Expedition Departure Day!

Today we had to get up at 5 am, but it was all good because today is Departure Day! It’s one of the most exciting milestones in any field trip which, especially in a pandemic, are basically like planning the most complicated trip you can think of. It’s a choreography of people, paperwork and gear, 3 years in the making. Here is the picture of the happy team having made it to departure day:

From left to right: Bill Morris, Emma Carroll, Leena Riekkola, Esther Stuck, Rochelle Constantine, Ros Cole, Simon Childerhouse and Richie Robinson behind the camera.

Today was a classic race against time, with the aim to get from Dunedin to Invercargill and back before sunset. Invercargill is where the DOC Biosecurity check takes place, an important biological control measure as the Auckland Islands is a unique environment, so any seeds or dirt on our clothes could bring an unwelcome visitor. But it also means that some strangers have to go through all our gear, including unpairing and repairing every sock.

A 5:30 am departure meant that even including a stop for a breakfast of champions, Fat Bastard Pies, we got to the DOC quarantine office by 8:30. The DOC staff did the gear inspection and briefing with care and alacrity so we made it back to the Evohe by 3pm, the return journey fuelled by Gore Oven Fresh Bakery.

Having sent gear to the quarantine office ahead of us, we literally had ALL the gear, and required a cargo van plus giant people mover to get it all to the boat.

We’ve got a lot of science to get done, and have a lot of experienced people onboard with the expertise to do it: from drone pilots, to photo-ID, to genetic sampling and satellite tracking. They’re all kiwis or residents, so even in the pandemic this project was possible. It’s now the evening and we’re all settled onto the Evohe, gear stashed, relaxed and looking forward to getting to the Auckland Islands.

As well as helping fund this research, marine conservation organisation Live Ocean has launched a whale sighting campaign around mainland NZ to help add to our knowledge about where these whales go. For more information on the research or how to report a sighting go to www.liveocean.com

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