We arrived at Macquarie Island in the early hours of the morning, and we had what I can only define as an exquisite expedition day. Every expedition has a level of uncertainty, which is what makes it a real expedition. The impeccable planning of the Expedition Leader and Captain on National Geographic Orion made it possible to land on Macquarie, a very exposed island right in the middle of the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica. It goes without saying that the Southern Ocean has one of the most difficult weather patterns in the world. Every trip involving this region is a true expedition.
Luckily for us, the weather in the Southern Ocean has its cycles. Taking advantage of a pocket of good weather, we landed on the northeastern side of the island, close to Macquarie Island Station. The island was everything we were hoping for and more. We strolled along the coastline and some of the hills, and we enjoyed observing and learning about the intricate area’s ecosystem, which is shaped by forces of nature.
Elephant seals and king penguins dominate the area, while giant petrels, skuas, and even the Macquarie cormorant flew above. Time flies when you are having fun. We returned to the ship for lunch and to reposition to our second landing location, Sandy Beach. This place was an absolute paradise from a naturalist’s point of view, and it was as busy as it gets when it comes to wildlife. We found king penguins and elephant seals all over the place, but the real treat for the afternoon was the presence of an endemic species of penguin found only on Macquarie Island, the royal penguin. The somehow “evil-ish” looking penguin has made this island its home. All 850,000 pairs are found on this island during breeding season, and they occupy the rookeries during summertime. Our afternoon was spent strolling and observing the wildlife, as well as enjoying the striking scenery!
Once on board, we had dinner and took a quick ship cruise over Lusitania Bay, which contains the largest king penguin colony of the island. About 100 thousand breeding pairs of king penguins were observed from the ship as we cruised and said goodbye to one of the most phenomenal places on the planet!