This week at Macquarie Island: 28 September 2018

This week on Macca we look at the fabulous Googie huts, and take a train to sushi in the mess.

Macca Googie Huts

We all enjoy the uniqueness and individuality of the Macquarie Island field huts. They provide a warm and safe haven for everyone, as we traverse the island in all sorts of wet, cold, snowy and windy weather.

We have a couple of extra special huts at Brothers Point and Waterfall Bay. These bright orange fibreglass huts that look like spaceships are affectionately known as Googies or Smarties. 

They were designed by Attila Vrana in the late 1980’s as an option to replace the Apple huts and other various designs used by the ANARE. Some of the benefits of this design included an excellent ratio of internal capacity to external size, able to be moved by helicopter (600 kg empty), water storage in the base, good thermal insulation, well ventilated, and reduced drifting effects due to their elevation above the terrain.

Only five of these Googie Huts were fabricated and put into the field to serve as accommodation, mess, radio room, surgery, laboratories, showers and toilets if required. Initially one was placed on Béchervaise Island off Mawson and the remaining four went to Spit Camp on Heard Island.

The four huts at Heard Island were removed in February 1992 by helicopter and loaded onto the MV Icebird (later registered as the MV Polar Bird) and returned to Hobart.

Of these four, one was sent to Hop Island near Davis Station, another to Béchervaise Island (that now meant there were two), and the remaining two were delivered to Macquarie Island.

At Macquarie Island, one Googie was flown into a site at Waterfall Bay in the summer of 1993 to replace the old Lusitania Bay hut, located about three km to the south. The last Googie was brought to the Island in 1996 and located at Brothers Point to replace the old Sandy Bay hut, located about one km to the north. Both the old huts (they were built from the original Walrus aircraft engine packing crates) were now surrounded by king penguin colonies, had rat and asbestos problems, and were in need of some maintenance.

The Googie huts have now been in service for over 30 years and have provided shelter for countless numbers of expeditioners. They have survived with very little modifications to the original design. Most have had the aluminium stairs and the large gull wing-style entrance door removed and a cold porch added in its place. They are now fitted with a small gas heater and gas stove/oven and will comfortable sleep three average-sized expeditioners. The underfloor area is still being used for food, tools and other stuff storage. Some of the underfloor water tanks have been removed and replaced with external tanks.

Time, and the modernisation of Macca, will reveal what lies in the future for these amazing little huts. Hopefully they will be rescued and put back into service on another island to provide shelter and comfort for future expeditioners.

Footnote: I was on the MV Icebird in 1992 when the four Googie huts were removed from Heard Island and brought back into Hobart. I was on Béchervaise in 2015 with the two Googies located there and building a new melon hut. And I am fortunate to be on Macca and have the opportunity of staying at Brothers Point and soon to be staying at Waterfall Bay. They are truly a unique and amazing hut.

Peter Lecompte

Four Googie huts and four apple huts at Spit Bay Winter Camp on Heard Island, 1993
Heard Island Spit Bay Winter Camp, 1993
(Photo: Attila Vrana 172B AAD Archives)
Béchervaise Island's two Googie huts and a melon hut under construction
Béchervaise Island's two Googie huts and a melon hut under construction.
(Photo: John Burgess 2015)
The Hop Island Googie along with apple huts and tents, 1995
The Hop Island Googie along with apple huts and tents, 1995
(Photo: Dennis Crawford - 2223C6 AAD Archives)
Brothers Point Googie on Macquarie Island, 2018
Brothers Point Googie, 2018
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Waterfall Bay Googie on Macquarie Island, 2018
Waterfall Bay Googie, 2018
(Photo: Richard Youd)
Inside Brothers Point hut on Macquarie Island
Inside Brothers Point hut
(Photo: Richard Youd)

Six Month Sushi Train

I hear the train a comin’

It’s rolling ‘round the bend,

And I ain’t seen the sunshine

Since, I don’t know when…

Well actually the last time was most likely when we left Hobart on the most stunning morning in March, on our way to beautiful, wet, and windy Macquarie Island.

We decided to celebrate our six months of living in this incredible landscape by enjoying a Sushi Train dinner with delicious Japanese fare.

Ranger Chris spent many hours secretly (or so he thought) designing our hand-crafted and hand-cranked train that would deliver dinner down the table to the appreciative diners. The very talented Danielle lent a hand at set design with a tunnel for the train to emerge from the mess, laden with our dinner.

Our Chef Annette was helped in the culinary department by her most overqualified sous-chef ever, Dr Cathryn, who rolled out tasty sushi and handcrafted prawn nigiri. These were followed by an assortment of other dishes including tempura seafood, pork dumplings and duck breast with udon noodles and locally sourced pak choy. Thank you hydroponic team!

Each course was loaded onto one of the carriages and hand-cranked down the table by our train driver Peter and eagerly grabbed off the tracks by our hungry hoard.

Unlike the character in Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues we aren’t stuck in jail, but looking forward to another six months at Macca, come rain, hail or shine. Come to think of it, that's a normal days weather!

Our train has rolled down the line back to the workshop ready for another star turn at the Macca mess before we head back home in March.

Chris Howard setting up the sushi train cranking mechanism in the Macca mess
Chris working on the train cranking mechanism.
(Photo: Annette Fear)
Cathryn and Annette in the kitchen preparing the sushi for the evening meal.
Cathryn and Annette busy preparing the night's treats.
(Photo: Annette Fear)
The beautifully crafted sushi train crafted to deliver our meal on Macquarie Island.
Our beautifully crafted sushi train - thanks Chris!
(Photo: Annette Fear)
Plates of prawn nigiri and sushi waiting to be put on the train for our Saturday evening meal.
Delicious prawn nigiri and sushi waiting for the train.
(Photo: Annette Fear)
Jez Bird looking at the sushi on the train in the Macca mess.
Jez wondering what to have first.
(Photo: Annette Fear)
Peter turning the mechanism that pulls the sushi train along tracks running the length of the table.
Peter at the controls.
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)