Changing Planet

How to Start a Subantarctic Expedition? With Quarantine

Nearly 100 years ago a shipwreck brought mice to the hard-to-reach Antipodes Islands just north of the Antarctic circle. Fast forward to today and the mice have devastated the island’s native species. National Geographic Grantee James Russell will embark on a four-week expedition, where the team will study the island’s natural resources to determine if current plans to exterminate the mice may have unexpected consequences including a negative effect on two endemic species of parakeet.

The start of any New Zealand subantarctic island trip is quarantine. Thankfully it doesn’t take us 40 days. In this case every piece of equipment we intend to take is audited by a government inspector to check for stowaways, even as small as grass seeds. Yorkshire fog was both introduced to and eradicated from Antipodes Island by recent scientific expeditions. After everything is inspected and sealed up in 25 litre plastic pails it will be loaded on to our (relatively small) 50 ft yacht Tiama for the 3 day voyage. Our departure is timed to coincide precisely with the weather window predicted on Monday which will allow us to land on the north-eastern tip of this (relatively small) island.

Once there, and all the plastic pails have been lugged up the cliffs to the hut, we will begin our expedition true to study the terrestrial fauna of the island over winter to help plan the million dollar eradication of mice from the island in a future winter. In particular our expedition will focus on studying the density of mice on the island at this time, and the behaviour of endemic parakeet species such as the Antipodes Island parakeet found only on Antipodes Island.


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Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.
  • Margaret Stanley

    Good luck guys – safe (& enjoyable) journey!

  • Rob Chappell

    Have a great trip James – I’m really keen to see your results, some wonderful issues to investigate – I trust the weather will be kind


  • Brenda Greene

    Hope you all survived the voyage. See any whales? An NZer in Bondi Beach on a surfboard was knocked unconscious yesterday by a whale when it dived 3m from him. Its tail threw him into the air.

  • Nick Goldwater

    Best of luck with your trip, James, you lucky bugger. I’ll look forward to hearing about your progress.

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