ROSS SEA & SUB-ANTARCTIC ISLANDS
We are excited to announce our new photo expedition to Ross Sea and the Subantarctic Islands in January 2023! This is one of the most exotic places for a photographer to travel and a rare opportunity, as we venture in to what is known as “The Heart of Antarctica”. On our way down we will also visit some of the most remote islands in the world, which hosts a variety of unique wildlife found nowhere else in the world. Our itinerary makes it possible to see as many as 8 different species of Penguin, including the Emperor penguins, and a total of 10-11 different Albatross species. As on any expedition nothing is guarenteed but with 1/3 of the world breeding population of Emperors found in the Ross sea our chances have never been better!
WildPhoto Travel has chartered the entire ship Spirit of Enderby, and limit the number of photographers to only 48. Ole J Liodden and Roy Mangersnes will be your hosts for this 4 weeks (28 nights on the ship) long expedition, making sure that our landings and other activities are optimised for photography.
Our journey takes us from New Zealand via the ‘stepping stones’ of the rugged and wild Subantarctic Islands, including Macquarie, Snares, Auckland and Campbell Island, breaking our long journey and introducing us to the islands’ rich biodiversity paving the way to our Antarctic experience. There will be opportunities for thrilling wildlife encounters from nesting albatross and rowdy penguin rookeries to lazing seals and sea lions. Cetaceans might includ Fin, Minke, Blue and Humpback Whales; Orca also can be seen in this region. In addition to penguins and albatrossses we might encounter Snow Petrels, Antarctic Petrels, Giant Petrels, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Cape Petrels and Antarctic Fulmar, whilst Crabeater, Weddell and Leopard Seals may be resting along the ice edge. With long daylight hours and magnificent landscapes the photographic opportunities are endless in this land of snow and ice.
The Ross Sea was recently protected as the worlds largest marine reserve covering an area of 598.000 square miles. Ross Sea is sometimes called the “Last Ocean” because it is largely untouched by humans. Its nutrient-rich waters are the most productive in the Antarctic, leading to huge plankton and krill blooms that support vast numbers of fish, seals, penguins, and whales. As one of very few people you can join us in January 2023 to visit the least altered marine ecosystem on Earth.
As always we will schedule longer stops than usual when going ashore or in zodiacs in order to provide participants with enough time to get excellent pictures. Our main focus is photography and we will do our outmost to make sure you get unique images from one of the most special place on this earth!
Weather, wind and ice condition might limit our plans, but our initial plan will be:
Day 0 (January 9th) Invercargill – Arrive at Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city. Meet your fellow expeditioners for an informal get-together over dinner.
Day 1 Port of Bluff – Enjoy breakfast at the hotel restaurant and exploring some of the local attractions before heading to the Port of Bluff, where you will board Spirit of Enderby. Settle into your cabin and join your expedition team and the captain for a welcome on board.
Day 2 Snares Island – If weather allows we will explore with zodiacs, photographing Snares penguins, Buller’s Albatross and other birds nesting on the imposing cliffs.
Day 3-4 Auckland Islands – Characterised by towering cliffs and rugged sea stacks. We visit the Enderby Island which is, perhaps, the most beautiful of all the Subantarctic Islands. If weather allows we might also have a chance to explore one of the albatross colonies in the area.
Day 5 At sea – Heading toward Macquarie Island
Day 6-7 Macquarie Island – This remote, rocky outpost which endures roaring westerly winds supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere and might be the eastern equivalant to South Georgia.
Day 8-11 At sea – heading toward the Ross Sea.
Day 12-21 Antarctica’s Ross Sea Region – With unpredictable ice and weather conditions, a day-by-day itinerary is not possible, but we assess the conditions daily and take every opportunity to make landings and launch the Zodiacs to photograph wildlife and great landscapes. We plan to spend as much time as possible in areas maximizing our chances to see the Emperor penguins.
Day 22-25 At sea – Heading north toward Campbell Island.
