As well as science, a feature of the Macquarie Island summer season is the arrival of tourist ships. This week, Ranger In Charge Andrea Turbett gives an overview of this important summer activity.

Tourist ships at Macquarie Island

Over the summer months we are expecting eight tourist ship visits to Macquarie Island. Tourists come here to experience the wildlife and appreciate the World Heritage listed island that we have the privilege of living and working on.

The island is usually part of voyages going to the New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands and the Ross Sea (Antarctica). The ship-based educational tourism visits are carefully managed by the rangers and there are limits on the number of visitors per season, the number of visitors ashore at any one time and the places visited.

The Spirit of Enderby visited recently on a rare Macquarie Island day of sunshine, blue sky and very calm seas. Sandy Bay was the first stop where the visitors were enthralled by the many elephant seal weaners, thousands of penguins, and the recently hatched royal penguin chicks. It was also great timing to see the mega-herb Pleurophyllum hookeri in flower during a masting year (the mass flowering event that happens every two to four years).

A visit to the station followed in the afternoon, with the visitors enjoying tours, scones and a cup of tea (traditional station hospitality), as well as a chance to meet the other expeditioners who live here. Station highlights were watching the gentoo chicks chase their parents demanding to be fed, viewing historic artefacts and spotting orcas from the ship.

By Andrea Turbett, Ranger In Charge 2017/18.