This week at Macquarie Island: 17 March 2017

Resupply ship is enroute, so this is the last 'this week' for the 69th ANARE. More winners from the photo comp; end of season dinner; a round up from botany for the year and we missed one wall photo!

69th ANARE Photo Competition Part 2

To complete our photo competition, here are the place–getters for the categories 'Fauna' and 'Big Sky'.

A leopard seal and an NGP
Fauna 1st place: 'Lunch'
(Photo: Rob Bennett)
A Black browed albatross with its chick on the nest
Fauna 2nd place: Black browed albatross with chick.
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)
elephant seals on the beach at play
Fauna 3rd place: Chest-bumping games.
(Photo: Alex Fergus)
An aurora in the night sky over station
Big Sky 1st place: Aurora over the station.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
An aurora over the anchor memorial
Big Sky 2nd place: Aurora over the anchor memorial.
(Photo: Rob Bennett)
Striated clouds over North Head
Big Sky 3rd place: Striated clouds over North Head.
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)

End of season dinner

Last Saturday we had our end of season celebrations. Crafts projects developed to make candle holders and table decorations from the limited materials available; the decorating team did a great job on both venues and chef Rocket went all out on the meal.

To start the evening, we took our summer team photo out in the wind and drizzle, followed by drinks and canapes served in the new boatshed accompanied by a slideshow retrospective of the year that was. Then all trooped back to the Mess for a delicious three course dinner. Everyone was on station for the evening and it was a great night, rounded out of course, with some dancing!

A group of people in a building watching a slideshow
Lots of lighting effects at work in the new boatshed.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A beautifully set dinner table.
Formal table setting to help set the mood.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A close up of table decorations
Handmade napkin and candle holders.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A dog statue dressed up on a table
Stay Here dressed for the occasion and presided over the event.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A group of people milling about the Mess
Pre-dinner chat in the Mess.
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)
Happy expeditioners wait for their dinner
Happy expeditioners wait for their dinner.
(Photo: Kimberley Kliska)
Everyone seated for dinner
Somehow, there's always more to talk about.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
A woman in a rabbit mask
Rabbit spotted on the dance floor...
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)

Botanical round-up – Summer 2016-17

The 2016/2017 summer has been a great season of botanical work, ramblings and opportunistic discoveries across the Macca landscape. For a change the botanists outnumbered our fauna biologist friends – brightening dinner conversations with flora wititudes and inspiring pot–plant and local plant costumes on New Years Eve.

Over the season: Natalie Tapson has scoured the island for seed bank collections; Laura Williams and Alex Fergus have assessed control methods for the weedy chickweed – to be joined by Brian Sindel at resupply; Cath Dickson and John Burgess guided by Dana Bergstrom and Jennie Whinam in December have climbed every peak in search of Azorella refugia; Chris Howard has explored the island for Huperzia; and Micah Visoiu and Nick Fitzgerald will arrive with resupply to resurvey vegetation in the former rabbit exclosures. All this activity has resulted in:

  • Approximately 100,000 seeds collected from a dozen species ready to be sent to Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens and Kew Gardens (England).
  • Promising chickweed (*Stellaria media) control methods and an updated Stellaria distribution map, which showed the species to be surprisingly widespread through the waterways north of Flat Creek.
  • An updated assessment of Azorella dieback across the island and establishment of microclimate dataloggers to collected in the 2017/2018 summer season.
  • An increase in the known number of rarely observed Huperzia australiana (clubmoss) from <20 sites to over 270.
  • Identification of the second known population of the critically endangered sub–Antarctic bedstraw (Galium antarcticum). The population contained over 1000 individuals, tripling the known population.
  • The collection of herbarium samples for several plant species to clarify their identification and potentially determine new species on the island.

What a summer – many content botanists on their way home shortly!

