Archive for June, 2011

Spinning Yarn: Campbell Island #92

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

 The high seas of the last few days had not abated by the time we reached Campbell Island, and it was not safe to take Orion into the harbour. We used the Island body to shelter on the lee side, and broke out the Zodiacs for a bit of an ocean run.

 Campbell Island is another Albatross colony cum sanctuary. There is one species, Dr Alex Watson told us, that lives only here. 

 The picture I took from the Zodiac, showing the rocky outcrop that stands off the coast of the island proper, circled by the “Campbell Island RAF”, shows a busy airport with flights arriving from all over the island, a variety of planes in all shapes and sizes, and an assortment of colours painted on the fuselages. Identity markings….

 The many birds were enjoying the edible bounty that the rough weather had brought to the surface, and the winds, and updrafts, playing with flying – circling and daring each other. I do not think that was my imagination! Birds dogfighting! What next!?

Spinning Yarn: Marion meest Clancy of the Overflow! #91

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Actor Jack Thompson is a man passionate about Australian History, as evidenced by his portrayals of Australian historical figures. He has brought to life such characters as Clancy of the Overflow in Man from Snowy River, The head shearer in Sunday Too Far Away and the Defending Lawyer Major JF Thomas in Breaker Morant. He is well-known also for his heart connection with the explorers Burke and Wills. It is no wonder then, that he was a guest speaker at the Mawson’s Huts Foundation Luncheon in Sydney, recently.

 Mr Thompson has lent his distinctive voice and heartfelt passion to a specially made documentary presentation, to be screened later this year, about the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, and his expedition to the Southern Continent, last century.

 Imagine my thrill in meeting such an amazing man, listening to that magnetic voice, and spinning yarns of history with him! At the podium on stage, his yarn was one responsibility – that it rests on all of us to ensure that younger people know of the courage, strength and endurance of the men who gave us our nation and its territories. He fully supports the work of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation.

 And so do I.

Spinning Yarn: Mismatching Plates #90

Friday, June 24th, 2011


Plate tectonics is the science of studying the movement of the Earth’s crust. We learned a bit about this on this trip.

 Macquarie Island, Campbell Island and New Zealand are all on the edge of the same plate, which is moving towards the Austral plate.  Usually one of the plates tucks underneath the other one, and slides below, but these plates are meeting edge on. The islands are a result of the meeting edge being lifted out of the water. Confirmed by geological study and observation, the islands are expected to move accordingly as the plates continue their journey.

 The whole area is volcanic. Antarctica itself is granite. The islands have visible and colourful layers of volcanic activity showing on the exposed surfaces and cliff faces. Age is apparent also, and it was good to have John McDonald with us to explain it all.

Spinning Yarn: Flying through the Southern Ocean #89

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

 Orion has stabilizers – the wings that extended below sea level, to help balance the ship – so our ride might have been a bit more exciting than we had expected with the high rolling seas, but it was also quite comfortable. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I imagined any number of wooden ships of the last century – the Discovery, the Endurance, the Aurora, the Terra Nova – all loaded to beyond the crates lashed to the upper decks, ocean water streaming in over the sides of the ship, determined to stay on course and arrive safely in both directions. I imagined the sounds of the creaking boards, the shifting loads, the howling dogs, the scuffling and scrambling of horse hooves, the shouts of the crew, the barked and hurried orders from the Captains, and then heard our own Captain over the PA announcing that the stabilizers needed to be re-set so please either sit or lie down until this had been done by the hardworking and efficient engineering team.

 The rolling seas had exposed the wings, the Captain told us, putting undue twist on the engine when the water took away the resistance. Ten minutes was all the time needed to make the corrections and extend the wings once more. The wooden ships were not so well-equipped

 It was lovely being rocked to sleep.

This is the french barque BALEM from the cover of “” , but you get the idea……..

Spinning Yarn: Off to Campbell Island #88

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

…..which gave us our next destination: Campbell Island. The great walking track that goes all the way to the top of the island is supposed to be pretty spectacular. The harbour is a bit tight for the Orion, but manageable and we would be there for the day before turning our bows to Dunedin once more.

Travelling on the ocean can be an eventful experience at times. When we left Dunedin all those days ago, we had a 3m swell. Reaching Commonwealth Bay generally and Boat Harbour in particular, we had a calm, flat sea. Heading north again, the wind and weather was behind us pushing us forward. And now, on the way to Campbell Island, we had 10m swells. All still in possession of our sea legs, we enjoyed the rolling and swaying – the teenagers on board playing “chicken” with the huge wave coming in over the stern of the ship! (Go figure….) The captain had the doors locked once he ordered them inside.

 I believe the kitchen did not have a good time, however. We heard lots of breaking dishes at the extreme end of several rolls of the waves, and we had to catch our dessert before it literally, hit the deck.

Spinning Yarn: Back on Board, Never Bored! #87

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Returning to the ship, we made sure to walk through the bucket of anti-germ wash.

With all those penguins, and Sea Elephants and seals, it would be so easy to step in something unpleasant, unwittingly bringing it aboard. That would never do!

 Back in the rooms, we removed the lifejackets and the boots and the coats, hats, mittens and cameras, changing into something more comfortable for the afternoon tea that awaited us. Yes, it was time to eat yet again! And you know – you really build up an appetite with all this fresh air and walking, so it was most welcome (as well as delicious) especially the hot drinks.

 We awaited the day’s briefing….

Spinning Yarn: Penguin Alert #86

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

 Sandy Bay hosts several kinds of penguin: Kings, Royals and Rockhoppers. The Kings are quite “Emperor” in appearance, similar colouring with the orangey-yellow on the upper body.

The Royals are the birds that have a bad hair day every day – the orange/red fronds on their temples give the impression of radar…..And the Rockhoppers are smallish and very agile.

 Whichever species you encounter, the 5m Rule still applies – stop and let them pass. All are curious and will approach quite close if you stay still long enough. One of our expeditioners had her, tartan-patterned rubber boot tested for resiliency – a penguin nibble to check out the strange “feet”, while another lady took a picture of an open beak pointed towards her camera. This was another of the great shots shared at the evening briefing.

Spinning Yarn: Off to the Resort #85

Sunday, June 5th, 2011


 How many satisfied customers can one resort hold? I remember seeing photos of resorts where there are as many bodies at the beach as there are in the restaurant, as there are at the disco. Some of the holiday makers love to swim, or sunbake on the sand, or travel back to their rooms to get changed for the next activity. The area is fluid with tourists coming and going and relaxing; everyone does their own thing. Macquarie Island is no different —-not really. It is booked out, though.


Where's Wally?