New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

The town is backed against a snow-covered range of low mountains that provide drama to the scene. Beneath the water is an even more astounding wilderness, the Abyssal Plain that begins dropping away just feet from the harbor. The Plain drops even further into the Hikurangi Trench and thence into the Kermadec Trench, at least 1000 ft. below the sea surface. There, the Pacific and Australian plates collide and create volcanic eruptions and mudslides and enormous surges in the sea bottom. Because the sea is warm in the deep area and it mixes with the colder waters higher in the column, there is a constant upwelling of plankton and deep sea creatures such as squid and tiny invertebrates that create great banquets for the whales and other sea mammals. Even the professional birders among our naturalists enjoyed the wonderful experience of seeing several species of albatross, giant petrels, and other birds so close behind our birdwatching boat. These birds were so close that it was difficult to use binoculars to focus on them. The Captain’s mate threw out a frozen bait mixture of ground fish parts inside a netball. It didn’t have to float long on the water ’s surface before huge albatross began closing in on their long, elegant wings: we had Northern and Southern Royal Albatross, Shy Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Gray-headed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, with both Pintado and Giant petrels in the melee around the bait ball. It was t

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