During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when blubber oil fuelled house lamps, the king penguin population at Macquarie Island was reduced from two very large (perhaps hundreds of thousands of birds) colonies to about 3000 birds. One colony, located on the isthmus when the island was discovered in 1810, was extinct by 1894 and it took about 100 years for king penguins to re-establish a viable breeding population there. Here we document this recovery. The first eggs laid at Gadget Gully on the isthmus were recorded in late February 1995 but in subsequent years egg laying took place earlier between November and February (this temporal discontinuity is a consequence of king penguin breeding behaviour). The first chick was hatched in April 1995 but the first fledging was not raised until the following breeding season in October 1996. The colony increased on average 66% per annum in the five years between 1995 and 2000. King penguins appear resilient to catastrophic population reductions, and as the island's population increases, it is likely that other previously abandoned breeding sites will be reoccupied.