Heather Burne's Diary

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 Saturday, May 27, 2006
Sunday, May 28, 2006 Monday, May 29, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Thursday, June 1, 2006 Friday, June 2, 2006
Saturday, June 3, 2006 Sunday, June 4, 2006
Monday, June 5, 2006 Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 Thursday, June 8, 2006
Friday, June 9, 2006 Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 Since my expedition heads off at the end of May, I’m starting to get excited and to organize the details!  I am so happy to have been chosen for Earthwatch. I have worked with Alcoa for three years, and this was my third application. I was pretty determined this time to make it through.
I spent a good deal of time working on my application and running it past my family and friends. I then sent it in nice and early, hoping the selectors would appreciate this. When nothing appeared in my inbox from Earthwatch on January 31 when results were supposed to come through, I felt a little dismayed. However, I’d managed to forget the time difference from America to Australia. Sure enough, the next morning the emails were there, and I was over the moon with happiness!
I work with the Environmental Department at Huntly Mine in Western Australia. We supply bauxite for two of the three refineries here and are the biggest bauxite mine in the world. There are three environmental staff members on site, and a lot of our work revolves around our mine rehabilitation—especially at the moment, as most rehabilitation is completed during the summer months when it’s drier. Our job includes following the progress of pit development and rehabilitation and making sure everything is going ahead as it should be. We also conduct a lot of field monitoring. In addition to this work out in the field, we are involved with the operation of the workshops, training of crews, and site licenses. It’s a great job, which I really enjoy. It is so diverse, it is impossible to feel bored.
I am absolutely overjoyed to be heading to New Zealand to study dolphins. It seems too good to be true!  I’ve read through the entire briefing, and all the activities we undertake sound wonderful.

I’m originally a “Kiwi”, but from the North Island. This expedition is in the South Island , and one of the most beautiful parts as well—the Marlborough Sounds. It is also based out in the bush and seems to involve a bit of bushwalking—known as “tramping” in New Zealand—which is something I have loved doing since I was a child.
Every time I see a dolphin in the estuary near where I live, I have to pinch myself. It’s so hard to believe that soon I will be studying perhaps hundreds of these animals, and the dusky dolphins of New Zealand are supposed to be some of the most acrobatic. It will be unreal!

Saturday, May 27, 2006 Today I arrived in Nelson, the town where the team will meet tomorrow before heading out to the research site. I was expecting to meet up with Lyndon (from Alcoa’s Willowdale Mine) when I arrived at my hotel, but unfortunately the fog that threatened to stop my plane from landing forced Lyndon’s to divert to another airport. He got in later.
I spent the day wandering around the town, which is really beautiful. It’s surrounded by low mountains with a lovely river through the middle. The river was running strongly at the moment because of recent rains. In fact, the weather was a bit worrying—cloudy and cold, with thick fog coming in. I was starting to wonder about what the conditions would be at our research site…and if Jennifer (another volunteer from HSBC Malaysia) would be able to land tomorrow in time for the rendezvous.
Lyndon and I went to a local pub before dinner to watch the Super 14 (Rugby Union) final on the television. Both teams were from New Zealand. I’m sure it was a great game, but there was so much fog at the ground, we could barely see any of the action.

Sunday, May 28, 2006 Today we meet the rest of the team. It looked to be a much better start to the day as well— sunny and bright.
The hotel where I stayed is opposite the town cathedral, and it was a lovely sight this morning. The cathedral sits on top of a small hill, surrounded by native and deciduous trees and lovely gardens. In Perth, you never really get the proper autumn color, so these beautiful trees were lovely to see.
By the time Lyndon and I got to the rendezvous point at the airport, the weather was closing in again and multiple flights had been unable to land. We were worried for Jennifer, as her flight was due this morning. It was therefore a surprise when another person came toward us with a bright blue Earthwatch shirt. We were only told of one other volunteer, and this man certainly didn’t look like a Jennifer!  In fact, it was Cesar from HSBC Mexico, a fourth volunteer for our group.
Jennifer arrived not long after the rendezvous time, and we had some good time to get to know each other before the research team found us. There were so many people waiting for flights in the airport that we had missed seeing them, and they us, several times over the past hour or so!
That afternoon, we did a monster shopping spree for food stuffs and then headed out on the three-hour drive to our site at French Pass, a small town on the west of the Marlbrough Sounds with a population of only eight!  With our four volunteers and the research team of five, we doubled the town’s population.
The road to French Pass is very winding, first following a river before heading north into the hills, and finally clinging to the side of the hills along the sounds.
We will be spending half of our time on the boat and half on the hill, and we will be split into two groups. I am paired with Cesar. In total, we are:
  • Heidi P.: Ph.D. student studying the social structure of dolphins (boat).
  • Robin: Master’s student studying the feeding habits of dolphins and the effects of other predators, like birds and fur seals (boat).
  • Mridula: Ph.D. student studying dolphin movements and the effects of predation (hill).
  • Heidi A. and Sylvia: Graduate students who have come to get some field experience.
  • Lyndon, Jennifer, Cesar, and I: Earthwatch volunteers.

