Bathurst Harbour and Maatsuyker Island

Seals near the Needles

Down at sea level we were being entertained by the inquisitive seals. Never really afraid of humans, these playful animals seemed to enjoy our company by following us wherever we went. 150 years ago this trust and curiosity had been their undoing as thousands of seals were slaughtered by people from many nations. Ships came to these waters from Europe and North America.

Seals on the Needles

Fortunately today protection has meant a steady rise in the seal population which now number over 400 on this group of islands. We passed to and fro between the rocks. Each time more seals joined the pack that tailed us.

Seals following the kayaks

When approached from infront they would surge out of the water to have a good look, then submerge and shoot under our boats and pop up behind us. It was frustrating trying to video their antics as they would submerge before we could get close. Grant had a good idea. He paddled backwards and the seals dutifully went behind us, to the front of the kayak were I took video of them.

Seals underwater

While resting I experimented by putting the video lens under the water. Curious seals slowly rose from deep beneath us, blowing streams of silvery bubbles or hanging upside down in order to get a better view of these new friends.

Bull seal guarding the jetty, Maatsuyker Is.

After exhausting our film and video tape we headed back to the landing stage on the northern side of the island. Actually the wharf had been swept away by storms since this photo was taken on our first visit. It was guarded then by a huge bull fur seal. There is no easy landing spot, you have to carefully pick your moment and quickly pull kayaks up from the rocky shoreline.

Grant climbing up Maatsuyker Is.

A late lunch was consumed while the lighthouse keeper came down and offered to bring the 4WD vehicle to the top of the steep climb. With dry clothes and sleeing gear, we made a leisurely climb up the slopes, getting a magnificent view of the south coast and neighbouring islands.

Grant and Laurie in the Suzuki

Chris Richter, the last of the Maatsuyker lighthouse keepers arrived with the Suxuki 4WD to take us across to the keepers houses on the southern side of the island. The old haulage way and track isn't used much now as all supplies come by helicopter.

Maatsuyker Island lighthouse

Chris showed us around the old lighthouse. This was still working when we first visited in 1985/86. It had been replaced by an automated, smaller, solar powered light further up the hill. Part of the problem is that most ships these days carry sophisticated electronic navigation equipment which allows them to plot their position accurately even in bad weather. Unfortunately this equipment can't physically rescue you.

Grant and Chris Richter

We walked out onto the small landing that surrounds the old light. It was an incredible day to be out here. Australia Day 1997 and we could view the whole expanse of the southern coast, right out to South West Cape where we hoped to be in a few days.

Chris Richter, last of the Maatsuyker Is. keepers

One of the few regular tasks for Chris was to record and send weather information from this lonely outpost. He was busy training up volunteers who would be taking over from him in a few weeks. Chris was then going to retire to his farm in Victoria.

Sunset, Maatsuyker lighthouse

On our earlier trip we had visited the lighthouse a number of times just before sunset. We braced ourselves into the strong southerly and watched the sun appear momentarily from behind the storm clouds before sinking majestically below the waves.

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