Designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1933 and a World Heritage Site in 1977, Macquarie Island now operates a full time research station where biological and meterological research is conducted.
Sunrise: 0359, Sunset 2058
Around 0400 we passed through the Antarctic Convergence (which is a circular ocean zone where the cold Antarctic waters mix with the warmer oceans to the north) and the temp has now dropped considerably (water temp around 5 deg C).
We arrived at Macquarie Island just before breakfast. Macquarie Island is just 34 kms long and 5 kms wide and is part of Australia, and administered by Tasmania. It achieved World Heritage Listing in 1997 and there is an abundance of wildlife (birds, penguins, seals). It looks a bit like a lunar landscape - there are no trees - the landscape is shaped by water and wind. It was discovered in 1810 and was mainly used for sealing and whaling. From all accounts it was a wretched existence. In 1948 the first Australian research base (ANARE) was established on the Isthmus at the northern end of the island. It rains around 300 days per year.
In preparation for landing on Macquarie at the ANARE Research Base, we had an early start and were geared up and standing at the gate by 0715, when the trip was aborted due to bad weather. We picked up the rangers and cruised about one hour south to Sandy Bay where we were going to try another landing. Unfortunately the weather was not good enough for landing, but we did get a half hour zodiac cruise in. From the zodiac you could see thousands of penguins (King, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Royal). The big skua birds were quite brazen and were trying to get into the rabbit burrows to eat the rabbits. You could see the devastation caused by the rabbits (est at 100,000). An eradication program is scheduled for the winter of 2009 (not soon enough I'd say) and will entail dropping pellet baits from helicopters targeted at rabbits, rats and mice. They will also use trained dogs to find any rabbits not taken by the pellets.
We returned the rangers to the Research Base, and then turned 180 degrees and headed for Antarctica. At this stage, we may return to Macquarie on our way home to Hobart. Today was a good example of no guarantees. The weather can change at a moments notice and nothing is predictable.