This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 19 July 2013

Never let your water run dry

There is always something to do as the plumber on Macca, be it routine maintenance or emergency call outs. This was the case on Sunday when it was reported that there was a leak in the water supply line from the dam in Gadget Gully.

The report was made on Saturday but the weather conditions ruled out anything being done straight away, water was still running at the station so the leak was assessed as a small leak not a major malfunction of the water main.

The weather had improved on Sunday so Josh and David set off with all the bits and pieces that we thought may be needed to carry out the repair, but once we got to the site of the leak there was still an issue that we hadn’t counted on, loose rocks that were tumbling down the steep scree slope of the Gully. The leak was, as we thought, small but with the amount of loose rocks tumbling into the creek at the base of the Gully, we retreated back to station until the weather improved and to get helmets just in case. 

We deemed it necessary  to take a third person along as one was needed for the repairs, one to operate the valve at the dam wall to stop and start the water flow and a third to go as a spotter for the one doing the repairs. Marty volunteered as long as Josh and I gave him a hand to remove some of the SAR exercise anchors that they couldn’t pull out manually during the exercise. Little did we know that this meant carrying a jack up over the top of Gadget Gully.

The weather and the stability of the scree had improved enough for Josh to repair the leak safely and quickly and then up over the top to the anchors that proved to be well stuck in the shale and muddy ground typical of Macca. 

Looking up the scree slope of Gadgets Gully with the black poly water pipe running across the slope, slightly suspended above the surface. Water can be seen spraying from a leak in the pipe
The leak with loose scree above
(Photo: David Brett)
Marty and Josh stand just below the leaking pipe on the scree slope, assessing and making preparations to fix the leak. Both are wearing safety helmets
Josh and Marty Prepping to fix the leak
(Photo: David Brett)
Josh on the scree slope on his knees just below the pipe he is repairing
Josh repairing the leak
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
View from the dam down Gadgets Gully shrouded in mist.  The black poly water pipe can be seen on the left (southern) slope of the gully
Misty veiw from the dam face
(Photo: David Brett)
Marty and David using a jack and some rope to remove an old SAR anchor
Removing the SAR Anchors
(Photo: Josh Tomasetti)

The Fabulous Furious Fifties

At Macca around this time of year we are in the target of the Polar front. For us this means that the weather can change significantly in a short space of time.

This week has been no exception. Last Friday ahead of an approaching front the north to north-west winds increased to a sustained breeze of 40+ knots with gusts well into the 50’s. As the wind was from the Northerly quadrant the temperatures were a balmy 7°C. 

Because of the lay of the island, in certain wind directions there is a funneling effect through the gap in Razorback ridge and along the east coast. This was the case on Friday.

Aaron and I went down to the gap and the eastern side of Razorback with a hand held anemometer, to test this theory. Whilst being buffeted around I did manage to see the gauge ramp up for an instant to 65 knots, which is the upper limit of the device. The sustained wind was equally fierce at 50 to 55 knots.

The barograph trace is a great indicator of when the front or trough actually passes the station. The pressure drops as the front approaches then rises again after its passage.

The fronts that pass Macquarie Island are usually followed by colder and relatively drier air. This happened on Saturday as a second front crossed the island, only 17 hours after the front on Friday. The temperature hovered around zero for most of the day, with the strong winds driving frequent hail and snow showers across the isthmus. This brought the wind chill to between -10°C and -15°C.

Then from late Monday we had some respite as a ridge of high pressure moved over the island. This results in lighter winds and usually an associated fog. The wind dropped out to zero for a period on Tuesday morning before ramping up again to 30 knots in the evening as the next front moved towards the island.

If it wasn’t for the weather what would we have to talk about?

Aaron getting a reading of the wind alongside Razorback ridge. His hair is swept back and his cheeks puffed and he is holding a hand held anemometer
Aaron getting a reading of the wind alongside Razorback ridge.
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Aaron leaning into the wind alongside Razorback Ridge. He is holding a hand held anemometer and is at an angle of about 30 degrees to the vertical
Aaron leaning into the wind alongside Razorback Ridge
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
View of the ocean off West Beach showing the seas and swell whipped up by the 40 to 60 knot winds
The seas and swell whipped up by the 40 to 60 knot…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The sun came out for a brief time and gave us this - a full rainbow over the water from East Beach
The sun came out for a brief time and gave us this
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
A couple of days later - foggy and calm. Against a misty backdrop, two of the huts in the magnetic quiet zone reflected in a pond
A couple of days later - foggy and calm over the magnetic…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
A calm day, near the gap of Razorback Ridge a couple of days after the very windy day. Shows the tussock covered slopes of the gap reflected in a pond
A calm day, near the gap of Razorback Ridge a couple of…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Calm foggy day on the western side of Razorback Ridge. The view shows the reflection of the ridge in a wallow. The ridge blends in to the foggy background.
Calm foggy day on the western side of Razorback Ridge
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Reflections of Razorback in a elephant seal wallow. Tussock mounds line each side of the wallow
Reflections of Razorback in a elephant seal wallow
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Macca Gallery

This weeks photos for the Macca Gallery are from Marty, Josh and Barry.
Flax, the golden labrador is perched on the snow covered rocky slope near  the top of Gadgets
Flax at the top of Gadgets. The ocean can be seen in…
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
Elephant seals winter play. Two elephant seals 'play' fighting, with the snow covered slopes in the distant background
Elephant seals winter play
(Photo: Josh Tomasetti)
View from the top of Gadgets Gully - the foreground shows the snow covered slopes bright in the sunshine in contrast with the dark blue ocean in the background
Top of Gadgets
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
A nice day on Macca. Picture taken from the top of the fuel tanks, looking south towards the plateau
A nice day on Macca
(Photo: Josh Tomasetti)
Flax, the golden labrador, somewhere on the western escarpment
Flax somewhere on the western escarpment
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
Wandering albatross nest somewhere on the featherbed
Wandering albatross nest somewhere on the featherbed
(Photo: Josh Tomasetti)
West coast squall - shows a large backlit cumulus cloud with a shower, squall coming from the base of the cloud
West coast squall
(Photo: Marty Benavente)
Penguin silhouette. Two gentoo penguins silhouetted against a sunset of shades of pink and orange
Penguin silhouette
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)