This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 12 July 2013

MIPEP Hunters Tom and Mike

Well, it has been four months since the departure from Hobart on the Aurora Australis. Morale is strong as the team focuses on the monitoring phase of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Programme, or MIPEP.

It has been almost two years since the last sighting of a live rabbit and we’re carrying on the work done by previous MIPEP teams. What seemed a daunting task to undertake in the rugged environment of Macquarie Island is now an achievable goal in everyone’s mind. Since the monitoring work has started this year we have found mummified remains and skeletons but no fresh sign to date.

Another addition to the project is the post-eradication rodent detection program. Leona and Angela have come from New Zealand with three detection dogs (Cody, Chase & Bail). This team of dogs and humans are putting in a massive effort to cover coastal areas where wildlife have left the island for the winter.

During the winter months the MIPEP team have been utilising the longer nights and focusing on spotlighting as another tool for monitoring. In the hours of darkness MIPEP hunters roam the island in search of eye shine from any elusive rabbit evading their inevitable demise. In the wee small hours, many of the world’s philosophical questions are raised but few are answered.

The next few months we will continue to spotlight before the long summer days return, concentrating on coastal areas before the wildlife come back to breed. We will also revisit areas of post baiting rabbit sign.

Eyes on the ground! Stay strong! Be good to your mother! Take care of your feet! Chew your food more and stretch!

Article courtesy of hunters: Mike Fawcett and Tom Clarke

Karen, dressed in her yellow wet weather gear, and Finn shelter from a hail storm
Karen and Finn shelter from a hail storm
(Photo: Karen Andrew)
Mike exploring his artistic side - taken at night with long exposure shows Mike writing his name with a torch
Mike exploring his artistic side
(Photo: Tom Clarke)
Mike Fawcett spotlighting - taken at night shows the weak lit landscape on the plateau with a bright patch illuminated by the head torch of Mike
Mike Fawcett spotlighting
(Photo: Tom Clarke)
Looking north form Eifold across the partially snow covered rolling hills, with the sun producing rays (crepuscular Rays) through the scattered cloud
Crepuscular rays - looking north form Eifold
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Nick with Wags, a black labrador, standing on some grassy field with the hills rising in the misty background
Nick and Wags
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
On top of the world - Billy with Colin and Joker standing on a rocky, snow covered ridge
On top of the world - Billy with Colin and Joker
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Waterfall Lake seen through fog in calm winds, showing a perfect reflection of the hills on the opposite shore
Waterfall Lake
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)

Macca Gate revamped

During midwinter weekend there was a notice on the mess whiteboard that the Macca main gate was getting heavy to use! A week later the notice had changed to something on the lines of the gate is now a safety hazard as it has come away – watch your backs.

Whilst chatting to Nick, I said I would offer my services to get the hinge fixed, Billy the boilermaker, by trade. Nick offered to give me a hand, he was appointed the leading hand. So that was it, services offered to get the gate fixed. A few hours welding to remake the bottom hinge pin and retainer thinks I.

Well we got John in the JCB forklift and he lifted the gate off, after Nick and I unbolted the top hinge, and took the gate down to the workshop. Dave, our deputy station leader, came over and asked us ever so politely, could we rehang the gate level? 'No probs' says I, 'just have to move the top hinge over a bit.' Along came Mark, our Great Station Leader, offering to lend a hand and advising that he wanted to be involved in the project, because apparently he can weld!

So, on closer inspection the bottom hinge was shot, no good and broken, so a new one would have to be made. Up came the oxy-acetylene gear to heat up the top hinge and reposition it, but that proved to be a bit tougher than expected and I decided cut it off and weld it back into position. As the gate and post had been hanging there for many years cutting it of was easy, welding it back on not so, a fair bit of rust rot in the post.

Oh dear, not so straight forward, side plates would be needed to beef it up. Nick's use of the angle grinder and his excellent cleaning made the job a lot easier.