Monday, May 29, 2006 Today was our orientation day. We spent the morning learning about Robin’s, Heidi’s and Mridula’s research projects and how we will be assisting them in data collection and recording.
We were supposed to start that afternoon, but the weather was too bad to go out on the boat. In French Pass terms, this means that it was sunny with a bright blue sky and only a slight breath of wind. But that slight wind means the waves are about as high as a dusky dolphin dorsal fin, so it makes seeing the duskies very difficult. This made me realize that my two packets of seasickness tablets were not going to be necessary. I had been imagining tackling the waters in a tiny boat in all sorts of weather, with massive waves. I have to say I was relieved, as I am not the best seaman!
Instead, we all walked to the hill, where the theodolite (an instrument for measuring both horizontal and vertical angles) will be set up. The walk was beautiful, through pine plantation and sheep pasture. This area of the sound is almost completely cleared, with sheep somehow managing to hang onto the very steep hillsides.
The theodolite station itself is perfect for tracking. You can see almost all of the inner and outer Admiralty Bay, which is our study area. However, the track from French Pass to the theodolite station was not the best. A landslide had occurred below the track, although not recently, and it was enough to make us decide to find an alternative route tomorrow so we would not have to be carrying awkward loads across this area.
That night, we lit the fire outside and had a barbeque. A small rain shower couldn’t dampen our spirits. It was a lovely night.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 Today, Cesar and I headed to the hill with Mridula and Heidi A. Our goal was to find a safer route, and we luckily achieved that very easily. A short drive back up the road, there was access to a farmer’s track cut across the hillside. This led us directly to the theodolite (theo) station, with barely an up or a down. It was a much safer way to get there, especially burdened with equipment—unless, of course, you count sheep droppings as a hazard.
We had our first amusing sheep encounter that we later came to expect each day. The sheep try to run away from you but instead find themselves on the same track you are on, and they keep on milling ahead. It made me feel like a sheep dog! Finally, the sheep can stand it no longer and run right off the side of the track and down the hill. At times, it was incredibly steep, and I often was sure one would fall, but they never did. So for the 30 minutes it took to get to the theo station, we were always the center of attention, with every sheep on the hill either watching us or running away from us.
Having managed to achieve our goal very quickly, we returned to French Pass town, practiced setting up the theo (although we couldn’t track anything from sea level), and then got the afternoon off. Cesar and I headed to the French Pass itself, which separates the mainland from D’Irville Island.
Although it looks like the passage between the two should be deep and safe for boats, in fact there are rocks just below the surface. When the tide changes, the pass roars like a waterfall, with rapids and whirlpools extending well away from the rocks themselves. It was an awesome sight.
The first ship to make safe passage through here was a French ship—hence the name—and it opened up a much quicker route to the north. It was also the home of a Kiwi (New Zealand) legend—Pelorus Jack. He was a white dolphin who, for many years around the turn of the last century, would guide ships through French Pass. To see Pelorus Jack was to be assured of a safe passage, and he was very popular.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 Today, the slightly choppy water meant the boat team couldn’t go out, but the hill team (us) set off ready and raring for our first full day at the theo station.
It turned out to be quite a frustrating day, as we discovered that the fur seals of Admiralty Bay have a favorite pastime—pretending to be dolphins! They would jump and swim with one flipper stuck out of the water like a dorsal fin. So many times we thought we had a dolphin, but when we got the theo trained on the spot, we found only a fur seal.
The wind on the hill made it a very cold day, despite the bright sun. Unfortunately, we did not see a dolphin the entire day. The duskies only come to Admiralty Bay in winter. We were just at the start of winter, so not many were around yet. It was certainly beautiful up there, and a great time was had talking to the others with us while we searched.
One of the things that we are helping investigate is the effect of mussel farms on the dusky dolphins. These farms consist of lines of buoys with rope hanging down, which the mussels grow on. It is thought that these ropes may restrict the movement of the duskies, especially when feeding. If we ever see a dusky within or near a mussel farm, we have to record it. From the theo station, you can clearly see many of the farms, so this will be one of the tasks for us up here.

