We thought this episode would be different. Maybe filled with the noisy shriek of hoiho as researchers fit them with satellite tags, or the chortle of southern royal albatrosses as Department of Conservation rangers check their nest numbers. But, plans change.
And so it was for people aboard the HMNZS Canterbury last week for Operation Endurance.
Op Endurance is a long-running collaboration between the NZ Defence Force and government agencies to enable research and conservation work in far-flung New Zealand territories.
As part of the operation this year, staff and representatives from DOC, MetService, the Defence Technology Agency, the Sir Peter Blake Trust, and mana whenua Kāi Tahu were all onboard.
The plan was to sail 660km south from Bluff to subantarctic Campbell Island. Over 10 days, the defence forces would facilitate the transfer of equipment and personnel that would allow different agencies to get their work and research done.
DOC had plans to do hut and track maintenance and inspection, as well as research on hoiho, sea lions and albatrosses. MetService wanted to do some clean up tasks at their old meteorological station. The Sir Peter Blake Trust had a team of scientists, students and teachers planning to collect samples for a range of scientific investigations. And so on.
The HMNZS Canterbury is a good fit for the operation. As well as its massive cargo space to accommodate numerous shipping containers and heavy equipment, it can sleep over 360 people, and onboard it houses helicopters, Zodiacs and rigid-hulled inflatable boats to shuffle things to and fro.
These features also make it an excellent humanitarian and disaster relief ship.
And so, after just one night at Campbell Island, the HMNZS Canterbury was recalled to help with the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Thus began a massive effort to get as many tasks completed as possible before the ship departed north again. Birds were tagged, fixes were made, clean-ups completed, wave buoys deployed, and communication methods trialled. Peat, plankton and kelp samples were collected, as well as a rock that could turn out to be an important taonga for Kāi Tahu.
Listen to the episode to hear the story of the expedition and what the team were able to achieve in two hectic days at Campbell Island.
To learn more:
- Alison Ballance reported several stories from Operation Endurance in 2009 from the frigate Te Kaha – first a boardwalk installation, and then a story about southern royal albatrosses.
- Other previous stories from New Zealand's subantarctic islands include: Mammals in the subantarctics, Yellow-eyed penguins at the Auckland Islands, the Loneliest tree, Expedition to subantarctic Antipodes Island, and Exploring New Zealand's subantarctic islands.