Many expeditioners at Macquarie Island travel into the field for work or recreational purposes. Most travel is by foot although inflatable rubber boats (IRBs) may be used if the weather permits. No vehicles are used in the field.
The size, construction and local environment vary from hut to hut, giving each its own unique character. They do, however, have two things in common: they are warm and dry and are a very welcome sight for a weary traveller.
When in the field overnight accommodation is normally in one of the seven field huts situated around the island.
Huts that offer refuge on the east coast are:
- Brothers Point
- Green Gorge
- Waterfall Bay
- Hurd Point
The hut along the west coast is Bauer Bay.
Over the years the huts have supported scientific programs ranging from auroral physics and albatross research at Hurd Point to penguin studies at Brothers Point. The huts are a 'home away from home' for rangers of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service in their quest to monitor the islands wildlife and control the feral rabbits, which damage vegetation and terrain. The huts are also popular retreats for anyone wishing to get 'off station' for a few days.
The fact that walking is the main means of field transport limits the amount of equipment that can be transported to the huts by expeditioners travelling from the station. During the station resupply voyage, which occurs in March each year, helicopters are used to fly in food and equipment to each hut. No rubbish generated in the hut is thrown away during the year, it is all returned to the station on these flights.
Human wastes may be disposed of straight into the sea or buried in the wave-wash zone on the beach. This means expeditioners need only carry personal safety and work equipment when they walk, reducing the chances of injury and strains from negotiating steep slopes with heavy packs.
The huts are fitted with stoves for cooking and gas heaters for warmth. LPG cylinders flown to the huts during resupply provide the fuel for these appliances. Small tanks collect rainwater or water from a soak for drinking and the occasional bucket shower.
Wind generators and solar panels charge 12 volt batteries that power the lights and radios. Small 240 volt petrol generators located at each hut power additional lighting and provide a back-up method of charging the batteries. This power supply system has been combined into a RAPS unit (Remote Area Power Supply). Kerosene fuelled Tilley lamps are also available to light the field huts in an emergency.
Each hut is fitted with a car radio CD player, which provides reception of Australian and New Zealand AM radio stations under favourable atmospheric conditions.
Navigation between field huts is achieved by following pegged tracks that are marked on maps. In some circumstances, cross-country navigation requires the use of a compass in conjunction with the map. A hand held GPS (Global Positioning System) is carried by each group.
Each person carries a VHF hand-held radio for communication with the station via the two repeater ground stations on the island. Individuals or groups travelling to remote or difficult locations may also take an Iridium hand-held satellite phone.
Each hut is equipped with a HF radio and a nightly radio schedule takes place between the field parties and the ANARE station. This provides a safety facility for people in the field and allows items of news to be passed to field personnel, some of whom may be in the field for over a month without returning to the station. The old dipole longwire antennas have recently been replaced with whip antennas to minimise the chance of bird strikes. First-aid kits are carried by each group and the huts all contain larger medical kits.
The entire west coast except Bauer Bay is located within category 1 and 2 Special Management Areas, and so can only be accessed during the winter months (June to July for category 1 areas, and May to August for category 2 areas) or with an appropriate permit.
Bauer Bay is the only hut on the west, so many sections of coast must be accessed from east coast huts. There are numerous locations along the coast that have been designated as 'Jump-ups' or 'Jump-downs', where safe routes are located for expeditioners to negotiate the steep slopes from escarpment to beach. 'Jump-ups' are generally tussock or grassy slopes for climbing while 'jump-downs' are often scree slopes that provide easy descents – but are very dangerous in cold conditions when they become frozen icy slopes.
Eagle Cave is a potential bivvy location for people traversing the coast to Bauer Bay, particularly during the short days of winter, and it contains a fuel stove and some emergency food. Aurora Cave has also been used as a bivvy location and shipwrecked sailors once lived in it.