An early wake-up announcement from expedition leader Brent had an exciting tone to it. “You must bounce out of bed and come and see this,” he said. “There are hundreds of sooty shearwaters around us.” And so there were! The sky was light with the morning sun, and a countless number of these seabirds, known to the Māori as “titi,” glided effortlessly over the waves. Soon, we spotted the intricate silhouette of North East Island, part of the Snares Island group, where we will cruise on Zodiacs.
The stunning weather complemented the spectacular scenery of the Snares. New Zealand sea lions and fur seals rollicked on the rocks and played in the rock pools while dozens of Snares crested penguins left their nests and headed for a morning bath. The penguins timed their swim to the strong swell. They hopped from one rock to another to get as close to the sea as possible, though their timing was not always perfect as they tried to catch a wave. The higher cliffs and other rocky outcrops were filled with Buller’s albatross nests, and hundreds of birds flew around us.
The slopes of this low-lying island were covered in Olearia lyallii, a lush tree daisy that creates a great canopy for penguins and songbirds like the Snares tomtit (an endemic black passerine). We explored caves, small coves, and little waterways until it was time to say goodbye to this wilderness and prepare to head home.
The traditional Captain’s Farewell Cocktail party had an emotional twist for all of us. It has been an EPIC voyage in all senses as we traveled 14,200 km together through the wilderness of Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. We have shared the first month of 2023 together, and it is time to say ‘hasta pronto!’ Safe travels to all our new friends. See you again soon!