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 read ...Captain Smith saw several pieces of wreck of a large vessel on this island, apparently very old and high up in the grass, probably the remains of the ship of the unfortunate de la Perouse..." De la Perouse's ships were later found to have been wrecked in the Solomon Islands, so if this was very old it could have been ... (my guess)... maybe Dutch, or even Spanish or Portuguese! Unfortunately it never was reported again and it is thought sealers may have used it for firewood.
Shipwrecks became frequent and included the Cambpell Macquarie; Caroline; Governor Arthur; Countess of Minto; Countess of Seafield (?); Lord Nelson; unidentified wreckage 1874; Bencleugh; Eagle (?); Gratitude; Jessie Niccol; and Clyde. Several more ships were lost at sea en-route, including the Endeavour which disappeared in 1914. Some, such as the Clyde, were small sealing ships which dragged their anchors, while others found themselves on a lee shore after sudden changes of wind.
That was it until December 1987, when the veteran Antarctic supply ship “Nella Dan” was discharging fuel oil at the station. Given the island’s history I cannot fathom why her main engine was off, but the wind changed, she dragged her anchor and was wrecked in front of the meteorological area before it could be started. About a week later a relief ship dragged her off, but she was considered beyond reasonable repair and was scuttled offshore, a sad loss to all who had travelled on her over the years.
Main photo: Remains of the Gratitude on the beach, 1968
Second photo: Nella Dan offshore, 1968
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.
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 spring (August to December).
Normally they won't attack people unless you wander too close, when you can expect a warning growl. Next they will begin to advance: provided you can run, you will outpace them, and they charge only for short distances. So, if you meet one of these on your travels, it's best simply to keep your distance, then you'll have no problems.