I scarcely know where to begin, but my head is so full of penguins and elephant seals I think I’ll disgorge that lot before I try to organize the rest of it. So I’ll start near the end, at Macquarie Island, which 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–predominently 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 amongst 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 days a year like it, 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 9 degrees C (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.
And a wet landing it was!
The weather was pleasant enough, but the swells were pretty impressive. Especially when you’re in a Zodiac.
We start looking for the expeditioners who landed ahead of us, but don’t get much help from the locals.
Some were more interested in helping than others.
Some were too tired…
or too busy,
or just didn’t give a ding dong.
Of course there were those who had other things on their minds, like these Royal Penguins.
And one poor fellow already had the burdens of the world on his shoulders.
In one area there was a lot of bustling about, like a crowd heading for a sporting event.
It was a mixed crowd, with smaller gentoo penguins mingling with king penguins (They’re the ones with the orange throats).
In keeping with their beautiful and peaceful environment, they were generally a remarkably amiable bunch.
Yes, life is good. Especially on Sandy Bay.
You can see a bit of the boardwalk that the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service built to go up to view 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 is due to start soon. Then 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.
You could lose someone quite easily in that mob!
And you could 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! MM