This week at Macquarie Island: 10 March 2017

Results are in for the annual photo comp; seed collecting explained; 'Intrepid Expeditioner' heads off station; the new boat shed revealed and the last winterer photos from the wall of the Mess.

69th ANARE photo competition

In order to motivate ourselves to actually sort through photos, rather than just download and worry about it 'later', we had a photo competition. Ten people chose to compete in the categories Landscape, Flora, Fauna, People and Big Sky.

Here are the place–getters… this week we showcase Landscape, Flora and People.

A picture of Mt Haswell
Landscape 1st Place: Mt Haswell
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)
Pyramid Peak and Pyramid Lake
Landscape 2nd place: Pyramid Peak towers over the lake
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
A colourful picture of lakes on the plateau
Landscape 3rd place: On the plateau below Heartbreak Hill
(Photo: Laura Williams)
Seaweed laid up against a beach cobble
Flora 1st place: Seaweed on stone
(Photo: Alex Fergus)
Close up of Stilbocarpa polaris flower
Flora 2nd place: Stilbocarpa polaris, common name Macquarie Island Cabbage, in flower.…
(Photo: Alex Fergus)
A close up of kelp in the water
Flora 3rd place: Kelp at Hurd Point
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)
A portrait of a man in a wig
People 1st Place: Horse
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A man is watched at work by a large bird
People 2nd place: Supervising Marcus (taking a biopsy from a deceased sperm…
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
2 people walk through the mist
People 3rd place: Standard walking conditions
(Photo: Helen Cooley)

Seed collecting in the furious fifties

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens has been involved in the response to the dieback affecting the critically endangered Macquarie cushion, Azorella macquariensis, since the dieback was first discovered in 2008.

The cushion only grows on Macquarie Island and is a major component of the feldmark vegetation that covers 45% of the island, growing mainly in the extreme environment of the plateau uplands. A trial seed orchard of nine plants was established in 2010 and this was increased to 54 in 2013 with the aim of collecting seed to be stored in the Gardens’ seedbank.

With the help of my little field assistant 'Porcelain Penguin' and some fellow humans, I have been collecting seed of some of the different plant species while waiting for Azorella to ripen on the plateau and in the seed orchard on Wireless Hill. This has generally involved checking to see if species are ripe, waiting for a weather window and then for a number of species, kneeling on the ground with a pair of tweezers for a few hours picking the seed. The patient fellow occupants of the biology lab have put up with trays of drying seed taking over much of the bench space before it is placed in drums with silica for final storage before its return to the Gardens.

Over the last couple of months I have walked the remarkable landscapes of the island and encountered the wonderful wildlife from inquisitive king penguins and skuas checking what I am collecting to testy elephant seals blocking my path around the coast. In all this I have had the company of an abundance of botanical enthusiasts, not forgetting of course, Porcelain Penguin. 

Natalie Tapson

The sign explaining the azorella seed orchard on Wireless HIll
Porcelain Penguin checking all is well at the Azorella seed orchard on…
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
A man taking the monthly monitoring images at the seed orchard
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service ranger in charge-Chris Howard, taking the monthly…
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Azorella macquariensis in flower on the plateau
Azorella macquariensis in flower on the plateau.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
A woman checking plants for seed
Natalie Tapson checking plants for seed.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Two people collecting Coprosma at Scoble Lake
Laura Williams and Alex Fergus helping to collect Coprosma at Scoble Lake.…
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
A collection of Coprosma seeds
Porcelain Penguin pulling her weight with the Coprosma collection.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Seeds drying in the biology lab
Seeds drying in the biology lab.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Putting seed into a paper bag using a funnel with ornamental penguin alongside
Porcelain Penguin giving directions on how to store Colobanthus seed.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
A group of elephant seals blocking the way on a track
Testy elephant seals blocking the way.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Attentive skua fledgling supervising the collection of Ranunculus
Attentive skua fledgling supervising the collection of Ranunculus.
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)

Doctor’s Track or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the jump-up

Intrepid expeditioner signs off on the intentions board.

Destination: Out there.

Mode: Two feet and a heart beat.

Due back: Sometime later.

Slam door on the way out.

Tripping merrily along the track, over ele seals and through the puddles. Past comms, past dieso’s workshop.

Goodbye Landing Beach. Ciao Razorback.

Hellooo Doctor’s.

Start climbing hill.

Puff puff puff. Who put this hill in the way? Puff puff puff.

Ooooo! A bench! Considerate folk these Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TasPWS) people. Tea and biscuits would be nice about now. Must suggest to the Station Hill 'Climbing Morale Committee' that we install a cafe here, staffed by friendly TasPWS leprechauns.

Continue upward.

The tussock thickens to forest–like density. The hill gradient steepens.

What are your legs?

Springs. Steel springs.

What are they going to do?

Hurl me up the hill.

How fast can you run?

As fast as a leopard a skua stealing a penguin chick.

How fast are you going to run?

(shouts) As fast as an ele seal chasing a skua.

Then let’s see you do it!

Continue upward.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Get to top of First Gully. Gale–force head wind bowls intrepid expeditioner ass over apex.

Intrepid Expeditioner (IE): Macca Met, Macca Met, this is intrepid expeditioner on channel 7. Over. 

MACCA MET (MM): Intrepid expeditioner, this is Macca Met. Receiving you 4 by 4. Over. 

IE: Macca Met, Can you turn the wind off for me? I forgot to hit the Off Button before leaving station. Over. 

MM: No. Over. 

