On the backside of New Zealand is one other, smaller lesser-known island—mendacity on the sting of the infamously tough ‘roaring 40s’ winds on the coronary heart of the Southern Ocean. It’s referred to as Stewart Island, a wild and unforgiving place, stunningly lovely, distant and barren. In 2020, within the thick of the Southern Hemisphere winter (with worldwide journey locked down), I led a trio of sea kayakers on an expedition nearer to to dwelling. We got down to see if we had what it took to outlive the barrage of climate in an unsupported and unaided mid-winter circumnavigation.

Listed here are the six largest classes we discovered alongside the way in which.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

1. You’ll be able to all the time push your self additional

A circumnavigation of Stewart Island is a bodily grueling journey. It’s a tricky proposition even for essentially the most skilled kayaker. Day after day we battled towards robust currents, relentless winds and swells. A routine consisting of over eight hours in a laden 200-pound kayak, pushing it additional towards our aim, stroke after stroke, hour after hour.

New Zealand Stewart Island
Stewart Island sits beneath New Zealand’s South Island, uncovered on to the Southern Ocean. Google

A number of days in, we discovered ourselves with a battle on our arms. The waves and wind had subsided, and it was our likelihood to go for it. Our meals was rationed for 10 days and we had already used 5 with out even getting 1 / 4 of the way in which across the island. With good situations this was a essential day for the success of the expedition.

Stewart Island New Zealand
Google

We set off early, rounding the Northwest Cape and heading south, out of the Foveaux Strait and into the Southern Ocean correct. An enormous day as we handed by lovely, distant shoreline en route for Doughboy Bay—a protected harbor for the evening. Our drained our bodies and minds have been distracted as we flew by the bays of Lengthy Harry, the towering pillars of the East Ruggedy Mountains and have been sucked south by the currents of the internal passage, bypassing the large Mason Bay—an 8-kilometer-long white-sand seaside that draws a few of the most epic (and remoted) surf within the nation. This direct line noticed us over 10kms out to sea, the island barely seen within the distance as we have been handled to a slight tail swell and the wind swung.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

Our our bodies started to ache, vitality ranges dropping, the saltwater blistering our arms—however you’ll be able to all the time proceed. We had been formidable, however we knew that if we didn’t push on, the expedition was over.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

2. Persistence is a very powerful software

As the times progressed it turned apparent our largest problem was time. The notorious Westerly that the roaring 40s are recognized for had picked up. Our progress was slowed to a standstill. For 4 days we had been continually pushed again by the climate. Our progress alongside the northern coast was minuscule, continually slowed by the gusting Westerlies.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

Finally we sought shelter on the aptly named Christmas Village Hut to attend out the storm, recalculate our timeframe, and repeatedly depend our meals.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

As the times dragged on, the chance of a profitable expedition was getting decrease and decrease. It was essential to be affected person—to attend the storm out. As Shackleton famously mentioned, “higher be a dwell donkey than a lifeless lion.” We hoped for excellent climate however deliberate for the worst. It was mid-winter in spite of everything.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

In hindsight, this time gave us the chance to discover. A second to take pleasure in the place we have been and wander inland and expertise the magical forests that blanket the island. As an alternative of dashing on by.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

3. Timing is every thing

On Day 8 we reached the crux of the expedition: the Southern Cape. This was essentially the most inhospitable and distant a part of the journey. Towering bluffs which were slammed relentlessly by the highly effective Southern Ocean swells created from raging Antarctic storms. Two storms brewed to the west and we deliberate to time our rounding to perfection—sneaking between every system. It was important to get us farther south to a greater staging floor. We labored our approach nearer, hiding behind scattered Islands to Nickleson Harbour. Right here we waited for the swell to subside earlier than attempting. This can be a wild place and there was no approach we needed to move out in something however manageable situations. In the future later, the situations appeared good, with variable winds and manageable southwest swell. We went for it and 7 hours later we arrived on the shelter and fantastic thing about Port Pegasus, within the shadow of the large granite domes of Gog and Magog. We dropped a line, caught a fish and relaxed after what was a reasonably huge day paddling previous essentially the most epic coastal panorama conceivable.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

4. Belief your instinct.

It’s pitch black—darkness so assume it blanketed us fully. It radiated the sounds of the Southern Ocean. We couldn’t even see the water, however we may hear its roar. With just one factor to will we pushed off, leaving the protection of Doughboy Bay, and entered essentially the most uncovered part of the circumnavigation: the ten kilometers of shoreline earlier than Simple Harbour.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

This was a must-make transfer of the expedition. The west coast is relentless. Nobody lives right here, nobody visits. And there’s a cause it’s so remoted. It’s an in inhospitable place, wild and rugged—a shoreline continually bashed by the roaring 40s mixed with large waves reaching their first landmass since being drummed up in Antarctica. Towering rocky bluffs imply there isn’t any protected place to move again to shore. We have been uncovered—fully on the mercy of the oceans and our potential to battle them south.

