Featured writer: Suellen Carey-Clarke
Macquarie Island, in the Sub-Antarctic, was the main destination of this Orion Expedition Cruise. Macca, as the Expedition Team liked to call it, was amazing. We were fortunate enough to spend a full day there. The morning was spent touring the area around the research station and its environs, meeting the locals–predominantly gentoo penguins and elephant seals. After a quick lunch (on the ship) we had another wet landing, this time on Sandy Bay, where we were free to ‘mingle’ as we wished among the penguins, elephant seals, and assorted sea birds. What an opportunity! It was overcast at first, but by mid-morning the sun was starting to peek through.
The afternoon was glorious. I understand such weather only occurs about once every 487 years on Macca. Okay, I exaggerate. But there are only a few sunny days a year, and most of the Expedition Team had never experienced it there. One team member had been there eighteen times without seeing such good weather. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the thermals, waterproof pants, multi-layers of everything. Not that it was terribly cold once on land, but the ride on the Zodiacs to get to the island was decidedly chilly. Yessiree. And wet. Cold, it turns out, is a relative thing. I suppose I knew that, but it came into sharp relief in an environment that is always cold, and almost always windy and wet. Our ‘warm’ day was 8 or 9C (in the mid to upper 40s F), so nothing to complain about. And believe me, no one was complaining. We were just thrilled for the chance to visit such an amazing place; having the weather gods on our side was a bonus.
There was way too much to try to describe, so I’ve decided to let some pictures tell the tale. Starting briefly with our arrival on the island, then the penguins. The elephant seals were hilarious, but they’ll feature in another post. Soon.
Our first landing was near the research station, where we were met by members of our Expedition Team, all kitted out in hip waders and woolly hats, ready to get us to dry land (wet rocks, actually). The big swells made getting out of the Zodiacs very tricky. It’s all in the timing, they said. As if.
We started looking for the expeditioners who landed ahead of us, but didn’t get much help from the locals.
Or too busy, like this Gentoo penguin
This King penguin just didn’t give a ding-dong
In keeping with their beautiful and peaceful environment, they were generally a remarkably amiable bunch.
The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service built a boardwalk up to a vast rookery of royal penguins. The aim is to give people safe access, and prevent trampling the environment. The introduced rabbits have already made a mess of it, and a major eradication program has been undertaken, next they’ll try to recover the vegetation. No more than 60 visitors are allowed on the island at a time, and only about 600 a year.
The royal penguin rookery was … well, awesome. Far too vast to capture in one photo.
The chicks were adorable in their woolly coats. What a sight! And noise.
And you can lose yourself, as I did just looking at them. Everywhere we went there were penguins. Gentoos, Royals, Kings…and of course elephant seals. You have no idea how hard it is to take a photo of penguins without getting a pile of elephant seals in the shot! But they will get their turn next time. Stay tuned!
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