This week at Macquarie Island: 21 September 2018

This week at Macca we find out what the Senior Field Training Officer has been up to, and we rest on our laurels following the inter-station darts tournament.

Darting about

Inter-station darts have been played for decades between ANARE stations and other Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations. In earlier times it was HF radio that was used to communicate with the other stations. Even though reception was not always clear, the joy in hearing fellow expeditioners, jokes, banter, conversation with people off station but still part of ‘your world’ was always a serious event.

To uphold this tradition, the inter-station darts competition between AAD stations for 2018 is underway. Modern day technology was enabled so that next to the dart playing area a large TV displayed the view from the other station’s camera plus sound, all in real time. A driver for the competition at Macca was Tim, taking on the task of player training, selection and scheduling Macca games. The great effort was rewarded with good outcomes by all teams.

First up we played Casey, with a full attendance by Macca for this first match providing robust support. This was expressed in different ways: scoring games, camera control, reading, knitting, shouting encouragement. We discovered the fun in being able to see and talk to the Casey crew in between the games.

Next up was Davis, who successfully won the first game, managing to deflate the collective Macca ego a little after their clean run with Casey. It was described as an epic night, full of good cheer, jokes, laughter and nail biting suspense as the result determined at the end of an eventful third game.

Now it may have been an advantage to Macca that all games were played after dinner on Fridays, as due to the time differences at the other stations they all played earlier. The game with Mawson was played around their lunchtime. However, that hasn’t stopped the continental stations winning in past years. Not this time though, after another great night/day with the Mawson crew, Macca came out on top. The result broadcast to Macca field parties accompanied by cheering and singing. Smiles all round, we must do this again!

Norbert Trupp, Station Communications Technical Officer

Chris B & Rich in front of a dartboard in Macca Mess
Macca Versus Casey - Chris B & Rich happy with the score
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
The Macca team watching relaxing and watching the darts in the recent inter-station darts tournament
Macca Versus Casey - tense crowd watching the action in the mess
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
The Macca audience watching the screen as Davis throws in the recent inter-station darts match
Macca Versus Davis - Three points up watching Davis throw on the…
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
Macca darts players Angus & Peter virtual handshaking with the Davis team on winning the final game against Davis in the recent inter-station darts tournament
Macca Versus Davis - Angus & Peter virtual handshaking with the Davis
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)
The winning throw in the recent inter-station darts tournament
Macca Versus Mawson - Happy with those winning darts!
(Photo: Norbert Trupp)

Jumping UP all over the island

There’s a lot of things said about the regeneration of the island post eradication – “birds are returning to nest on the main island”, “the integrity of the escarpment slopes is reforming due to the regrowth of vegetation”, and “we don’t have to be so vigilant in rodent proofing our food anymore”.

Yes, the third point is meant to be funny and the first one is awesome. It’s been great spending time in the field with Jez, our sea bird researcher, seeing the resurgence of many burrowing petrels, a lot of which had all but stopped breeding here at Macca – but that’s a story for another day.

This tale is about the dynamic nature of the island and how quickly the vegetation regrowth is changing the way we operate on the island… kind of.

Past scientific research and especially during the eradication, safe access routes have been required all over the island to drop down into bays and jump back up onto the escarpment, to move around impassable bits of the coastline, or just to get back to the hut at night. This need was met by a series of GPS waypointed locations where someone might safely move up/down the escarpment, even on those days of terrific Macca weather (NW 30-35 knots, afternoon showers with possible low cloud and fog). This gave birth to a unique Macca term, the “Jump Up” (or indeed “Jump Down” if you are moving with gravity).

A major part of my role as a Field Training Officer this winter has been to scoot around the island and reassess these Jump Ups. Asking the salient questions: is it still safe? Does it service our current and future needs? Have we adequately described the terrain so someone travelling there for the first time can safely use the Jump Up?

It truly is amazing to see how quickly the huge tussocks (Poa foliosa), the cabbage (Stilbocarpa polaris), and the buzzies (Aceana magellanica), amongst many other species, are taking over and covering the escarpment slopes again. This is wonderful news for the Island and its native inhabitants, but can sometimes be a hindrance to researchers as they battle up slopes through dense tussock that can often be between waist and shoulder height.

It has been an epic adventure and shown me many corners of the island that I may not have otherwise seen. The photos below are from a select few (just three) of the Jump Ups on the island, hoping to show you how different they all are – from each other, and within themselves. And remember, there’s always time for a cuppa tea and to sit back and enjoy the beauty that is Macca scenery and the wildlife.

Richard Youd, Senior Field Training Officer

Top markers for the Jump Down heading into Far North Precarious Bay on a misty Macca day
Top markers for the Jump Down heading into Far North Precarious Bay…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Having dropped about 50m down from the top of the Far North Precarious Bay Jump Down, the view and terrain changes from feldmark into some short grasses, but then tussock
Having dropped about 50m down from the top of the Far North…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Dense tussock covers the entire bottom half of the Far North Precarious Bay Jump Down
Dense tussock covers the entire bottom half of the Far North Precarious…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Selfie of Rich at Far North Precarious Bay with the dense and tall tussock in the background
Gratuitous selfie with the same tussock at Far North Precarious Bay, not…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Rolling over the top of the Hell Bay Jump Down, the Azorella macquariensis and feldmark given way immediately to short grasses and the tussock
Rolling over the top of the Hell Bay Jump Down, the Azorella…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
A much more realistic view of the tall, thick, wet tussock and cabbage near the bottom of the Hell Bay Jump Up
A much more realistic view of the tall, thick, wet tussock and…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
The Davis Point Jump Up - a rocky creek/gully with some lovely short grasses leading into the bottom of it
And for something completely different, the Davis Point Jump Up is mostly…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Rich having a cup of tea perched out on the ridge-line of Precarious Point supervising some Southern Giant Petrels as they get ready to start their breeding season
Hard work deserves a cup of tea. Perched out on the ridgeline…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
The first Royal Penguins of the season north of Hurd Point signaling the approach of summer
I also spotted the first Royal Penguins of the season (north of…
(Photo: Richard Youd)
One of the Beachmaster Elephant Seal lying on tussock before the hectic breeding season gets into full swing
Definitely approaching breeding time on the island, this Beachmaster Elephant Seal is…
(Photo: Richard Youd)