Royalty, wanderers, sunsets and the good life in a hut.


The Macquarie Island endemic penguin (only occurs on Macquarie Island) is the royal penguin. The total population is believed to be around 2 million. Each summer they return to the island to breed, climbing from the breaches up to rookeries, where they pair up (usually for life) lay eggs, hatch out chicks and then raise the chicks till they are ready to go to sea.

One of the great experiences in spending the summer on the island is to watch the wildlife go through their breeding cycles.  A few weeks ago the royal penguin colonies started to leave their rookeries and head out to sea — they needed to head off shore to feed up in preparation for a return to land to moult. The rookeries have been full again over the last few weeks as they moult and then emerge in a bright new coat of feathers.  In the next few weeks the royal penguins will head out to sea for the winter, and they won’t be seen again till next summer.

Hut life

This year eighteen of our expeditioners spend most of their time working out in the field, living in huts that are scattered around the island. They can be out for up to 26 days at a time. Food is very important in their lives, as they are working outside in rain, wind and temperatures of between 4°C to 8°C. Fresh bread is a luxury and some have developed an expertise that is the envy of others. Tom has made some spectacular loaves — there is a real skill in getting a good rise and preventing burning in the small gas fired ovens of the field huts.

Wandering albatross

Over the last couple of weeks, all six of our Wandering albatross eggs have hatched. Their diligent parents have been taking turns incubating the eggs since they were laid in late December and are now busy going back and forth to sea. The parents take it in turns to go to sea as these small, grapefruit-sized chicks have to be protected at all times and fed small amounts of regurgitate frequently, much like babies of any species.

Gorgeous sunset from the bottom of Australia

Macquarie is the most southerly part of Australia, and when staying at Hurd Point hut, at the very south end of the island, you can see some amazing sites — a hundred thousand penguins, elephant seals, albatross, giant petrels, whales and seals, as well as some spectacular storms, huge waves and beautiful sunsets.