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Blumine Island

We are back in the Marlborough Sounds and it feels good. We arrived at midday today from Lyttelton and are scheduled to start our first expedition from Picton tomorrow. We have a great team on board and are looking forward to exploring this labyrinth of waterways with so many exciting things to do and see.  We spent a quiet afternoon at Blumine Island, enjoyed a great walk to the gun emplacements. The birdlife was special.    

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We are doing lockdown in Fiordland. When the announcement was made the country was going into Level 4 and people had 48 hours to travel back to their homes, we were on day 11 of a 14 day expedition that included all the Fiords.  It seemed a real pity that we couldn’t finish, we were just three fiords short. Compounding our problem was the fact that the Milford road was closed, so we had little option but to double back to Doubtful Sound and helicopter the folk out to Te Anau and hope that they managed to get home before the Lock Down.  In the meantime we occupy ourselves with reading, writing, cleaning and a few other necessary jobs like food gathering and cooking.  We have had to cancel one expedition and it is not clear when we will be able to start again ….

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Auckland Islands

The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) was hunted extensively along the coasts of New Zealand from the beginning of the 19th Century onward, with peak whaling from shore stations in the late 1840’s.  Before the end of the 19th century the NZ population of southern right whales was commercially extinct. Although protected from hunting by international agreement since 1935, right whales in the southern hemisphere were hunted illegally by the former Soviet Union from 1950 to 1970.  In 1979 there were reports of small numbers of southern right whales congregating in the winter months in the sheltered waters of the sub Antarctic Auckland Islands. They were also recorded by metrological staff during this time around sub Antarctic Campbell Island.  Since 1995 there have been a number of winter expeditions to these islands as well as aerial counts/observations. The number of animals present each year is increasing and current estimates suggest that over 200 animals are visiting the Port Ross region in July/August each year. This makes it an extremely important wintering ground for both cows and calves as well as a mating ground.  I have visited the Auckland Islands many many times, but always in the summer months. I had never had the opportunity to visit during the winter because a) we (Heritage Expeditions) never had a ship available at this time of the year (ours were working in the northern hemisphere) and b) the Islands are closed for tourism during the winter months. To see and experience these southern right whales was high on my bucket list, so when the opportunity came to support an International documentary film crew and Auckland University researchers I didn’t hesitate and I wasn’t disappointed  Pictures say a thousand words .. I hope the following photos give some idea of the beauty and privilege of our expedition ….    

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Stewart Island

Between March 20th and May 3rd this year Strannik was based in Stewart Island. During that time, we offered three, nine-day expeditions; the balance of the time spent with friends and family. It was great to be back doing what we love, sharing the wilderness and advocating for its protection and conservation. We are staunch believers in allowing people the opportunity to experience wilderness areas in an unhurried way, in small groups without too many rules and regulations. Strannik proved herself the perfect vessel; with just eight participants on each expedition the opportunities were unlimited. While the weather wasn’t always the best, our very flexible programme (we don’t publish an itinerary) paid dividends and all the expeditions achieved their objectives and goals. The high lights obviously varied from group to group but included; a hike to the top of Tin Range, another to Gog and Magog (and even back to Evening Cove for one ambitious group), a walk to the Settlement in Broad Bay, a climb to the summit of Bald Cone, Zodiac boat explorations of both Lords and Heron rivers and Port Adventure. Time was also spent ashore on Ulva Island. We plan to repeat these expeditions in late Feb and March 2022 (hoping these earlier dates might mean better weather). It is not too early to pre-book now by sending us email because these expeditions will fill fast. Images by @julie_chandelier @scottysinton

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Christmas aboard MV Strannik was very much a family affair. Since last writing we sailed across Tasman Bay to Pelorus Sound. Aaron and Nathan along with their families (Sarah, Anneliese, Francesia& Robyn,Findlay and Hudson) arrived in Havelock on Christmas Eve and we spent an enjoyable week together exploring the Sound. We initially based ourselves in Ngawhakawhiti Bay and enjoyed catching up with friends in Elaine Bay as well as steaming out to the Chetwode Islands to teach the next generation how and where to fish for Blue Cod. The keener ones completed the Nydia Bay track (over a couple days) and enjoyed the scenery and the history, not to mention the opportunity to walk off the excessive Christmas food. We are now in Queen Charlotte Sound. It was great to check out Motuara Island yesterday, it has been a while since I had landed there, just a pity the weather wasn’t better. We are expecting friends tomorrow and will spend a few days with them and then head to Lyttelton, where we will make plans for the remainder of the year. We hope to announce some Stewart Island and Fiordland Expeditions!  

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