This week at Macquarie Island: 28 July 2017

This week, we get a glimpse of field life and medical training on Macca.

Field work on Macca

Fieldwork on Macca is tough! There aren’t too many places you can go without going uphill, getting wet feet, sweating up a storm and being both hot and cold simultaneously. That said, it’s an incredible experience and the island is breathtakingly beautiful!

Up on the plateau, mostly it’s wet and windy, with low cloud and mist acting as a curveball to impair your visibility and make your walk all the more enjoyable. But, there are these rare moments that occur, when the winds blow from the south and the misty skies clear, the glorious island becomes clear in all its remarkable beauty. When the winds drop suddenly, you are left with the sound of your own thoughts accompanied by the deep bellows of distant elephant seals, or the haunting calls of giant petrels.

When the clouds break and the sun shines through, it permeates through all life and illuminates every inch of the island and the seemingly endless surrounding ocean. It invigorates your soul and enriches your spirit; a meaningful connection with this special place ensues, leaving you with a profound sense of gratitude. Although they are few and far between, when these moments occur they are worth a million lost moments.

For the last couple months, the 'Alby girls' (Emily Mowat and myself, research assistants working on the Macquarie Island Albatross and Giant Petrel monitoring program) have been assisting wildlife ranger, Penny Pascoe in conducting grey petrel surveys all over the island. Although winter fieldwork means long hours in the hut with extended darkness and super cold conditions, we’ve been blessed with some incredible moments such as six days straight of snowy peaks, iced over bogs, no wind and sunshine or lots of wind/no sunshine, and both sunrise AND sunset viewing (sometimes even on the same day)!

Mel Wells (Research Assistant, Macquarie Island Albatross & Giant Petrel Monitoring Program)

Lake Tiobunga with Mount Hamilton peak in distance - Macquarie Island
Lake Tiobunga with Mount Hamilton peak in distance.
(Photo: M. Wells)
The flat and frozen ground with a lake and the overland track.
Frozen Overland Track.
(Photo: M. Wells)
A small mountain with clear skies behind it.
Mount Haswell.
(Photo: M. Wells)
Mount Ainsworth under snow.
Mount Ainsworth under snow.
(Photo: M. Wells)
The sun rising in the distance at Green Gorge.
Sunrise at Green Gorge.
(Photo: M. Wells)
Th sun rising over Waterfall Bay with clear skies in the background.
Sunrise at Waterfall Bay.
(Photo: M. Wells)

Medical training on Macca

There is no emergency 000 to call when things go wrong here at Macca, so part of the job of an expeditioner is being able to provide an emergency response for a search and rescue, fire or medical emergency. Training in all of the areas is conducted on a regular basis so that all on station can swing into action if ever called upon. Making training exercises as realistic as possible helps to maintain enthusiasm, stimulates problem solving thinking and promotes teamwork.

One of our recent training exercises was responding to a kitchen fire and conducted an on-station rescue exercise after our diesel mechanic Lionel had ‘fallen’ from a height and injured his head and leg. Lionel was a very accommodating victim patient for the station doctor to practise her special effects makeup skills.

The doctors have an official Polar Medicine Trauma Moulage Kit with wonderful tubs of ‘dried scab’ and ‘thick blood’ to play with and create all sorts of gruesome injuries.

Please note that no diesel mechanics or hands were harmed in the conduct of these activities.

Jan Wallace (Expedition Medical Officer)

The doctor's makeup kit includes fake blood and scabs so that training is made more realistic.
The doctor's makeup kit!
(Photo: J. Wallace)
A hand with a simulated kitchen burn.
Simulated kitchen burn.
(Photo: J. Wallace)
Station mechanic Lionel smiling after his mock fall during medical training
Station mechanic Lionel smiling after his mock fall during medical training.
(Photo: J. Wallace)
Station mechanic Lionel is successfully rescued during medical training
Station mechanic Lionel is successfully rescued during medical training.
(Photo: J. Wallace)