IE: I’ll do your slushies for a month if you will turn the wind off. Over.

MM: We are an ethical science organisation who believes in the integrity of our scientific dataset. We turn the wind off for no one. Over.

IE: …

IE: Two months slushy?

MM: Done.

Wind stops. Intrepid expeditioner skips blithely along the track until it steepens uphill again – about 10 metres.

O, ye desk–bound muscles! O, ye second helping of last night’s chocolate cake!

Another 93 trips up Doctor’s and I can wear that bikini for the Australia Day swim.

Climbs hand–over–hand up tussock grass. Crawls on hands and knees up through the mud.

Thank you MIPEP for bushy, sturdy tussock grass to help haul me up the hill.

Thank you TasPWS for the sturdy new track markers to haul me up too.

Continue upward. Starts shedding objects from backpack to lighten the load. Tosses blocks of cheese, gourmet chocolates, a camera, track markers, a second camera with super–size lens, a laptop computer and DVD selection.

When are they planning to install that cable car up the hill? Was it Plan R in the station rejuvenation project?

The top of the hill is in sight. Intrepid expeditioner stumbles to the top. The rolling hills of the plateau stretch expansively away into the misty distance.

Intrepid expeditioner disappearing over the hill along the Overland Track.

…Walking in a winter’s wonderland… Gone away is the rabbit… Here to stay is the red poll…

Editor’s note:

Fear not, Gentle Reader. Our intrepid expeditioner is now safely ensconced in a small round field hut with no sharp edges. We know that she is well as her daily radio skeds feature off-key renditions of musical classics. Her evening sign off is consistently Vera Lynn’s – We’ll Meet Again. IE displayed her comprehension of this morning’s weather forecast with a rousing chorus of Singing in the Rain. She continued with other MGM classics until we turned the volume down. She’s still going yet. The lunch time committee meeting concluded that we would only get truly concerned if she moved on to Disney musicals.

Hakuna matata, my friends.


Looking back at Doctors Track from North Head
Looking back at Doctors Track from North Head - Doctors follows the…
(Photo: E. Rodewald)
Looking over West Beach and Station from the top of Drs
Looking over West Beach and station from the top of Drs -…
(Photo: E. Rodewald)
A man climbs the hill out of Sandell Bay
One of the jump ups out of Sandell Bay.
(Photo: Martin Greer)
People climbing the hill from Waterfall Bay Hut
Jumping up out of Waterfall Bay.
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
The view down to Waterfall Bay Hut from the jump up
The view down to Waterfall Bay Hut from the jump up.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
Two people descend the grassy jump down at Hurd Point.
The (famous among expeditioners) grassy jump down at Hurd Point.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)

Macca gets a new boatshed

As our time here on Macquarie island draws to an end for summer trades group, we can look back on what we have achieved with our time here: firstly there was fuel tank cleaning, followed by the fuel line, hydrant and water lines across the isthmus, the removal of removal of asbestos pipe and various other odd jobs here and there. But the biggest and most challenging was the giant 'Meccano set' boat shed.

With a team of Nick (foreman), Grey Greg (head chippy), Mizza (practical joker), Delany (designer), Horse (re designer), Lewis (sparky/entertainer), Red Greg (dirt mover/apprentice), and myself (tool belt promoter and dewalt sales rep), we finally got approval on the location of the shed. Unfortunately the site had previously been a seal wallow and seemed to get boggier every time we looked at it. Nick took charge and got Red Greg onto removing the years of built up tussock and skank.

After some long hours and a heap of sand (Parks approved of course), we had a site we could build on. Once the footings where in place the frame went together pretty quickly and was stood up in a week. A cold porch was added at the front of the shed and some further mods were made to improve the functionality of the building. This involved Dan and Horse designing, building and installing new heavy duty hinges for the stainless doors which could sustain 100 knot winds and a 3000 kg elephant seals.

When the roof was finally sheeted, we got beers and pizza delivered from 'Rocket's Pizzeria' for the roof's–on party. Shortly after the roof was tested for strength with 60+ knot winds that got a bit noisy for Lewis and the boys building the floor but it held in there. 

Working with the lads on the project was great experience and we had a lot of fun along the way – there was always laughs and jokes and it was generally a happy work site… unless Lewis knocked over his glue pot! 

We got it 95% finished for the incoming winter crew which was a great effort by the team: well done.

Thanks to everyone who helped out including Joe, Marty and Laura for the landscaping.

Kane Bagnall 

A dry patch of dirt ready for building on
The boatshed site is finally dry.
(Photo: Kane Bagnall)
Framework for the new boatshed
The new framework going up.
(Photo: Kane Bagnall)
The interior of the new boatshed
And the roof is on - looking good on the inside.
(Photo: Kane Bagnall)
A polaris dressed up as a pizza delivery vehicle
'Rocket Pizza' arrives on site
(Photo: Kane Bagnall)
People standing around in front of the new boatshed
The completed boatshed accepts its first guests.
(Photo: Kane Bagnall)


As promised last week, here's the last five photos of wintering groups from the mess wall. We have, of course, added ourselves now and sit happily at the very end, among this illustrious company.

A group photo of the 1982 ANARE
The 1983 ANARE group shot.
A group shot of the 1990 ANARE
The team of the 1990 ANARE.
A group shot of the 2002 ANARE
The members of the 2002 ANARE.
A group shot of the 2003 ANARE
The members of the 2003 ANARE.
A group shot of the 2012 ANARE
A group shot of the 2012 ANARE.