Inside moments of setting off, the swell was constructing, the wind constructing and getting large—actually large. The wind beat us down, 40 knots of bitterly chilly southerly proper within the face. It’s powerful to make progress and the workforce was exhausted. Dialog advanced to only essential shouts stating obstacles. The large rollers shifting in from the southwest have been smashing our laden boats round, earlier than crashing into the west-coast bluffs and refracting again, making a turmoiled mess of water. My sea kayak was repeatedly threatening to flip, and with each large set, solely bought pushed nearer to the unforgiving cliffs. The icy, inhospitable waters of the Southern Ocean have been alive, and we have been in our ingredient, perhaps, operating the gauntlet, attempting to move 10 kilometers of uncovered shoreline, making a beeline for the South Cape and protected harbor, between two storm programs in our effort get south, and preserve any probabilities of rounding the South Cape alive. There was no turning again, no fail protected, no possibility however to proceed. We wanted to get to shelter and quick. Eyeballing the shoreline, we noticed the channel into Kundy Island. We crept towards the shore, getting surfed down large, breaking swells that have been peaking with the opposing present and shallower waters. Two kilometers later, we pulled into the shelter behind the island. Immediately in calmer waters and will chill out. The day was one for the books.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

4. Embrace your environment

As we rounded the South Cape, the ocean had gone quiet, the wind dropped—from a raging beast to a caring pal. We have been on the southern tip of New Zealand’s third largest Island. A good distance from anyplace; it was time to only sit again and luxuriate in. Embrace the second. Not a single signal of civilization. Simply us, the ocean and its unimaginable creatures. We labored our approach north, exploring bays, seashores and Islands.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

I finished for a second … let the workforce paddle forward, simply to take all of it in. To take pleasure in the place we have been.

Mike Dawson New Zealand
The creator, soaking it in

 

5. It’s all the time value it

As soon as crossing the Southern Cape, we discovered ourselves within the relative security of the Jap Coast. Increasingly fishing boats began appearing, working the sheltered shoreline to feed the worldwide demand southern crayfish. It appeared as if we have been on the end line, that it was plain crusing to get again to Oban—Port Pegasus to Lords River, Lords River to Oban. However in actuality, these have been two large, bodily taxing days. Leaving Port Pegasus, a pod of dolphins surfaced and began swimming towards us, main us out of the harbor and again into the ocean. They stayed with us, swimming alongside our boats, guiding us towards Lords River. Lords River is actually spectacular—some of the lovely locations on the journey. The river snakes its approach inland. Arriving on nightfall, a cray boat pulled in and a bag of crayfish was tossed to the seaside subsequent to us. Dinner was served: six prime-sized NZ cray tails. This was to be our final evening earlier than one other large however achievable day would see us in Oban. It wouldn’t be lengthy earlier than our journey can be over, earlier than Oban would seem on the horizon, earlier than we pull the boats as much as their closing resting spot—and head to the pub for a beer!

 

6. Seize the second

For me capturing an expedition is as a lot of a problem as getting it executed. To inform the story of being on the market with out taking away from the genuine expertise of simply having fun with it. Stewart Island was a spot the place we have been alone and remoted. Simply us and nature, exploring someplace new, untouched and exquisite.

Mike Dawson sea kayaking Stewart Island
Mike Dawson

For me the query is all the time, ‘What digital camera setup so as to add to the monstrosity of apparatus packed into the boats?’ In the end, within the wild world of journey images, much less is often extra. The easier, extra numerous equipment, the higher. Stewart Island taught me the significance of the minimalistic method to documentation: a setup that will get the shot however doesn’t gradual the workforce down, that’s accessible to shoot and fast to get taking pictures ensures the flexibility to seize the second.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

Taking pictures from a kayak is a harmful recreation. There’s nothing fairly as daunting as taking off the spray deck of your kayak far out within the Southern Ocean. Sacrificing the one factor stopping the icy chilly sea water from dashing in, sinking my shiny little kayaking simply to get the shot—to entry my digital camera, balanced precariously between my legs. And there have been loads of photographs missed. Magical moments on the water the place I couldn’t dare get my digital camera out, not to mention take a hand off the paddle. Scary moments the place the only focus was survival.

However that’s all a part of the sport—of sharing the story.

Stewart Island New Zealand sea kayak expedition
Mike Dawson

 


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