Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:20 returned at approx. 14:45.
    Sea conditions: choppy SW at first rising to 1.5 to 2.5m SSW by late morning.
    Swell: SE 1.5 to 2.5 m in the morning falling away to 1.0 to 2.0 m later the day.
    Weather: Cloudy with patchy rain in the morning, clearing to bright sunshine later.
    Temperature range: 12.1 to 17.6°C.
    Barometric pressure: 1014 HPa steady.
    Wind: SW 8 to 10 knots at first increasing to SSW 15 to 20 knots later.
    Sea surface temperature: 18.9 to 20.8°C.
    Primary chumming location: S 34° 27’ – E 150° 57’.


    A slow-moving anticyclone located over central Australia and a low-pressure system moving east into the Tasman Sea had generated southerly winds for most of the preceding week. The nip in the breeze as we boarded warned us that there would be more of the same today. A cold and uncomfortable start, turned into an outright slog as we headed into a sea that stood up against the strong current from the north. Luck was with us as we headed south and we cleared the worst of the current making the going easier. The skies cleared and, as the day unfolded, we were treated to a succession of spectacular Southern Ocean seabirds.

    It already felt like winter as we slipped out of the harbour. Those on board were rugged up to their eyeballs and it came as no surprise to see several adult Black-browed Albatross soaring above the huddle of beanie hats! A couple of Campbell Albatross were also foraging close to shore. Australasian Gannets and Fluttering Shearwaters were searching for fish over the inshore reefs as were a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins. A White-capped Albatross flew in from the south to investigate our vessel and was followed soon, first by a juvenile SHY ALBATROSS and then by an adult Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross. I could not remember seeing so many albatrosses close to shore in May and hoped that this was a good omen for the day.

    As we laboured southeast into the sea we began to see FAIRY PRIONS, a species that has been more or less absent from Wollongong waters since 2002. With light rain falling and plenty of spray dousing us we reached 50 fathoms. The current was strong here and at least the sea felt warm as it splashed us. Indeed, the sea surface temperature was higher even than that inside the cabin! I was soaking wet and having trouble writing in my notebook due to the sea conditions but filled with a sense that we would have a good day once we could run with the sea. A Brown Skua appeared and harried a Black-browed Albatross. A NORTHERN-GIANT PETREL circled the boat and then joined the following albatross flock. A dark pterodroma petrel was shadowing us and proved quite cryptic among the small group of Short-tailed Shearwaters. Eventually, we were able to identify it as being nominate race Great-winged Petrel. A second year bird joined the juvenile SHY ALBATROSS and the NORTHERN-GIANT PETREL appeared to have duplicated itself as well. As we neared the edge of the continental shelf a male Gibson’s Albatross crossed our wake but the sea conditions made it tough to use the binoculars.

    At the 100-fathom line a NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS flew right up to the stern, almost into our faces, so we cut our speed and held position into the sea. This was a new bird for most on board and everybody was delighted to have such fantastic views of this magnificent animal. It clearly displayed mostly dark outer retrices and some dark spots in the centre of the tail along with black vermiculation on the lower back; consistent with it being a young bird. The crown lacked dark feathers and the leading edge of the wing was white suggesting that it was not a juvenile. The primary moult status indicated that the bird was at least 5 years old demonstrating that the plumage ontogeny of this species is yet fully understood.

    As we turned for home, running with the sea behind us, the skies cleared and we felt the warmth of the sun for the first time. Incredibly, not one but several WANDERING ALBATROSS joined the NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS and we soon had a small flock of Diomedea albatross following the boat. Among them were Gibson’s and a male ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS. Campbell Albatross seemed to be flying in from all points of the compass and Fairy Prion were all around us. The conditions were much more pleasant now and the cameras were running hot as we were treated to fantastic views of 9 species of albatross following us back to port in glorious winter sunshine. While scarce on the trip out to sea, Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross numbers increased continuously on the return leg of our journey.


    This was a classic Wollongong Pelagic trip; starting out in cold, tough conditions under a leaden sky and ending in bright sunshine with everyone happy. We had excellent views of an incredible total of 9 species of albatross all in view behind the boat as we ran home with sea. Petrel numbers were low but it was good to see the return of Fairy Prion in significant numbers.

    Birds recorded according to the latest Environment Australia Reporting Schedule:

    Species code: Species name: Numbers:

    (Note: numbers in parenthesis = highest count at any one time)

    937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes halli 3 (3)
    075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma m. macroptera 7 (2)
    971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 3 (1)
    083 FAIRY PRION Pachyptila turtur 300+ (150+)
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 200+ (30+)
    913 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 3 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 11 (6)
    086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 4 (3)
    846 ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS D. antipodensis 1
    847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 3 (2)
    973 NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS D. sanfordi 1
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 25 (6)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 50+ (20+)
    861 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 3 (2)
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 4 (2)
    864Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 24 (14)
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 16 (10)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
    980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 7 (4)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 5 (5)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 85+ (50+)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 10 (5)

    In the harbour:

    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 6 (6)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1

    22 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds:



    Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 14 (14)




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