Excavation of Tryworks,
Macquarie Island was first discovered in July 1810 by Captain Hasselburgh of the Perseverance while searching for fur seals in waters south of New Zealand. On 18 July eight men were landed with nine months supplies before the Perseverance returned to Sydney for further men and equipment. Despite attempts to keep the location a secret, by December 1810 another three Sydney based sealing gangs had been landed on the island. In the first 18 months of operations around 120,000 fur seals were killed. By 1815 the population of an estimated 250,000 animals had dramatically declined, with only 5,000 skins being taken during the entire season.
At least one of the earliest gangs on the island had also turned to the exploitation of elephant seals for their oil. Permanent try works for the production of oil were certainly established by 1813 when a gang from the Mary and Sally was landed at the Isthmus to put the existing works in order. Within a decade sealing operations at Macquarie Island had turned exclusively to the exploitation of elephant seals. Huts and try works were located at the Isthmus, Sandy Bay, Lusitania Bay, Caroline Cove and Hurd Point.
Russian explorer Thaddeus Bellingshausen visited Macquarie Island in 1820 and reported that a total of 40 men were working on the island. He also left an interesting description of the sealers hut at Sandy Bay which was:
20 feet long by 10 feet broad, inside it was lined with skins of seals, the outside was covered with a kind of grass which grows on the island. At one end was a small hearth, and a lamp was always kept alight. ... Beside the hearth was a bedstead. Provisions were stored at the other end of the hut. Inside it was so black and dark from the smoke that the smouldering light from the lamp and from the holes in the wall over which bladders were stretched, scarcely lit the interior of the hut, and until we got accustomed to the light the sealers had to lead us by the hand.