arch - Portobello: Little Blue penguin - Shag Point: fur seal - Omarama: clay cliffs








April - around Christchurch and to Japan

  I spent April in the van at a holiday park in Christchurch catching up with friends and on a bunch of life maintenance. At the end of the month I made the 22 hour plane/plane/train journey to Kanazawa. I visited Kanazawa several times on my previous contract, but I needed a leg stretch so walked around a bit including gardens, te castle, a shrine, a market, and the D.T Suzuki museum dedicated to a famous Zen Buddhist philosopher.

  Some scenes from the walk: a fallen cherry blossom in the garden; Kanazawa Castle; the cleansing sink at the shrine; a market stall; the contemplation space at the Suzuki museum - a huge reflecting pool with occasional ripples



May - Japan aboard Heritage Adventurer

  May 9 - Osaka and changeover day at the end of the first voyage - which included visits to a number of ports that I visited last year. Mostly, it was fun making return visits to these places as they are interesting, and with the guests in the hands of the local guides I normally get a bit of opportunity to explore on my own.

  Some scenes from this period: Kanazawa: maple leaves in the drizzle and perhaps my favorite garden in Japan - the courtyard garden at the Nomura samurai house; Matsue: garden as art at the Adachi museum, floating rafts of peonies and a blossom at Yuushien gardens; Hagi: terraces in the Akiyoshidai cave; Ulsan, South Korea: Buddha at Bulguksa Temple and paper lanterns for the Buddha's birthday; Mijajima: the famous "floating" torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine, wishes placed by visitors to the shrine; some of the 500 small Buddha's at Daisho-in temple; Hiroshima: Cenotaph with eternal flame and dome; A bomb dome, paper cranes left as a peace offering, water lily; Port of Uno - scenes from Okayama Korakuen garden: castle with crane boats, koi, plank bridge, pine tree trimmers at work (note before and after below and above)











  May 25 - Back in Osaka for changeover day at the end of Voyage 3. The previous 2 voyages retraced our route through the Inland Sea, out to Ulsan and the west coast, and back. Voyage 3 was a full charter so there are only a few of us aboard to provide logistical and Zodiac support. We didn't get to go along on the excursions, but did get to go out from the post. At Ulsan I made it out of the port but turned back after only 200m or so - thinking that I would be either poisoned or run over by a huge truck if I went further. The place is an amazing beehive of industrial activity. "Hyundai City" with dozens of big ships in port or waiting to get in, a huge refinery and factories just outside the port gate, and a remarkable close-up view of the engine of the world industrial complex. No one very interested in carbon footprints here. I joined our incoming group for their tour of Osaka including the frenetic Dotonburi eating and shopping street and the castle

  Some scenes from this period: Port of Uno - public art on the island of Naoshima: funky pumpkin and mesh shell; Hiroshima: a video clip of the taiko drumming farewell (pity about the dodgy sound quality from the camera microphone - we regularly were sent off by various styles of performances on the wharf - always fun, especially the taiko); Hagi: potters at work and the results; Matsue: scenes at Yuushien Gardens (still beautiful even without the peonies); Ulsan: more Buddha's Birthday fun, the busy wharf; Sakaiminato: fish processing at the port; Kanazawa: Kanazawa gave us a rousing dance and flag farewell for Voyage 3; Osaka: street restaurant display, castle










June - Japan aboard Heritage Adventurer to Svalbard aboard Plancius

  June 1 - In Akita on the northwest coast of Honshu. From Osaka the fourth and final voyage of my contract went north along the east coast of Honshu. We made several landings at destinations that were new for me. We had some damp weather and somehow none of the new spots really grabbed my interest - I suspect that it was just me. Then we turned the corner and visited an old favorite at the Namahage Museum - western kids have the reward of a present from Santa if they are good, kids (and wives!) near Akita must not be lazy or the namahage will come down and drag them away to the mountains!

  Some scenes from this period: Shinto shrine detail from Osatsu village; Rushing stream in Oirase Gorge; Akita: Namahage masks and a short snippet of terrified children from the video shown at the museum.




  June 8 - In Osaka again at the end of the contract. We visited mostly familiar places, but there is always something new to see.   

  Some scenes from this period: Niigata: porcelain bowl from the Northern Cultural Museum, manga special exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art; Kanazawa: yours truly spreading my wings; Ulsan: orchid at the temple; Shimonoseki: stone lantern and bonsai silhouette from Chofu garden; Miyajima: one of many wonderful sunsets that we had in the land of the rising sun and wish candles at Itsukushima shrine (click it if you can't read the wishes - at only $NZ3.00/$US2.00 you might as well buy the lot!)