This week at Macquarie Island: 12 April 2019

Skies filled with auroras and persistent petrels

Predatory persistence of the Giant Petrel

On the weekend, Stella and I went walking in the extended station limits to visit the small King Penguin colony in Gadget Gully. Sitting on the opposite side of the gully from the birds, we were able to watch the drama unfold as the King Penguins and their chicks battled against the hungry forces of the Northern and Southern Giant Petrels.

On Macca there is an abundance of life, but with that comes an abundance of death as all the animals need to eat. The King Penguin chicks, wrapped in their brown woollen coats, are guarded in creches by the adult penguins. The chicks can’t yet go into the water because their coat only becomes waterproof once they grow their adult feathers. They must wait in creches on the land until their parents return, bringing them food.

These creches are a significant source of food for the many carnivorous birds inhabiting the island.

It is a daily battle of the penguins versus the flying carnivorous birds. Sometimes the chicks win, sometimes the Giant Petrels. 

Kate (Station Doctor) 

A Giant petrel attacks a fluffy brown King penguin chick creche
A King Penguin chick falls, the Giant Petrel is straight in to start pecking
(Photo: Kate Kloza)
a fluffy brown King penguin chick stands up and is surrounded by adult King penguins, while a Giant petrel waits
The chick manages to seek the protection of adult King Penguins
(Photo: Kate Kloza)
A King penguin scares off a Giant petrel from a creche of chicks
The chick is absorbed back into the protection of the creche, the Giant Petrel goes hungry for now.
(Photo: Kate Kloza)
a Giant petrel approaches a creche of brown fluffy King penguin chicks
The Giant Petrel returns, persistent in it’s pursuit to separate a chick from the creche.
(Photo: Kate Kloza)
Four Giant petrels attack a King penguin chick
Sometimes the chicks win, sometimes the Giant Petrels earn their lunch
(Photo: Kate Kloza)

Aurora magic

This week at Macca has seen the night skies light up with the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. This phenomena occurs when solar wind and particles erupt from the sun into space and interact with the earth’s magnetic field.

Being fairly new to the station, some of us scrambled to work out the right settings on new cameras. Others were more prepared, capturing these great shots (thanks Mark Baker and Kate!).

Whether we had a camera nearby, or not, most of us were content to absorb the spectacular light show above. We look forward to many aurora-filled nights and sharing the magic with you.

Kat (Station Leader)

a bright green aurora swirls over a cove of water at night
An aurora swirls over Garden Cove
(Photo: Mark Baker)
curtains of green light fall over a bay of water lighting up a peninsula
Curtains of aurora fall over The Nuggets
(Photo: Mark Baker)
a shadow of green light hangs over some wooden buildings lighting up the night sky
Our first aurora at Macca — run and get the camera!
(Photo: Kate Kloza)
a bright green flash of light hangs over a row of black fuel tanks
Aurora over the Macca fuel tanks
(Photo: Kate Kloza)