Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Day 6: Macquarie Island

Ewen catches up with some old friends
Mercifully, the seas abated to allow us a relatively calm landing at the Australian base on North Head to collect our guides and head to our landing point at Sandy Bay.

Ashore we were met by hordes of Royal and King penguins and belching, snorting masses of elephant seals. The older animals formed scrums of ill-mannered disorder; pushing, biting, roaring at each other. Recipient beasts seemed remarkably compliant despite the barrage and shuffled their considerable bulk to accommodate the aggressor.

Around the periphery, younger “weenies” flopped on the sand, often upside down, basking in the meagre sunlight. Their doe eyes opened briefly to inspect us as we wandered past, often acknowledging us with a short snotty snort. Unlike the feisty fur seals of the Auckland Islands, the elephant seals seemed content to tolerate us and some of the group joined the little basking pups spread out on the grey sand.

Inquisitive penguins escorted us around,sometimes coming close to peck at a shoe lace or bag strap. The delightful animals seemed equally amused at our antics as we theirs. The Royal penguin rookery is about the size of three football fields, jam-packed with nesting birds, all placed about pecking distance from the next. And the smell is something one never forgets.