Merrilands School, New Plymouth NZ

Hi to Bryn’s class,

You guys have an awesome teacher!  He’s arranged for me to send you photo’s, video and maybe even a phone call or two from Heard Island over the next 5 weeks.  I hope you enjoy being involved with this expedition.

There are 14 of us about to assemble in Cape Town, South Africa and then board a boat that will take us to Heard Island.

Can you do a google maps search and find Heard Island?  What is the closest country to Heard Island?

I should arrive in Cape Town on Saturday the  5th of March –  I will have flown from Sydney to Perth and then across the Indian Ocean to South Africa.

When I arrive in Cape Town I need to get my shopping list out and buy the last things I need –

  • Gas canisters for the camp stove
  • Dehydrated food packs to eat while we are away from base camp
  • and then off to the supermarket!

The boat trip from Cape Town to Heard Island should take about 10 days and along the way we will deploy several ocean “drift buoys” for NOAA and Woods Hole Research.  Bryn has some information about the drift buoys that you can look at on the internet.

When we arrive at Heard Island the first few days will be all about setting base camp and making sure we are safe and secure as the weather on Heard Island can be extreme.  Winds up to 100kph are quite common.

Once the base camp is established my job will be to focus on completing as much of the scientific programme work possible over the 21 days we are scheduled to be on the island.  Hopefully we get some good weather I get out and about as much as possible.  Keep coming back to this blog site – I’m planning to provide you regular “phone in” with audio updates on what I’m up to and where on the island I’m off to next.  You might want to find a detailed map of the island so you get some idea of where we are when we call in.

Bryn asked me to keep you up to date with a Plastic Debris survey that I’m working on.  I’ll also try and send you photo’s of the penguins, seals and of course the volcano!

If things go to plan I’ll talk to you by phone once I’m on the island.

Come back and check this blog site  in a few days – I’m sure there will a news update by then.  I’ll just keep adding new photo’s, video and stories below for you to look through.

4th March


Update #1 29/03/16

Questions from an inquisitive Ruma Tahi Year 5 & 6), Merrilands School, Taranaki, NZ.

Hi Gavin (aka Bear Marshall/Gavin Grylls), your trip looks amazing. Good luck with your scientific research. Hopefully your hard work can lead to benefits for our GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT. Please answer the following questions…..

Answers to your questions – Instalment number 1
Q. What is the main purpose or goal of your Heard Island exploration? Why did you choose Heard Island?

A. Initially I joined the Heard Expedition to be a member of a 6 person team that was solely focused on climbing Big Ben – the active volcano on Heard Island.  Approx. 12 months ago the expedition team was down sized as the original boat taking us to Heard Island was unavailable.

I made the decision to stay with the expedition even though the climb of Big Ben was abandoned – my reasoning was that this was a once in a life time trip to a place in the world that was getting more and more difficult to gain access to as the Australian Antartica Division that administer and control access appear to be tightening the access possibilities.


Q. What important equipment have you taken with you?

My aim is to spend as much time away from the Base Camp as possible of filed science work.

Because Heard Island is such a cold place I have some clothing designed specifically for cold weather  (synthetic pants, merino shirts, down jackets and vest).

I also have to be able to contact the Base Camp or the ship if we have an emergency while on the field so I am always carrying a UHF radio and a satellite phone.

As I’m away from Base Camp so much of the time I need to be able to cook my own meals so I carry dehydrated foods packs with me for dinner and I have an expedition tent that will withstand strong winds as well.

Q. Like all Kiwi kids, we’re fascinated by penguins, so……. What type of penguins, seals and other animals are on Heard Island? What about any interesting fish or marine life?

There are 5 types of penguin on Heard Island but any of them will have migrated by the time we arrive.  Why don’t you go to the Australian Antartica Division web site and find the 5 penguin species.  I’m on the island now and will send you photo’s of the species that I have seen and you can tell me which ones they are.

I’ve also seen a lot of Skua flying around us.

There is a Heard Island Cormorant that I saw as we walked around the beach on Thursday.  You can see a photo to that on my Facebook page (, it was posted on Sunday 27th.

There are also fur seals, sea loins and Elephant seals  (photo’s of those will be on my face book page soon

How deep is the snow, and ice, on Heard Island?

It is the end of summer here now on Heard Island – just like in NZ so right now there’s ow snow on the ground at Base Camp.  Last Tuesday night there was a fresh dusting of snow on ANZAC peak just to the west of us so it has been cold here.

In a few days time I’m leaving Base Camp for a 3-4 day climb of Mt Dixon and there is snow and ice on the top of that mountain now so it will be cold up there.

Bryn – you can get a pdf file from the Antarctica Division web site that has a full map of Heard Island with the plate names that I’m referring to if you need it.  Unfortunately my copy is on a hard drive in Sydney.

Q. What temperature is the sea water? What about the air temperature at night/day? 

A. The Braveheart as a thermometer that measures the temperature of the sea water.  As we come south toward Heard Island the water temperature was down ro 4 degrees.  Try cooling some water down to 4 degrees in the fridge / freezer and then quickly put your hand into it!

Interesting facts……lol

Did you know that BRYN means ‘hill’ in Welsh?

I like this – maybe you can get him to take you walking in the hills around Mt Taranaki on a day trip?   [I’m sure this suggestion will get me in trouble!!)

Class Request……

Can we come with you to climb Mt Everest? (We’ll need to carry Mr Rees though!)

I like this idea but not sure that we can make it work!!

Good luck with your exciting adventure?


Ruma Tahi


Update #2 30/03/16

ad-ven-ture (noun): unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity

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