High schoolers journey to subantarctic

High schoolers journey to subantarctic

The subantarctic Auckland Islands are a little-known group of atolls nearly 500km south of Bluff, soon to be explored by 14 young people.

But for one, it won't be the first time his family's set foot on these shores:

"I feel excited to embark on this adventure that one of my ancestors Tama, from Taranaki, has done before me," Tama Potaka said.

It's likely Tama's ancestor's transport was closer in size to a kayak than the navy vessel he'll be sailing on -- but Tama says the experience is a privilege.

"Not many people get to witness and experience such pristine environment as the Auckland Islands," he said.

"Knowing that my ancestor before me has stood on this land, possibly the first ever to come across this land, is making me feel proud."

In taking high school students to these pristine environments, the Sir Peter Blake Trust hopes to inspire them to become leaders in protecting them -- and there's a reason they go to the subantarctic.

"If people say Antarctica is the sleeping giant of climate change then you'd say the subantarctic is the canary in the miner's cave," Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell said.

"It's our best possible opportunity to identify what changes are happening then what we need to do as a country to adapt to that."

Research into those changes is underway, which will eventually be used in a science facility called Blake Station that the Trust is establishing -- and the students will make their mark on that piece of conservation history:

"They're going to be with some of New Zealand's best scientists and conservation leaders so some of the work there with sediment core samples and with plankton, and the work they're doing to look at the bottom of the seabed -- some of that will never have been done before," Ms Campbell said.

And there'll be a few first-time experiences on the way there too.

"The first one is seasickness and getting your sealegs, thats why we do from Auckland and Devonport with the Navy, in HMNZS Otago we travel down the coastline which give everybody a chanceto get their sea legs," she said.

It'll take four days sailing across the Southern Ocean to reach the Auckland Islands, which may well be worth it because as Sir Peter Blake said, if you take people out into the environment they'll learn to love it -- and if they love it, they'll take care of it.