We sailed south all day from Stewart Island and the South Island of New Zealand towards the remote, small, and exposed Snares Islands. Petrels, shearwaters, albatrosses, and prions were our near constant escorts, making for an impressive display of the Southern Ocean’s productivity and diverse array of life. The presence of these animals would not be possible were it not for the remote islands that dot the Southern Ocean. The islands provide vital nesting platforms in the heart of these productive waters.
Our goal for the day was to explore the Snares Islands by Zodiac in the afternoon. The direction of the prevailing swells, their height, and wind speeds of over 40 knots (45 mph) made a safe landing unmanageable. The endemic Snares crested penguin is of major significance to the islands. The penguins occupy and nest in the dense Olearia forests on Northeast Island. Along with the Snares penguin, several hundred thousand nesting seabirds occupy the islands. National Geographic Orion made a slow pass to examine these wild, rugged shores more closely. We caught glimpses of hundreds of Snares crested penguins making their way up “The Penguin Slide,” a bare rock ramp that gives the penguins access to their nesting sites, located hundreds of meters upslope in the forest. All the while, literally thousands of seabirds whirled around in the furious winds. The beautiful, rugged shores of the Snares captivated us all.