Over the last few days, we have been at Macquarie Island, deep in the Southern Ocean . On the island is an Antarctic research station and Australian weather station, Of all things, there is a Telstra mobile phone tower.
Because of Covid regulations, we were not allied to visit the base but we had plenty of interaction with the three Tasmanian National Parks Rangers who wear assigned to the island. Visiting arrangements were very strict. Because this voyage originated in New Zealand, we first had to get approval from Immigration officials in Canberra. Because we arrived at 7.30 am (Canberra time) it took some time to get our clearance.
There is a quota for visitors each year of 1,500 people on the island. Only sixty people are allowed on shore at any one time, so half our group did a Zodiac tour along the coast while the other were ashore. We had to go through a quarantine process before landing – getting our pockets vacuumed, any seeds removed fro velcro, hats and jackets was well as sterilising our boots in an anti-fungal liquid.
Yesterday, the weather was glorious with little wind and blue skies.. (Most unusual for this part of the world). Our first landing was at Sandy Bay on a beach full of lollingg elephants seals, King Penguins and Royal Penguins.
Most of the Elephant Seals were sleeping after their annual moult. It was easy to walk between them . Even though the rules were to stay five metres away, sometimes that impossible because of the density of the animals. They are very difficult to photograph as they lie still with just one eye open. It’s not until they lift their head or move slightly that you can get a photo worthy shot.
There was a small King Penguin colony further along the beach and these birds were very actively walking along the beach and going for a swim
Up, in a Valley was a Royal Penguin colony with about 12,500 breeding pairs. These are a crested variety of of penguin. We reached the colony on a board walk, passing nesting Skuas on the way
In the afternoon, we went for a second landing on the isthmus near the Antarctic Station. The wildlife was much the same except for a lot of Greater Gannets. These birds are scavengers and were very busy feasting on a dead fur seal.
The weather had changed overnight and today it’s cold and rainy. Only a few hardy people went out in Zodiacs to see a king penguin colony and some old industrial digesters that early ‘non conservationists’used to distill oil from the penguins. They killed thousands of birds before the practicer was outlawed.
I stayed on the ship as I have come down with a bad cold but I was able to get a long distance view from the outside deck. A half a minutes on the deck without protective clothing was more than I could stand. I did a RAT test to be sure, but it came out negative.
Today, we have begun a thirty hour voyage to the last stop on this tour – NZ’s Campbell Islands with its albatross and mega herb plants.