Southern Ocean : part 4 - David Stowe | Australian Bird Photographer
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In case you missed it Part 1 is HERE

In case you missed it Part 2 is HERE

In case you also missed Part 3 it's HERE


Day 7 - 28/12/2015 : Macquarie Island


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Macca!

Woke up to see a rugged yet beautiful coastline lit up in the morning sun.

We had arrived.

Today is serious bucket list material. I have yearned for so long to visit Macquarie Island and to see King Penguins amongst other species. For years I have gone green viewing other people images of beaches bursting with penguins, and finally it's my turn!

And I haven't turned green yet!


Well almost my turn.

You know that impatient feeling you get when you finally get to to the front of the line and then they close the ride....


Well the first hurdle is that we can't land without an escort from Australian staff from Macquarie Island  it isn't even 6:30am....

and the ship is on New Zealand time...

which is is 2 hours earlier than Macquarie Island.

Bugger.


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so we wait patiently.


....seriously who am I kidding.

Just let me on the bloody island already!! the best light is already going!!


ooh Penguins!!!

Royal Penguins! TICK!


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More Penguins!!

King Penguin!!!

How awesome are they!

Seriously excited. At least we are getting some photography action while we wait.


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The landscape of the island is incredible from this vantage point.


Hillsides that look like a volcano and others so steep that it looks like you are shooting from above looking directly down.


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Finally we are underway!


Macca staff are onboard and we have to sail south to Sandy Bay.


So more waiting, breakfast, safety briefing, waiting....


Can you tell that the anticipation is absolutely killing me?

(I know right - I'm pretty hard to read so you might not have picked it)


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"oh Hi!

Welcome to Macquarie Island!

What took you so long ;) "


Even the Elephant Seals were laughing at us.

But I didn't care.


Because we were on land.


We were standing on Macquarie Island.


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We are allowed to go down the beach as far as the creek.


Its going to take me a while to get down there.

Its only 100metres but there are so many things to see and photograph on the way!


Landscape!

16-35mm.. actually 24-70 might do.. especially on the 5DS

No!

long lens!

500mm or 100-400 on the 1DX?

tight portraits!

Don't forget to get some GoPro footage!


Penguins or seals?

Make sure you don't miss the Royal Penguin Colony up the hill!


Aaaah!! 

too many options!!

My head is exploding!!!


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The joys of a creative brain is that I can't turn it off.

I also suffer terribly from "if only" anxiety and am desperately trying to make the most of this day and capture as much as I can as well as I can.


I'll save you any further insight into my tormented anguish and just let you look for a while.


Just look at the wonders we saw.


and how calm Henry is...


...breathe in, breathe out....


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Whilst there is so much beauty here

there is also the constant reminder of how hard life can be as the circle continues


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and it's not just the Brown Skuas and Giant Petrels,

there is aggression within species that at times seemed quite fierce


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so many birds

might be time to head up to the Royal Penguin rookery


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Wow!

More Penguins!


Royal Penguins don't breed anywhere else in the world besides Macca. So they really are pretty special.


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the noise and spectacle were incredible.

and not missed on the vigilant Brown Skuas who sat on the edge of the colony waiting for their opportunity for a meal.


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Before you knew it (well actually I had been constantly looking at my watch so I knew exactly what time it was), it was time to get back on the ship for lunch.

No doubt the crew had been bombarded on previous trips with people saying they would happily go hungry in order to stay on the island instead of going back for lunch (I know I was about to ask), as they had said very clearly at the morning briefing that the crew and Macca staff all needed a lunch break and you can't be there unattended, so don't ask if you can stay on the island.

Damn it.


So we all very reluctantly board the zodiacs and head for the ship.

This morning we had only been south of the landing zone deliberately working for the best light direction. The south end had a lot of moulting Kings as well as the Royal colony.

This afternoon we plan to head to the northern end of the beach where the King Penguin breeding colony is!


Just eat your lunch would you! I have places to be!


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Haven't been back on shore long on our way to the King rookery and already sidetracked by Royal Penguins frolicking in the rock pools.

They are also incredible to watch in the surging waves where the kelp is so thick they make you wonder if they are going to drown!

They certainly fight for airspace when they surface!

Captivating!

Henry, Edin and I all compete for the best shot of this behaviour and action...

and we all win. :)


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so many distractions


Northern Giant Petrels and Elephant Seals conspire against the ticking clock and I really need to get to the Kings!


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Finally.


Once again I take a deep breath and ponder on what this day means.

Once again I am speechless ...

... just in case I make that screechy 'trying not to cry' voice.


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King Penguin Pecking Line


The afternoon has flown by faster than the morning it seems.

The weather has been changeable as expected, although feeling incredibly blessed that we have been able to land.

I know that this isn't always possible due to the furious fifties weather against a tiny island, and I don't know how I would have coped in that instance!

Fun facts:

Macquarie Island, whilst not super cold (even in winter it only gets down to -9 degrees C), averages 315 days per year of precipitation and 278 days of strong winds; 90 of which are gale force!

Blessed indeed.


But now the crew call for final zodiac boarding.


and call.


... not sure the deafness card can be played again because they're kind of pushing us physically to get us to move.


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Today was an incredible, awesome, overwhelming, emotional day.

So many photos

So many birds

Such an incredible environment


Cliches like "best day ever" come to mind although as always there are flaws in such big calls.

Not least are conflicts with previous iterations of the "best day ever" such as getting married, the birth of my children etc.

All of course offset by the fact that they weren't here with me.

coupled with the stress and pressure of trying to capture it all in such a short amount of time.

So many options and yet so many limitations artistically - not least being my over stretched brain and feelings of inadequacy.


and yet as I sit here exhausted, with a beaming glow to my face,

it truly has been one of the best days of my life.


Numerous times today I have stopped and tried to take it in.

Each time I have had to fight back tears.


I am overcome.


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