This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 7 June 2013

From Cairns to the sub Antarctic

Let’s just say that when it drops to 26°C up in Cairns, I would usually be wearing my trackies and ugg boots, I'd be sleeping under two doonas and I’d curse any further lowering of the temperature! One of my biggest fears in life has been the cold.

I’ve always wanted to go down to Antarctica, ever since I was very young. I must admit I’ve lacked knowledge on the historical side. My interest in and what’s really drawn me to Antarctica has been the magnificent wildlife and the extremely unrelenting habitat.

Five years ago I sat in a doctor’s office, I was reading through a National Geographic magazine when I came upon a story about Macquarie Island I was captivated. There was one particular picture that I couldn’t stop looking at, it was a beach covered with elephant seals, with this brilliantly orange and purple sky as back drop, a spectacular site. I turned to my mother and said “one day I’m going to insert myself into that picture, I don’t know when or how".

I’ve seen many sunsets with amazingly stunning colours in this majestic place and my goal is to find one as close to that picture so I can slot myself into that beautiful image.

It’s only now that I am here, experiencing the unwielding elements, that I’ve realised the immensity of human endurance that has taken place in Antarctic history and I'm keenly learning about it all.

I came down to Macquarie Island as a dog handler. Unfortunately I hurt myself, which stopped me from finishing my training and getting out into the field. Finally on Sunday the 26th of May I set out to finish my field training, accompanied by Marty (FTO) and Steve (MIPEP Team leader) along with their vast experience and great knowledge.

I will let the pictures tell the story, but let me say that for someone who has never seen real snow I was given an amazingly beautiful gift, left speechless by the stupefyingly beautiful scenery. My endurance was tested with some ruthless weather on the second day, deteriorating slightly off blizzard conditions.

P.S I am no longer afraid of the cold.

Patty wearing her yellow jacket and beanie looking down at Joker the dog who is a Springer spaniel  looking up at Patty
Patty and her Partner in crime Joker

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty and Joker the dog  looking out to the Horizon
Perfect Team

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Hass house the court yard and the walking path covered in snow. The sun is rising
I awoke to everything covered in white for my first day of...

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Looking south from the courtyard at the mountains covered in snow at dawn there is a light on the building illuminating.
Fresh morning with snow on the mountain

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty dressed for the snow wearing a yellow jacket with her pack on holding both her poles standing in snow by the ocean with the mountain hillside.
Ready

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Ocean view with the hill covered in snow and North head in the distance
Spectacular and itís only the beginning

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Gadgets creek covered in snow with the ocean in the background
Gadgets

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty, Steve and Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever climbing up gadgets creek covered in snow with the ocean in the background
Marty, Steve and Flax

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Looking up gadgets creek there are some ladders secured down that we have to climb
Keep on climbing

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever sitting on a cliff with the mountain range covered in snow and ocean behind him
Flax out on a limb

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Looking down Gadgets creek covered in snow with the ocean in the distance and a stormy cloud over the water
Top of Gadgets

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Mountains covered in snow blue sky with white fluffy clouds
Magnificent

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty dressed for the snow wearing a yellow jacket with her pack on holding both her poles standing with the snow covered mountain range behind her
Patty

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

A photo of the mountain range with snow and blue sky with fluffy clouds
Stunning

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty, Steve and Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever dressed for the snow wearing their packís with holding their poles standing  looking down at the feather bed  along the coast line and the mountain range.
What a view

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Mountain range and the ocean on the right a pointing pole
Another spectacular view

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Steve dressed for the snow wearing his yellow jacket and goggles and Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever with the snow covered mountain range behind him
Steve and Flax

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty facing east dressed for the snow with his hood over his head wearing his pack and holding his pole with the mountain range and ocean fluffy clouds and blues sky.
Marty

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty, Steve and Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever dressed for the snow wearing their packís with holding their poles standing in the snow with a snow cloud coming towards them
Snowís up boys

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty in the distance walking down to Bauer bay
Heading down to Bauer bay

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty and Steve in the distance walking up the beach at Bauer Bay
Bauer Bay

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Bauer Bay Hut
Bauer Bay Hut

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty putting on her gear on the snow covered porch of Bauer Bay hut her pack on the ground and her gloves in her hand
Next Chilly Morning

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty putting on her gear on the snow covered porch of Bauer Bay hut her pack on the ground and her gloves in her hand
Next Chilly Morning

