This week at Macquarie Island: 26 May 2017

This week, we catch-up on the last fortnight of amazing southern latitude weather extremes and get to know Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service - ranger in charge, Andrea Turbett.

Macca update

Welcome to our latest fortnightly wrap–up of news from Macquarie Island.

One of the biggest highlights over the last two weeks has been the extreme Macquarie Island weather. Located deep within the Southern Ocean on the 54th south latitude, Macca is known for its extreme oceanic climate with heavy cloud and strong westerly winds (25 km/h average daily).

Rain and snow are frequent, with only a few days each year with no precipitation. This week, Mother Nature made her wintry presence truly felt with the season’s first proper snowfall. Whilst making for amazing pictures and quite a novelty for a few expeditioners who haven’t seen snow before, the downside of cold temperatures and snowfall is the freezing of water pipes around station and from our primary water supply (Gadget’s Gully), leading to necessary water restrictions!

Following the massive snowfall, the following morning we were greeted with the complete contrast – a bright sunny day with clear skies! However, on this day, the traditional westerly winds shifted to a rare easterly in combination with a massive swell, the end result: Huge shore waves! Interestingly, Saturday’s large swell and waves were an event felt across the entire Southern Ocean, with a New Zealand scientific wave buoy detecting a wave with a maximum wave height of 19.4 metres!

We ended this last week with a trivia night. Featuring a broad range of topics including Macca Island specific trivia, job/trade specific trivia, and people’s specialty subjects, a great night was had by all with a narrow victory to building services supervisor, Dave Brett’s expert team!

 
Market Square under snow
Market Square under snow.
(Photo: K. Williams)
A view of Verne Plateau under snow.
The Varne Plateau under snow.
(Photo: K. Williams)
Huge southern ocean waves crash into the Macquarie Island coastline
Huge Southern Ocean waves crash into the Macquarie Island coastline.
(Photo: A. Turbett)
An elephant seal photobombs the snow photo
Elephant seal snow photobomb!
(Photo: N. Baker)
Macquarie Island expeditioners enjoying the spectacular snow landscapes during field travel
Macquarie Island expeditioners enjoying the spectacular snow landscapes during field travel
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Quizmasters Kyle & Stay Here watching over proceedings at the Macquarie Island Trivia Night
Quizmasters Kyle and Stay Here watching over proceedings at the Macquarie Island…
(Photo: J. Wallace)

70th ANARE winter expeditioner profile: Andrea Turbett

Name: Andrea Turbett

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

Ranger in charge for the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. Penny (wildlife ranger) and I are the two rangers looking after this very special and remote sub–Antarctic island – a nature reserve and a world heritage area. Best job in the world.

Where are you from?

Hobart, Tasmania

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

I work for the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service at home as well, in reserve management planning for southern Tasmania (including Macquarie Island). It usually involves working on management plans and progressing assessments to determine how parts of national parks and reserves can be used. I like being able to help look after special Tasmanian places.

Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?

I popped in for a quick Macquarie Island visit in August 2010 when I was helping with the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (rabbit and rodents). I was here again for a longer look around from October 2014 to November 2015.

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

To live and work in such a spectacular and isolated place and learn more about it, while hopefully putting what I learnt last time to good use. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here again.

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

Returning to favourite places.

Checking out the vegetation regrowth, especially the flourishing tussock grass – it keeps getting taller and thicker.

Daily penguin encounters.

Giant petrels swooping and screeching overhead – sometimes they seem like pterodactyls from dinosaur movies.

Being part of this small unique community of fifteen people on a tiny island speck in the middle of the ocean, with the next boat not expected until October or November.

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

The incessant wind, sometimes referred to as the 'furious fifties'. I can usually tell how many knots the wind is based on how close it is to blowing me over. Surprise large waves can also be quite hazardous – constant vigilance is required. As a wise ranger once said, 'never trust the ocean!'

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

Maybe Antarctic tern? They’re little and like the wild weather. I enjoy watching them go fishing in the surf and get cranky at each other.

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

Probably Cora, my scruffy Smithfield dog. Special people are also missed but it is easier to stay in touch with them.

What do you NOT miss about normal life?

Traffic. Crowds. Hot weather.

What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?

Enjoying the solitude and testing my new zoomy camera lens.

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

Popcorn, unquestionably. Best hut snack for sharing.

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

My map of the island – indispensable! I expect that it will become as battered as the one I had here last time (annotated with favourite routes, invented place names and good memories… like Boulders of Doom and Lake A-Team).

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

More popcorn.

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

My family and buddies (especially my longest bestie, Sophita).

Andrea standing on the hill top at Secluded Bay - Macquarie Island
Andrea at Secluded Bay.
(Photo: N. Baker)
Andrea lying on the ground spending time with king penguins that are standing nearby- Macquarie Island
Andrea spending time with king penguins.
(Photo: N. Baker)
Andrea with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service colleague Matt at Sandy Bay standing with thousands of penguins behind them- Macquarie Island
Andrea with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service colleague Matt at Sandy Bay.
(Photo: T. Thom)
A ground view showing thick vegetation of tussock, which the researchers have to climb through.
Andrea's sometimes office view when trying to climb thick tussock slopes on…
(Photo: A. Turbett)