Topics:  adventure, bill moorhead, heard island

When winging it just won’t work

AN ADVENTURE: Bill Moorhead took a trip to Heard Island.
AN ADVENTURE: Bill Moorhead took a trip to Heard Island.

BUNDABERG property developer Bill Moorhead can now claim to visiting Australia's, and one of the world's, most remote territories after an expedition to Heard Island.

The avid birdwatcher recently returned to the region after an epic birdwatching journey to the remote Heard Island, located about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica.

The barren Antarctic island contains the only two active volcanoes in Australian territory, the summit of one of which, Mawson Peak, is higher than any mountain on the Australian mainland.

Mr Moorhead and a team of about 40 travellers from differing backgrounds travelled 10,000km aboard the Russian icebreaker Spirit of Enderby, forging through treacherous five to 10m seas and violent ice storms with winds of more than 100kmh.

Travellers experienced bouts of serious sea sickness and were thrown against the walls of the vessel as it lurched and corkscrewed through the big seas.

One passenger badly injured her hip when she was thrown forward and was unable to leave the vessel when it arrived at its destination.

Many opted to sleep on mattresses on the floor and tied themselves down to prevent being thrown from their bunk beds.

"In terms of how difficult it was - I'd rather walk the Kokoda Track a dozen times than do what I just did," he said.

"Sleeping, eating; things as simple as going to the toilet or putting on socks are a big deal.

"You've got to think about and plan everything."

The crew sought permission to seek shelter behind French territory Amsterdam Island near Heard Island after a week of trying weather.

The journey attracted adventurers from across the world, including an Australian Geographic journalist, the fifth-most travelled person in the world, Roman Bruehwiler, and the secretary of the Nobel Prize organisation.

Birdwatchers ticked off up to 50 species from their lists, including the extremely rare Amsterdam Albatross, of which there are only 140 known, and the snow petrel, in only the second time it had been sighted in Australian territory.

Mr Moorhead's favourite bird of the trip was the sooty albatross.

It is a striking bird with a dark colouring that breeds on sub-Antarctic islands and range at sea across the Southern Ocean from South America to Australia

"They have this sort of prehistoric look about them, and look near angular in flight," he said. "They're just gorgeous."

The travellers sighted a hut built by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson when he stayed on the island during his first trip to Antarctica.

Mr Moorhead said the trip had been the realisation of a dream after logistical difficulties unravelled his first two attempts to visit the island.

"It was an incredible experience but my next trip won't be as hard as that, I hope," he said.

"It was an extraordinary part of the world but I wouldn't do it again."


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