This week at Macquarie Island: 16 June 2017

This week at Macca, we learn about a day in the life of communications and get to know chef Nick Baker

A day in the life of Macca comms

A typical Macquarie Island day at Comms, or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as it is now known, begins with the 8 am scheduled radio situation reports (aka sitreps, or scheds). All field parties on Macquarie Island are contacted by VHF radio and given the latest weather forecast. Then the health and intentions of the field parties are recorded in the radio log and any messages to or from the field parties passed along. The responsibility for radio scheds is shared with the station leader on a week by week roster. There is also a 1 pm radio sitrep specifically for people working alone in the field.

After the morning sitreps are complete a check is made of the software monitoring the ANARESAT satellite link to Australia, the Antarctic messaging and data system (AMDS) and the previous 24 hours network traffic. All being well, a quick visual and audio (listening for bad cooling fan bearings) check of the physical equipment is conducted.

The daily newspapers are printed, overnight emails actioned, and any other administrative task completed.

About 9 am the daily ARPANSA filter change is performed. This is part of the international nuclear test ban treaty monitoring network. An air sample from the previous 24 hours is analysed for specific radio nucleotides that could indicate a nuclear weapon test has been conducted. The ARPANSA filter change is also shared with the station leader on a week by week roster. 

Once a week a walk into the 'magnetic quiet zone' is made to take absolute magnetic field measurements. These results are emailed to Geoscience Australia and are used to calibrate the automated magnetic field monitoring instruments on the island. Care has to be made to ensure no ferrous metallic objects are carried into the Absolute Magnetic Hut. Even the tiny spring in a neck warmer cord toggle can affect the measurements. 

The remainder of the day is spent on project work. This could be equipment installation, upgrades, corrective or routine maintenance. The type of equipment includes: satellite links (ANARESAT, BGAN, Iridium), VHF or HF radios (on station or in the field, mobile, handheld), antennas, coaxial feeders and masts, a GSM mobile phone system, computer servers, personal computers, photocopiers, printers, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), network switches, routers, WiFi access points, cabling (twisted pair or fibre optic), phones, network cameras, GPS, SPOT trackers, cinema projectors and amplifiers, video conferencing units, automated science equipment or just about anything else electronic that is not operating as it should.

The last official task for the day is the 6 pm radio sched to field parties. It follows a similar format to the morning sched with all field parties being contacted to ensure they are safe and sound for the evening.

'Last official' because of course Comms never sleeps and there is often someone after dinner who asks, 'Can you help me with my [insert electronic gadget name here]?'

Tom Luttrell - Station Communications Technical Officer

Man looking through an instrument to take magnetic observations
Geoscience magnetic observations
Man sitting at communications console wearing headphones
Radio Scheds
Man wearing white coat examining large piece of filter paper
ARPANSA filter change

70th ANARE winter expeditioner profile: Nick Baker

Editor's note: This week's profile features Macca Chef Nick Baker, a man with amazing culinary skills and one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet...

Name: Nick Baker

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

I am the chef. I prepare and make almost everything on the Island, including all the bread, cakes and desserts. We also host pig on the spit nights, third Tuesday of the month.

What are your secondary / community jobs on Macca?

I am the librarian. I also should be involved more in hydroponics, however I’m far too important.

Where are you from?

Originally from England, I now call Cairns home. I also have a timeshare in a nice cottage in Garden Cove. Always seems to be the maid’s day off though.

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

Chef / Cook / Masseur and body double for Kylie Minogue

Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?

No, although I spent New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh last year and it got a bit cold at night.

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

Running away from 2016’s events. And also to see the incredible wildlife on display.

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

How easily satisfied the expeditioners are with even the most tasteless, inedible foods! (editor’s note – Nick’s food is actually amazing!) There is some amazing hiking, and a great community spirit, especially when I’m off station, funnily enough.

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

Maintaining a vaguely intelligent expression on my face when listening to various boffin-types at the dinner table. Also, last week the wrong flavour sausages were served for breakfast. The flavour is on the box, how hard is it?

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

Obviously the king penguin. Also the Southern Macquarie donkey, for reasons I won’t go into.

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

My family, and my 80 inch TV. But not necessarily in that order.

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

Banks, hoons in utes, and the Cairns watch house.

What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?

Hiking and breathing the fresh, fresh air. I also read Shakespeare to the fur seals.

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

Generally we have to make do with whatever Matt Westbury throws on the ground, but I’m partial to chickpea, lentil and bean cake. It really spices up the hut.

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

My 70th ANARE embossed beer glass.

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

Warm clothes would have been good, but who could know?

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

Donald Trump. You wouldn’t print what I’d shout out though.

The chef Nick Baker standing cooking in the kitchen.
Chef Nick Baker.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
Chef Nick Baker putting food on the plates for another extraordinary Saturday night dinner - Macquarie Island
Chef Nick Baker plating up another extraordinary Saturday night dinner.
(Photo: L. Whitehorn)
A pictures of a dessert with coconut sago, lime curd and coconut crumble, with chocolate spring roll by Macquarie Island Chef Nick Baker
Dessert - Coconut sago, lime curd and coconut crumble, with chocolate spring…
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Chef Nickat Sandy Bay with penguins close by on a pebbly beach at Macquarie Island
Chef Nick 'picking up the birds' at Sandy Bay.
(Photo: K. Williams)
Plumber Wayne and chef Nick exploring the Macquarie Island landscape
Plumber Wayne and chef Nick exploring the Macquarie Island landscape.
(Photo: A. Turbett)