Thursday, June 1, 2006 Cesar and I have our first day on the boat! This means we get to dress up in bright orange mustang suits, which we affectionately dubbed oompaloompa suits (from the recent movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) when we first saw Lyndon and Jennifer waddling around in them on Tuesday. Have a look at the photo and see what you think. In the background is where we stayed in French Pass—it was great accommodation.
Boat work involves following transect lines in the inner and outer Admiralty Bay, looking for dolphins and feeding seabirds. One day, Heidi P. is “in charge,” and we follow dolphin groups to see where they go, which dolphins join and leave the group, and what they do. The other day is Robin’s. She dresses in a wetsuit in the hope of finding feeding dolphins to videotape underwater, and she can decide where we go. The whole time we record feeding and social habits of the groups we find. We sit so that every angle is being watched by someone.
Today, we found dolphins very quickly once we started our transect. (I was proud it was me that spotted them, but, in fact, a dolphin had jumped clear out of the water and did a flip—even at a distance, it was hard to miss!) We followed this group for about 45 minutes, recording data every two minutes. The data included what the group was doing (socializing, traveling, feeding); the number of clean leaps out of the water; coordinated leaps with other duskies; burst swims where they all head off after something at speed; seabirds feeding; etc.
Heidi takes lots of photos of dorsal fins, which she then uses to identify the individuals in the group. This group contained a mother and juvenile who were very social with the boat, playing and jumping around us—it was just amazing!
We didn’t find anymore after that, and the water was choppy enough to make us call it a day at lunchtime. In the afternoon, we washed the oompaloompa suits and reviewed some of Robin’s underwater videos of prey balls. When duskies find a school of fish large enough, they herd the fish into a “ball” by swimming around them. While most of the duskies will work to keep the fish contained in the prey ball, they will also take turns to feed from the ball as well.
We were freezing the video frames when a dusky was right in front of the prey ball, which Robin should be able to use to estimate the size of the prey balls. I have attached one of the prey ball photos—they are pretty amazing. You’d never think there was so much happening under the water!

Friday, June 2, 2006 Today, we had much better weather and managed to stay out on the boat all day. We headed out to where we had left off the day before and found several groups of duskies. We followed them as best we could, as they were moving along very quickly.
Duskies can stay underwater for five minutes, so it is remarkably easy to lose a group, even on the open water. They were feeding but not stationary, so Robin didn’t have a chance to video them. She thinks that the prey is scarce at the moment, so the duskies aren’t able to herd the fish into prey balls and instead have to chase them.
Midmorning when we didn’t see any more dolphins, we headed farther out toward Cook Strait. Lunch was had floating in a lovely little cove of D’Irville Island. The island has some farming on it, but is mostly native bush. The kiwi bush is so beautiful (no, I’m not being biased!), so it was great to have time to sit and look. There were lots of little caves and a waterfall—I felt like abandoning the boat and going exploring!
The afternoon got choppier, so we headed into the more sheltered Inner Bay. We got back to French Pass near dusk (the days here are noticeably shorter than at home), only to have Lyndon and Jennifer whistling at us from the big hill behind the town—they had had enough of underwater videos and were out for a walk.
As it was Friday and French Pass doesn’t offer much in the way of nightlife, we made our own Dusky Nightclub. With the laptop playing and the projector on the wall, we had a fun night. Our group of four volunteers is really getting close. I am so happy that we get along so well.

