This week at Macquarie Island: 6 January 2017
Happy New Year to all! As expected, it's been a busy time of social activities for people here on the island while nature has been busy smashing the annual rainfall record.
Our Island Christmas
Christmas has come and gone for 2016 here on Macquarie Island and it was novel to experience it without any of the triggers of commercialism: no Christmas carols played at you since October in every shopping centre, no advertising telling you what to buy or how many shopping days to go – just the calendar saying today is the day!
Christmas decorations were up a few days before Christmas Eve in the mess to help get us in the mood and (as mentioned previously) Stay Here was discovered in time to be dressed as Santa and placed under the tree.
Some traditions such as a green tree (in this treeless place) we bring with us, and others are particular to a Christmas down south. One of these is the messages that come from other stations around the sub–Antarctic and Antarctica (and our new friends in Greenland) that make you feel part of a special community. Another is ‘Secret Santa’ gift giving when one can’t go shopping, so hidden creativity combined with limited resources is tapped. The gifts that were made here on the island from what materials were available were limited only by the imagination of their creators and so very impressive and wide–ranging.
We forwent the idea of someone playing Santa and instead went for a round robin approach where everyone gave out at least one gift. This allowed us all time to watch as each gift was unwrapped, and they were worth watching. People had been busy with various woodworking projects, metal sculptures and sewing projects with the etchers and engravers clearly working overtime to commemorate these as Macca projects. Some wonderful keepsakes for people to remember their time by. Due to it being ‘secret’ Santa, some digging was required over the course of the day to find out who the artistic geniuses behind some of these projects were… (but of course, I can’t reveal that here).
And, naturally, there was no shortage of food on the day. Rocket had been prepping for the last couple of weeks and we had huge brunch before present giving, and then a full Christmas dinner complete with hot and cold buffet later in the day, all of which meant the traditional food coma was covered. He even made three different sorts of shortbread!
To counteract all that eating, Boxing Day involved a basketball tournament for those willing to participate in some physical activity and in the evening a screening of “Antarctica the Musical” in the cinema which was well attended. The planned Boxing Day BBQ dinner never happened as the leftovers fridge was just too tempting…
Film and TV quiz night farewell
To check our brains had survived the Christmas festivities, on the evening of December 27 we had a Film and TV quiz night. This was also a farewell to those six expeditioners returning home this week, in particular our winter team member Dom Eyre-Walker who has clocked up 405 days on the island since he arrived at the beginning of last summer and is a keen cinema fan.
The majority of people on station participated and there was plenty of opportunity to get the wheels of memory turning. Games ranged from having to identify film clips and TV show theme tunes to pictionary, anagrams and lighting trivia rounds. The winning team included Jennie Whinam who had only popped in to watch for a bit, which goes to show you just can’t sit down quietly around this place…
Thanks to quiz masters Joe, Helen and Marty for all their hard work in putting everything together and Rob for those sensational, impossible–to–cheat–with, buzzers. Well, unless you’re Mizza that is, and hit someone else’s…
Annual weather roundup
When it rains, it pours. Then on Macca, it pours some more!
For the second year running the Vertical Swamp has outdone its previous best swampiness and set another highest annual rainfall record. The Sponge and all its soggy residents squelched past the average annual rainfall of 981.6 millimetres way back in October and then set its sights on ‘The Big Wet’.
We figure if we’re going to slog and dig and paddle through the mud it had better be worth it for nothing less than a shiny new record. Coming home with a wet sail and the wettest December on record, the Macca rain gauge tipped past the 2015 total with almost a week of the year remaining and clocked in on New Year’s Eve with 1284.2 millimetres.
All that precipitation – some of it did fall as snow and hail through the year – fell over 342 rain days. That left only 24 days of the 2016 leap year with no significant rainfall (significant requiring 0.2 millimetres or more) and only 11 days in the entire year managed to pass without a trace in the gauge.
Nine months during 2016 received above average rainfall. December capped it off with a new record high December rainfall total, dumping 180 millimetres on our roof tops which is more than double the month’s average of 79.2 millimetres.
We also set a new December daily rainfall record with 47.4 millimetres falling on December 15th. Macca’s walking tracks turned to rivers and work sites to swamps and everyone stayed inside. That heavy rainfall was associated with a deep low pressure system that passed very close to the island which also gave us a new record low mean sea level pressure for December of 947.8 hPa at 9 pm on December 14th.
Other weathery goodness from ‘The Year That Was’ on Macca includes that our hottest temperature for 2016 was 10.8°C on December 21st, one of only three days all year that hit double figures. The coldest temperature for the year was −2.9°C on August 29th.
We had 67 days with snowfall on station and 45 days with hail. There were 304 days on station where the average wind speed reached at least 22 knots (41 km/h) and 116 days that reached at least 34 knots (63 km/h). Our strongest wind gust recorded for the year was 74 knots (137 km/h) from the west on May 15th.
P is for "Party"
Rowena and Nick volunteered to organise our New Year's Eve party and went for a dress theme of anything beginning with a "P", which again opened those streams of creativity.
From pensioners to pot plants via multiple pirates and a princess Leia, the costume store managed to supplement and inspire an original batch of costumes.
