This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 16 August 2013

Winter Repairs for Comms

Cool snowing conditions were experienced on Macca last month and communications equipment can suffer from wind and ice. During the heavy snow the radio repeater on Mt Waite became un-readable from base. Locally there was some coverage but the symptoms were pretty obvious, there had been some antenna damage.

Senior comms tech Bird swiftly leapt into action, aided by the Station leader Mark. The pair seized on a window of calm weather a couple of days ahead and forged, with equipment and supplies in hand, south down the Overland Track.

With the keen eye of MIPEP hunter Mike, Mark and Greg were steered to the base of Mt Waite, a monolith of grass and rock towering on the west coast of Macca. Twenty minutes later the pair deployed the “Mega bivvy” on the summit of Mt Waite. A shelter from the elements makes work possible in these conditions. While Mark cringed in the “Megga bivvy” Bird soldiered on replacing the antenna that was snapped in two.

With repairs completed and a quick lunch at Gratitude Lake shelter, a path to Davis Point Hut was plotted in the thick and dampening fog. With pigeon-like homing skills Bird navigated their path along the steep and craggy slopes of the West Coast. With only a track marker to identify the “jump down” Mark and Greg scrambled with panther-like grip, head long down the boulder-strewn creek bed to emerge victorious on their second day of a radio repair journey.

Day three saw Mark and Greg aiding our Ranger Chris and Aaron in a rubbish (marine debris) pick-up on Sandell Bay for the morning. Then a climb up the escarpment in forty plus knot winds on all fours, to Tio Hut for the night.

Freezing conditions overnight crystallised our boots and wet weather gear, made gaiters like thick cardboard and impossible to wrap around your leg. This delayed our departure to Mt Jeffryes, the next mountain in a chain of communication for the island. A quick check of the batteries and off down the track to Hurd Point. With the track crunching under foot, Mark and Greg avoided the frozen scree slope and opted for the quad burning grassy, dropping them onto the beach in front of the hut.

After a weekend rest with MIPEP members, Tom, Nancye and Ange, and fueled with Nancye’s calzone, Greg and Mark clawed their way up the “creek jump up” from Hurd to march all the way home to base arriving at 8.30pm that night. A long day but worth the experience.

Greg Bird SCTO

Frozen lakes near Windy Ridge - taken from a high vantage points shows a snow covered landscape with some hills in the background a partially frozen lake on the left and a smaller lake on the right. Windy Ridge hut is near the shore of the smaller lake
Frozen lakes near Windy Ridge
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Taken from high vantage point above the Grassy jump down at Hurd Point. Hurd Point hut can be seen way below on the beach. Hurd Point can be seen extending  out into the ocean surf
Grassy jump down at Hurd Point
(Photo: Greg Bird)
View from the top of Mt Waite. In the foreground is a concrete block which is support for the antennae. The slopes below have a light mist and surf can be seen breaking on the coastal rocks far below
High up on Mt Waite
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Mark fully wrapped in a red and yellow bivvy on Mt Waite
Mark in a bivvy on Mt Waite
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Mark and Tom in Hurd Point hut. in the back you can see four shelves along the length of the wall, fully stocked with food supplies
Mark and Tom in Hurd Point hut
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Wooden mast or keel on Sandell Beach - one end is covered by dirt and vegetation  with the other end looking worn and partially covered in moss. The slopes of the escarpment are in the distant background
Mast or keel on Sandell Beach
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Looking towards Hurd Point, with the moon high up. You can see Hurd Point hut in the distance at the base of the steep slope
Moon over Hurd Point with the hut at the bottom of the…
(Photo: Greg Bird)
The Mount Waite snapped antenna shown leaning against a large plastic storage crate which is heavily strapped down. The concrete base for the antenna can be seen behind the crate. A wind turbine as well as a solar panel are also in the photo
The Mt Waite antenna snapped off
(Photo: Greg Bird)
View from 'the office at Mt Jeffryes shows the snow covered slopes of the island escarpment rising up from the ocean. A solr panel can be seen in the left foreground.
View from 'the office at Mt Jeffryes
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Western point of Hurd Beach - The photo is taken from near the waters edge and shows a couple of sharp pointed rock stacks in the water and a young elephant seal in the foreground.
Western point of Hurd Beach
(Photo: Greg Bird)

Seal proof-fence at Green Gorge

Elephant Seals are one of the most intriguing inhabitants of here on Macca, this small speck of dirt in the middle of nowhere. There are times when they manage to get themselves in places that may cause themselves injury or damage to buildings and huts that we need to protect.

