It’s all about arrivals this week — the Royals are back and L'Astrolabe has brought the first of our summerers, so winter is definitely over.

The royals – of the penguin variety – return to Macca!

Royal penguins have returned to Macquarie Island from their winter exodus. Helen (Doc) was first to spot the arrival of the royals: a lone penguin at Jessie Niccol colony on the 21st of September. Then Kim, Marcus and Chris spotted a few penguins at Flat Creek colony on the 23rd, and George found a few more penguins at the Bauer Bay colony by the end of September. In just a couple of days the royals flooded in, and within the next four days hundreds of penguins were present at Flat Creek and Bauer Bay.

The royal penguins are endemic to Macquarie Island — they occur nowhere else in the world! They are also the most abundant species on the island with over 800,000 penguins island wide!

Some of their colonies are massive, like the one at Hurd Point with an estimated greater than 150,000 breeding pairs! These numbers are pretty difficult to estimate. A few attempts have been made in the past (1984 and 2003) and this year we are going to attempt it again. An island-wide census of the population will allow us to gauge whether the size and distribution of the population is changing. Watch this space for an update later in the season.

We can’t wait to get out there and spend some time watching the penguins. First they will be courting and gathering rocks for their nests: sometimes they’ll steal from their neighbours. Then they’ll be on eggs and before long they’ll be feeding their fluffy chicks.

There is an observation platform at the Sandy Bay colony, on the way to Brother’s Point Hut, and we will often encounter them as they walk up the sandy creek that we cross on our way to Bauer Bay hut. The best viewing can be done from Hurd Point hut, with a royal penguin colony visible from the dinner room window! At Hurd Point the royals provide endless entertainment, even after dark you can hear them squabbling away. We will be in touch with some stories of royal penguin antics.

Marcus Salton

End of winter dinner

Big changes happening this week with the arrival of our first summerers, so last Saturday night was our end of winter dinner.

As ever, chef Rocket prepared a feast — this time with a seafood theme. Ranger in charge Chris presented awards for the first verifiable spottings of a seal pup, gentoo egg, gentoo chick and returning rockhopper penguins, which provoked some debate among contenders.

And as the food coma set in, Helen produced a puzzle that she quickly attached to your shirt button hole and you had to try and remove. Definitely flummoxed a few people!

Then, when it was dark enough for the disco lights to be seen, there was, of course, dancing…

A ship!

On Wednesday we had our first visit from the outside world in seven months with L'Astrolabe swinging by to drop off 13 summer expeditioners, critical project cargo and some much-awaited mail from home.

The island turned on a typical grey, drizzly, low cloud day although the seas and wind were favourable for operations and L'Astrolabe was on its way again two hours later, mission accomplished.

Strange to have new faces and contact from home after so long… including a very belated response to our midwinter invite from Prince Harry!

Photo points

The photo point series is back again this week and there is plenty of activity happening on the beaches with the elephant seals having passed the peak of the breeding season just over a week ago.  

At this time the beaches were at maximum density — from here, the harems will gradually decrease in density. A count of females along the western side (right hand side) of the Isthmus on the 15th of October recorded just over 1400 animals.  Assume for the moment that most female seals will have a pup, add in a few bull elephant seals – that’s a fair bit of activity on a beach in a fairly short period of time.  From a distance however, detail is hard to pick up, but once you zoom in closer to the beach check out the number of pups scattered amongst the harem. 

Many pups are now being weaned and starting to move away from the harems as females return to sea for a well earned break.  Bull elephants within the harems have ‘claimed’ for the moment the right to breed with receptive females, whilst close by all around the perimeter, contenders are potentially waiting their turn to challenge the resident Beachmaster. A quick check of out Clean Air lab photo point — a few male seals on the beach, a couple of weaners and the resident giant petrel population helping to keep clean up the beaches of the carcasses of animals that don’t survive!

Up on Wireless Hill, another good day for a stroll.  Pluerophyllum continues to surge in growth with the longer warmer days. Compare against the photos of six weeks ago.

