This week at Macquarie Island: 30 June 2017

This week down at Macca, we feature a day in the life of the Bureau of Meteorology and get to know winter expeditioner Dave Brett

Macquarie Island - A day in the life of BoM -Meteorological Observations Program

Macquarie Island is one of the few landmasses in the Southern Ocean and is situated just to the north of the Antarctic convergence zone. The meteorological data collected from this station is invaluable for input into global numerical weather products and the ongoing long–term climate record for the region. Macquarie Island data contributes to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Upper–Air Network (GUAN) and is considered as the most influential station in the Bureau upper air network.

Meteorological observations have been continuously recorded on Macquarie Island since the establishment of the ANARE station in 1948. The Bureau of Meteorology observation program primarily consists of surface, upper air and ozone measurements with technical and operational support given to other atmospheric research programs that utilise the islands unique location. This year our team consists of three members: Matt and Kerri (observers) and Emry (technician).

Our observation program runs every day of the year with the Automatic Weather Station (AWS) recording one–minute data for temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed and direction. This information is supplemented with manual observations of the weather, visibility, cloud cover, sunshine hours, soil temperature as well as sea and swell observations.

The upper air program involves releasing hydrogen filled balloons into the atmosphere every 12 hours. The balloons carry aloft a device called a radiosonde which has a suite of sensors and GPS technology that produce a profile of the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure as well as determining the wind speed and direction of the upper atmosphere up to 35 kilometres above the Earth's surface. An ozonesonde is incorporated with the radiosonde flight once per week. The ozonesonde samples the amount of ozone in the atmosphere as the balloon ascends producing a profile of atmospheric ozone levels in this region.

Another daily task that staff perform is the manual taking of ozone measurements utilising an instrument called the Dobson Spectrophotometer.

The first Dobson was built in the 1920s for the purpose of measuring total ozone in the atmosphere with little change to the instrument since its inception. The basic principle in Dobson Spectrophotometry is the comparison of the intensities of two ultraviolet wavelengths. One of these wavelengths has been highly absorbed by the ozone layer while the second is essentially unaffected. The difference in the two intensities relates to how much ozone is present in a vertical column extending from ground level to the top of the atmosphere in the vicinity of the instrument. The small concentration of ozone that is present in the atmosphere is important due to its ability to absorb UV radiation from the sun and also its influence on the thermal structure of the atmosphere. 

The meteorology technician is responsible for the maintenance of all the meteorological instrumentation and equipment, including the hydrogen generation systems and facilities. In addition, he/she is responsible for the support and maintenance of other non–Bureau science experiments such as the ongoing CO2 monitoring by the CSIRO. This year, there is also the Macquarie Island Cloud and Radiation Experiment (MICRE) which consists of an array of instrumentation. 

Our team's aim this year is to maintain the high quality of data collection that has been recorded by previous Met teams as we approach 70 years of operations on Macquarie Island, and to begin the process of preparing for hopefully another 70 years of operations.

The meteorological instrument enclosure behind the MET office - Macquarie Island
The meteorological instrument enclosure behind the MET office.
(Photo: M. Westbury)
A machine called the Dobson Spectrophotometer sitting on a desk.
The Dobson Spectrophotometer.
(Photo: M. Westbury)
The MICRE project instrumentation outside the clean air laboratory - Macquarie Island
The MICRE project instrumentation outside the clean air laboratory.
(Photo: M. Westbury)
The three Bureau of Meteorology team stand outside a building.
Macquarie Island 2017 BoM Team: Emry, Kerri, and Matt.
(Photo: M. Westbury)

70th ANARE winter expeditioner profile: Dave Brett

Name: David Brett

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

I have several hats to wear here on Macca. My main role is building services supervisor and then carpenter. I supervise all the plumbers and electricians in scheduling tasks and carrying out their routine maintenance around the station.

What are your secondary / community jobs on Macca?

Lay surgical assistant, deputy station leader, deputy fire chief, deputy SAR leader, deputy brew master so you could say I’m second in charge here on Macca.

Where are you from?

Tasmanian born and bred. I live in Hobart with my wife Bronwyn and her son Hugh. I have lived in several parts of Tas including Golden Valley, Port Sorell and Gowrie Park but I mainly grew up at Triabunna on the east coast where I started my building career working for D Jarvis Builders of Spring Beach.

Most of our work involved restoration work on Maria Island. It was here that I found my passion for working in isolated areas, caring for our historic past and interacting with wildlife and having to think outside the norm. All very relevant here on Macca!

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

I have been with the division for almost 10 years now, so this is what I refer to as my normal job. However there are times when I stay at home long enough that my bank balance starts to suffer and my wife becomes agitated with my presence around the house 'all day long'.

The longest stint at home was in 2010–11 when I took a job with Hansen Yunken as one of the site managers at MONA, this comes very close to one of the best jobs I have been involved in, but it is still second place to the work and experiences I have had with the AAD.

Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?

I was fortunate enough to be here for the last year of the MIPEP program in 2013-14. There have been some significant changes to the density of the tussocks and grasses since that time, and it seems a lot quieter on station this time around.

I have done winters and summers at the continental stations and they all have their individual good points, but Macca stands alone when it comes to wildlife and the ocean.

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

I have just done two short summer stints at Casey and a winter at Davis 2015 so needed to be somewhere warmer for a change.

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

Not having to put on additional layers every time you go outside. Wildlife and the ever changing numbers, type and variety that change from day to day and hour to hour. The ocean and waves crashing on the beaches/rocks.

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

RAIN, hills, RAIN and wind!

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

Orca, just hanging around with the pod and looking for that next meal.

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

Nothing at this stage! Apart from going out and about with my wife, seeing family and friends. I will miss my mother’s 90th birthday celebrations, which will be a major family gathering, but will definitely be there for her next one.

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

Any screen based electronic time gobbling, mind numbing, communication stunting, ante social piece of technology, TV, traffic and having to pay for my meals. 

What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?

I prefer to be inside at the moment (refer to challenging things question above) but when it is fine just a short stroll around the station limits has enough interesting things happening for now.

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

Milo, small tines of spiced tuna, picnic bars and snakes. All at the same time can be challenging but give it a go!

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

Wristlets, socks, boots and thermals.

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

Nope! always pack too much.

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

No one in particular, just family and friends, I don’t like to shout that much and the phone is always there! 
An expeditioner standing on a green hill with blue sky in the background.
Dave Brett at Green Gorge.
(Photo: D. Brett)
A group of expeditioners standing and sitting in front of a very large tractor.
Dave Brett during his first winter at Casey station.
(Photo: D. Brett)
Three expeditioners on quad bikes on the sea ice.
Dave Brett completing field training at Davis station in 2015.
(Photo: D. Brett)
A group of people inside with flags behind them all smiling getting ready for midwinters dinner.
Dave Brett at midwinters dinner.
(Photo: K. Williams)