This week at Macquarie Island: 3 August 2018

Macca this week welcomes visitors, showcases the area around Bauer Bay and investigates a fishy rare find

To sleep perchance to dream

This week we have had two visitors drop in to have a nap on the beach before resuming their travels.

The first was an adult male Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) with a blue/green tag. He picked a spot up by the anchor on an old sea stack and was more interested in drying off and sleeping that in the paparazzi that arrived to try and get a good shot. Breeding fur seals were tagged here in the past so this could be a return journey to a favourite haunt for this seal.

The day after the fur seal departed the largest New Zealand or Hooker’s sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), we have seen so far this year arrived out of the west coast surf. The sea lion made himself comfortable on the sand and apart from the occasional lunge at a group of Gentoo penguins that were obviously getting too close, did nothing but dream the day away. He looked in excellent condition for the upcoming breeding season and was probably making the most of the calm before the storm back on Auckland Islands or Campbell Island where they breed.

Antarctic fur seal on Macquarie Island this week
Fur seal making his way over the isthmus
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
An Antarctic fur seal on an old sea stack near Macquarie Island station this week
Taking up residence on an old sea stack near station
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A fur seal resting on a rock that originated as a pillow lava extruded onto the ocean floor
Fur seal resting on a rock that formed as a pillow lava
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A large Hooker's sealion on the sand near Macquarie Island station this week
A very well fed snoozing sea-lion on the isthmus
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A sleeping sealion on the beach near Macquarie Island Station this week
Gentoo penguins give 'Fluffy' a wide berth
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A head shot of the sea lion asleep on the beach near Macca Station
Fast asleep until the music stops...
(Photo: Ali Dean)

Still a reluctant enthusiast

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.”

These words, from American environmentalist and author Edward Abbey, greet expeditioners as they cross the hearth and enter the hut at Bauer Bay on Macca’s rugged west coast. They remind us to get out there and enjoy this magnificent land around us.

I posted a similar article to this back in 2015 when I first came to Macca as a Comms Tech. Now here again, this time as the Field Training and Supply Officer, and the island itself really is my office – it is wonderful place to go to work on a daily basis!

The photos I’ve selected here showcase the Bauer Bay area, the first few were taken back during field training in April and May; the boating trip happened when we got some opportune weather in June; and the last few are from July taken while I’ve been out assessing some of the access points on the escarpment in the area lovingly(?) referred to as 'Jump Ups' or 'Jump Downs', depending which direction you are walking at the time. Now I say “lovingly(?)” as these can often be 200-300m high on ground of varying steepness, but that’s the joy of living and working on an island with amazing coastal flats and a high plateau area – at some point you need to move between the two.

To finish, I’ll leave you with another of my favourites from Edward Abbey.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” 

…but not too dangerous, I don’t want to launch a SAR (Search and Rescue) to come save you. 

Richard Youd

Shameless selfie in the Labyrinth - part of Mawson Point just south of Bauer Bay on the west coast of Macquarie Island
Shameless selfie in the Labyrinth - part of Mawson Point just south…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Flat Creek Waterfall south of Bauer Bay - a common sight to most during field training
Flat Creek Waterfall south of Bauer Bay on Macquarie Island
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Station Leader Ali Dean hiking up out of Bauer Bay during Field Training on Macquarie Island
Our intrepid Station Leader hiking up out of Bauer Bay during Field…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Inflatable Rubber Boats IRBs hauled up on the beach at Bauer Bay as we resupply the hut with food, gas and medical supplies
Inflatable Rubber Boats IRBs hauled up on the beach at Bauer Bay…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Standing atop the Langdon Ridge Jump Down north of Bauer Bay on Macquarie Island
Standing atop the Langdon Ridge Jump Down north of Bauer Bay
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Looking out over the northern side of Mawson Point just south of Bauer Bay on Macquarie Island
Looking out over the northern side of Mawson Point just south of…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Staring up 260 metres to the top of the Aurora Cave Jump Up south from Bauer Bay on Macquarie Island
Staring up 260 metres to the top of the Aurora Cave Jump…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Looking out over Three Rocks to Aurora Point from the escarpment further south again from Bauer Bay on Macquarie Island
Looking out over Three Rocks to Aurora Point from the escarpment further…
(Photo: Richard Youd)

Small Fry

You couldn’t call this a mass stranding, as has occurred on Macquarie Island previously (Selkirk et al, 1990), but recently on a trip to Green Gorge a number of small fish were noticed washed up on the beach in front of the hut.

These small (dead) fish were quickly being scavenged by the feathered residents of the area. A couple were taken to examine and photograph before being returned to the shore to provide a tasty breakfast for the ever-hungry giant petrels and kelp gulls.

On returning to station the photographs were examined and the fish identified as Lanternfish (from the family Myctophidae) possibly Electrona antarctica which is known to inhabit (deep) Sub-Antarctic waters.

These small fish live 4 to 5 years, eat krill and copepods and are an important source of food for the seals and seabirds that live on and around Macquarie Island.

Usually deep water Electrona antarctica found washed up on the shore at Green Gorge recently
Usually deep water Electrona antarctica found washed up on the shore at…
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
Identification sketch of Lanternfish Electrona antarctica
Identification sketch of Lanternfish Electrona antarctica
(Photo: Wikipedia - public domain picture)