Sunday, 27 February 2011

It’s White Island, but not as we know it

So we awoke to a relatively windless White Island this morning, that was like we knew it from last time when we were here and got ashore.  There was a little swell, but it all looked manageable...that was until the wind suddenly started to rise and gradually increased to a point where things really weren't going to work.  A small southerly swell was rolling right into the landing site on the island, and with the wind increasing it looked less and less likely we would be able to get ashore as the wind built to a steady 15+ knots.  We did a couple of circuits of the island in beautiful light, and managed to get some nice shots.

In the end the operators arrived from Whakatane to help take us ashore (driving right through the middle of a flock of bathing gannets just offshore from the island – not good form guys!) and we decided it just wasn’t going to be possible to get our guys ashore safely.  So we did another pass of the island, and then headed out and around Volkner Rocks.  Managed a distant view of a grey ternlet on the rocks, before then heading off towards the Mercury Islands.

I did a lecture in the late morning on gannets, and then we had beautiful cruising conditions as we headed north-west towards the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula.  The wind gradually seemed to drop, and with only a little swell it was very pleasant on the bow.  A few birds around, with Buller’s, flesh-footed and a single little shearwater, Black, grey-faced, Cook’s and at least one Pycroft’s petrel and some absolutely stunning flying fish.  I made it my mission to try and get some decent shots of flying fish this afternoon...and I think I succeeded!  Got some really great shots – possibly some of the best of the month onboard, so very happy.  Also a couple of rays right on the surface feeding (possibly some sort of devil ray?) and later one leaping from the water twice...why not a third time as I had things lined up and ready to shoot!  Also a leaping ocean sunfish – absolutely bizarre and very distant photos, and a massive black shape in the water that may have been a manta.  No cetaceans...I guess we had had it yesterday with a large pod of common dolphins that came in and rode the bulbous bow for about 20-30 minutes as we left Gisborne.  Got some great shots (took about 1200 in all!) just hanging the camera out over the side and shooting without being able to see.

We are now heading in towards Auckland where it all finishes as I write this.

Common dolphins riding the bulbous bow

Common dolphins leaping

Beautiful clear water and common dolphins

White Island with two of the gannet colonies visible

White Island puffing away

A small flying fish (uncropped)

Grey-faced petrel in flight

Uncropped flying favourite of the afternoon

Flying fish angling away

Just cutting the surface

Beautiful light

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