Day 26-27 Campbell Island – We drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour, an occasional refuge for Southern Right Whales who come here to calve. We walk up to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross which is the highligh on this island. We will also plan for other photographic opportunities on or around the island.
Day 28 At sea – Heading back to the port of Bluff.
Day 29 Invercargill – We disembark and offer a bus transfer back to Invercargill.
Since most of the destinations on our expedition are not well-known, we have some more information below for each of the Subantarctic Islands, the Ross Sea, wildlife and photographic opportunities. With the image galleries below we hope you will get a better understanding of what to expect in these remote areas.
The Snares, consist of one main island (North East Island) surrounded by several smaller islands and rocks, and a group of islands that are known as the Western Chain. All of The Snares Islands group are bordered by steep cliffs, except for a few eastern parts. The climate is mainly influenced by a warm current coming in from Australia and the mean annual temperature is mild, at 11°C or 52F. Rainfall is about 1200 millimetres or 47 inches per year. The Snares Islands are part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage Site and are a nature reserve under the Reserves Act of 1977, with landing only by permit. Extreme precautions are taken to prevent non-indigenous plant or animal infestation. Access is only for research purposes, so tourists can only view wildlife by boat.
Wildlife in the Snares Islands: SNARES PENGUIN, BULLER’S ALBATROSS, Salvin’s albatross, Sooty shearwater, Mottled petrel, Broad-billed prion, Fairy prion, Fulmar prion, Cape petrel and Brown skua, but other seabirds can be seen and photographed in the area. Three land birds are endemic to The Snares: the Snares Island fernbird, the Snares Island tomtit and the Snares Island snipe (partly nocturnal). New Zealand fur seal breed on the exposed coasts of the Snares, while an increasing number of New Zealand sea lions come out of the water and rest and warm up on the Snares.
Photographic opportunities: All photography will happen from zodiacs or the main ship, since no land-based activities are allowed on the Snares Islands. The seabirds are not afraid and sometimes curious, so there are good photo opportunities from the zodiacs. Albatrosses, petrels and prions are breeding on the islands and can fly close to the zodiacs. The main attraction on the islands is the Snares penguins which only breeds on these islands. With a population size of about 30.000 penguins, they are not difficult to find on the rock or in water. With clear visibility they can also be photographed with polecam underwater. NOTE: We need good weather condition to safely navigate with zodiacs along the shore and rocks, but should this visit be cancelled on the way south, we can do a second attempt on the way north towards the end of the expedition.
IMAGES FROM OUR PREVIOUS EXPEDITIONS TO SNARES ISLAND
The Auckland Islands lie 465 km south of New Zealand’s South Island port of Bluff. They are the largest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands. As well as having a wide variety of plants and wildlife they also have a rich human history. The Auckland Islands are made up of the remains of two ancient volcanoes which have been subsequently cut by glaciers. The terrain is rugged and mountainous, with steep cliffs on the western and southern sides and deep valleys with long inlets to the east.
Wildlife in the Auckland Islands: YELLOW-EYED PENGUIN, AUCKLAND ISLAND TEAL, LIGHT-MANTELED SOOTY ALBATROSS, Subantarctic Snipe, Auckland Island Shag, Double-banded Plover, Red-crowned Parakeet, Tomtit, Brown skua, but other birds can be seen and photographed in the area. New Zealand sea lions can be in groups on some of the beaches.
Photographic opportunities: Our main landing will be (if weather allows) at Enderby Island, in the northern part of the archipelago, with a nice beach with Yellow-eyed penguins and New Zealand sea lions. This is a stronghold for this rare penguin species. The Yellow-eyed penguins are not breeding in colonies like most other penguins. Inland there are short brushes / trees with birds and some ponds which might attract skuas and other species. On the northern side of Enderby Island there are cliffs with nesting Light-mantled sooty albatrosses and Auckland Island Shag.
