Local awareness of subantarctic ecosystems

A Balclutha photographer hopes his recent trip to parts of the Southern Ocean will raise awareness of endangered bird species and the fragile ecosystems found there.

Richard Schofield left Bluff on December 31 on board Spirit of Enderbyan expedition ship that can accommodate 50 passengers.

He traveled about 660 km to Campbell Island, where he stayed for a day before leaving.

“It’s an amazing place, my favorite subantarctic island because of its remoteness.

“Apart from the birds and the wind, it’s a quiet place,” he said.

Mr. Schofield, owner of Richard Schofield Photography in Balclutha, was invited aboard as a guest of Heritage Expeditions and as a representative of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, to document the avifauna of the subantarctic islands.

His trip and his photos appear in the latest edition of the magazine of the ornithological society, New Zealand birds.

After Campbell Island he visited the uninhabited islands of Auckland, past the Snares, to Stewart Island and near Ulva Island.

The ship then visited Fiordland, including Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, before returning to Bluff on 10 January.

“Many species, especially seabirds, breed only [in the sub-Antarctic] here, so it is vital that they are protected,” he said.

Auckland Island was the only one to introduce pests, which were having a devastating effect on seabird populations, he said.

Mr Schofield recalled sailing in the mist on the eastern flank of Auckland Island one evening.

“Hundreds of Antarctic prions, a kind of petrel, appeared briefly across the bow before disappearing again into the mist,” he said.

Mr Schofield hoped to have raised awareness about the protection of seabirds and their habitats by talking to fellow passengers and giving talks.

“I think most people on board weren’t really aware of the birdlife except in a general sense,” he said.

He had no specific plans for exhibiting his photographs at this stage.

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