Winter Repairs for Comms

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This week at Macquarie Island: 16 August 2013

Cool snowing conditions were experienced on Macca last month and communications equipment can suffer from wind and ice. During the heavy snow the radio repeater on Mt Waite became un-readable from base. Locally there was some coverage but the symptoms were pretty obvious, there had been some antenna damage.

Senior comms tech Bird swiftly leapt into action, aided by the Station leader Mark. The pair seized on a window of calm weather a couple of days ahead and forged, with equipment and supplies in hand, south down the Overland Track.

With the keen eye of MIPEP hunter Mike, Mark and Greg were steered to the base of Mt Waite, a monolith of grass and rock towering on the west coast of Macca. Twenty minutes later the pair deployed the “Mega bivvy” on the summit of Mt Waite. A shelter from the elements makes work possible in these conditions. While Mark cringed in the “Megga bivvy” Bird soldiered on replacing the antenna that was snapped in two.

With repairs completed and a quick lunch at Gratitude Lake shelter, a path to Davis Point Hut was plotted in the thick and dampening fog. With pigeon-like homing skills Bird navigated their path along the steep and craggy slopes of the West Coast. With only a track marker to identify the “jump down” Mark and Greg scrambled with panther-like grip, head long down the boulder-strewn creek bed to emerge victorious on their second day of a radio repair journey.

Day three saw Mark and Greg aiding our Ranger Chris and Aaron in a rubbish (marine debris) pick-up on Sandell Bay for the morning. Then a climb up the escarpment in forty plus knot winds on all fours, to Tio Hut for the night.

Freezing conditions overnight crystallised our boots and wet weather gear, made gaiters like thick cardboard and impossible to wrap around your leg. This delayed our departure to Mt Jeffryes, the next mountain in a chain of communication for the island. A quick check of the batteries and off down the track to Hurd Point. With the track crunching under foot, Mark and Greg avoided the frozen scree slope and opted for the quad burning grassy, dropping them onto the beach in front of the hut.

After a weekend rest with MIPEP members, Tom, Nancye and Ange, and fueled with Nancye’s calzone, Greg and Mark clawed their way up the “creek jump up” from Hurd to march all the way home to base arriving at 8.30pm that night. A long day but worth the experience.

Greg Bird SCTO

Frozen lakes near Windy Ridge - taken from a high vantage points shows a snow covered landscape with some hills in the background a partially frozen lake on the left and a smaller lake on the right. Windy Ridge hut is near the shore of the smaller lake
Frozen lakes near Windy Ridge
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Taken from high vantage point above the Grassy jump down at Hurd Point. Hurd Point hut can be seen way below on the beach. Hurd Point can be seen extending  out into the ocean surf
Grassy jump down at Hurd Point
(Photo: Greg Bird)
View from the top of Mt Waite. In the foreground is a concrete block which is support for the antennae. The slopes below have a light mist and surf can be seen breaking on the coastal rocks far below
High up on Mt Waite
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Mark fully wrapped in a red and yellow bivvy on Mt Waite
Mark in a bivvy on Mt Waite
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Mark and Tom in Hurd Point hut. in the back you can see four shelves along the length of the wall, fully stocked with food supplies
Mark and Tom in Hurd Point hut
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Wooden mast or keel on Sandell Beach - one end is covered by dirt and vegetation  with the other end looking worn and partially covered in moss. The slopes of the escarpment are in the distant background
Mast or keel on Sandell Beach
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Looking towards Hurd Point, with the moon high up. You can see Hurd Point hut in the distance at the base of the steep slope
Moon over Hurd Point with the hut at the bottom of the…
(Photo: Greg Bird)
The Mount Waite snapped antenna shown leaning against a large plastic storage crate which is heavily strapped down. The concrete base for the antenna can be seen behind the crate. A wind turbine as well as a solar panel are also in the photo
The Mt Waite antenna snapped off
(Photo: Greg Bird)
View from 'the office at Mt Jeffryes shows the snow covered slopes of the island escarpment rising up from the ocean. A solr panel can be seen in the left foreground.
View from 'the office at Mt Jeffryes
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Western point of Hurd Beach - The photo is taken from near the waters edge and shows a couple of sharp pointed rock stacks in the water and a young elephant seal in the foreground.
Western point of Hurd Beach
(Photo: Greg Bird)
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