Search and rescue on Macquarie Island

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This week at Macquarie Island: 22 August 2014

On Saturday 9 August, the entire station was involved in a day-long technical search and rescue training exercise near Gadget's Gully, under the instruction and supervision of our field training officer Ian. We had previously had some discussion about our incident management structure (IMS) and realised some of the people on station would have to cover two or three roles to make sure we achieved all the required tasks. We also had to make sure there were enough trained people on station for the minimum numbers for a fire team to cover the station while our SAR team was in the field.

Our exercise scenario involved an injured expeditioner on the steep slopes of the edge of the island plateau, using an exercise dummy. After sorting all of the details out we deployed a hasty team of Paul and Scotty who found a route to the patient, treated him and set up some shelter for him. Doctor Meg gave them advice from on station where she had the surgery ready to receive the patient. When initial first aid was complete Scotty gave VJM coordinates for the patient’s position and advised the main rescue team on the best route to the site.

Once the main rescue team had arrived with the pack loads of gear we would need for the rope rescue system, we considered our options for an evacuation route. It was decided to follow some flat topped spurs towards the beach where diesel mechanic Pete could bring the all-terrain vehicle up to get the patient back to station.

Meanwhile the incident command group were planning the next phases of the rescue, which included the vehicle transport, medical needs and a very tasty lunch and hot soup being sent up by Benny the chef, and carried up by Ivor and Ev.

The rescue was broken into four steps: an initial roped lower, then a carry on fairly flat terrain, a long lower down a 45-60 degree slope to the beach, then vehicle transport to station. Both lowering sections utilised a main lowering line and a belay (safety) line. The long lower required ropes to be joined and the rescuers to be on their toes to bypass the joining knots in the ropes. This was done very smoothly and building services supervisor Graeme was lowered as attendant with the stretcher and patient down some moderate to steep grassy slopes where he emerged at the beach to be met by Pete with the vehicle, and Meg and Ev ready to help move the stretcher.

A great day with a good result and I don’t think it rained the whole time!

Making a decision on the route
Making a decision on the route
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Chris putting in anchors
Chris putting in anchors
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Greg putting in anchors
Greg putting in anchors
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Graeme ready to depart
Graeme ready to depart
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Scotty managing the mainline
Scotty managing the mainline
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Scotty lowering Graeme on the main line
Scotty lowering Graeme on the main line
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Main line and belay line systems
Main line and belay line systems
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Under way on the final lower
Under way on the final lower
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Graeme on the way down
Graeme on the way down
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
SAR team enjoying lunch
SAR team enjoying the lunch sent up by Benny: Ian, Chris, Greg,…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
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