Rocket again put on a feast and games on a "P" theme include 'pool', 'penguin piñatas', 'penguin' darts (points for Macquarie Island species) and 'pin the Proboscis on the plumber'. And then, of course, there was dancing.
A big thanks to Ro and Nick for a great night.
It seems a good time to go back to the old logs to see how Christmas and New Year have been celebrated previously here on the island. Some things have definitely changed: we don’t get cigarette rations, race seals or wear uniforms anymore!
Please note that until 2000, changeover occurred in Nov/Dec, hence the Christmas date is actually the year before the ANARE date. The 2001 team were here for 18 months as changeover moved from Nov/Dec to March/April and so celebrated two Christmases and New Years on the island.
Station log 12/12/51 – 5th ANARE
Christmas Day. A very happy day. Table very good with three tiered cake, plus Christmas pudding with three penny pieces. One packet of cigarettes and one block of chocolate on each plate. Meal included roast lamb and wild duck… Cricket match in afternoon a great success, the married men winning by 23 runs after two innings each.
Station log 25/12/55 – 9th ANARE
A very happy and enjoyable meal followed by a quiet party that finished at a very early hour of 1130 pm with a discussion between physicists and laymen trying to reconcile the great outer spaces with the mundane everyday life.
Station log 25/12/59 (Christmas took place during resupply/changeover) – 12th ANARE
No work today except for essential duties. Xmas dinner on shore – buffet style lunch for at least 60 persons was highly successful. Presents were distributed by Cap. Peterson and an 18 gallon keg (that will be 68.13 litres in today's measurements) was drunk in record time. Afternoon diversions included an international seal riding contest.
Station log 25/12/65 – 19th ANARE
All turned up in their ANARE trousers and blazer and wore ties for the pre–dinner cocktails, wine and beer whilst awaiting, I might add with some excitement, the arrival of Santa Claus (John Jenkins) who arrived from a southerly direction on the decorated tractor and trailer.
Station log 31/12/70 – 24th ANARE
The theme of tonight’s great party was “The Debauchery Stakes”. The odds plus a detailed form guide was posted up at dinner time… the party really got underway about 2100 hours and was interspersed with sessions in the sauna and cold water tank (diving for cans of beer).
Station log 24/12/75 – 29th ANARE
Christmas party in Sealers Inn an unqualified ball – with Christmas carols being sung into the wee hours to the tune of Des Parker and Terry at the piano. Several quiet souls broke out of their shells and let their hair down – to their sorrow the next morning.
Station log 25/12/75 – 29th ANARE
A sad and sorry crew turned out for the “Annual Surf Carnival” in Hasselborough Bay – seven starters in the only event braved chill east winds – seals – and icy brine to complete the five metre course in record time – generally a quiet restful day.
Station log 25/12/84 – 38th ANARE
The ingenuity and imagination of some people never ceases to amaze me. The locally–made gifts ranged from artistic and humorous items to lifetime souvenirs of Christmas 1984 at Macquarie Island.
Station Log 31/12/84 – 38th ANARE
Normal work day with early finish to coincide with drinks in the Biolab at 4.30pm… The evening’s festivities started slowly and ended up in the mess. Daylight Savings New Year was ushered in, the Queensland time New Year, then South Australia etc etc…
Station log 31/12/89 – 43rd ANARE
Most people out of bed late after the New Year's celebrations. Golf competition was held at 1330 with tee off from the hill above Hasselborough House. Some wild shots but no broken windows. Bear put plywood over the most vulnerable windows on the mess.
Station log 25/12/97 – 51st ANARE
Christmas Day started with champagne and croissants for breakfast at 0830am. This lasted all morning during which time a group photo was taken in an effort to get the picture on the Macquarie Island home page on the internet. Unfortunately the Antdiv server was down and attempt failed.
…A few people fell by the wayside as the day progressed but the party continued on into the evening with dancing in the Ham Shack, drinks in the mess and movies in Sealers.
Station log 1/1/98 – 51st ANARE
A quiet start to the day… but definitely not a quiet finish.
After lunch, haggis hurling, caber tossing and golf were held for all starters. The haggises may have started out being hurled in roughly the correct direction, but that’s not how the competition finished. Many a competitor ended up looking like a haggis themselves.
Station log 25/12/00 – 54th ANARE
Christmas dinner was a Gerbil (the chef) masterpiece of seafood, turkey, pork and ham. A bit of mud wrestling, drinking, spa soaking and sleeping made up the rest of the afternoon.
Station log 31/12/01 – 54th ANARE
The weather stayed great, the stars came out and many enjoyed the visit of a pod of killer whales to Garden Cove. Christine and Christian put on a lead melting session where people poured molten lead into a bucket to interpret their future for the year to come from the shape formed. A small band saw the sun rise as they cooked breakfast by the fire.
Station Log 25/12/09 – 62nd ANARE
Secret Santa gifts were handed out by Santa with some people going to a lot of effort to create the original gift. After a spa for some and a rest for others it was back to the mess to set the table for dinner. The centrepiece made by Stevo and Eve with help from others was fantastic and I hope this will be used for more Christmas celebrations in the future. Jimmy put on an exceptional feast for us all to enjoy and enjoy we did before settling into party mode for the rest of the night. No sked with all on station.
Photos are of years that we haven't seen before.