A trip to Aurora cave

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This week at Macquarie Island: 6 June 2014

Bureau of Meteorology staff Evelyn and Sean recently used several off-roster days to walk down island to visit a local landmark, Aurora cave.

Aurora cave is one of several caves on the west coast of the island known to have been used during the 19th century as a temporary accommodation for sealers and quite possibly as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors in the 19th and maybe even earlier centuries. Most of the known shipwrecks occurred on the western weather coast, and there is historical evidence of at least one wreck probably dated from the 18th century nearby. There is good archeological evidence of human occupation of the cave, and it is also where the best skeletons of the now extinct Macquarie Island rail and other past creatures were found in the 1960’s.

Aurora cave is located several hours walk south of our west coastal Bauer Bay hut, and is accessed by crossing a section of the amazing west coast ‘feather bed’ coastal peat bog/swamp. This is a vast moss and peat bed which stretches for much of the west coast up to a kilometer or so inland from the coast, and is soft, squishy, and very wet underfoot. When walking on it, if you are lucky, your boot stays on top of the surface, and you feel the ripples of the ‘quaking bog’ underfoot as it depresses and supports the weight on the wet substrate. If not, your boot sinks through up to calf … knee … thigh … and you crawl out on all fours. Fortunately you don't go any further down though! This is where Macca really earns its title of ‘the big green sponge’. Fortunately also, the track to the cave is nearly all along the rocky coastline!

The impressive sea cave is located within a relict coastal sea stack or ‘rock stack’ which has risen out of the sea as the island has steadily risen over the last 800,000 years.

Thanks Evelyn and Sean for the great pictures!

A map showing route on Macca
Evelyn and Sean's route to Aurora cave
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
View across flat grassy landscape
A view across the coastal featherbed
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Landscape view of expeditioner looking along coast
Sean on the west coast
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Looking across featherbed and coastal rockstacks to escarpment
Looking across featherbed and coastal rockstacks to escarpment
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Expeditioner walking on featherbed country
Sean on the featherbed
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
Giant petrel in flight
Giant petrel in flight
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Giant petrel in tussock grass
Giant petrel in tussock grass
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Three elephant seals in a huddle
Elephant seals embracing
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
The Aurora cave rock stack
The Aurora cave rock stack
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
Entering Aurora cave
Entering Aurora cave
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
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This page was last modified on 6 June 2014.