A stunning visual treat this week from Macca, as we share amazing imagery of Macquarie Island’s west coast anemones, rock pool creatures, and auroras.

Macquarie Island’s west coast anemones and other rock pool creatures

Hidden under kelp fronds and other algae in rock pools, delicate and beautiful intertidal (high-water mark to low-water mark) marine species can be easily overlooked. Magnificent albatross, penguins and elephant seals are Macquarie Island’s more charismatic species that are usually in the limelight.

At first glance the rocky shores of Macquarie Island seem very rugged and bare but they are teeming with life. A recent visit to the west coast coincided with a rare calm day and a low tide. Strong winds and stormy seas are the norm on the west coast, so it was a good opportunity to look for creatures in the shallows.

The colourful pink and orange anemones are the easiest to spot. Pink coralline algae and sponges line many of the rock pools, along with orange tube worms. More mobile creatures include starfish, isopods and limpets, as well as large chitons that can be 10cm long.

The intertidal species are also an interesting link to Macquarie Island’s expeditioner history.

One of the first detailed studies of Macquarie Island’s intertidal species was conducted by Hope Macpherson Black and Isobel Bennett in 1959. They collected every intertidal species they could and took the samples back to the mainland for identification, such as these anemones at Museum Victora. Along with Susan Ingham and Mary Gillham they were the first female scientists to travel to Antarctica or the sub-Antarctic as part of an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE). They were trailblazers for women expeditioners at the Australian Antarctic Division. Hope passed away earlier this year.

By Andrea Turbett, Ranger In Charge 2017/18 

Further reading:

Isobel Bennett’s book Shores of Macquarie Island, published in 1971.

Mary Gillham’s book Sub-Antarctic Sanctuary — summertime on Macquarie Island, published in 1967.

Macquarie Island’s amazing auroras

A special treat this week, with Macquarie Island Station Communication Technical Officer Tom Luttrell sharing some of his amazing aurora photography.

An aurora, known as the ‘southern lights (aurora australis), is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions around the Arctic and Antarctic. Auroras are produced when the earth’s magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the solar wind, causing various atmospheric constituents to emit lights of varying color and complexity.

Tom captured these amazing images during his 18-month stay at Macca. If ever pictures tell a thousand words, this week is it…


It has been an average season for aurora hunting on Macquarie Island this past year. The declining solar maximum did produce a few bright events, some of which were not obscured by cloud — a constant problem here.

Nearly all the displays began with very energetic, bright — sometimes colourful to the naked eye – rapidly moving ‘curtains’ that weakened to fainter less mobile arcs and glows within 15 to 60 minutes. You had to be rugged up with cameras ready to catch the good stuff.

The accompanying photos show a few highlights from the year. Those photos with brighter skies were taken during a nearly full moon — another thing to contend with — that tends to wash out the contrast of the aurora but does light up the ground nicely. One aurora photo in particular that captured a fireball meteor gained quite a bit of media interest. I initially thought I had heard a sonic boom from the fireball exploding but later concluded it was probably just a particularly large wave crashing on the beach.

By Tom Luttrell