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

The boys in the distance walking though snow covered hills itís snowing the ocean is in the distance
Cold

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty and Marty wearing their snow gear standing on the feather bed
Icy Feather bed

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty and Marty wearing their snow gear standing on the feather bed
Getting colder

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Steve wearing his snow gear walking with Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever through the snow in the background you have snow covered mountain range
Steve and Flax Ė My favourite Photo

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty and Steve stopping for a brake at Prion Lake that is surrounded by snow covered hills
Prion Lake stop

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Steve laying on his bed wearing his head torch reading a book
Steve reading at Brothers Point

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty wearing his head torch at the kitchen cooking
Marty the cook

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty holding a kettle at the kitchen wearing a scarf that goes to her chin making tea
Patty dressed as Papa smurf making tea

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Paty standing outside of Brothers Point Googy accommodation wearing her gear holding her piles
Brothers Point Googy accommodation

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Brothers Point Googy and ocean views
Brothers Point ocean view

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Picture of Sandy Bay and the walking track
Sandy Bay

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

A head of a dead Royal penguin in the sand
Royal penguin

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Flax the dog who is a golden Labrador retriever
Flax

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty standing next to penguin colony at Sandy Bay
Sandy Bay

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Old Sandy Bay hut and Penguin colony
Old Sandy Bay hut and Penguin colony

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty crouching down near  the old Sandy Bay hut and Penguin colony
Penguin Colony

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

We saw from a great distance this Fur seal sitting on the top of a rock stack chilling out.
We saw from a great distance this Fur seal sitting on the...

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Elephant seals laying next each other on the beach
Eli Seals

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Two crosses marking the gravesite at nuggets beach
Anderson and Bauerís grave sites at The Nuggets

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty Standing next to the penguin digesters
Digesters

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Marty and Steve making their way up Nuggets Creek
Nuggets Creek

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty standing  y the ocean with north head in the background
Almost home

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

The rodent team in the deep south

This month the rodent team headed to the deep south… working the Caroline Cove and Hurd Point area.

Working from the Caroline Cove water tank hut was interesting with the new conditions there, in the form of a massive landslide that has taken out the track. Making access to the food pods (which are located up on the plateau) rather difficult. Especially on one particular occasion after heavy rain when we decided to drag down the two new dog kennels for assembly at the hut.

Dog kennels which were soon covered in the thick sludge which we dragged them through, as well as through the penguin colony crap.

We needed the kennels though, the whole week we had had the three rodent dogs living in empty recycle bins strapped down alongside the hut. Which they actually didn’t mind, being small and warm for them.

Next up, Hurd point again. Where we searched through the east coast rock stacks up until Mt Aurora, when we started work on the west coast. Staying at Windy Ridge hut. Which was starting to get rather cold by this time, with the icy wind coming straight past the lake onto the small hut, freezing the water.

Not to mention the series of earthquakes that shuddered the island later on in the week. The first of which woke Ange and I up in the water tank hut around 2 in the morning. And the second of which happened at about 12:20 in the afternoon while we were out working. Ange watched a slide of rocks come down across the escarpment just about half an hour after she had crossed it. All over the island people were calling each other to make sure everyone was okay, as large rocks were dislodged and rolled down in different places of the coastal escarpments.

Soon we headed up to Davis point for our last week. It’s nice to be on the rugged west coast, which endured a couple of good winds, bringing the surf right in.

On Monday there was a big snow front covering the island, everyone everywhere was getting hammered by the squalls that came through one after another, with bright sunny breaks in between.

Our trip back up the island was good, going up the western side of the island to check our chew-stick lines for any rodent sign. The chew-sticks were set out the month previously.

Aurora from Brotherís point hut
Aurora from Brotherís point hut

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Caroline Cove
Caroline Cove

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Chase (the rodent dog), wet and covered in mud, after a "wallow incident" at Hurd Point.
Chase after a "wallow incident" at Hurd Point

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Chase (the rodent dog) after a "wallow incident" at Hurd Point. He is wet and covered in mud
A bedraggled Chase after a "wallow incident" at Hurd Point

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Cody standing at the tussock covered slope of the Star Bay jump-down
Cody looking down at the Star Bay jump-down

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

View of the rugged coastline from the top of the Star Bay jump-down. Cody (the rodent dog) lies amongst the tussock
Cody at star bay jump-down

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

View of the "boiling" rough seas around Davis Point
Davis Point marine madness

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Cody and Bail (the rodent dogs) in the Davis Point hut cold porch sheltering form the snow falling outside
Cody and Bail in the Davis Point hut cold porch sheltering form...

