This week at Macquarie Island: 16 November 2018

This week on Macca we light sparklers, welcome summer expeditioners and reminisce about a snowy winter walk

L'Astrolabe - merci beaucoup!

In this past week we were very pleased to see the arrival of the French icebreaker L’Astrolabe. She arrived in Buckles Bay around 0900 Friday 9th November, keeping station just offshore, without dropping anchors. It was always going to be a short visit.

Weather was standard Macca fare and just too much for locals to get out onto the water (beyond the wind parameters for boating). L’Astrolabe’s Master and crew kindly took over the responsibility of ship/shore transfers, being able to operate in windier conditions than the Macca crews. People and cargo came ashore in a constant flow, using the ship’s RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat).

At the shore end, a line of helping hands in dry suits assisted new arrivals onto the beach and all baggage and cargo into waiting palletised containers.

With all the incoming summer crew ashore, all the Macca freight landed, we sadly bade farewell to the L’Astrolabe at midday Friday. It was indeed a short visit and many thanks to the French Navy – merci beaucoup!

The action continues as new summer expeditioners complete station induction and training sessions, begin their allotted tasks, and familiarise themselves with this great place. Now half the summer crew are down island acquainting themselves with soggy tracks and cosy field huts.

It ends all too soon for some, as the next ship due in a few days will take them away again.

L'Astrolabe sailing past Garden Bay to take up position in Buckles Bay ready for passenger and cargo transfers
L'Astrolabe arrives off Buckles Bay
(Photo: Ali Dean)
L'Astrolabe's red RIB in the water with the first load of passengers
L'Astrolabe's red RIB in the water with the first load of passengers
(Photo: Ali Dean)
The shore party receiving a load of cargo on Landing Beach
Receiving a load of cargo on Landing Beach
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
Danielle and the rest of the Macca shore crew secure the RIB and help to unload passengers
Danielle and the rest of the Macca shore crew in action
(Photo: Richard Youd)
A large male elephant seal with a much smaller female or weaner blocks the path of the incoming RIB for several minutes as the shore party and laden boat stand by
Slight delay while Angus, Greg, Tim and Chris H discuss the situation…
(Photo: Danielle McCarthy)
RIB delivers the second boatload of passengers safely ashore
Second boatload of passengers safely ashore
(Photo: Richard Youd)
The red RIB returning to the ship for another load of cargo
RIB returns to the ship for another load
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
Resupply completed as the weather continues to close in
Resupply completed as the weather continues to close in
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)

Where's the snow?

One of the most common greetings around the world is 'hello, how are you?' Followed by a comment on the weather. 'Beautiful day, good to see the sunshine, we need some rain etc etc.'

Here on beautiful Macca our weather is usually, wet, windy and cold and all at the same time.

Being a tiny land mass in the middle of the Southern Ocean, we have an extreme maritime climate with nearly always strong westerly winds and around 300 days a year with rain and heavy cloud.

The temperature doesn't vary very much and usually hovers between 3°C to 7°C.

I think for most of us expeditioners, when we do head down here our family and friends think we are going to be snowbound like on the continental bases and they are usually surprised at pictures of us surrounded by greenery. The island gets its nickname of the Green Sponge because of the peaty, wet and soggy soil and the covering of beautiful mosses, lichens and tussocks.

Even though we do have occasional snowfalls it usually only stays on the ground for a day or so or melts straight away. There is nothing nicer than waking up to see a cap of snow up on the plateau. On a recent trip to Green Gorge hut we woke on the morning of departure to a 30 cm blanket of snow down to beach level. The hike back to station certainly became a bit more arduous and the novelty of hiking in knee-deep snow wore off around the 3 hour mark. By the time we arrived home all the snow around station had completely disappeared, leaving the dusting on top for another day or so before the island returned back to the Green Sponge.

Green Gorge with a dusting of snow
Green Gorge with a dusting of snow
(Photo: Annette Fear)
A view of a snowy Macca with an orange marker in the foreground
The orange track markers stand out against a white background
(Photo: Annette Fear)
A snowy view on the Varne Plateau with a lake reflecting the grey skies
A snowy view on the Varne Plateau with a lake reflecting the…
(Photo: Annette Fear)
Blue sky and sunshine breaking through on a grey and white landscape - a view on the Varne Plateau after a rare snowfall
Blue sky and sunshine breaking through on a grey and white landscape
(Photo: Annette Fear)

Sparklers and marshmallows

Due to a surplus of sparklers here at Macca, we decided to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night with a fire in a barrel supervised by Ranger-in-Charge Chris, toasted gooey marshmallows, sparklers galore, and a handsome guy made by Librarian, DSL and BSS Tim.

Luckily the wind died down, the stars came out, and a stunning aurora played across the heavens. 

a wooden guy made for Guy Fawkes night 5th November at Macca
Our Macca Guy with sparkler
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
Gathering of expeditioners around a bonfire in a drum for Guy Fawkes night
All around the bonfire
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
Expeditioners waving sparklers around on Guy Fawkes night near a bonfire in a drum
Sparklers in the night
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
Expeditioners watching the aurora in the sky around a bonfire in a drum
Bonfire and aurora on Guy Fawkes night
(Photo: Angus Cummings)