Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gary's Kermadec Trip onboard RV Braveheart

On the 9th of May Gary was fortunate to go on a scientific expedition to the Kermadec Islands with Te Papa, Auckland Museum, Department of Conservation, Australian Museum and Radio N.Z. The trip was fortunate with the weather so a lot of work was possible and a great result was achieved.

The Kermadec's are our most Northern most islands and there are sub-tropical as well as tropical birds many of which breed there. There were some marvellous views of red tailed tropic birds, wedged tailed and little shearwaters. One afternoon, Gary watched a frigate bird catching small fish alongside the ship by dipping whilst still on the wing and was successful time and time again. They also chase the boobies like a skua would.

During my night time watches I would go around the ship and find the birds that had landed on the decks, scoop them up and have a bird in the hand experience. The white faced storm petrels were very common along with the wedge-tails and I also saw either a Phoenix or a Tahiti Petrel fly through but it was a brief sighting so I was not sure which one it was.

One thing that was a big surprise was when Clinton caught a large kingfish and three little shearwaters were found in its stomach all at the same level of being digested. This fish had specialized the art of birds for breakfast and it makes you wonder how many birds go this way. When you think about it the birds would be highly visible to these large and fast fish and I have attached a photo of these birds.

The expedition was mainly about the underwater side and amazing it is. I have dived a lot of the South Pacific but the Kermadec's stands out as one of the best places and I heard some of the professional divers say that some of these dives were the best in their lives. I always feel privileged every time I go there as it's not easy to get there but "Braveheart" goes quite regularly and some times they have room for one or two people. Check out their website and also the Auckland Museum for the Kermadec site with lots of video footage

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