Southern Elephant Seals – Macquarie Island – Antarctica 2018

Sailing south from The Auckland Islands we were heading to one of the jewels of the Subantarctic Islands: Macquarie Island.

Australia’s Macquarie Island is home to a wealth of wildlife which is now flourishing since the eradication of introduced species like rabbits, rats and mice. Our first attempt at landing was aborted as the winds reached 30kns. Our second attempt, the next day, was successful and we landed at Sandy Bay. To the north was a King Penguin rookery and to the south on a hillside was a Royal Penguin rookery. In the middle was a medley of penguins with the ever present Subantarctic Skuas patrolling the scene looking for an opportunity to take an unprotected chick. Subadult, male Southern Elephant Seals were strewn along the beach and in the surf.

It was raining heavily as we landed and the gusting wind caused the rain to whip around the camera, making filming very challenging. Eventually, the rain abated and the penguins and elephant seals performed for us.

Moulting sub-adult Southern Elephant Seals were littered along the beach. Despite the moult, they still had the energy to practice jousting which they will ultimately use in earnest to establish dominance over other males and hence establish their own hareem. The sounds of these animals amused us for hours and their strong and rather unpleasant smell was ever present. The penguins waddled by oblivious to the action.