As I cut up the new plates for a nice shiny new stainless steel bottom hinge and pin and fabricated the hinge up, Nick proceeded with the cleaning off of the old rust on the gate, that in itself was a fair task. I assembled the hinge bits and welded them up to the post, in a nice Macca wind with the occasional sand blasting and the elephant seals looking on.

That day I finished the bottom hinge arrangement, and the next day finished the top hinge arrangement. Nick was still patiently cleaning the gate with the needle gun and wire brush ready for a coat of rust proofing.

Somewhere along the line we decided to ask Angela, one of our rat girls and a bit of a tidy artist, to get involved and paint up the ‘centre-piece artwork’ of the gate. We eventually dragged her in on the project.

Some four days later the gate was finished, rust treated, painted a nice shiny black, art work complete and ready to be hung. Friday morning saw us hanging the gate and it fitted perfectly, was hung almost perfectly level and swung open and shut with ease. We, the gate gang, had completed a great revamping project.

Many thanks to Dave for increasing the work load of the gate refurbishment and Mark... well, can he weld. MMM we’ve yet to find out, did he get involved? Yes, from afar, so far we didn't see him. Also thanks to Lionel for the use of his workshop and equipment and his patience with the gate gang.

Written by Steve (Billy) Barton 

The refurbished Macca gate - looking out from the station. There are three elephant seals just outside the gate and the snow covered hills provide a beautiful backdrop
The refurbished Macca gate
(Photo: Tony Harris)
The revamped Macca gate seen from outside the enclosure. The gate is painted black and the central panel has a fur seal silhouette on the left and a elephant seal on the right, while in the middle  is the words Macquarie Island surrounding a small world map, with some images on it (painted white)
The revamped Macca gate seen from outside the enclosure.
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Nick, Angela and Billy - the MIPEP artists who revamped the gate. They are standing behind the gate, with the artwork of the central panel in front of them
Nick, Angela and Billy - the MIPEP artists who revamped the gate
(Photo: Leona Plaisier)

Station SAR exercise

Last week we conducted a full-scale Search & Rescue (SAR) field exercise. The main objectives were to practice using the newly introduced Incident Management System (IMS) and to test our steep ground rescue skills. Everyone on the island had a role to play and they participated with focus and enthusiasm.

John kindly agreed to be the ‘victim’ to get the exercise rolling. He was given a story to follow and had some moulage (injury make-up) applied before heading out for a trip up Gadgets Gully. It was a cold morning by Macca standards with a south west wind blowing snow squalls through and the whole island blanketed with a layer of snow down to sea level.

John called in about 40 minutes after leaving station to report that he’d had an ‘incident’. While climbing up the last of the steel ladders near the top of Gadgets Gully, some rocks had dislodged from above, hitting him on the hip and knee. He reported that he was in pain, couldn’t put weight on his leg, and would require assistance to get back down to station.

The station leader was notified and quickly convened a meeting with the Incident Management Team (IMT) to formulate the beginnings of a rescue plan. The SAR alarm was raised to muster all expeditioners in the Mess where they received a briefing from the incident controller (the station leader). Roles were allocated and rescue plans fleshed out in detail. Emergency response teams prepared themselves and their gear to head out, while the logistics team organised the support required for the operation.

A hasty response team of 4 people was quickly dispatched to locate John, provide him with first aid, and report back as much information as possible about the situation. They were closely followed by an 8 person response team carrying the technical gear needed to move him. The rescue coordinator also headed to the site at this point.

The technical phase of the rescue involved using a rope hauling system to raise the patient in the stretcher, then lower the stretcher down a series of steepening grassy slopes to a waiting vehicle on the beach. The response teams built multiple anchors and rigged the stretcher and rope systems in snowy ground conditions with frequent snow squalls pushing through. Regular contact was kept up with the IMT back at station to safely monitor and manage the rescue process.

