This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 11 October 2013

Once in a lifetime

While boating down the east coast of Macquarie Island on a mirror calm day, an orca breached and the call went out to slow and idle ahead. After five to ten minutes there was no sign of the orca. Our encounter was only brief and typical.

However, Tony stood up in the boat and said 'look' and managed to rattle off ten shots before I could understand what he was looking at. Our orca surfaced behind us but to the shore side. As the magnificent specimen cruised past I could see Tony had almost filled a terabyte with shots, so I gingerly placed my waterproof movie camera under the surface and pointed in the general direction of the orca cruising past in the vain hope it might be clear enough to capture him underwater. Our encounter was brief and he disappeared after several breaches patrolling for food. We continued on and arrived back on base a couple of hours later.

That night I was keen to see if the camera had captured any footage. To my astonishment the water was crystal clear and I had captured the orca cruising effortlessly along the coast. If only I had kept it underwater for longer to capture more footage.

See below some snapshots from the video taken on that day.

Greg Bird

Underwater picture of an orca heading towards the surface - taken off a video
Underwater picture of an orca - taken off a video
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Underwater picture of an orca that was slowly cruising north parallel to the coast- taken off a video
Underwater picture of an orca that was slowly cruising north parallel to…
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Underwater picture of an orca that was slowly cruising north parallel to the coast- taken off  video footage
Underwater picture of an orca that was slowly cruising north parallel to…
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Underwater image of the orca as it slowly pulls away - taken off a video
Underwater image of the orca as it slowly pulls away - taken…
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Image of the same orca as it surfaces with the front top half of the whale and its large dorsal fin above the water - taken from one of the other boats
Image of the same orca as it surfaces - taken from one…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Image of the orca's back and dorsal fin as it is about to descend below the surface - taken from one of the other boats
Image of the orca as it is about to descend below the…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Maccavision

I’d been told that the Hurd Point 'channel' was a definite rival to the Green Gorge 'channel', so it was time I compared the two for myself.

Josh and I set off, stopping first at Green Gorge for the night and then on to Hurd. The walk was good for the legs, and the high winds at appropriately named Windy Ridge made the first glimpse of Hurd Point Hut a welcome sight.

The amount of wildlife around the hut was something you had to see to believe. There were numerous elephant seals along the beach, king, gentoo and royal penguins nesting on every available patch of dirt, and skuas and petrels making the most of the abundant food supply.

Settling in for the next two days, 'reception' on the Hurd Point TV was fixed with a quick wipe and the kettle put on. The next two days passed with hours spent watching the Hurd Point channel, interjected with regular hot drinks and numerous wanders along the coast. The weather gods were kind to us as both days had plenty of sunshine, a rare commodity on Macca, and a few snow showers.

All good things must come to an end, so we bid farewell to Hurd Point and headed north again. Detouring to Lusitania Bay to see the king penguin colony was well worth it as the track was enjoyable and the colony was very impressive.

Stopping the night at Green Gorge provided the opportunity to compare the Hurd Point channel to the Green Gorge channel. Personally I believe Hurd Point wins. Green Gorge is very scenic but the view is limited, whereas Hurd Point is larger and more elevated allowing a much wider view.

With a hop, skip and a jump (well actually, 5 hours hiking) Josh and I returned to station, already thinking of the next journey back down island. 

Aaron Tyndall

Green Gorge channel - Looking through a hut window onto the beach at green gorge with a light cover of snow and an ele seal harem on the waterís edge
Green Gorge Channel
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Hurd Point Channel - Looking through a hut window onto the coast of Hurd Point with an Ele seal harem on the waters edge, some surf and clouds in the background
Hurd Point Channel
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Hurd Point hut coastline - Royal penguins on the sloping coastline with Ele seals along the water edge and the escarpment and clouds in the background
Hurd Point hut coastline
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
King penguins at Hurd Point - Two king penguins in front of an Ele seal harem with surf and rock stacks in the background
King penguins at Hurd Point
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Lusitania Bay - Thousands of king penguins and chicks surround digesters on the beach with calm water in the background
Lusitania Bay
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
North Head - Taken for a high vantage point - the Overland Track in the foreground leading to North Head and station in itís entirety with clouds in the background
North Head
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)

Macca gallery

This week the Macca gallery has images of the increasing number of elephant seals and other wildlife. It also shows some of the interesting weather we have around here.

Moulting king - shows the top half of a king penguin which is moulting. It has a 'collar' of white fluffy feathers around its neck
Moulting king
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Cumulonimbus cloud off Hasselborough Bay, with a elephant seal harem on the beach in the foreground
Cumulonimbus cloud off Hasselborough Bay
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Another cumulonimbus cloud off the east coast and again in the foreground there is a small elephant seal harem consisting of one large male and a dozen females, some with pups
Another cumulonimbus cloud off the east coast
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Lowering landing gear - white feathered giant petrel in flight has his feet lowered as though he is coming in for a landing
Lowering landing gear
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
A view north of a elephant seal harem on the west coast (known as Razorback West harem) - it contains several hundred females and a couple of hundred pups. North Head is in the background.
A view north of a elephant seal harem on the west coast…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The same harem (Razorback West) as in the previous photo, this time seen from the lookout on top of Razorback Ridge. The several hundred seal lie on the narrow beach between the tussock and the ocean.
The same harem (Razorback West) as in the previous photo, this time…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.