This week at Macquarie Island: 9 June 2017

This week at Macquarie Island, we take a look at field familiarisation training and get to know wildlife ranger Penny Pascoe.

Island field time

With field familiarisation trips all done, expeditioners are getting out and exploring this special island home of ours.

Having completed our field training in Hobart earlier in the year, the objective of field familiarisation trips is to put all of our training into context, as well as learn how to minimise wildlife disturbance and environmental impacts. Led by Andrea, the groups followed a standard field training route that represents most of the terrain and vegetation types to be encountered on Macca:

Day 1: A steep climb up the Doctors Track and Island Lake Track stroll along the plateau to Bauer Bay Hut.

Day 2: An introduction to the infamous Macca ‘Labyrinth’, coastal featherbed and escarpment jump-up, off–track navigation practice through the Flat Creek ‘meadows’, followed by a night at Brothers Point Hut.

Day 3: A visit to the penguins at Sandy Bay, followed by a walk home to station via the east coast or the Overland Track (depending on the coastal conditions).

Everyone relished the opportunity to see the spectacular scenery, learn about how to live in the huts, and to sample the exquisite field delicacy that is the renowned Frey Bentos steak and kidney pie (mostly at Andrea’s behest). Other memorable highlights included encounters with bogs, slopes coated in buzzies, and trips to the beach scrutinised by elephant seals.

The weather became increasingly challenging as the trips progressed. On the third trip, Jan and Geoff experienced the most adverse weather by far, with thick incessant mist and classic ‘furious fifties’ Macca winds – although the very low visibility did enable the most extensive navigation practice. Andrea described the usually prominent features that were masked by mist for Jan and Geoff, who are looking forward to seeing it all properly soon!

Nick and Matt scored the first independent recreational trip, though they had a good dose of the Macca furious fifties on their very windy Bauer Bay trip. Next up was Wayne, Nick and Andrea’s sojourn to Green Gorge, roughly halfway down the island. Nick kept us well fed (as all recreating chefs seem compelled to do) while we watched the local king penguins come and go from their fishing trips. Abnormally large foamy waves smashed into the coast and a decent snowfall made everything even more spectacular.

Andrea Turbett, Ranger In Charge, Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service

Macquarie Island expeditoners Wayne, Kerri, Emry and Andrea at Bauer Bay Hut
Macquarie Island expeditoners Wayne, Kerri, Emry and Andrea at Bauer Bay Hut.
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Macquarie Island expeditioners Kyle, Nick and Matt at the spectacular Labyrinth area at Mawson Point
Macquarie Island expeditioners Kyle, Nick and Matt at the spectacular Labyrinth area…
(Photo: A. Turbett)
An expeditioner climbing up a very steep hill with water in the background.
Expeditioner Emry tackling the jump up near Flat Creek.
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Expeditioners Geoff and Jan standing outside Bauer Bay Hut - Macquarie Island
Expeditioners Geoff and Jan at Bauer Bay Hut.
(Photo: A. Turbett)
Nick's gloves covered in buzzies on the jump-up near Flat Creek
Nick's gloves after his encounter with buzzies on the jump-up near Flat…
(Photo: A. Turbett)

70th ANARE winter expeditioner profile: Penny Pascoe

Name: Penny Pascoe

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

I am the wildlife ranger on Macca. My role is primarily field based, so I get to spend a lot of my time hiking all over the island and working out of the six field huts. I monitor population numbers and distributions of a range of different species around the island, keep an eye out for any vagrant or unusual species and help out with other wildlife projects.

What are your secondary / community jobs on Macca?

My main secondary role this season is schools liaison, answering questions sent to us by kids from all over the world. It is great fun hearing from the kids, and they are always curious to find out how many animals we see down here.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Bright in north–eastern Victoria. After finishing school I moved to Hobart for university and have spent the past six years there on and off when I haven’t been down south or overseas.

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

I haven’t had a long–term job for a while! After finishing uni I spent a year in South America where I did voluntary research assistant work in Peru and Patagonia. When I got back to Australia in early 2016 I worked for a while on the MONA ferry and at Mountain Designs in Hobart while volunteering as a crew member on one of the local tall ships. I was then lucky enough to get a position on the Albatross and Petrel Monitoring Program down here on Macquarie Island staring October 2016 which I did until I changed to my current role as wildlife ranger in March this year.

Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?

I have been south twice before. I spent about a month over winter in 2014 assisting with elephant seal research and New Zealand doing sea lion research on Campbell Island as part of my honours project. At the end of that year I also spent two months at Davis station working on a project looking at the effects of ocean acidification on marine microbes.

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

Getting to spend my time working with amazing animals and hiking all over a sub–Antarctic island is basically my idea of a dream job!

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

Getting to live with such a great group of people, the amazing animals, the crazy weather and scenery and how you never quite know what is about to happen each day.

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

Missing family and friends back home and having any degree of self control around Nick the chefs amazing cooking!

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

Apparently a kelp fly?

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

Fresh fruit, especially bananas, swimming and being able to walk around in bare feet.

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

Having to go shopping, traffic and mobile phones.

What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?

I like having time to read, listen to music and go for even more walks!

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

Nuts and dried fruit.

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

I’m coming around to the bright yellow sledging hat. Keeps your ears warm and is definitely a fashion statement!

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

Dress–up clothes, we seem to use them a lot!

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

My friends back in Hobart and my family in Victoria, particularly to my parents – I think they are a bit jealous!

Penny having lunch at Cape Star with Research Assistant Mel - Macquarie Island
Penny having lunch at Cape Star with research assistant Mel.
(Photo: E. Mowat)
Royal Penguins returning from a swim - Macquarie Island
Royal Penguins returning from a swim.
(Photo: P. Pascoe)
A brand new Wandering Albatross - Macquarie Island
A brand new wandering albatross.
(Photo: P. Pascoe)
A waving wrinkly elephant seal - Macquarie Island
A waving wrinkly elephant seal.
(Photo: P. Pascoe)

A poem by Mel Wells

The Special One

Her comforting warmth, her terrifying rage,
She’s wild and free, not bound by cage.
Her gentle tranquility, her rough disposition,
The entity of life, her love; without condition.
She can make your life hell, or heavenly bliss,
Meet once, forever you’ll long for her kiss.
Salty; so sweet, but chillingly cold,
A ruthless killer, of sorts you are told.
But see no evil, just beauty and love,
A being so strong, she lifts you above.
She does not need you, as you need her,
Forever, you’ll long to be how you once were.
A pure relationship, without shackles or bounds,
With her resonating life, your heart pounds.
Surrender her your whole heart, and devote to the cause,
For a smile too inviting and life too giving, her only flaws.
She lives within you, as your heart and mind,
A more beautiful relationship, elsewhere you will not find.
So much love and unity, it cannot be undone,
Two souls connected, together you are one.

The Southern Ocean with snow on the land.
The Southern Ocean.
(Photo: Mel Wells)