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  • Writer's pictureFiona Wardle

Fiona's Sub-Antarctic Adventure

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

At the beginning of December, I set off on adventure of a life time to New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands with Heritage Expeditions. Each year Heritage Expeditions offers those aged between 18-30 years old the opportunity to join one of their voyages through their True Young Explorer Scholarship Programme and come on a tour at the fraction of the cost.

New Zealand's Sub- Antarctic Islands encompass five island groups that lie between latitudes 47° and 53°south; Snares Islands/Tini Heke, Auckland Islands/Motu Maha, Campbell Island/ Motu Ihupuku, the Antipodes islands and the Bounty Islands.

Prepared to experience the "roaring 40's" and the "furious 50's” notorious in the southern ocean it was a real surprise to have smooth sailing and fine weather for the entire duration of the trip!

Over the 12 days we had the opportunity to explore each island by zodiac or sometimes even foot. (Auckland & Campbell)

The Sub-Antarctic Islands are most definitely a birders paradise. Witnessing the abundance and diversity of pelagic seabirds and penguins that utilize the islands for breeding was truly outstanding in both sight and smell!

126 species of birds have been recorded across the islands including 40 seabirds, eight of which breed nowhere else in the world!

The islands are also home to more than 95% of the world population of the critically endangered New Zealand/ Hookers sea lion as well as the occasional Southern elephant seal.

The flora on the Islands is just as impressive as the fauna and being amongst the mega herbs on both Auckland and Campbell Island, became an unexpected highlight of the trip!

Thanks partly to their isolation the Snares Islands and two islands in the Auckland group (Adams and Disappointment) are among the last substantial areas in the world harbouring vegetation essentially unmodified by humans or alien species.

Despite residing or breeding in a world heritage site there is still concerns regarding severe drops in population of several marine based species including albatross, penguins and the sea lions. The most likely explanation for this being climate change and impact from the fishing industry, highlighting the importance of education.

Upon returning from the expedition a personal goal of mine was to create a collection of fine art prints to exhibit.

Photographs stop time, giving the viewer a moment to think, to react, to feel. My hope is that my images will have the power to create interest and help foster an appreciation for the southern ocean. This after all is the most fundamental building block of conservation and protection and as the world's last great unspoiled wilderness it is critical that New Zealander’s understand the need to protect these precious islands and the waters around them!

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