Blake – Fiordland Crested Penguin

Our introduction to Blake was an email in 2021:

“I have a grubby black hydrophobia jacket hanging in my wardrobe, however to me it’s more than just a jacket. Let me explain. This jacket has been on top of mountains and in the bottom of canyons. It has been a semi-permanent shelter, it’s made me new friends as they laughed at the kiwi in the trench coat, it’s full of stories and I know it’s going to come with me to more amazing places!”

Kia ora my name is Blake, I am an outdoor guide, photographer and marine science student based in Dunedin. I love the Earth Sea Sky ethos and am excited to be using their gear to explore and study in some of New Zealand’s most remote locations. 

When I think of Earth Sea Sky, I think of dark green forests and deep turquoise water. I think of standing on precarious ridgelines and scanning the horizon for a whale’s spout. While sitting on the balcony of my Dunedin flat looking out at the Otago Peninsula my mind drifts back to these memories and where I have been with that now grubby jacket. 

This jacket was a necessity during my first season working in Fiordland. I was a kayak guide for Rosco’s Milford kayaks, the perfect job to explore the amazing rivers and mountains in Milford. I remember early mornings getting out of bed with the rain hammering on the roof, and after a quick check of the weather forecast putting on my coat and walking down to the boat shed. It rains more than 180 days a year in Milford, this creates an incredible moody landscape, perfect for feeling small and insignificant. Fiordland is known in Māori as Ata Whenua which translates to the shadowlands. 

On the way to the top of Fiordland’s most iconic peak in the summer of 2020. We sat watching kea and rock wren until the sun set to the south of Mitre peak. The temperature dropped quickly so we ran about setting up camp and putting on warm layers. Michael Bollen in the Earth Sea Sky fleece. 

The hydrophobia has been perfect for working in southwest New Zealand. Here we sit to download footage of Yellow-eyed penguins from our trail cameras, you can see how important it is to stay dry in the rain forest. Then volunteering for DOC, running a trapping line near the top of Resolution Island, in Dusky sound. I remember this day, all of a sudden it went from a bluebird day to a snow storm…


So now I pack my bags again to head to Fiordland and of course my hydrophobia jacket is in there (plus a few other warm & dry Earth Sea Sky layers). This time I am going to collect data for my MSc research on foraging ecology of Fiordland crested penguins or Tawaki with the Tawaki Project ( Over the next year we will monitor Tawaki from boats, kayaks, caves all to follow the Tawaki breading season in Fiordland. You’ll hear more from the field soon!

Note from Earth Sea Sky: Blake’s reference to ‘grubby’ refers to the well worn look through many days of wear in rugged conditions. A cleaning programme for all waterproof clothing is important to ensure body oil contamination does not cause delamination issues.