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Leona at Davis Point hut preparing to go out to work in the snow
Leona at Davis Point hut preparing to go out to work in...

(Photo: Angela Newport)

From Davis Point hut looking south towards Sandell Bay and the snow covered slopes above the bay
From Davis Point looking south towards Sandell Bay

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

View across the bay at Double Point. There is snow on the ground and the distant white snow covered peaks above the coast are lit up by the sun
In the snow at Double Point

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Ange putting a 'chew stick' in the ground amongst the tussock grass at Carrick Bay
Ange putting a 'chew stick' in the ground at Carrick Bay

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Ange having Sunday breakfast
Ange having Sunday breakfast

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Stunning sunset at Bauer Bay hut
Stunning sunset at Bauer Bay hut

(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Saturday Evening the Outback Extraordinaire

Hidden away in the great Sub Antarctic Ocean lies a little Island called Macquarie Island and yes folks, it has an Outback.

We were invited to the Macca Outback Spectacular at the Macca Ranch Bar and Grill run by the one and only Aussie Outback Chef Tony.

With the help of Ranger Chris, chef laid out the swags got the campfire going and grilled us up an assortment of deliciously tender meats and down to earth Aussie tucker that began with the great old outback damper.

The air smelled of that smokey country air we all know and love and soon country tunes filled our ears, all began to tap our toes standing still became impossible as we broke out into line dancing to Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits. There was lassoing and even the good old limbo dance.

What a night! A great Macquarie Island Outback experience.

Thanks Tony, Chris and all who helped.

Event Poster, a silhouette of an outback hoseman cracking a whip and a simulated sunset on the bottom right there is a penguine and a seal wearing cowboy hats
Outback Poster

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

The Mess set up as an outback with a wagon wheel in the back ground tussock grass shovel some matts old bottles and cans there are some balloons coloured red, green and light green.
Wellcome to Macca's Ranch Bar

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Tables set up with guitars a windmill some old bottles and cans on the floor swags an roll out matts amongst the tussuck
The swags are laid out

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

The Mess transformed into an out back theme with a wagon wheel in the back ground tussock grass shovel some matts old bottles and cans there are some balloons coloured red, green and light green.
Outback Setting

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Clive and Craig dressed up as outback boys wearing cowboy hats and cowboy shirts
Clive and Craig

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Karen and Craig dressed as outback characters wearing their cowboy shirts and hats
Outback Karen and Greg

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Nick, Leona, Karen, Steve and our Chef Tony
Outback brood

(Photo: Nick, Leona, Karen, Chef Tony all dressed as cowboys and cowgirls and steve dressed as a cactus)

Billy dressed as dirty old barn sack
Billy the dirty old barn sack

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Grilled meats, Chilli bean plate, corn all set out on the tables to feast on
An out back Grill Feast

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Ange dressed up as a cowgirl and Nancey dressed up a Vet
Ange and Nancey

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Plates of food served to eat
Hard yaka outback dinner served

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Josh dressed up as a cowboy riding his wooden stick horse
Josh

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Lionel and Aaron dressed as cowboys enjoying their outback feast
Lionel and Aaron

(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Nancy and Ange
Nancy and Ange

(Photo: Barry Becker)

Dave and Patty
Dave and Patty

(Photo: Barry Becker)

Leona, Barry and Mike all dressed up as Outback crowed
Leona, Barry and Mike Outback crowd

(Photo: Barry Becker)

Dave, Karen , Steve and others at the bar
Dave, Karen , Steve and others at the bar

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Patty and nick dressed up as outback folk wearing their cowboy hats
Patty and Nick Outbake dance

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Nick Dancing
Nick Outback Dance

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Leona dressed up as a cowgirl
Leona

(Photo: Patricia Villegas)

Greg with bottle top as eyes and his cowboy hat
Greg

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Aaron with bottle top lids as eyes and his cowboy hat
Aaron

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Tony wearing bottle top lids as eyes and his cow boy hat
Tony

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Greg, Aaron and tony wearing bottle top lids as eyes dressed up as cowboys wearing cowboy hats
The three outback amigos

(Photo: Patricia Villegas)