One such place is the rear of Green Gorge hut where, in the past, several seals of larger than average size (after busting down the existing old fence) had taken up residence. There they would get stuck in between buildings, push in doors, lean against the building belching, burping, fighting, and snorting only centimetres away from sleeping expeditioners.

So over the past few days David, the carpenter, has been on the job installing a new fence for the protection of man and beast. This done with the help of Tony the chef, Dean, Billy and Nancye from MIPEP. The job that was estimated to need seven days to complete was done and dusted to a high standard in only four days. This is just in time for the main elephant seal breeding season here on the Island.

Thanks to all the helpers involved and to Jim the previous BSS for getting the gear sorted last year and organising for it to be delivered by helicopters over re-supply.

David Brett (BSS and DSL)

11 elephant seals 'snoozing' in front of a rock stack  near the helipad on the isthmus
Ele seals at rest - a rare photo
(Photo: Tony Mortimer)
At Green Gorge - Tony large in the foreground, making sure he was not missed, while the old fence can be seen in the foreground and Dave doing some digging in the background
At Green Gorge - Tony making sure he was not missed with…
(Photo: Tony Mortimer)
Dean and David measuring up a pole on the new elephant seal exclusion fence
Dean and David measuring up
(Photo: Tony Mortimer)
Dean having a go at the drilling into the big cross poles of the new fence while Billy holds the pole in place
Dean and Billy having a go at the drilling
(Photo: Tony Mortimer)
 The photos shows the completed (pole) fence extending from the RAPS (Remote Area Power Supply) down the tussock covered slope
Not a bad day's work
(Photo: Tony Mortimer)

Macca Gallery

This week's gallery features some more of the MIPEP dogs in wintry scenes from the plateau, a beautiful sunset, views from a boat and the seals of Macquarie Island.

The skull of a large elephant seal near the station, showing all its teeth. The bone is covered in green algae and moss
The skull of a large elephant seal near the station
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Finn and Flax, sitting in front of a row of dog kennels buried in deep snow, enjoying a bit of sun after the heavy snow. A water-tank hut is in the background
Finn and Flax enjoying a bit of sun after the heavy snow
(Photo: Karen Andrew)
Some of the bigger boys are returning - a close up of several elephant seals lying together by a rock stack on the isthmus
Some of the bigger boys are returning
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Taken from a IRB offshore on the east coast looking towards a valley in the escarpment with the Red River falls cascading down the top of the valley
Red River falls on the east coast from the water
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
A predominantly orange shade sunset, showing the half orb of the sun near the horizon and a lone bird in flight silhouetted
First sunset after winter
(Photo: Greg Bird)
A view of the impressive rugged slopes and craggy rocky outcrops of Brothers Point from a IRB. A second IRB with three crew is in the foreground
A different perspective of Brothers Point
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Ange and two of the dogs negotiating there way down a steep snow covered slope. Waves are washing onto the rugged, rocky coast below the slope
Ange and two of the dogs negotiating a steep snow covered slope
(Photo: Karen Andrew)
The big boys are returning - a very large elephant seal, approximately 5.5 metres in length, lying on the west beach, with the station buildings in the background
The big boys are returning - approximately 5.5 metres in length
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The Wild West Coast - shows the rugged tussock covered rock stacks with deep ponds between and the ocean just beyond. Two expeditioners in their yellow wet weather gear are next to one of the rock stacks
The Wild West Coast
(Photo: Greg Bird)
One of the rat dogs (terrier) looking decidedly uncomfortable and cold as he is has snow and ice sticking to his short fur. At least he is wearing a green high visibility vest
Frozen rat dog
(Photo: Karen Andrew)
A quiet evening in Garden Cove - a lone fur seal sits atop of a moss and grass covered rock. Behind is the open expanse of Buckles Bay with the eastern slopes of the escarpment in the hazy distance
A quiet evening in Garden Cove
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)