Chris Howard


Davis Point hut is in an Special Management Area (SMA) on the east of the island and is a tiny piece of civilisation on a particularly stunning and remote piece of coastline between Davis and Sandell Bays. Used for science and ranger field activities and not as a recreational hut, it has over the years serviced various TasPWS and science programmes, the Cat Eradication Programme and MIPEP, and become a much enjoyed spot for those lucky enough to get there.

Louise Crossley — Davis Point Hut article

The hut was delivered by helicopter on 27 October 1993. Its main purpose was to provide a base for the monthly flotsam survey or “rubbish run” in Sandell Bay, which had been undertaken for several years from Green Gorge… To save money Rod Ledingham came up with the idea of converting a 5000 gallon fibreglass water tank.

Davis Point hut log 7/3/93 — Don Hudspeth and Al Wiltshire

Hope the hut serves you well and provides a comfortable haven in this fantastic wild place.

Davis Point hut log 31/12/94 — Ben, John and Cam

Last day of 1994 and what a spectacular day it was for the three of us here at Davis Pt. All working in the area, in the glorious sunshine and high temperatures. We couldn’t get over the fabulous weather. Happy New Year!

Davis Point hut log 30/02/96 — Rick Besso

God decided to open his lungs today, gee did it blow. The little bucket was moving all morning… Farewell from the Cat Cemetery.

Davis Point hut log 25/11/96 — Cath

What a magnificent bit of coast! Beautiful day — sunny with a nice westerly wind. What a great little hut — the only one on the island with a swimming pool in the back garden. And that wonderful smell of Giant Petrels all around. So peaceful. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Davis Point hut log 8/7/97 — Phil

Phil to Caroline Cove at 9:45am. Big haul from the flotsam survey (3kg). Included two pieces of fibreglass panel which may have come from a wrecked yacht? Taking one piece to VJM — the other big piece is in the cage pallet.

Whilst they seem to get most of the attention, science here on the island is not all plants and animals.

Davis Point hut log 02/10/97 — Bob & Garry

Had a fabulous week here and found the hut invaluable for geological fieldwork, being close to several vital sections. Would like to see the hut upgraded, rather than removed, if possible.

In 1999 the hut was turned to take the front door out of the direction of the prevailing winds, to the confusion of those that came after.

Davis Point hut log 3/4/99 –Andrew L

Turned hut today to take the door out of the weather. Whew — what a job! Hopefully this will be a prelude to construction of a cold porch.

Davis Point hut log 4/4/99 — Sue & Bob

Spent a confused ½ hour trying to get into the hut before finding new door location. Yahoo, what a great new look hut, a fantastic difference not to have the wind blasting in! Well done Andrew!

Davis Point hut log 05/01/00 — Karah and Nathan

Spent the morning discussing earthquakes, uplift rates, mysteries of geology. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to study something other than geology.

Davis Point hut log 20/5/00 — KA

KA in for some spotlighting Sandell Bay & RH Bay. First night in the water tank. I feel as though I’m in a caravan in an abandoned seaside park in the middle of winter.

The hut was subsequently upgraded to the newer version with increased living area, storage and an enclosed cold porch as part of MIPEP. The improved hut design could cater for up to three people at a squeeze, but provided an ideal living space for two hunters at a time.  Whilst all other huts associated with MIPEP have been removed, the potential value of a refuge hut on this remote coastal section was recognised, hence the decision was made to retain a hut in this location. 

The hut is ideally placed for researchers and rangers undertaking burrowing petrel research and vegetation monitoring between Sellick Bay and Rockhopper Point. However, the MIPEP era cold porch constructed of form ply with a roll up vinyl door was never intended to last beyond the rabbit eradication project. A ‘new’ cold porch based on exactly the same design and footprint as the MIPEP version constructed with more weather resistant materials is being scoped for installation for next season.

Louise Crossley — Davis Point Hut article

Perhaps because of its simplicity, Davis Point beings you closer to the untamed nature of Macca than any of the other huts. The shafting sunlight on a stormy sea, the surging kelp and sheeting spray on rocks, the song of the wind and the roar of the waves, the wheeling of petrels and the barking of seals.