This week at Macquarie Island: 27 July 2018

This week at Macca auroras filled the night sky, we got a peek at the day to day life of a wandering albatross chick and we report on the Nissen huts that form part of the station infrastructure

Macca's wanderers

This winter there are five wandering albatross chicks on nests in the southwest sector of Macquarie Island. In order to monitor this small but extremely important colony motion cameras are fixed close to nests to capture their every move.

Part of Ranger-in-Charge Chris’ job is to regularly visit the cameras and swap out the memory cards. Last week, Chris returned with the last two months of photos, over 16,000 images which were then patiently stitched together by Angus and played back to us at a special screening.

It was incredible to see these relatively small unprotected birds (apart from fluffy down coats) atop the turf nests where they hatched, exposed to the elements. The parent birds can be seen regularly arriving to feed and even an occasional juvenile giant petrel pays a visit. They stay put night and day, through blizzards and sun, gradually getting larger and stronger – may they continue to do so.

A wandering albatross chick sitting atop its turf nest with a motion camera in the foreground
A wandering albatross chick patiently waits for its next meal
(Photo: Chris Howard)

The Role of the Nissen Hut at Macquarie Island - Part 2

We still have three remaining Nissen Huts at Macquarie Island. These huts are being used for a different purpose today than they were initially intended when built all those years ago.

Some more history on the huts and how the remaining three huts evolved to what they are today. Remember the story about the old man who claimed to still have his original axe after 30-40 years of constant work. Even though this axe has had many handles and just as many heads. But it still serves as the original axe. Well this could be said for the existing Nissen Huts here on the island. They all have had many coats of paint, new outside claddings as the harsh Macca weather and rust takes a toll, new floors have been laid, new fittings furnished etc, but we still see them today as the original Nissen Huts. What I did find interesting was that the front entrance doors would appear to have been kept throughout the whole evolving process. They may have had a couple of coats of paint but if you look closely you will notice that the old latches are still being used today!

Electricians Workshop: Year constructed was 1960. In 1987 it was painted orange in that year. Like most of the Nissen Huts it started as a store. Later on it was painted white. As you can see it has been re-clad in a green colourbond with a bright blue door. That door has been blue for many years. It is one of the huts that still remain today as the Post Office, music room, store room for the pool table and there is another storeroom at the back for the station assorted fancy dress apparel.

Carpenters Workshop: Year Constructed was 1960. Again this hut was used as a store. In 1987 it was painted and given a good clean out. I have found a photo from when it was once painted blue and red. The actually colour was called Red-Lead. Certainly not appropriate today. It remains today as the plumbers workshop and was given a refurbishment in 2016 after many years as a very leaky plumbers workshop. Ahhh the irony. The refurbishment included new white colourbond cladding, heaters, better lighting, fire protection and shelving. The outside porch was extended at some stage as well as the outside sink being fitted. But the door is still painted yellow and the latches are still the same.

Meteorological Store: This Nissen Hut is located across the isthmus away from the main living and other general trade workshops. It is located in an area that has the balloon release building, Ozone building, Science Buildings and the mechanical workshop. Several years ago it was relinquished over to TasPAWS (Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services) to provide an out of weather storage and display a collection of significant heritage items. These items have been enthusiastically collected over many years from sites around the island, from when the sealers did their thing since the early 1800’s. For many years these items were further deteriorating in the Macca weather in a site next to the old Electricians/Post Office Nissen Hut. So the TasPAWS hut has been re-clad in colourbond to keep it sort of dry inside. The island’s near 100% humidity rarely let’s anything dry out completely. This is good for many of the heritage timber items.

So that is what is left of the original five huts. The other two huts were removed at some stage to make way for today’s equivalent storage solution, the steel container. It is unlikely that these containers will have as colourful past as the Nissen Huts.

Peter Lecompte

Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the Plumbers Workshop
Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the Plumbers Workshop
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)
Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the old Electrical Workshop now the Post Office
Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the old Electrical Workshop now the…
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)
Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the TasPaWS heritage storage hut
Macquarie Island Nissen Hut - Inside the TasPaWS heritage storage hut
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - The exterior of the TasPaWS heritage storage hut
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - The exterior of the TasPaWS heritage storage…
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - Exterior of the Plumbers Workshop
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - Exterior of the Plumbers Workshop
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - Exterior of the old Electrical workshop now known as the Post Office
Macquarie Island Nissen hut - Exterior of the old Electrical workshop now…
(Photo: Peter Lecompte)

Macca Night Skies

The albatross chicks and the rest of us living on the island were treated to some stunning auroral displays over the weekend. The skies cleared and then filled with a swirling green ever-changing display.

Green sky at night
An impressive aurora display last weekend.
(Photo: Angus Cummings)