From On Board: Silver Discoverer
Location: Southern Ocean
Friday 9 January 2015
I am finally aboard Silver Discoverer, the third and most recent addition to the Silversea Expeditions fleet. She has been operating Pacific itineraries most of these last nine months including Kimberley, Indonesia, Oceania and the Russian Far East.
Built in 1989 in Japan as Oceanic Grace, this 103m ship carries 120 guests when full, but only 42 have signed up for our 16-day Dunedin to Wellington itinerary which does a wide loop beginning south to before swinging north east to take in more of New Zealand's remote territories including the Bounty and Antipode Islands.
Right now, we are en route to Macquarie Island, Australia's UNESCO World Heritage-listed sub-Antarctic territory accidentally discovered by sealers in 1810 and rebuilding itself as the wildlife sanctuary it was for millions of years before man's destructive arrival.
But first we're taking a Zodiac cruise around the bays of the Snares Islands, a human-free zone for wildlife like Royal Penguins and Antarctic Terns to nest 200kms south of New Zealand. Gorgeous Bullers Albatross follow our progress, hanging on the stiff breeze like little hang gliders.
Next is Enderby Island, the most northerly of the Auckland Islands and site of a brief experiment in remote farming in the mid-19th Century. For me, it's a revisit after having first tramped the soggy and boggy coastal walk in 2011. The 12km trek around the dizzying clifftops is no walk in the park.
Sure we see the cute and timid Yellow Eyed Penguin, the elusive Red-Crested Parakeet, spot the majestic Southern Royal Albatross nesting near the board walk and run the gauntlet past feisty New Zealand Sea Lions who love to charge at us barking and looking menacing. But it's blowing like fury and half way round it starts to rain. Plus I hadn't properly road-tested my gum boots and they're giving my overwide feet painful grief so I walk the last kilometre barefoot.
After lunch, a Zodiac cruise is undertaken by those wanting more and that evening we make the big southern leap to 'Macca'. It's quite a leap too, as winds gusting up to 100knts and seas with 10m swells await us. It's a rough old night with the angry ocean hammering the hull like a giant war club and I end up on the floor more than once. It's part of the deal, I'm afraid, but Silver Discoverer ploughs on unperturbed.
Next: Macquarie Island