Saturday, June 3, 2006 Today, we are back on the hill, ladened as usual with the theodolite, the tripod to set it up on, the laptop to download the theo data, the table to place the laptop on, the box and sheet to shelter it from sun and wind, and the umbrella just in case it rains. But today it means more, because today we are actually going to be collecting real data. In the last week, Mridula has sorted out most of the issues with the theo and is ready to start real work.
The weather was beautiful. We saw so many dolphins, but they were really difficult to track. If a five-minute dive makes tracking hard on the boat, it makes it almost impossible from the hill. At times, we were all training our binoculars and the theodolite in the same region, madly searching for the group we knew was there…somewhere.
Cesar began to really suit his nickname of Dolphin Boy. Whenever the rest of us would give up on a group, he would either find it again or point out three other groups in different areas of the bay. He was certainly an asset for our team!
It was so cool to see all the dolphin antics from so high and to watch where they traveled. You get a far different perspective from the top of the hill.
Mridula made a profound statement part way through the day: “I know where to look for the dolphins now… in the water!”  It certainly made sense, as we hadn’t found any in the hills so far!  Seriously though, I think she was commenting on the telltale ripples in the water that give away a dusky’s position.
When we couldn’t find duskies, we could always focus in on the fur seals in the colony below us. Their lazing away in the sun or frolicking in the water made us quite jealous!
Unfortunately, our data collection wasn’t helped by the laptop batteries running down really quickly. The last battery went at 2 p.m., and we called it a day. When the boat team got back, they were really happy because they had seen heaps of duskies!

Sunday, June 4, 2006 Well, today was our rest day. We had grand plans of perhaps heading to the island to go hiking, kayaking, or biking. All the plans crashed to the sound of soft rain as we woke that morning. It was our first real rain of the trip after a week of sunny weather.
Instead, we sat around our common room and read, ate (lots—all those leftovers… yum), and devised an international charades game. By the afternoon, the rain had stopped. After all I had eaten, I decided a walk wasn’t a bad idea and headed up the big hill behind us. When you get to the ridge, all of the bays, French Pass, and the islands are spread out around you—truly beautiful. I took the long way up but in the fading light decided to cut the walk short. The quickest way home was straight down. The sheep manage it. Why not me? All I can say is my respect for sheep went up once more. I wish I had four legs! I think my short route home took longer than the long route would have!
It was Heidi P.’s birthday, so we decorated the room with balloons and streamers. The place looked really festive, and I think Heidi really appreciated the effort. The birthday dinner was a lot of fun.

