Expedition vessel RV Braveheart, and the Princes Islands group (images: A. Ballance)
The Three Kings Islands lie just 55 kilometres north of Cape Reinga, but as a team of marine biologists discovered during a two-week expedition in April 2013 these storm-battered islands are a world of their own, with an underwater world that is distinctly different from the nearby mainland.
Wendy Nelson sorting seaweeds, butterfly perch and Johnson's sargassunm, and Severine Hannam sorting inverebrate samples after a dive (topside images: A. Ballance & underwater image: M. Francis)
Alison Ballance joined the Three Kings Islands Marine Expedition on board RV Braveheart, skippered by Matt Jolly, as a team of 14 experts and photographers sampled the marine algae, fish and invertebrates that manage to make these wave-washed shores their home. The discoveries included six new records of fish for the island group, an unusual stalked jellyfish and numerous types of seaweed, many of them rare and undescribed.
Expedition leader was Tom Trnski from Auckland Museum – he's Head of Natural Sciences and a fish biologist with a special interest in larval fish, and he also led the Museum’s 2011 Kermadec Islands Biodiscovery Expedition. Also from Auckland Museum was collection technician Ged Wiren and natural sciences collection manager Severine Hannam.
Half-banded perch amongst sponges and ascidians, and Malcolm Francis and Roberta D'Archino next to archway and cliffs in the Princes Islands - the white 'dusting' on top of the island is a large colony of gannets (underwater image: M. Francis & topside image: A. Ballance)
Roberta D’Archino from NIWA and Wendy Nelson from the University of Auckland and NIWA are marine algae (seaweed) experts. Malcolm Francis is a fish biologist at NIWA, and Kareen Schnabel looks after NIWA’s marine invertebrate collection. Vincent Zintzen is a researcher and Jeremy Barker is a research technician, both from Te Papa, and Libby Liggins is a PhD student at the University of Queensland.
Juvenile piper collected at night are a new record for the Three Kings Islands, and Vincent Zintzen and Kareen Schnabel bait a trap with catfood to attract hagfish and isopods (images: A. Ballance)