Posted on the 9th May 2011


Ross Wanless

Participation in research expedition to Prince Edward Islands

Title of voyage

Research expedition to the Prince Edward Islands

Dates of travel

28 Feb-30 March


Marion and Prince Edward (PEI) islands

Voyage organiser/convenor

Rob Crawford, Dept. Environmnetal Affairs

Participants of voyage

Newi Makhado, Mike Meyers, Time Reid, Genevieve Jones, Ross Wanless, Steve Kirkman, Bruce Dyer, Pierre Pistorius, Nola Parsons and Phil Whittington, as well as a small team of Oceanographers

Purpose of voyage

There were a huge number of objectives for the expedition. My primary roles were to assist with collection of AS@S data en route, to complete surveys of breeding White-chinned Petrels on PEI, deploy satellite transmitters on a diversity of albatross and petrel species, perform census counts of penguins at PEI and Marion, count breeding albatrosses (six species) and assist with surveys of nocturnal seabirds at PEI. Dr Tim Reid, our marine IBA post-doctoral researcher at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, also participated. We investigated biological and oceanographic aspects of eddies that erupt off the islands, in collaboration with UCT’s Dr Isabelle Ansorge, the lead Oceanographer for the voyage. At least a half-dozen scientific papers are envisaged arising from this expedition, of which I have been asked to lead on one (Wandering Albatross population status).

Presentations of BirdLife South Africa staff



Depart on RFV Africana 28 Feb

PEI 9-13 March

Marion 14-24 March

Return to Cape Town 30 March

Breakdown of cost participation

None – all costs were covered by the voyage organisers

Outcomes of voyage (include successes, challenges, recommendations for BLSA)

All the primary objectives were met, and several scientific papers are planned for a special issue of the South African Journal of Marine Science. We deployed 16 satellite transmitters, all of which worked. We also surveyed 80-90% of PEI for white-chinned petrel burrows and will be able to estimate, for the first time, the total population at both islands (Marion was surveyed in 2010). The seal team also deployed 8 satellite trackers on fur seals, and completed pup counts at PEI. We counted king penguin rookeries and completed numerous other smaller objectives. The usual challenges of working in poor weather at remote locations were expected and did not influence things unduly. It was particularly enjoyable to be part of a dedicated and competent group of researchers with whom professional ties and collaborative research may well evolve.

This voyage was the fulfilment of a personal ambition to visit PEI, an island without invasive mammals and essentially pristine. It was also an opportunity for me to represent BLSA, and to make contributions to important research and monitoring activities at these remote islands. It was also an opportunity to conduct fieldwork again after a long break from this, which is re-invigorating and inspiring, especially at such locations!

Names of documents emanating from voyage

Still in preparation/planning.

Acknowledgments (sponsors etc)

Dr Rob Crawford of the Department of Environmental Affairs: Oceans and Coasts invited me to participate. Mark Anderson and Ben Sullivan are thanked for supporting my application to take leave from my regular duties to participate. My wife and kid are thanked for allowing my long absence from home!

Participant Contact Details:

Name: Ross Wanless

Designation: Seabird Division Manager

Tel nos:+27 21 419 7347

Email address:

Date: 9 May 2011


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