This week at Macquarie Island: 2 August 2019

Confronting junk at Macca

Things that float

Collecting junk is always a fascinating, satisfying and confronting thing to do on this little sub-Antarctic island. The sea relentlessly obliges by delivering a never-ending supply to us.

We recently spent a few more days cleaning up junk (we also call it marine debris) along the wild west coast before the Special Management Area closes – access will be restricted soon to help protect important breeding habitat. We only access the west coast for these clean-ups during winter when wildlife like giant petrels, penguins and elephant seals are not breeding. It is also a great opportunity to explore the rugged west coast and marvel at the winter light and very changeable weather.

Plastic bottles continue to be one of the most conspicuous types of junk that floats here, along with their bottle neck rings and colourful lids.

The fierce winds blow them up the beaches until they are caught in the thick tussock, a smelly seal wallow or a sticky pile of rotting kelp. Mostly they are water bottles and sometimes brands are still identifiable by logos on the lids or a resilient label.

Bottles from our recent collection came from all over the world including China, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Panama, Indonesia and Malaysia.

We also found the usual flaking chunks of polystyrene, fishing buoys, twisted ropes and multi-coloured fragments of plastic.

It is intriguing to find pieces of things that are instantly recognisable and then wonder what kind of journey brought them floating all the way to Macca? Memorable discoveries this winter include toothbrushes, a hair comb, a rubber glove, shampoo bottles, balloons, and a bright red tomato sauce twist nozzle!

Who did they belong to?

Were they callously discarded or lost in a mishap?

How far have they floated?

Stella and Andrea, Rangers

A crumpled clear plastic water bottle with label still attached
A water bottle from Malaysia
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
An array of coloured plastic lids are spread out grouped in blues, pinks and whites
Colourful lids from our most recent marine debris collection
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
A pile of dirty plastic bottles and coloured plastic tubs, containers and a red sauce bottle
Junk from the sea
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
A collection of coloured plastic junk for example, buoys, ropes, a block of styrofoam and more bottles
So much more junk from the sea
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
A pile of washed up plastic items are laid out among the grassy tussock including an orange rubber glove, a yellow buoy, a large green container, styrofoam buoys and more plastic drink bottles
Our west coast collection among the tussock
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
A variety of plastic items in shades of blue and green including toothbrushes and shampoo bottles
Toothbrushes and shampoo
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)