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The Totorore expedition was conceived as a circum-Antarctic voyage to study the seabirds of the Southern Ocean in order to further their conservation. Clark spent seven years building the 10 m yacht Totorore (the Maori name for the Antarctic prion) of kauri timber, completing and launching her in 1982.
The Totorore left Kerikeri on 26 February 1983, eventually returning on 6 November 1986, 3 years, 8 months and 16 days later, having travelled some 71,000 km eastwards, around and about the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula, visiting numerous islands to survey and count seabirds. The most significant ornithological work was carried out in southern Chile where new colonies of several species were discovered, and in South Georgia where comprehensive and accurate counts were made of wandering albatrosses and king penguins along the long coastline. During much of the expedition Clark was accompanied and aided by one or two companions, but sometimes, as on a late leg of the voyage between Marion Island and Fremantle, Australia, he was alone and frequently imperiled by rough seas and equipment failure.