Cath Dickson 

A ‘stand’ of botanists – group shot of the team
A ‘stand’ of botanists – standing (Laura Williams, Natalie Tapson, Jennie Whinam,…
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A dog mannequin looking at vegetation
Even Stay Here took in the botanical vibe of the 2016/2017 season.…
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A woman points out some sphagnum, a type of vegetation
Sphagnum! Dana Bergstrom found some especially for Jennie Whinam.…
(Photo: Jennie Whinam)
A woman examines the Luzula.
Laura Williams considering the Luzula.
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A group of botanists cross the featherbed
Botanists in their natural habitat… slowly making their way along the featherbed.
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A man explores the fellfield post-rabbit eradication.
Alex explores the fellfield post-rabbit eradication.
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A man peers down at the diminutive Galium – a critically endangered herb found in a large population.
Alex peers down at the diminutive Galium – a critically endangered herb…
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
2 people monitoring Azorella on the eastern escarpment.
Cath Dickson and John Burgess monitoring Azorella on the eastern escarpment.…
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
Two men explore the finer things in life – an international collaboration in the name of clubmoss (Huperzia).
Chris and Alex explore the finer things in life – an international…
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)
A man searches for the Macquarie Island Myriophyllum in flower.
No lake too cold – contrary to popular belief botanists can’t walk…
(Photo: Catherine Dickson)

Wall photos

Apparently I missed one – thanks to the vigilant Noel Carmichael. I knew there was one that I'd been asked to copy for someone during the year outside of this project but I couldn't remember which one…

A group shot of the 1969 ANARE team
The 1969 ANARE team

The year that was

Nearly a year ago the ANARE 69 wintering team landed on Macquarie Island: some had been here before and were delighted to be returning; some had seen pictures and heard stories but really didn’t know what they’d signed up for – I was definitely of the latter group.

I arrived with eyes wide like a deer in headlights and had trouble believing that those seals and penguins were real and that they were everywhere (of course, with the benefit of hindsight and seeing it all as the cycle goes around, there actually wasn’t that much wildlife there then…).

Resupply went well and before we knew it, the ship disappeared over the horizon and 15 of us were left here, relative strangers marooned on a remote island for a year voluntarily. I thought I’d experience some mild panic as that ship left, but in fact I was glad to see it go and to finally be able to get on with this adventure after almost two years of talking about it.

And as adventures go, it’s been a great one. We’ve all made the effort to get along and have formed a cohesive, comfortable society. We have lived quite happily without the relentless marketing and advertising noise of modern life; haven’t missed money or keys or traffic and experienced Christmas as one day of the year, not months of marketing build–up. We’ve learned that we can cover a lot of ground on our own two legs and can survive without indoor plumbing and can make our own entertainment. 

Winter seemed to fly by with us all mastering our roles and how we functioned within the group; exploring the island and celebrating events such as Marcus and Kim’s engagement, Anzac Day, mid–winter, Joe’s 60th and our Halfway to RTA day.

We were privileged to witness elephant seals being born; gentoo, royal and king penguins hatching, then rapidly growing up and leaving home and albatross overhead on the wing, not to mention the early–morning surprise of the earth, literally, moving. Somewhere in there was the drama of the announcement that the station was closing, rapidly followed by another announcement that it was staying and being rebuilt. Just as we were getting used to the status quo, it was time for end-of-winter dinner and to prepare for new arrivals and an instantaneous doubling of the island population.

Summerers came and went on various vessels between the end of October and New Year, giving a fluidity to station population and life that was a shock to the winterer system. Christmas was celebrated with wonderful locally made gifts and much feasting and the New Year rung in with a party, of course. Turns out you don’t need lots of people for a good party – you just need a party state–of–mind in those folk you do have!

Post New Year we locked in at 31 people and station life settled into a new, different rhythm while time continued to race by. Australia Day came and went with the traditional swim and suddenly the countdown to RTA was on. Plans were hatched and executed for tours of the island – be they first laps for summerers or farewell tours for winterers – around frantic finishing of projects and talk turned to catching up with family and friends, the next job and/or holiday and whether we’d do it all again, knowing what we know now.

I’d like to think that the majority of us would answer yes to that question and thank you all for your contribution to the success and congeniality of this year on the green sponge. It’s certainly been a memorable one for me. 

Esther Rodewald (Station leader – 69th ANARE) 

69th ANARE Summer team photo with a mannequin dog in the front
69th ANARE Summer team photo (Rocket added later as we couldn't get…
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
69th ANARE winter team photo with a large seal in the foreground
69th ANARE winter team photo.
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)