This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 26 July 2013

Out Rangering

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.

Aaron Tyndall 

A water tank hut with an annex, aerial, decking and fuel containers on a grassy area with rock stacks and the west coast in the background
Davis Point hut
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Old water cart lid leaning against a pine fence next tussocks with the green gorge coast line in the back ground
Outlook from Green Gorge
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
individual rocks spread on top of the grass leading down to the west coast surf with the island escarpment in the background
Sandell Bay
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Looking up the escarpment from Sellick bay, with grass and tussocks in the foreground and a waterfall coming down the escarpment in the background
View from Sellick Bay
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
A running waterfall with frozen icicles and ice crystal in the foreground looking down into Sellick Bay with the west coast surf in the background
A frozen waterfall on the escarpment at Sellick Bay
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
Ranger Chris relaxing on a grassy knoll while looking down the rugged west coast with the escarpment on the left half and the surf on the right half
West Coast smoko
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)
The rugged west coast line with tussocks, rocks stacks and a Giant Petrel breeding site in the foreground and the ocean in the background with overcast skies
West Coast
(Photo: Aaron Tyndall)

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.


Mike, one of the MIPEP team next to a mound of brown dirt dug up from amongst the tussock. There is a rabbit carcass at the base of the mound. All tussock and dirt restored after the dig
Mike digs out more dead rabbit. All the tussock is restored and…
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
A large whale vertebrae bone surrounded by cushion plants and grass  the disc of the vertebrae is partially covered in moss. The bones have been there for around 200 years
200 year old whale vertebrae
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Joker, Colin and Wags (three dogs) sitting on a cushion plant covered ledge, while Nick looks on from a level slightly below the ledge
The happy workers
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Nick and Wags working on the top of a large rock stack at Douglas Point
Nick and Wags working a rock stack at Douglas Point
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Joker, a brown and white Springer spaniel climbing up a cushion plant covered rock stack
Joker climbing up a rock stack
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
View across to the bay to the rugged, mist covered slopes behind the coastline of Bauer Bay.  In the foreground is a rock stack which is covered in vivid green cushion plant
View south to Bauer Bay coastline
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Sunset over Douglas Point rock stacks
Sunset over Douglas Point rock stacks
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)
Ice lumps in Island Lake  looks much like many jellyfish in the lake
Ice lumps in Island Lake
(Photo: Steve (Billy) Barton)

Macca Gallery

Here are some pictures taken around the station during the last week.
Giant Petrel in flight during the late afternoon
Giant petrel
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Reflection of the rugged slopes of Perseverance Bluff in a wallow pool. There are several gentoo penguins just beyond the pool
Reflection of Perseverance Bluff
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Five gentoo penguins walking along the bank of a wallow pool alongside Razorback Ridge. They are reflected in the pool
March of the gentoo
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Sunset reflected in a elephant seal wallow. Tussock mounds at the edge of the wallow are silhouetted against the sky
Sunset reflected in a elephant seal wallow
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Sunset from West Beach - the clouds are shades of orange and yellow and frame the orb of the sun
Sunset from West Beach
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Sunset from West Beach 2. The orange coloured sky and clouds with the orb of the sun just above the horizon provide a silhouette of birds on a rock stack
Sunset from West Beach #2
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)