IMAGES FROM OUR PREVIOUS EXPEDITIONS TO AUCKLAND ISLANDS
The Campbell Islands is the southernmost of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, located 700 kilometres (435 miles) south of New Zealand’s South Island and 270 kilometres (170 miles) south-east of Auckland Island. The 115 square kilometre (44 square miles) main island is shaped somewhat like a giant bird, measuring 16 kilometres (10 miles) east to west and 15 kilometres (9 miles) north to south. It is the highly eroded remnants of an ancient volcano last active several million years ago.
Wildlife in Campbell Islands: SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS, CAMPBELL ALBATROSS, CAMPBELL ISLAND TEAL, Campbell Islands Shag, Grey-headed albatross, Light-manteled sooty albatross, but other seabirds can be seen and photographed in the area. New Zealand sea lions might be seen and photographed close to the landing in Perseverance Harbour.
Photographic opportunities: Campbell Island is important as a breeding area for the Southern Royal albatross. We will follow a boardwalk up to the colony landing (20-30 minutes walk) which gives us nice view of the nesting area. Some of the area is closed, but still there will usually be albatrosses breeding close enough.
IMAGES FROM OUR PREVIOUS EXPEDITIONS TO CAMPBELL ISLANDS
Macquarie Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand / Australia and Antarctica. The island has been part of Oceania and politically a part of Tasmania, Australia since 1900. It became a Tasmanian State Reserve in 1978 and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997. Macquarie Island supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere.
Wildlife in Macquarie Island: ROYAL PENGUIN, KING PENGUIN, gentoo penguin, Southern Rockhopper Penguin and Southern Elephant seal. Other species can also be seen and photographed in the area.
Photographic opportunities: Macquarie Island is an unique place for a photographer with beaches and surrounding water crowded by wildlife, mainly birds. The penguins are not shy, and by sitting down on the beach you will soon be surrounded by penguins. Macquarie Islands is on many photographers top-5 lists of places to photograph, and you can see some of the photographic opportunities in the image gallery below.
IMAGES FROM OUR PREVIOUS EXPEDITIONS TO MACQUARIE ISLAND
The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land, and is the southernmost sea on Earth. It derives its name from the British explorer James Ross who visited this area in 1841. On our Ross Sea expedition we will explore the western parts of the area.
Wildlife in the Ross Sea: EMPEROR PENGUIN, ADELIE PENGUIN, Antarctic petrel, Snow petrel, Crabeater seal, Weddel seal, Leopard seal, Orca and Minke Whale. The nutrient-laden water supports an abundance of plankton and this encourages a rich marine fauna. At least ten mammal species, six bird species and 95 fish species are found here, and the sea remains relatively unaffected by human activities.
Photographic opportunities: The photo opportunities in Ross Sea is very dependent of the weather and ice conditions. We hope for some favourable weather, allowing us to operate the zodiacs for landing in Adelie penguin colonies, on islands and on the sea ice. We have good chances for observing and photographing Emperor penguins, but it will not be in (or close) to the colonies, and it is impossible to predict in advance where we can find them on the sea ice. Six Emperor penguin colonies (including the two biggest) in the area we are exploring are described below.
EMPEROR PENGUIN COLONIES IN THE ROSS SEA:
Cape Roget (71.98°S,170.56°E) is a medium sized Emperor pengiun colony, with about 7.000 chicks. The colony is located close to the southern tip of Cape Roget. The detailed satellite map in Google Map reveal this colony (look for the dark penguin poop on the white sea ice).
Coulman Island (73.34°S,169.64°E) is the largest Emperor penguin colony in Antarctica with about 24.000 chicks each season. The colony is located northwest of Coulman Island sheltered by a 1100 meter high mountain to the east. The colony can be seen on satellite images in Google Earth. The colony is well studied and you can read more about the penguines diving behaviour in this PDF.
Cape Washington (74.65°S,165.38°E) is the second largest Emperor pengiun colony in the world, with about 23.000 chicks. The colony is located close to the southwestern tip of Cape Washington. The detailed satellite map in Google Map reveal this colony, and you can even see some of the penguins when zooming in.
