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We have spent another summer plowing through the Southern Ocean, coming and going from the blustery little port of Bluff at the bottom of New Zealand.

A total of 12 trips to the Sub Antarctic, including 2 trips to Macquarie island  which is half way down between NZ and the Antarctic.  Its  a small long skinny island  in the middle of the Southern Ocean with so many penguins on some of the beaches that you can not see the end of the colonies. We were providing transport for  a BBC film crew. There is  no real anchorage at Macquarie Island and it has a seemingly constant rolling surf on the beach all of  which makes life interesting and does not help the grey hair department.

Most of the other  work we have been doing has a conservation/research twist to it.  We do seem to spend a lot of time with slightly eccentric sea bird researchers   onboard taking them to and from  the fair flung NZ Sub Antarctic islands where they  try to determine the impact different fisheries techniques have on the various albatross populations.  About   75% of the worlds albatross come to the NZ sub Antarctic islands for breeding.

The health of the populations also reflect the state our planet is in and in a way act as a barometer for the impacts of climate change. At times the crew get the opportunity to get our hands dirty working with the different albatross species as field assistants, this is great.  Funny how one ends up growing a passion for the big bird, I had never imagined myself as a bird person but  they truly are amazing creatures.

Another interesting job was providing logistical support for 2 geologists from the NZ  Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences surveying the outer and very exposed West coast of Fiord land. They were for sure in the eccentric department. We dropped them off on some amazing rock outcrops carrying  a big  geologist hammer, and then picked them up again in what were at times challenging circumstances without letting them drop in the water,  a good thing really as they usually had a big bag full of rock specimens between them.

We celebrated the tenth  birthday of Tiama on 7 December last year, she has 90,000 nautical miles under her keel and is going strong. It is interesting to see that a lot of the  gear and equipment starts giving up after 10 years of hard work.  During this winters maintenance period I will be replacing the stainless steel standing rigging, diesel heater,  wind generator, gas cooker, next year the main engine and hull sandblasting is on the list.

That is boats for you, as one hardware retailer  in Invercargill once told me , we are not here to make money we are just here to make friends .

And having fun of course, we still do that although at the end of the summer charter season it almost starts feeling like a real job, but that is only when we come and go from port, dealing whit yet another bag full of  laundry and a never ending grocery shopping list.  The actual time at sea still has plenty  of challenges. The southern ocean is forever changing and not to be underestimated.


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