What is SOSSA, I hear you ask! Well, SOSSA is the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association, and it runs boat trips out past the Continental Shelf from Kiama (mainly) and Wollongong, NSW. I have been on three trips with them now, July 2015, November 2015 and February 2016, and they were all fantastically well run and very informative. Not only that, I got to see [and photograph] dozens of birds that I have never seen before, and that I probably never would have seen unless I was in a boat way out at sea!
Although the trips can be rough (those of you that suffer from motion sickness would be well-advised to dose up on Quells before you go) and you are out at sea for up 8 hours, the birds you get to see outweigh any personal discomfort you might experience. On the three trips I have been on I have seen over 30 species of seabird in the 3 trips to date, including 8 species of Albatross, and most of these are new speices for my life list. The cost of the trips is a very reasonable $130.00, which is a tax deductable donation, and is a cheap day out in a boat by anyone's standards.
The experienced members of SOSSA, that go out on the boat with you, are very friendly and very informative. Lindsey Smith is normally on board, and has over 40 yrs of working knowledge on the birds of the region, and his stories, identification skills and random facts are better than any field guide you might consider bringing. My main piece of advice - bring a raincoat for you and your camera!
SOSSA was founded by members of the New South Wales Albatross Study Group (NSWASG) in 1994. It was set up to be an umbrella organisation for many study groups concerned with studies of Southern Ocean biodiversity.
SOSSA is a wildlife research and conservation group which consists of dedicated people both professional and amateur. These people share a common interest and concern for the environment and the wildlife of the Southern Oceans.
History: The New South Wales Albatross Study Group grew from the work of J.D. (Doug) Gibson, A.R.(Allen) Sefton and others, who began catching and marking wandering albatrosses at Bellambi NSW in 1956. Following the passing of Doug Gibson in 1984, the NSWASG based in the Illawarra continued under the guidance of Harry Battam who started banding albatrosses as an assistant to Bill Lane at Malabar in 1958.
A wandering albatross banded in August 1958 at Bellambi was found breeding on Bird Island, South Georgia, a sub-antarctic island in the South Atlantic Ocean in November 1958. The NSW Albatross Study Group had made its first mark. This original recovery was followed by several more, on the Crozet Archipelago (French) Prince Edward Island (South African), island groups of the South Indian Ocean and the Auckland and Antipodes Islands, to the south of New Zealand.
The NSW Albatross research is the longest continuous study of albatrosses anywhere in the world today.
Harry Battam became the team leader and has been assisted by Lindsay E. Smith another dedicated naturalist. Lindsay's wife Janice has been working with the team constantly since 1989.
Aims: SOSSA is an organisation whose aims are to encourage naturalists both amateur and professional to research the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean. SOSSA also aims to promote the use standard methodologies and the publication of all findings. SOSSA will assist study groups or individuals in the collection, preparation and presentation of data in a standard format. SOSSA is willing to assist other studies and has the resources and trained personnel that may be of benefit to small independent studies or organisations.
Projects: The projects and studies currently being undertaken by members of SOSSA are many and varied, several are being undertaken in conjunction with other organisations and scientific bodies, which include both local and overseas institutions.
Outside Australia, SOSSA has affiliations with the British Antarctic Survey, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, The Centre National de la Researche Scientifique (CNRS France) and the Percy Institute of Ornithology (South Africa).