This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 26 July 2013
We set off along the east coast for Brothers Point marking any landslides and other significant finds along the way. There had been a large easterly swell in recent weeks which had buried previously known drift wood sites and uncovered others not yet marked. The evening was spent spotlighting on the escarpment attempting to locate certain birds, grey petrels and the like, that are most active during dusk and the beginnings of night.
Moving on from Brothers Point we made our way down the Overland track to Green George, dropping in for lunch and a quick coffee, and on to Tiobunga Hut, fixing track markers along the way. The first night in a tank hut is definitely an experience for those uninitiated in the practise. They are very compact, with just enough room for one person to be up cooking or sorting gear while any other occupants must bide their time on a bed. It’s a lesson in co-operation and you get to know your fellow hut mates very well. I found it tight with two people yet the MIPEP (Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program) crew will have three in a tank at times.
The next morning we made our way to Sandell Bay, meeting two other expeditioners there and proceded with our rubbish collection, the main intention of our journey south. We filled a number of bags with debris, mostly plastic drinking bottles and string, creating a cache for removal at a later date.
Following a pleasant night in Davis Point Hut, a favourite of the MIPEP team and now up there on my list, we awoke to crystal clear views and minimal winds, a rare treat on the west coast. We made our way north along the coast, confirming Giant Petrel locations for the upcoming census and stopping regularly to just soak in the views. There’s something special about the west coast. It’s rough so you must respect it, but when the weather is good, it’s picturesque and continually changing. Reaching Sellick Bay, we jumped up (climbed up the escarpment, rather steep and exhausting) onto the plateau and headed across to Green George for the night.
The last push was a trek up the coast to Brothers Point. On reaching the hut I said farewell to Ranger Chris who had plans to continue working around the Brothers Point area, turned my face into the 20-30 kt head wind and trudged back to station. It was an excellent trip and a credit to the Ranger in both organising it and the continual work that was achieved along the way.
MIPEP on the West Coast
The last week of June and the following weeks of July has seen us working on the west coast, from Half Moon Bay down to Douglas Point heading towards Bauer Bay. The ground has been a mixture of bog, numerous wallows that are always inviting us in, tussock, rock stack and featherbed. If we can get through the day with dry feet it’s a bonus.
The aim is to work as much coast as possible before the birds begin their nest building and chick rearing to keep disturbance down to a minimum. Although for the birds it must be like heaven for them over the last two years of not having any rodents or rabbits disturbing their nesting areas.
Taking a slip and falling face forward towards a seal wallow was not much fun for me, as my GPS dropped into the runny stuff and splashed all over my face and up my nose. The smell lingered on for a while, but at least I didn't get to taste it. All this was to Leona’s amusement as she was working close by.
Many a day has seen Nick and myself up to our knees in water etc, as we stepped onto what looks like solid ground only to have it give way and in you go! Sometimes the only way out is a hands and knees crawl to more solid ground.
The dogs have been really motivated working around the tussock and rock stacks. It was an area of high rabbit population and intense damage. A mixture of different ground for them to hunt up - in and out of the tussock up and down tussock mounds and of course the rock stacks to various great heights. They have loved it and, of course, there is still the odd decaying rabbit carcass that they locate.
To be thorough we have to check out every rabbit/rat burrow that they indicate to us. Each indication is checked without fail. Sometimes it’s just a matter of us reaching down the hole and being able to retrieve various bits of carcass, nest material, rabbit or rat, or it may just be a scat or two. Other times a dig is required and then we back-fill any holes made, replace any tussock mounds moved and leave the ground as we found it before the dig. We don’t leave that area until we are positive there is no evidence of a live rabbit and the dogs are happy to move on.
The dogs really earn their keep in these areas covering vast amounts of area day in and day out. They climb up and down the rock stacks as they work to check every rabbit burrow, often saving us handlers an awkward climb up some stacks. But if they do indicate, it’s up you go - find a way. You can see by the picture of Nick with Wags on top of a stack where Wags found a carcass.
We have come across lots of other interesting stuff along the coast; dead elephant seals, dead petrels (from natural causes). There are also plenty of live seals and birds, whale skeletons, one of which apparently has been at its resting sight for nearly 200 yrs. There is also timber of various descriptions from ship wrecks or just random bits washed up. Also from fishing vessels; floats, ropes, net and fishing material. All of this not wanted in the area - it just becomes more rubbish to be cleaned up.