With midterm resupply we’ve had the Maia at our disposal, transportation we utilised to access Six Foot Lake. Campbell’s tea-coloured lake is located on the south side of the island where it accentuates a landscape of flaxen tones; scattered animal bones, scavenging Skuas and Giant Petrels cloak the lakeshore.
I don’t usually get seasick—unlike many team members and some Navy crew, I was not sick on the rough two day voyage here—but on this hour long trip I lost my breakfast and slip sliding around the deck in the icy cold wind, it was all I could do to keep my vomit safely inside its sick bag. I was in no position to enjoy (or photograph) the wind and sea swept cliffs that line the island’s southeast coast nor Jacquemart Island, New Zealand’s southern most landmass. Seasickness is the worst kind of sickness and in my misery I regretted having ever arrived on Campbell Island, let alone volunteered to be a field assistant on this day. As I climbed into a Dinghy in Monument Harbour I dreaded the prospect of the day awaiting me.
Five minutes in the Dinghy later, halfway to shore, my seasickness vanished and with it my existential crisis. Clarity restored, I looked forward to a day assisting Alex James sample one of the streams in this area. During the day I sat on the bank diligently recording measurements and collecting many bottles of water, mud and slime, all subject to different kinds of filtration and preservation for analysis back on the mainland. When he wasn’t calling out measurements from the stream, Alex kicked, scooped, scrubbed and collected the stream’s plant and animal material into sample containers getting visibly excited every time he noticed an isopod in his net.
Enabled by waders, experiencing the island with freshwater ecologists provides a distinct perspective. In waders it becomes much easier to move around the island through the relatively flat streams rather than via the uneven banks, and we chose to walk through, rather than around, the swampy periphery of Six Foot Lake. The delicate flightless Teal, nearly exterminated by rats, are a common sight in these areas.
Sampling the many variables that constitute a stream system is a lengthy process and we were the last team to finish for the day. We missed the boat ride home and made the 2 hour trip over the Honey-Filhol Saddle back to base in waders, lumbering in at around 7.30pm to conclude our 12 hour day. Trying at times, the day was made worthwhile by the wildlife and memory, if not the photographs, of the unique vistas of the southern tip of New Zealand.