Barry, Aaron and Craig dressed up as cowboys Aaron holding a toy gun
Outback Weather boys

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Karen looking at photos on the camera she's holding she's dressed up as a cow girl wearing her cowgirl hat
Kaz

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Tom dressed up wearing cowboy print vest and a cowboy shirt
Tom the Handsome chap

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Tony dressed up as a cowboy wearing a cowboy hat leaning on the side of the bar
Tony the Outback Chef

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Dave folding his cowboy hat down
Dave

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Aaron wearing his cowboy hat and shirt
Aaron

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Tom doing bending backwards to get under the stick but is about to fall
Tom how low can you go

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Steve dressed up as an outback Cactus and isdancing on the dance floor
Steve the dancing Cactus

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Clive dressed as a cowboy and Chris dressed as an outback rager
Clive and Chris

(Photo: Patty Villegas)

Ange, Tony and Nancye kicking up their heels to the tune of Nutbush City Limits
Nancye got us dancing to Nutbush City Limits

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Many people dressed in 'outback' theme dancing to Nutbush City Limits
Soon everybody was getting into the dance

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy's Birthday Surprise

Last Thursday (30th May) it was Stephen Barton’s birthday. Here and I imagine to most people (with maybe the exception of his Mum), he is known as Billy. This will become obvious when you see the photos.

Billy is one of the intrepid, amazing MIPEP team and last Wednesday, the team arrived back on station after almost a month in the field.

During Thursday the mess was decorated (thanks to Patty) with streamers, balloons and several pictures of Billy and his dogs.

Billy arrived in the mess (fashionably late) and had his meal, unaware of the decorations and photos. After dinner Patty came out of the small pantry at the side of the mess, carrying a large cake, adorned with two lit sparklers and a few candles. Everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’.

I think Billy was a little overcome. He seemed genuinely surprised and only then noticed all the decorations and photos of his dog.

The cake (thanks to Chef Tony) was beautifully decorated by Patty with an image of his dog Cariad, which is Welsh for Little Darling. Dave then handed him a brown paper bag full of goodies.

Just after opening his presents, we were all treated to a slide show shown on the big screen. Billy’s family had supplied the pictures., which Mark had made into a PowerPoint slideshow.

One of the slides showed Billy with his six dogs (shown below). He has two white german shepherds (Cariad and Moon), three germhounds (german shepherd/greyhound cross, a breed Billy developed years ago) and one foxy/beagle cross. It stands to reason that one of his germhounds is called Zappa.

It was a great night.

Happy Birthday to our Billy.

Billy showing surprise as he looks at his birthday cake (not in picture). A picture of Billy with his dog Cariad is behind him
Billy's surprise

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy's birthday cake decorated with a image of his dog Cariad
Billy's birthday cake decorated with a image of his dog Cariad

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy with a brown paper bag - holding a plastic package containing 5 dog finger puppets
Opening his presents - doggy finger puppets

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy's holding his second present - a bag of pegs
Billy's second present - a bag of pegs

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy's third present - a dish washing brush
The third present - something about dishwashing

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy holding a wooden bottle opener after just using it to open a bottle
The final present - a bottle opener made by Dave

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

A image of Billy with his 'frizzy' hair shown on the big screen in the mess
One of the images on the slide show

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy blowing out the candles on his birthday cake
Blowing out the candles

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy with his birthday cake made and decorated by Chef Tony and Patty
Billy with his birthday cake made and decorated by Chef Tony and...

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

The magnificent cake (courtesy of chef Tony and Patty) - Image of Cariad (Billy's dog) covers the top of the cake
The magnificent cake (courtesy of chef Tony and Patty)

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Mike, Barry, Leona and Ange enjoying the party. They are standing in front of the decorated bar
Enjoying the birthday party

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Lionel, Patty, Billy (with some of his finger puppets), Mike Aaron and Karen standing in front of the decorated bar
What is the joke?

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Birthday boy Billy with Aaron and pictures of his dogs (three pictures above the door entrance)
Birthday boy Billy with Aaron and pictures of his dogs

(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Billy at home with his white shepherd Cariad. Cariad is wearing a pack harness
Billy at home with his white shepherd Cariad

(Photo: Billy)

Billy with his six dogs - two white german shepherds, three 'germhounds' and one fox terrier/beagle cross
Billy with his six dogs - two white german shepherds, three 'germhounds'...

(Photo: Billy (Steve) Barton)

This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.