Penguin oil factory fails to make 'impression on their numbers'

A panorama of the rapidly-growing residential locality of Island Bay, near Wellington, from the hillside. - Otago Witness, 3.9.1913.
A panorama of the rapidly-growing residential locality of Island Bay, near Wellington, from the hillside. - Otago Witness, 3.9.1913.
Our correspondent upon the recent expedition in the Tutanekai writes: ''When the Tutanekai's visitors were unceremoniously thrown out of the motor launch into the bitter surf at the Nuggets, Macquarie Island, we were landed within a hundred yards of the penguin oil factory - a wretched hut or two and digesters and boilers being the total plant.

''There were hundreds of casks of oil awaiting shipment, but the huts and their dank, mushy surroundings were unpeopled. The penguin season does not begin until October, when the royal penguins come in from the ocean and settle on the tussock-grown hills at the back by the million. The process by which the penguin oil is obtained may be briefly described. The penguins, which cluster thickly in rookeries (to which the survivors and descendants faithfully return each season) are rounded into wire netting pens, exactly as are sheep.

''Then the men get amongst them with stout waddies and kill them all. After the blood of the massacred cools they are thrown holus bolus into a large digester, of which there are four of various sizes - one holds about 1000 penguins, and the rest range between 750 and 550 bird capacity. The mass is then boiled by the injection of steam, and under the influence of the heat the birds gradually become disintegrated, the oil rises to the top, and the bones, beak, feet, etc. sink to the bottom. The oil is then run off, the residue cleared out, and another lot of penguins is ''digested''. There has been some criticism in high places of the slaughter of the penguins, but all the slaughter which has been done up to the present has failed to make any impression on their numbers.

''Both Mr Hatch, his men, and the wireless staff state the numbers are rather on the increase, and within the last two years a new rookery has been formed without in any way lessening the numbers which congregate at the old ones. It is the 'Royal' penguins that are killed for boiling down at the Macquaries. The 'king' penguins are confined to Lusitania Bay, away to the south of the island, but no killing has been done there by Mr Hatch's men for 15 years, though the old digester and boiler are still there.''

• In conversation with a Dominion representative Mr A. Sawyer, who has been in charge of the Mawson expedition's wireless station at Macquarie Island, [he] mentioned a curious thing in connection with the visit of vessels to that lonely spot.

''You cannot tell how upsetting it is after months of solitude to have a vessel call and to see strange faces. I've been through it and know. Those fellows won't be able to eat or sleep normally for a week after the Tutanekai leaves. It also takes away all desire to smoke - practically makes one sick for a few days.

''While you are there the men may seem to have been all right, but a reaction sets in as soon as the vessel leaves, and they would have a bad time for a day or two until they settle once again into their stride.''

Mr Sawyer said that although they were able to subsist on sea-elephants' meat, it was not the best of fare as far as the general health was concerned, and several of the Mawson party had been ''off colour'' at different times owing to their rough diet. - ODT, 6.9.1913.

- Copies of picture available from ODT front office, Lower Stuart St, or

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