This week at Macquarie Island: 12 May 2017

This week at Macca, we catch up on the last two weeks of station life and get to know winter expeditioner Dr Jan Wallace.

Macca fortnightly wrap-up

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Macca!

We’ve had 12 expeditioners in the field undertaking various work including science projects, operational work, and recreational trips. Our Albatross and Giant Petrel Program researchers have been very busy in the field counting and banding light mantled albatross. They have been ably supported by our Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service rangers, who have also been busy preparing for their busy winter field works program. Senior communications technical officer Tom Luttrell has also been busy in the field working on VHF repeater hut maintenance, as well as other important communications maintenance tasks in the field huts.

Back on station, our infrastructure and mechanical team have been busy with their usual winter maintenance work, as well as some timely work and emergency repairs to one of the kitchen freezers and the gym treadmill.

In between all of this, everyone has been busy undergoing emergency response training (ERT), focusing on the key disciplines of fire team, search and rescue, incident management, and lay surgical assistant (LSA) training. ERT is a key requirement for all wintering expeditioners to ensure we are fully self–sufficient in the event of any emergencies.

We also celebrated some more expeditioner birthdays. On April 26, we celebrated our favourite BoM senior observer Matt Westbury’s birthday, with an awesome ‘Fray Bentos’ themed cake. We followed this up on Saturday night with a fantastic ’disco' themed party for Matt, which included both some awesome 70’s inspired disco outfits and equally great dancing.

On May 3, we celebrated Albatross & Giant Petrel Program research assistant, Mel Wells birthday with a ‘Carnivale’ themed night. We were all once again spoilt with some great food thanks to our chef Nick Baker and everyone enjoyed a fun night of dancing and laughs.

Fray Bentos Themed Birthday Cake for Matt Westbury - Macquarie Island
Fray Bentos themed birthday cake for Matt Westbury.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
A group of expeditioners dressed in seventies style costumes
Macca 70's disco themed Saturday night party.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
Birthday dining menu for Matt Westbury
Birthday dining menu for Matt Westbury.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
Matt Westbury cutting into his Fray Bentos themed birthday cake - Macquarie Island
Matt Westbury enjoying his Fray Bentos themed birthday cake.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
A group of expeditioners dressed up for 'Carnivale' theme night - Macquarie Island
'Carnivale' theme night.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
Albatross Researcher Mel Wells enjoying her gannet themed birthday cake - Macquarie Island
Albatross researcher Mel Wells enjoying her gannet themed birthday cake.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)

70th ANARE winter expeditioner profile: Dr Jan Wallace

Name: Jan Wallace

What is your occupation on Macca? Describe the main responsibilities of your role on the island.

I am the station doctor here at Macca and I am responsible for the health and wellbeing of all the expeditioners. I spend most of my time looking after all the equipment and stores in the medical facility and doing stock control of the first aid kits all over the island. The winterers all have a monthly medical to check on their health and occasionally I even do some medical work if someone has an injury or is ill (not too often I hope because actual doctoring means that things are not good on station).

What are your secondary / community jobs on Macca?

I am very excited to be the station flag officer. I love flags and maps. I have my own flag pole at home and love putting the Australian flag out in the morning. I am rather disappointed that we can’t fly the flag every day here because of the high winds which shreds a flag in just a couple of days (but I cheer myself up by having one in my office). In the past I have been the official station sewing officer and bring one of my own sewing machines down south so I can do repairs and other sewing jobs for people. This links in very well with my flag job as I have repaired a lot of flags.

Where are you from?

I was born, educated and still live in Melbourne. Not very adventurous in that regard, however, I am planning to move to the Mornington Peninsula as soon as I can organise it. I will be able to walk to the local winery which makes a very nice pinot noir (my favourite wine).

What is your normal job back in the 'real world'?

I am a doctor back in the real world as well. I have my own private practice and do orthopaedic surgical assisting at the local hospital plus I am a medical officer in the Army. It can be a challenge to figure out what I have to wear to work some days, especially if I am doing all three things on the same day.

Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?

I have spent two years at Davis on the Antarctic continent in 2011/12 and 2014/15 but this is my first time at Macca.

What was your main motivation in coming to Macca for 2017?

I was very keen to spend time at another station and everyone I have spoken to who had worked at Macca just raved about it. I am still getting used to seeing elephant seals and penguins on grass instead of ice. Only three days travel here was a big seller as well.

List some of your favourite aspects of life on Macca so far:

I have the most amazing view from my room. I can guarantee I will never have anything that compares in the real world. I have penguins and seals at the bottom of my garden, and although it hasn’t happened yet, I am sure one day I will see orcas swimming past.

What are some of the most challenging things about living on Macca?

I have to say I didn’t expect it to be as windy as it is and I am still getting used to being buffeted around. It makes my eyes water, hair gets in your eyes, and the salt spray gets on my glasses. I feel like I am blindfolded inside a pinball machine sometimes.

What Macca animal do you feel represents you best and why?

My superpower is surveillance and observation, so I am really a meerkat, but none of those on Macca. So… I guess I am probably an elephant seal who looks like they are just snoozing on the beach, but really has one eye open and is watching you all the time… not in a weird way of course.

What is the one thing you miss most whilst on the island?

I do miss the crunchy sound of walking on snow when it is below −25°C. Bananas and fresh coriander would be good too.

What do you NOT miss about normal life whilst on the island?

I definitely do NOT miss television, traffic, road works, advertising, airport queues, grocery shopping and smokers.

What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?

I have several unfinished knitting projects to complete and some quilting to do, plus I have brought down an instruction video and some drum sticks to teach myself how to play the drums. Sleeping is very good also. I am starting to embrace the concept of ‘Macca midnight’ (9:00 pm other–time). Also I am finishing off my Masters degree in remote and polar health.

Name your go-to snack whilst out in the field?

Chocolate. Is there anything else?

Identify your favourite piece of AAD (Australian Antarctic Division) - issued kit?

I really love my FUD (female urinary device). I find peeing whilst standing very liberating in the outdoors and it removes a whole level of risk of getting blown over by the wind when you are squatting.

One thing you wish you had packed but didn’t?

I am a little sad I don’t have my fluffy white dressing gown and I only have one colour nail polish to paint my toenails.

Is there anyone you would like to give a shout–out to back at home?

Massive shout out to the children and their plus ones who have been deserted, yet again, by their parents who continue to engage in stage-of-life–inappropriate activities.

A photo showing the view of water hills and Cumpstons Cottage from Dr Jan Wallace's room
Dr Jan Wallace's morning view - Cumpstons Cottage.
(Photo: J. Wallace)
Flag Officer Dr Jan Wallace in action - Macquarie Island
Flag Officer Dr Jan Wallace in action.
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Dr Jan Wallace with fellow expeditioner and husband Geoff Wallace during Field Familiarisation Training - Macquarie Island
Dr Jan Wallace with fellow expeditioner and husband Geoff Wallace during field…
(Photo: J. Wallace)