This week at Macquarie Island: 2 November 2018

The Macca team are dam cleaning this week and we take a look at station life

Go Go Gadgets

With the end of winter and the upcoming arrival of our summer expeditioners, the bi-annual mission to dig out Gadget’s Gully Dam has been on the to-do list for the last few weeks.

All of our water on station is sourced from this dam and piped approximately 1.5 km down the hill into our tanks. The dam is filled by surface water from the plateau, and with the water comes a steady supply of sediment, rocks and mud which means a major dig-out operation is required a couple of times each year.

Being a little bit lacking in the upper-body strength department (and a lot lacking in the shovel-skill department), I felt comfortable in the presumption that there was no way I would be called on for the task.

But of course, when it turns out there are only 4 of you who are available for the job (not in the field and not on the fire team), upper-body strength and shoveling abilities suddenly don’t count for much.

'Team Gadgets 2018' (carpenter/BSS Tim, plumber Greg, met observer Danielle, and myself) were up bright and early last Tuesday morning, hoping for a lovely sunny and wind-free day, but of course getting dense fog, bouts of rain, and the usual 20-30 knots of wind.

On initial inspection we thought it didn’t look too bad, but of course that was before we drained all the water out and realised that what we optimistically took for rock was in fact, quite a lot of mud.

At that stage the only thing to do was to start shoveling. And shovel we did, for the next 6 hours or so (with the odd break for cups of tea and general cursing) until bedrock was hit and the job was done! 

Cathryn O'Sullivan
Station doctor

Editor's note: water supply, storage and treatment is part of the Macca station upgrade, due to be built by 2022. Find out more here (and take a virtual tour of  the existing station).

Gadgets Dam on cleaning day
Gadget's Dam on our arrival. Doesn't look too bad does it?
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
The team at the dam discuss the way to clean the dam
Tim, Greg & Danielle discuss the approach 'We'll drain it then dig…
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
Greg Sandrey station plumber disconnecting the station water supply and draining the dam
Plumber Greg disconnects the station water supply and the dam drain commences
(Photo: Danielle McCarthy)
The dam after the water has been drained - full of silt and mud
OK a bit more mud than we thought
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
To keep the slurry moving Tim redistributes water while Cathryn digs the mud out
Cathryn digs mud while Tim throws water around
(Photo: Danielle McCarthy)
Tim & Greg encourage a lot of mud through a rather small hole in the base of the dam
Tim & Greg encourage a lot of mud through a rather small…
(Photo: Danielle McCarthy)
Cathryn scrubbing the dam wall
The finishing touches - the dam wall does scrub up nicely
(Photo: Tim Kerr)
Danielle covered in mud in the now cleaned Gadgets Dam
Danielle in her not-so-yellow-anymore waterproofs, proudly standing by the finished product -…
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)

Station Life

Question: How do tradies decide what tasks to do each month?

Scheduled maintenance tasks are generated from head office in Hobart and sent to us via a software program at the start of each month. This becomes the basis for our monthly work programs, but we also need to factor in other obligations and duties that are part of station life, such as:

Duty rosters – cleaning, slushie (see below), and emergency response (fire) team.

Training exercises – fire response training exercises, Lay Surgical Assistant (LSA) training, Search and Rescue (SAR) training

Station meetings, formal dinners, compliance paperwork for larger jobs, and weather openings to do outdoor works - so time can be a premium.

Question: What is a 'slushie'?

A slushie is a term used to describe kitchen and cleaning duties. It's customary that everyone has a turn at slushie duty.

Two good things about being the slushie for the day: one, you get to choose what music is played on ‘Slushie FM’ and the whole station has to listen to your choice; and two, (depending on the Chef) you get really good at washing dishes.

Question: How does a 4 tonne bull elephant seal open a gate?

The answer is, it doesn't. Eli bull seals don’t like opening gates so they just go straight through them.

An elephant seal bull beside the station road on the isthmus
An ellie bull contemplating opening a gate
(Photo: Greg Sandrey)
One of the station gates mangled by an elephant seal
A gate after an ellie seal bull has opened it...
(Photo: Greg Sandrey)
A view of an elephant seal crowded beach on census day (October 15th) on Macca
The Big Day Out on Macca involved counting female elephant seals around…
(Photo: Greg Sandrey)
A royal penguin colony full again at Hurd Point on Macquarie Island
The royals have arrived - on Macca that means royal penguins!
(Photo: Greg Sandrey)