Sub-Antarctic Cruise – Macquarie Island

1st March, 2019.

The Southern Ocean is notoriously unpredictable and a front was moving in from the west so the Captain, in consultation with the Expedition Leader, decided to rearrange the itinerary to try to avoid the worst. Civilian access to both Macquarie Island and the NZ Sub-Antarctic Islands is strictly controlled so it was not just a matter of changing direction; permission had to be gained from both the Australian and New Zealand authorities. Having a NZ Department of Conservation observer aboard made the task somewhat easier though.

We were in for a very rough day. Deck furnishings were lashed down and it was a real feat simply staying upright when moving around the ship. The Captain did a terrific job in keeping the ship as smooth as possible.

2nd March, 2019.

Next morning we had our first look at Macquarie Island and thankfully the seas were relatively calm. Macquarie Island lies approximately halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica and has been a part of Tasmania since 1900 and a Tasmanian State Reserve since 1978. In 1997, Macquarie Island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a site of major geoconservation significance, being the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are being actively exposed above sea level. We anchored off the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) station located on the northern end of the island. One of the Expedition Team had lived and worked for 18 months at the station and was a wealth of information.

Once we had landed via the Zodiacs, the weather became a bit less pleasant as the mist rolled in.

The animals were in the middle of moult. Elephant seals.

A Royal Penguin looking a bit scruffy.

There were hundreds of

looking like they were in their Sunday bests.

Two bull elephant seals facing off.

Just as we were heading back to the Zodiacs, we were fortunate to see the release of one of the two daily weather balloons used to capture scientific data which is then sent around the world to various Meteorological organisations.

Back aboard ship the anchor was raised and we continued south along the coast.

3rd March, 2019

When we awoke the next morning, we were anchored in Sandy Bay and surrounded by hundreds of King Penguins ducking and diving around the ship.

The Blue Eye, an underwater observatory, is a feature of Le LaPerouse. Most of the time there is nothing to see but the diving King Penguins were entertaining.

Giant Petrel

The King Penguin Rookery with lots of fluffy baby penguins.

Still moulting.

We were so lucky to have visited on such a beautiful sunny day. Many of the expedition team who had been there several times told us they had never experienced such lovely weather there.

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