Macquarie Island (34 km long x 5 km wide) is an oceanic island in the Southern Ocean, lying 1,500 km south-east of Tasmania and approximately halfway between Australia and the Antarctic continent. The island is the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate.
It is a site of major geoconservation significance, being the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle (6 km below the ocean floor) are being actively exposed above sea-level. These unique exposures include excellent examples of pillow basalts and other extrusive rocks.
Macquarie Island – How to get there
It may be possible to land on Macca by helicopter if your ship has a helicopter. Otherwise the only transportation to the island is by sea.
Macquarie Island – How to Visit
There are several walking tracks around the island. To limit environmental degradation some raised boardwalks have been introduced. Visitors are escorted by a Tasmanian park ranger. Zodiac inflatable boats are used to put visitors ashore at accessible locations for excursions. All landings are monitored by the Tasmanian park rangers. Vehicles are not used on the island.
What to see in Macquarie Island
A number of seal species are present including the Southern Elephant seal and the New Zealand Fur seal. Most of the bird life is represented on the island by four species of penguin: king, royal, gentoo and rockhopper penguins. Other birds include petrels, skua, albatross and ducks. Introduced animals, such as feral cats, rabbits, mice and rats have contributed to the decline of native animals however eradication and control measures have been implemented that have gradually reduced the number of feral animals.
The large penguin rookeries are an incredible sight. The king penguins congregate in their hundreds of thousands on the beaches, standing shoulder to shoulder only reluctantly moving to make way for the huge elephant seals sliding and jerking in their impressive way to and from the sea. Just in land from the beach the royal penguins roost in congregations that can almost overload the senses with an unforgetable smell and noise. Skuas, predatory birds, opportunistically try and pick off the chicks and weak. Other skuas and petrels can be found picking and tearing at the carcasses of dead seals.
The huge elephant seals, some weighing in at 1000kg or more, wallow together on the beach in their dozens. Male juveniles will play fight, that is, they will rear back on their tails and then crash together in what is more of a head slap than a head butt. This is all in preparation for when they are adults and will have to fight each other for right to mate with a harem of females. Adult males have an average weight of 2000kg and can weigh up to 4000kg. They can also be up to 4 metres in length.
What and where to eat in Macquarie Island
The research station’s mess building will occasionally provide snacks to visitors like muffins, sandwiches, friands, pizza, tea and coffee.
Where to sleep in Macquarie Island – from budget to best lodging
It is unlikely you would be able to stay on the island during a visit as you would be expected to sleep on the vessel you arrived on. Most visits last 1 to 2 days.