With darkness setting in at about 4:30pm, the rescue teams still had 2 pitches (rope lengths) of lowering to get the patient and stretcher down to the coast. It takes considerable teamwork, communication and confidence in each others' abilities to undertake multi-pitch technical rope rescue on steep, snowy ground in darkness. It was a fantastic effort by the rescuers to make the final stages of the descent run as safely and smoothly as they did. After the patient reached the beach the doctor coordinated stretcher transport to the station medical facility on the back of the all terrain vehicle (ATV) while the rescuers collected up the gear and walked back.

All up it took 8.5 hours from initial incident call-in to the patient and stretcher arriving back on station. Everyone carried out their role in the operation to a high standard throughout a long rescue day. It provided us with a great opportunity to practice a response, as an all-island team, using the new IMS framework.

Marty Benavente - Field Training Officer
'Hasty' team of Craig, Angela and Mike head off to Gadgets Gully. They are dressed in all their wet weather gear and are walking in the wind driven snow
'Hasty' team of Craig, Angela and Mike head off to Gadgets Gully
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The 'hasty' team of Mike, Chris, Angela and Craig heading off past the station buildings to Gadgets Gully. They are all dressed in their wet weather gear, and carrying packs with survival and SAR gear. It is snowing
The 'hasty' team of Mike, Chris, Angela and Craig heading off station…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Josh, whose role was 'ground support', driving the ATV (Big Red) past the Met building. He is dressed in full wind and wet wether gear.
Josh, whose role was 'ground support', driving the ATV (Big Red)
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Taken from a distance - Some ERT team setting up gear at the base of Gadgets Gully, while Marty starts up the slope. The entire slope is covered in snow and is bathed in sunlight
From a distance - Some ERT team setting up gear at the…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Taken from a distance - bathed in sunlight, the ERT (Emergency Response Team) start the climb up the snow covered slopes at the base of Gadgets Gully
The Emergency Response Team start the climb up Gadgets Gully
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Taken from a snow covered slight slope above Gadgets Gully - part of the ERT rigging the rope system for the stretcher raise
Part of the Emergency Response Team rigging the rope system for the…
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
Rescue team working to raise the stretcher - on a slight snow covered slope above Gadgets Gully. Three members of the team haul on the rope and pulley system, while the team leader relays hand signals to a spotter at the edge of the steep slope and to the right is a two person belay team
Rescue team working to raise the stretcher
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
Stretcher team coming up a steep snow covered slope out of Gadgets Gully. You can see the bottom of Gadgets Gully in the top left of the photo, with the blue, vivid coloured ocean beyond
Stretcher team coming up out of Gadgets Gully
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
From afar, you can make out the Rescue team at the top of the snow covered steep slope beside Gadgets Gully
From afar, you can make out the Rescue team at the top…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Again from afar, you can make out the Rescue team at the top of the steep slope besides Gadgets Gully
Again from afar, the rescue team just about to be hit by…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Macca Gallery

Last week we had some days of heavy snow, then on Sunday the weather was great, plenty of sunshine and lighter winds.

It was an opportunity to get out the camera and take pictures of the beautiful snow covered scenery. Six of the pictures are shown below.

Snow covered hills as seen from the Ham shack
Snow covered hills as seen from the Ham shack
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Ele seals on the isthmus and big swell on the east coast, with the snow covered slopes in the background
Ele seals on the isthmus and big swell on the east coast
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Macca winter panorama - view south of snow covered slopes
Macca winter panorama
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Westward view of the ocean the snow covered hills to the left and one of the magnetic zone huts in the foreground
Westward view
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Beautiful West Beach in winter - there are many gentoo penguins and elephant seals on the beach and lots of snow on the hills
Beautiful West Beach in winter
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Another colourful view along West Beach - there are several gentoo penguins next to a rock stack in the foreground that has many shades of green and orange vegetation, with shades of white in the snow on the hills in the background. Also the vivid blue colour of the ocean waters
Another colourful view along West Beach
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)