Franklin Island (76.18°S,168.40°E) is a small Emperor pengiun colony with about 2000 chicks. See satellite image in Google Maps where you can see the colony and some of the penguins.
Beaufort Island (76.94°S,167.04°E) is a small Emperor pengiun colony in Ross Sea with about 600 chicks. There are no detailed satellite images on Google Maps available for this colony.
Cape Crozet (77.51°S,169.43°E) is a small Emperor pengiun colony in Ross Sea with about 475 chicks, close to the McMurdo Base. This is the most southern Emperor colony in the Ross Sea and the second most southernly in Antarctica, behind Gould Bay in the Weddel Sea at 77.6°S.
It is important to keep in mind that Emperor pengiuns have their colonies on solid sea ice, close to land, and this sea ice never melts during the short summer. These colonies can only be reached by helicopters (or planes), which we do not have on the ship. However the penguins are entering the solid sea ice and walk the last kilometers back to their colonies, and that’s where it is possible to see and photograph Emperor penguins – at the edge of the sea ice or on ice floes. Single juvenile Emperor penguins can also be found mixed with Adelie penguins.
ADELIE PENGUINS IN THE ROSS SEA:
The Adélie penguin population you might see during an expedition in the Ross Sea is reported to be the highest in 30 years with up to a million Adélie penguin pairs breeding in the Ross Sea region over summer. This population makes up approximately 38 percent of the entire Antarctic Adélie population.
The Adélie penguin breed in many colonies in the western part of Ross Sea. The southernmost Adelie penguin colonies in the world is located at Ross Island, with Cape Royds (3.500 pairs), Cape Bird (60.000 pairs) and Cap Crozier (150.000 pairs).
Cabins on Spirit of Enderby
Spirit of Enderby is the sister ship to the Akademik Shokalskiy and Polar Pioneer that we use in South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. She was built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and, being fully ice-strengthened, she is perfect for expedition travel. She carries just 49 passengers and provides comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. She was refurbished in May 2019 to provide comfortable accommodation in mostly twin cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. On board there is a recently updated combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew. The name Spirit of Enderby honors the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, one of the greatest Subantarctic Islands in the world.
MAIN DECK – 300 LEVEL
|1 MAIN TRIPLE CABIN with one bunk (one upper and one lower berth) and one additional lower berth, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Main Deck cabins. This cabin has a porthole. USD $21.995 per spot|
|9 MAIN TWIN CABINS with two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole. USD $24.495 per spot|
AVAILABLE CABINS ON MAIN DECK – 300 LEVEL:
|MAIN TRIPLE CABIN with shared WC / shower, one bunk (one upper and one lower berth) and one additional lower berth (1 spot female): USD $21.995 per spot BOOK NOW|
MIDDLE DECK – 400 LEVEL
|4 SUPERIOR TWIN CABINS with one bunk with upper and lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows. USD $25.995 per spot|
|4 SUPERIOR PLUS TWIN CABINS with two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows. USD $28.995 per spot|
AVAILABLE CABINS ON MIDDLE DECK – 400 LEVEL:
UPPER DECK – 500 LEVEL
|4 SUPERIOR PLUS TWIN CABINS with two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows. USD $28.995 per spot|
|2 MINI SUITES with a lounge with a sofa, separate bedroom with a DOUBLE bed, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini suites have windows. USD $29.995 per spot|
|1 HERITAGE SUITE with a large lounge area with a single bed and separate bedroom with DOUBLE bed, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large forward and side facing windows, allowing great views. USD $32.995 per spot|
AVAILABLE CABINS ON UPPER DECK – 500 LEVEL:
All spots on this level are reserved, but not 100% confirmed. Let us know if you want to be waitlisted so we can inform you if a spot will be available.
You register to this Antarctic photography tour by submitting a deposit payment (USD $4500) and sending in a signed booking form to our EMAIL. On the backside (page #2) of the booking form you will find the terms and conditions which pertain to this expedition. You will also find more information about payments, insurance etc. on the booking form. Let us know if you have any questions.