If you visit Macquarie Island, you’ll be hard put to not find yourself surrounded by Royal Penguins. Well, that’s probably one of the main reasons why you would visit anyway!The Royal Penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli) are endemic to only Macquarie Island, where they are the most common penguin species. Part of the ‘crested penguin’ group, they...more
Not quite as large as the Emperor Penguin, to which they are closely related, for my money the King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) qualify as the most visually impressive penguins. What they give away in size to the Emperors, the Kings make up for with more highly saturated and defined colours in their markings. So, if you’re a penguin...more
Apart from the immediate station area, the Tasmanian Parks Department, which now administers Macquarie Island, allows visitors only to visit Sandy Bay, where there is a colony of King Penguins and a colony of Royal Penguins (plus assorted other penguins and seals). Fortunately this gives the chance for close views of the main forms of penguins on...more
These gulls are common around the coasts of the island. If there is a dead seal or penguin, they are soon there, but may be pushed aside because they are lower down the 'pecking order' than the larger and more dominant Giant Petrels and Sub-Antarctic Skua Gulls. Dominican Gulls also are known (depending on where you come from, and your bird guide...more
Elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) have a circumpolar distribution, mainly on the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-antarctic islands, though they sometimes visit the coastline of greater Antarctica. (They are a different species from the Northern Elephant Seal, of the north Pacific ocean.) In earlier times, they were often known as Sea Elephants – though...more
The skuas seen at Macquarie Island are Sub-Antarctic Skuas, also known as Southern or Great Skuas. Scientifically they are Stercorarius skua. These are are slightly larger and darker than those in the Antarctic, though otherwise very similar. It is interesting to be walking along the plateau on Macquarie Island, alone and far from anywhere, with...more
As do most sub-Antarctic islands, Macquarie Island has its own species of cormorants. They are commonly seen around the coast resting on rocks. Their flying abilities are not great and they have been seen flying backward in strong winds! Obviously they must have better aquatic abilities to survive.The second photo, taken in 1968, shows an...more
You can be sure that you'll be made welcome by the people living there (see restaurants tip).All the 'new' buildings are clad in rather dull looking treated pine. The climate is constantly moist and the air salty, so exposed untreated timber or metal needs ongoing maintenance and painting. The treated pine is a good solution to the maintenance...more
As a tourist, you are not allowed to land at the main King Penguin colony, which spreads along the shore for several kilometres at Lusitania Bay. But you are allowed to cruise alongside the shore, only a metre or so from the beach, looking at the many hundreds of thousands of penguins.In the middle of the colony you will see the rusting remains of...more
Macquarie Island is surrounded by vast fields of thick bull kelp, anchored to rocks in the ocean (often at depths of over 20 metres) and waving slowly in the waves. It is impressive to view, but also is something of a hazard for the propellors of zodiacs and small boats.more
This boxy looking building is just that: it started life as an aircraft engine packing crate in the early 1950s! The ANARE expeditions needed inexpensive field huts, so several of these were used as field huts around Macquarie Island, with a few simple add-ons such as windows and bunk beds. They are now heritage listed (otherwise they may have been...more
Alongside the huts at the station, you can see some 'trypots', old cauldrons used in the 1800s to boil down elephant seals for their blubber. By the late 1800s, elephant seal numbers had dropped to the stage where an industry could not be sustained: at that stage, the animal oil industry's attention turned to penguins.more
Despite the increasing tourist numbers at Macquarie Island, the good people in the station remain very proud hosts. Not only will you be made welcome, but free tea, coffee and scones are provided in the Mess. Of course, for the "locals", this is the island's restaurant and amenities room.
Favorite Dish: There's nothing like a warm "cuppa" when you've been hard at work taking photographs :) .
There is only one way to reach Macquarie Island: by crossing about 1500km of ocean by ship. Unless you are involved in one of the research expeditions there, that means travelling on one of the increasingly frequent expedition-style tourist ship visits.
There are no wharfs and no harbours. Landing is by zodiac (weather permitting - NB that it may not be possible). Although the National Parks authorities allow landings only at a few places, at the places you visit you'll still see plenty of the wildlife.
I’ve mentioned the importance placed on Midwinter celebrations by former Antarctic expeditioners. That leads on to reunions and, somehow, 40 years have passed since my year with a bunch of other ragged outcasts at Macquarie Island. It definitely was reunion time.Our Tasmanian member was the organiser for our 40th Anniversary reunion and thirteen of...more
Through the kindness of the 2005 Met Office staff, I was able to watch the preparation and launch of the morning balloon. As a comparison with the previous tip, here’s how it’s now done.The first noticeable change is the added emphasis on safety. The balloons are filled with explosive hydrogen gas and we would always extinguish our cigarettes (but...more
Notice that nice pointed roof on the cream coloured building in the centre of the main photo? That’s “Chippy’s Church”, and the ‘gothic’ roofline may have something to do with the religious overtone. Yes, it’s the nearest thing to a church or chapel at Macquarie Island but, in fact, has always been the brewery! Goodness knows when it gained the...more
In recent years, apart from increasing numbers of cruise ships, a few private yachts also have found their way to Macquarie Island. Should you have a notion to do this, read on!Macquarie Island has more than its share of shipwrecks. The first was recorded in the first official report of the island, in the Sydney Gazette of 18 August 1820, which...more
The only real risk you face on Macca is the cold, especially if it's rough coming ashore and you get wet. Make sure you have hat, gloves, socks, thermals, waterproof pants and jacket. If you follow the instructions of your guides and don't get within 4m of the animals, elephant seals shouldn't be a problem.more
A bull elephant seal can grow to over 3 tonnes weight and length of 5 metres. That's a lot of animal! Bull elephant seals express their displeasure by rearing up and crashing down on/into their adversaries. Don't let that be you, because they have the size to nail you into the ground! They are at their crankiest during the breeding season in the...more
There are no stores at Macquarie Island. So make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory cards. Expect to take substantially more photos than you would normally - or even more than you expect!
To get there you will be on an extended trip, so consider a laptop or other portable storage device for your photos.
This is "off limits" to tourists, probably as much as anything for safety reasons, as the climb is steep and can be hazardous. Because of low cloud, it also is far more prone to fogs than the coast (in my time, most routes were marked only by occasional pegs), and is very windswept. The island is "new" (under 1 million years old) and still rising...more
In the early 1960s, the Meteorological Office at Macquarie Island began measuring the profile of ozone in the upper atmosphere, for Australia's national research body, the CSIRO. At that stage, the measurements were purely for 'scientific interest', with no known relevance. As a result, Macquarie Island has one of the longest records of trends in...more
If you could, you would see the huge Royal Penguin colony (about a million birds) around the coastline. It is impressive, but must remain 'off the beaten track' because, unfortunately, tourists are not permitted to visit Hurd Point. The accompanying photo was taken looking down on the beach from about 300 metres, high on the slope of the plateau,...more
In recent years, a webcam has been installed at Macquarie Island. The webcam window also includes the current weather details. If you want a real change from your current surroundings, and long for a very different view (and aren’t fussed about the weather), check here.
The webcam is in that structure on the roof of the buildings in the background and often shows photos of the beach at Buckles Bay, adjacent to the station on the east coast. This photo looking toward the camera shows how wildlife (here Elephant Seals, King Penguins, Royal Penguins and Gentoo Penguins) can be found right through the station area. This is looking south toward the meteorology and communications buildings (and webcam), the main living area is behind the camera.