main, staysail and small jib topsail out on the pole.
We spent the last two days anchored off the research station at
Subantarctic Macquarie Island, where we were the first yacht to visit in
more than three years. Soon after we dropped anchor we were invited to
dinner and met on shore by Louise, leader of the 40-person staff of the
Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.
It turned out that Louise and several other station members were keen
sailors and enjoyed seeing Alaska Eagle sail past in gusty conditions
before we dropped anchor.
Dinner at the station's comfortable dining hut was full of good food and
conversation. We enjoyed learning about the interesting research being
conducted on the island's flora, fauna, and geology. It was great to meet
40 scientists and graduate students who couldn't be happier with their
self-imposed exile at one of the world's remotest islands. We discovered
that Macquarie, now a World Heritage site, is an exceptional island.
A lone sentinel in the Southern Ocean, Macquarie lies 900 miles south of
Tasmania in the path of the West Drift, on the edge of the Antarctic
Convergence Zone. Eighteen miles long by three miles wide, the island
runs north and south, presenting a slender barrier against the westerly
storms that march relentlessly around the world. The only other places
that share the same latitude are Cape Horn and South Georgia Island. The
weather is wet, windy, and cold year-round, with a mean temperature of 40
degrees. Rain falls about 25 days a month and strong winds are recorded
22 days a month.
The Macquarie Nature Reserve is home to millions of King, Royal, Gentoo
and Rockhopper penguins. Thousands of huge sea elephants and fur seals
also inhabit the island's narrow rocky beaches and tussock grasslands.
Along with 68 other species of birds, the endangered Wandering Albatross
nests along the island's steep coastal slopes.
The morning following our dinner ashore provided unusual weather: light
winds and sunshine. It was good hiking weather, and Alaska Eagle rode
easily in the exposed anchorage at Buckles Bay.