Monday, June 5, 2006 We were supposed to be back at work today, but I think the weather wanted to make up for raining on our rest day. The day was sunny and bright, but windy. By midmorning, it was decided we wouldn’t be heading out to work, so most of us headed to Elaine Bay, which is about 45 minutes from French Pass. A map I had got in Nelson showed a walk track there. Luckily there was one. Otherwise, I might have been in trouble!
We walked along one of the inner sounds. No duskies here, apparently, but we kept looking anyway. Heidi P. thinks that there isn’t enough food here for them.
It was a beautiful walk. Sunny headlands led into freezing cold valleys with small streams and then back out to a headland just as you started getting cold. There were lots of ferns and some lovely forest, with spectacular views every time there was a break in the trees. The slippery clay in the center of the track made for a few laughs,  usually at the expense of whomever had manage to slide a little farther than they expected.
The day seemed to get better and better. By the time we got back to Elaine Bay, I was pretty sure that the conditions were so good we’d have been out working if we had stayed in French Pass. However, we were all happy to have gotten out. It was such a lovely walk that I don’t think anyone regretted the loss of research time too much. The only thing to mar the day was the disappearance of my hat, which I’d only bought in Nelson just before the trip. It hadn’t been cheap, and I was starting to get quite attached to it. I searched for it everywhere (even on dolphins in the bay!) but didn’t find it…someone out there is very happy with a nice new hat!
Stretching for new ways to entertain ourselves during the evenings, we Earthwatchers took down some balloons and played a strange form of hacky sack. Amazing talent was displayed by many of our number.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 The best day so far!  The water was so flat and calm, it was like it was made of glass. The sky was crystal clear, and there was not a breath of wind.
Cesar and I were on the boat, and we had a superb day. Our first transect site was within Current Basin on the other side of the French Pass. Negotiating the pass turned out to be nowhere near as exciting as I had thought it would be, but then we crossed it when the tide wasn’t active, so there were few whirlpools.
We had a rare treat in Current Basin when Heidi P. spotted a splash in the distance. It turned out to be a fur seal tossing an octopus around, ready to eat it. Something you don’t see every day. Fur seals are so cute, and they always seem to be having fun when they aren’t sunbathing.
We didn’t see any duskies in Current Basin, but as soon as we were back in Admiralty Bay, there were duskies simply everywhere. It was an unreal experience! Everywhere we looked, there were dusky groups feeding and socializing, and we just followed our group through it all with action all around.
At one point, a nearby dolphin did a whole set of noisy leaps, where the dolphin jumps right out of the water and falls deliberately on its side to make a loud noise. It was like a jack-in-the-box. As soon as it hit the water, it was back up for another one. They must be so powerful to manage that sort of acrobatics.
It is thought that noisy leaps are used to call other duskies to help with creating a prey ball when the first group has found more fish than they can handle on their own. However, the group we were following was not more than 50 meters (165 feet) from the noisy leaper and didn’t respond to the leaps, so I’m not sure about that explanation!
We managed four focal follows of different groups today. The water was so clear you could see the dolphins deep down in the water. Sometimes a whole group would be swimming beneath us—it was fantastic. There were lots of acrobatics and coordinated leaping, and Heidi P. got a lot of photos and data. Unfortunately, none of the feeding groups were stationary, so Robin didn’t manage to get any underwater data.
At one point, all eight of a group became social with the boat, swimming around and popping up to see us, and then suddenly they disappeared completely. It was almost like they were saying goodbye. They must have swum a long way underwater after leaving us, because we saw no sign of them on the perfectly flat water.
It was a truly special day.
Lyndon and Cesar have managed to change their flights so all four of us will have Friday night together in Nelson after Earthwatch is over, which will be great.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 Today was another brilliant weather day. As the other team didn’t have as much boat time as us, we swapped days with them so they were assured of a beautiful final day. Their last boat day was supposed to be tomorrow, but you never know what the weather will do here. We get a weather report every morning, but if it is ever similar to the weather we actually get, it’s a surprise.
Cesar and I headed to the hill with Mridula and Heidi A. The batteries had failed again yesterday, so Mridula devised a way of recording the data without the laptop. It was good to be able to leave the heavy laptop behind. It was even better to realize only 50 meters (165 feet) into our walk to the theo station that we didn’t need the laptop table and sheltering box either!  We would have felt silly had we carried them all the way for nothing.
We had a beautiful clear view from the theo station, and there were lots of duskies to see, including some passing just below our hill. One of these duskies did an impressive set of noisy leaps right below us. The ripples created in the glassy water kept spreading out and meeting. It was quite beautiful.
Our theo tracking was great—the best so far. We followed groups for long periods—one longer than an hour—and got good practice in collecting the data and tracking the groups. Cesar Dolphin Boy managed to spot every dusky in the bay, and I’m sure that he was a big part of our success in tracking them. However, by late afternoon when he and Mridula managed to lose 10 dolphins in Inner Admiralty Bay—one moment they were there, then they weren’t—we decided it was time to go. That was our last track for the day and the expedition, and it was the last time for the sheep to run from us. I will miss this beautiful walk and remember these hill days fondly, even the binocular marks pressed into my face after hours of tracking!
When we got back into town, there were duskies playing just out in the bay, with the hills turning orange in the sunset. Beautiful, although my hands were itching for a pencil and paper to record some data on them!

