26th March

We left the Aurora at 8.00am by Zodiac, or IRB ( Inflatable Rubber Boat ) to go ashore, hooray! Getting into the Zodiacs is tricky when the weather's bad. You have to climb backwards down a rope ladder, then, when the boat rises on a swell, step down into it. As we zoomed towards the shore lots of King Penguins chased us, some torpedoing right out of the water. I think they chase the krill that the engine stirs up. Two mad cormorants swooped over us at the same time, so it felt pretty crazy. My friend Georgie took a group of us walking on the island today. We went up the hill beside the station first, very steep and freezingly windy, and saw a chunk of wood which is what's left from a radio tower mast that the explorer Mawson erected on his way to the south pole in 1911. Mawson did a stupendously heroic walk which killed some of his companions and got back to base to see his ship sailing out of the harbour. It didn't come back for a year. Years ago rabbits were introduced to the island and it's very sad to see the damage they have done. We walked up hillsides riddled with rabbit holes, and the vegetation chewed down to nothing. A wire-netting enclosure ( out of reach of the rabbits ) held lush, metre high plants, and that's what it used to look like. A big Kill-the-Rabbit program is about to start I think. It was beautiful sitting high on the hill in the long tussocky grass ( no snakes on Macquarie Island ) looking down at the fur seals lolling about on grey stony beaches fringed with skirts of kelp swirling in milky blue sea. The day was misty so the sea just faded into the sky without a horizon. After lunch we walked the other way and watched the elephant seals, outrageously disgusting animals. They do everything we tell our children not to; fart, belch, dribble, stink, fight. They are huge, slug shaped and can apparently move very fast, so you have to be careful not to get too close to them because they also have very big teeth. They love nothing better than to lie on each other in big piles of blubber, making noises like an old out-board motor, and occasionally rolling in a "wallow", a huge puddle full of every stinky thing they can put into it. It was funny to see some elegant flipper scratching and rubbing amongst the seas of blubber. We also watched Gentoo Penguins, very neat, keep-to-yourself, types, and King Penguins, who are very bold and curious. If you sit on the beach they come and investigate you, and you can see close up the beautiful combination of black, blue, orange and white that makes up their "look". I'll be seeing more of them tomorrow, so I'll tell you about it then.

Other items

21st February

Its about 5.00 pm on my first day at sea. We are 200 nautical miles south-west of Hobart in fairly calm seas. I’m still finding my sea legs but haven’t been sick. The anti-seasick tablets make me very sleepy and I had a delicious sleep last night, feeling snug and safe in my bunk as the ship crashed through the sea.

22nd February

Ít doesn’t really feel as though I’m on my way to Antarctica. It feels more like I am on a floating health farm, fabulous food, great gym, no stresses or worries. It has been foggy all day today with calm seas but even so I am very careful about going on deck. It’s such a big ocean that I can’t help imagining how terrible it would be to fall overboard. I watched shearwaters ( mutton birds ) flying around the ship yesterday.