This week at Macquarie Island: 3 May 2019

ANZAC spirit and a 100 year milestone at Macca

An important milestone

This month marks 100 years since the end of the oiling industry at Macquarie Island.

Macquarie Island had a long history of wildlife exploitation before it was declared a sanctuary for wildlife in 1933. Fur seals were targeted first, harvested for their pelts soon after the island was discovered in 1810. It didn’t take long for sealers to move on to boiling down elephant seal blubber and then penguins for oil.

Large metal cauldrons called trypots were used until the more advanced technology of ‘steam pressure cookers’ (digesters) was brought to the island from the late 1880s. The men who lived at Macquarie Island during those years endured months of isolation and harsh conditions.

The headquarters of the last stage of the industry was at the Nuggets, located on the north-east coast of the island near large breeding colonies of royal penguins. Rusting digesters, graves and hut remnants can still be seen. Small artefacts are sometimes exposed, often unearthed during storms or by elephant seals. A bottle fragment was recently found near the Nuggets with markings of Joseph Hatch of Invercargill, the very man responsible for bringing the advanced steam digester technology to the island.

The oiling industry eventually came to end thanks to campaigns to conserve Macquarie Island. Sir Douglas Mawson was the highest profile advocate for the island’s protection. In April 1919 the last ship associated with the Macquarie Island oiling industry departed the island loaded with 450 casks of oil. The Tasmanian Government cancelled the last oiling licence in 1920.

These days the rusting worksites scattered along Macquarie’s rugged coastline have been reclaimed by seals and penguins.

More information from Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

Andrea (Ranger in Charge)

Thousands of king penguins surround a rusted metal structure on a beach
Rusty digesters surrounded by King penguins at Lusitania Bay
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
thousands of royal penguins are near three rusty structures on a beach
Royal penguins near the digesters at the Nuggets
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
rusted metal pots are on a beach
Old trypots and a digester at Hurd Point
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
A rusted metal structure lays on its side near some rocky outcrops
A rusted digester at the Nuggets
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)

Anzac Day Commemoration

Last week our Anzac Day commemorations began with a drizzly dawn service by the flagpoles. The service included several moving readings from Andrea, Kerryn and Doug to pay homage to the ANZAC spirit. By far the most haunting and memorable moment was Tim’s rendition of the Last Post played on the harmonica. 

As the weather cleared and the sun shone brilliantly on Macca, the frisbee came out, the BBQ was fired up and a passionate game of two-up was played.

Two people lower the Australian and New Zealand flags
Lionel and Billy lowering the flags
(Photo: Kat Panjari)
13 people stand in raincoats in front of flagpoles
A drizzly Dawn Service at Macca
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
a group of people are playing a game of two up in a shed
Spinner Up!
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
a woman jumps in the air to catch a frisbee
Stella in frisbee action
(Photo: Kat Panjari)