We had just returned from a day of exploring Musgrave Inlet on Auckland Island, when we had a feeling something wasn’t quite right back on board our ship, especially when the cruise captain called a snap meeting after lunchtime for all passengers to attend. This hadn’t occurred previously on our exploration of the Subantarctic region, something didn’t feel right.
“Soir tout le monde” “Evening everyone” our French captain greeted us on our fifth day out at sea, inside the large theatre room onboard the ship. A sombre mood was felt throughout all guests, all wondering what the last minute meeting was about. The captain explained that he had some unfortunate news to bring to us.
Shit, the first thought came to my mind was we weren’t going to make it to our main destination of Macquarie Island due to ongoing poor weather conditions. Being an expedition, we knew the trip was just that, an unknown adventure of the UNESCO World Heritage region, so nothing was guaranteed, yet still a disappointing feeling. Well as it turns out the news was actually worse…
We soon discovered during our recent anchoring at Snares Islands, our ship had unknowingly hit a pinnacle which ruptured the boats hull. Our onboard engineers and service crew had assessed the damage, and unfortunately at this point we are taking onboard water within the hull.
Shit, this was way more devastating and concerning than I ever thought “our ship’s hull was taking onboard water?!” I was now onboard the Titanic!
The captain continued to explain that the damaged hull needs repairing, which cannot be carried out onboard the boat, which meant our voyage as we currently know it, cannot continue. Instead we needed to turn around and head north towards the nearest mainland that has the appropriate facilities and equipment. So off to the bottom of mainland New Zealand we went…
Then just like that, the ship was steered around and we headed north, full throttle ahead through six metre swells, on a mission to make it to Bluff in New Zealand in time to fix our damage, before more water entered our hull.
Some guests by this stage were becoming frustrated with the situation, and extremely disappointed their holiday wasn’t going as they expected, in that now there was a high probability that we would not venture to Macquarie and Campbell Islands. For me, sure it would be disappointing to lose out on valuable exploration time of the endemic fauna and flora in the Subantarctic region, plus it was of concern that the navigation team didn’t navigate around the pinnacle. However there was nothing we could do about the situation, simply accept it for what it was, a very unfortunate event.
I was never one for being captive onboard a ship, well that’s how I see travelling on a boat is, mainly as I get bored too easily and always felt the lack of freedom would drive me slightly insane. For this reason, I’ve never been on a long distance boat trip until now.
So my first experience on board a ship was now filled with extreme boredom and no freedom, the very reasons I avoided cruises up until now. My nightmare had come true!
The time leading up to Bluff in New Zealand was very much filled with boredom; watching television, eating all day every day, editing my photos which I’d recently taken of the untamed landscapes and diverse wildlife in the nearby remote islands. The days stranded whilst anchored at Bluff were spent exploring the small southerly town during rainy and windy conditions, also thankfully one day was spent further afield sightseeing on yet another smaller boat around Doubtful Sound. It was great to get off our ship and outside our cabins to walk on soil again, even if short lived.
During our daily outings, engineers were working hard back at the vessel, with underwater welders commissioned to repair the hull. As the boat was owned by a French company, the repairs carried out in New Zealand required certification and final sign off from French authorities before we could disembark on our voyage again.
Once we received the all clear from the captain, we were good to set off once again south, heading towards Campbell and Macquarie Islands for our much anticipated remote colonies of King and Royal Penguins during the recent birth of new chicks.
I guess as a way of a thank you from greater forces, we had the privilege of seeing Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) around 1am when we were back out at sea, the natural light phenomena was faint yet the pink hue in the night sky was still magical to witness.
I saw the Aurora light display as a little reward for putting up with the recent events at sea.
Due to the remoteness of the Subantarctic, there is no other way to travel to the region other than by boat, so I had no choice in this instance. Just rather unfortunate that my first boat journey I opt for, is the one that encountered taking onboard water to the detriment of our valuable exploration time. Ahh well that’s life, not everything can according to plan.