Thursday, June 8, 2006 Our last full day in French Pass!  It will be sad to leave this lovely place and its wonderful duskies.
The weather was good enough for the boat to go out, though nowhere near perfect (there were a few clouds in the sky and a tiny breath of wind), so Cesar and I got our final boat day. We headed straight out to the farthest transect, almost in the Cook Straight. I spotted one dolphin on the way out, which cruel people still joke was a fur seal. I know I’ve confused the two a few times but still…I’m almost certain it was a dolphin I saw!
We didn’t see any dolphins for the first few hours of transects and were starting to think our luck had run out when Heidi A., who was skippering, exclaimed and cut the engine back. A huge dolphin had leaped out of the water right next to us.
Examination of the waters around the island showed many more dolphins leaping around. These were all bottlenose dolphins, which are much larger than duskies with a bottle-shaped nose, whereas the duskies have a beak-like nose. Bottlenose dolphins are quite aggressive, and the duskies seem to avoid them. Their presence explained why we hadn’t seen any duskies that morning.
Heidi and Robin aren’t concerned with studying bottlenose dolphins, so we headed on without stopping for long. We contacted the hill team by radio, and they hadn’t seen any either. We were thinking that the duskies might have gone into hiding. A pity the radio range was poor this far out, because the hill team called back not long after to report many duskies feeding in the Inner Admiralty Bay, and we didn’t hear them!
Luckily, we did find a group of duskies on the mainland side of the outer bay. We followed this group for two hours, which was our longest follow for the whole expedition. It also provided a few surprises, as two of the duskies mated. This was caught on video and with the camera, which Heidi P. was really happy about. Although it sounds dodgy at first, these photos will allow Heidi to identify whether the dusky is male or female and link that to the picture of its dorsal fin. If it is spotted again here or at the other site at Kaikoura on the east coast, researchers will have that information in the “dusky library” of dorsal fin photos.
The group was also feeding quite often, with seabirds diving all around and duskies leaping around and around. Robin got in the water to start underwater videoing of the feeding, but almost immediately the group did a burst swim following the prey source, and she had to get back in the boat. It truly seems that there aren’t enough fish at the moment to allow prey balls to be formed, which would keep the feeding relatively stationary and allow Robin to video.
When we stopped the follow after 2 p.m., cloud cover was almost total, the water was quite choppy, and the wind had picked up. We would be lucky to spot any more duskies in water this choppy, so we headed into Inner Admiralty Bay, which would be more sheltered. Jennifer called us on the radio to tell us they hadn’t seen any duskies in there that afternoon, but Robin and Heidi decided to search anyway. It is easier to spot dolphins from the boat than up on the hill.
As if to prove them right, we found dolphins quite quickly—a mother and her juvenile and two other lone dolphins. The four of them mixed around, sometimes together, sometimes apart. It made for difficult follows, as we thought we’d be following one and then recognize the dorsal fin was different. Somehow we’d swapped dolphins.
One of the lone dolphins had a very distinctive scarred fin. Just when we were commenting on him being a loner, he was joined by another dolphin. They had a short period of coordinated leaping, with scar-fin making a huge twisting leap quite close to the boat, before separating again. It was really impressive and sure to give Heidi P. some interesting data on how dolphin groups come together and then break apart again through the day.
It was getting darker by the time we docked the boat. The sun drops behind the hills so quickly here, and suddenly it feels like dusk, and the temperature drops, too. The warm shower at the end of the day was very welcome. I will miss the beautiful sunsets we have had here.
Tonight we had our wrap-up presentation, summarizing what we had achieved during our two weeks here. Due to the great weather, we had managed more transect time than the researchers had expected, with 17 focal follows totaling 18.5 hours and data on 29 feeding bouts. We had also helped work out how to operate the theodolite here at French Pass, tracking 15 groups for a total of more than 6.5 hours. I think our help means that the rest of the research this winter with the other Earthwatch teams will be that much smoother, especially with the theodolite.

Friday, June 9, 2006 Today we leave French Pass. Apart from our food scraps, which we fed to the town pigs, all of our waste and recycling needs to be taken out with us, so the two cars were packed with people, rubbish, and bags. Sylvia and Heidi A. are also leaving today, and there was very little spare space. Robin stayed at French Pass, so we farewelled her there.
The drive back to Nelson took three hours, and it was beautiful in the daytime. I looked for my hat as we passed the Elaine Bay turnoff, but it seems it is truly gone. Once back in Nelson, we farewelled Mridula, Sylvia, and the two Heidi’s, and thanked them for the wonderful experience. The expedition was now officially over.
Luckily, we all were able to spend the afternoon and evening together in Nelson. It was a great end to a fantastic two weeks, and I was so happy that we got to spend it together. I have been truly lucky to not only be selected for such an amazing experience as this expedition, but to also be able to share it with three other fantastic people. I have no doubt we will cross paths again, and I thank all three for the great memories!

Saturday, June 10, 2006 This morning, we all get up early so the others have a chance to wander the Saturday markets before they leave. I am heading off several hours later than the other three, who are all heading to Christchurch, from where Lyndon heads home and the other two go to Queenstown. Saying goodbye to them was strange. We have had such a great experience together, it was hard to accept that it was over.
Once they had left, I wandered Nelson for a while. It was a town completely different to what I had found coming in, with the sun shining rather than heavy fog. This also meant that my flight wouldn’t be delayed, so I would be certainly heading home today. Although it was good to know I would make my connection in Auckland, part of me had hoped for an excuse to stay here! It has been so enjoyable.
I would like to thank Alcoa for giving me the opportunity to participate in this program, and I encourage anyone reading this diary to apply for an expedition. The experience is amazing—you get to live and breathe a study of a natural environment for the length of your expedition. This has given me such an insight into the activities of the dusky dolphins that I helped study. I have learned much about them and also myself, and I found new friends along the way. Because of them, I have learned about their countries and their way of life, and they about mine.
I feel truly privileged to have been allowed to experience this, and a part of me will always remember the dusky dolphins of Admiralty Bay. And next time I am feeling overworked, I will think of the fur seals with envy!

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