This week at Macquarie Island: 4 October 2019

Time to call the carpenter at Macca

Elephant seal bull vs carpenter

It’s October and Macquarie Island is overflowing with elephant seals. A daily walk on either side of the Isthmus is all about the births, deaths and baby barks of elephant seal pups. We marvel at how the furry black pups may one day grow into the giant beach masters currently fighting for turf.

Our weekly census counts have commenced, with more than 200 cows and pups on the east coast and more than 500 on the west coast. These figures will grow each day and we’ll keep you posted on how the numbers stack up.

And then there are the bulls. We don’t count them in the census but as the breeding period ramps up, we see the competition for the harems increasing. We witness the constant pushing and shoving and at times, blood drenched fighting between bulls and beach masters.

During the breeding season the bulls will not leave their territory to find food. Instead, they stay on the island relying on blubber reserves, and use their size and weight to wrestle for territory.

When an elephant seal bull, possibly weighing up to three tonnes, lumbers around the station to avoid a competitor, the fences and gates at Macca really don’t stand a chance. 

Until next time,

Kat, Station Leader 


A dark brown, furry, newborn elephant seal pup lays on the sand
How can something so cute grow to weigh three tonnes?
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
A newborn elephant seal pup lays on its back with its pink mouth open and a fin across its mouth
Practising a baby bark
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
Two male elephant seal bulls push one another along the beach with their mouths open
A battle for territory
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
An elephant seal male has a bloodied mouth after battling another male for territory
Post battle: the face of defeat
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
An elephant seal bull leans high against a wooden fence
Can’t go over it
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
An elephant seal bull leans over a fence
Can’t go under it
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
An elephant seal bull crashes through a fence
I'll have to go through it
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
An elephant seal clears away from a fence is has just lumbered through
Now look what you've done (note competitor head poking up behind fence)
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
the remnants of a fence lays behind an elephant seal which has just lumbered through it
Time to call the carpenter
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)