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It's all go on the Braveheart

It's all go on the Braveheart

By Vaughn Filmer
Friday, 4th August 2017

“Never a dull moment” is an accurate description of life on the Braveheart. At the moment we have scientists from Auckland Museum, Australian Museum, Te Papa and Massey University all spending every waking hour on their research projects. We also have our photographer Richard Robinson who is capturing incredible images and footage of the marine life in the areas we’re visiting, and then there’s me and Will McKay who are here as Sir Peter Blake Trust ambassadors (we’re only on the first leg and it’s hard to believe that comes to an end in a few short days!).

Team photo - Braveheart crew, scientists and Sir Peter Blake Trust ambassadors

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

On the next leg there will be two people joining the team from Conservation International, some new team members from Massey and Australian Museum, and videographer Kina Scollay.

It’s hard to convey everything that’s happening on board but here’s a random selection of highlights.

Walpole Island, which we spoke about in this blog felt like the inspiration for the floating islands in Avatar - with cliffs that emerged vertically from the reef, capped by vivid green scrub and home to thousands of boobies, frigate and white tail tropic birds. The frigates themselves had similar characteristics to the birds mounted and flown by Na’vi in the film.

We also mentioned our humpback whales in this earlier post and we think it’s only fair that we share a photo of this incredible sight.

Humpback whale at Walpole Island

Richard Robinson

We’ve had another first for the team. Clinton Duffy headed out to deep water for night fishing and came back frothing, having found a houndshark or a "Hemitriakis sp.” - something he had never seen in the flesh.

Shark expert Clinton Duffy with the first houndshark (a Hemitriakis sp) he’s ever seen outside of reference books and video footage.

Will McKay

When they’re not in the water surveying and collecting specimens, the scientists spend their time in their makeshift lab on the aft deck of the ship working to record, photograph and preserve fishes and invertebrates to be added to the various museums’ scientific collections. These collections will then be used as a vital reference for scientists in the future as they determine how ecological changes are impacting different marine species.

On one night alone the combined talents of our fish experts identified 50 species. The highlight for Mark McGrouther and Sally Reader, from the Australian Museum, a 21mm clingfish (Gobiesocidae) and these juvenile Axilspot Hogfish and Bodianus axillaris.

Axilspot Hogfish, Bodianus axillari

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Severine Hannam and Irene Middleton, are sorting their invertebrate samples and I can’t help but be in awe of the cake urchin/ Tripneustes gratilla similar in likeness to the lamington urchin described from the Kermadec Islands. Sev is super stoked to have caught what she calls a ‘super-fast crab’. Flicking through the guide to South West Pacific Invertebrates she identifies it as a flat rock crab (Percnon sp.), a title she says is very apt.
Our scientific team spends a lot of time in the water but our expedition photographer Richie is probably the one spending the most time underwater, filming and photographing with multiple formats, including 360 baited and pole cameras, and macro stills.

Richie and the BRUV (baited remote underwater videos) team have been comparing notes too. The BRUV team thought they noticed a tiger shark circling a BRUV buoy and Richie’s underwater footage confirmed this tiger shark along with a large number of grey reef and silver tip sharks - in fact he captured 17 in one still shot. Adam Smith’s BRUV footage also caught a scalloped hammerhead cruising past which you can see in this clip.


  • Post by: Auckland Museum

    Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its people, and their place in the Pacific.