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A sea path less travelled
Heritage Expeditions A sea path less travelled

A sea path less travelled

I'm up at 0500hrs, too early to wish my wife a happy 65th birthday, and on the deck to enjoy a pale pink sunrise as we head towards Iony Island, slap-bang in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk. It's flat calm and I can see mist ahead but, thankfully, no ice to impede our passage.

Come early afternoon, we are in a Zodiac with eight other people heading towards Iony Island. Visibility is 200m at the most and our ship Enderby is out of sight and well behind us drifting in 70m of water. Our GPS guides us towards the tiny island and we hear it before we see it.

The noise coming from a huge Steller sea lion colony is powerful and the sight is one to put in the memory box: awesome, raw, surreal, the smell is in the air and we are sharing it with hundreds of thousands of auklets, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes in the surrounding sea mist. The sky is alive. It's ethereal.

Four different species of auklets in the same place was something our guides had never heard of, never mind seen, and these guys literally travel the world. We circumnavigate the small island breathing in the spectacle of massive bull sea lions, jealously protecting their harems, as inquisitive ones take to the water and surround us.

Three hours later, we are heading back through the fog to the ship and with the help of radio, fog horn and GPS we meet the Enderby, and time for reflection on a part of Russia rarely visited.

Jesz Fleming, Denmark

FACT FILE

The author was on an 18-day Sea of Okhotsk adventure with Christchurch-based Heritage Expeditions. info@heritage-expeditions.com and 1800 143 585