This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 4 October 2013
A journey to the end
I departed the station early to get a good start to Green Gorge, a midway hut, and I also wanted to beat the predicted bad weather. Macca is generally wet, windy and wild and this was a very typical day. By the time I made it up to the plateau it was raining, windy with visibility down to about 50 metres. As my journey progressed the wind and rain increased and even the hardened Pest Eradication crew were literally getting blown away - it was gusting over 40 knots on station. This was my time off and I had to wonder what I was doing battling away in the wilds of Macquarie Island getting blown away and crawling over some of the ridges.
I thankfully arrived at Green Gorge, boots wet as usual as most of the journey entails the dreaded 'feather bed'. Even if you manage to stay on the top you still get wet as you sink in with every footstep, and if you fall through you can get very very wet.
I did the usual preparations and got the power and gas turned on, inside now with the kettle and fire on... oh, that first cup of hot sweet tea! I changed into my dry clean clothes, hanging my wet gear above the heater to dry out. Nancye, one of the dog handlers, came in drenched but she also was glad to be in the warm hut.
The following day was amazing, although still windy, and when I crossed over Windy Ridge it can only be described as challenging. We have a water tank converted into a hut at Windy Ridge so I called in and had a cup of tea. It is generally not advisable to stop for more than five minutes as you get too cold, so this was a pleasant change and the tea was, of course, great! This was a long day out covering about 16km but from Windy Ridge it was a good path to Hurd Point. It started to hail and snow at one point but this is far more preferable than rain.
When you get almost to the end of the island you have an amazing view from the top of the escarpment down to the hut at Hurd Point. It’s called the Grassy Jump Up except – I had to go down – but of course I would get to come back up after my stay!
I took my backpack off and had a good look at the descent and noticed gentoo penguins nesting two thirds of the way up. These guys were inspirational as the steepness of the slope was slightly daunting. If they could climb so high with their little legs, I could surely make it down. I took it steady and managed not to fall!
Hurd Point hut is our best. It’s spacious and has this amazing window overlooking the beach where you watch the sea rolling in and the wild life going about its business. For one night I had the place to myself.
The next day was a rest day. I took it easy went out for local walks, read a book, ate and generally enjoyed myself. That night Dean arrived at about 6pm and Nick another of the hunters was spotlighting and arrived at 9.30pm. I always enjoy company in the huts as it is such a different atmosphere from the station, you get to know people better when you are away from the station.
Sunday morning was a day off for the hunters but I was heading out walking again to Waterfall Bay about 10km away. This should have been easy - head up the creek to the plateau with a decent walk over to Waterfall Bay on the east coast. It started gently snowing as I left and was seriously snowing half way up the creek and I was feeling like this was not a great place to be. I took it steady and carefully found my way up.
Once back on the plateau I was happy but the snow persisted and visibility again was about 50m with the snow building up. It was windy but just the usual 30 knots. I called in at Windy Ridge for the much needed cuppa and shelter. With the snow the journey was slow but once I got over to the east side the weather cleared and the scenery was just magnificent. Another steep decent to Waterfall Bay, which again I took steadily as my aim was just to get there.
Karen was staying at Waterfall Bay hut so I’d called on the radio just to let her know I was on my way down the slope and thus the kettle was on when I arrived! This is only a small smarty-shaped hut but warm and a bed for the night.
More snow overnight and the eastern coastline looked magnificent. I had a reasonable walk along the coast, passing nesting giant petrels before the path inevitably ascended back up to the plateau. The scenery was spectacular with the sun shining on the snow covered mountains, streams and lakes it was a good day to be alive and most certainly a good day to be out walking on Macca!
Back on to the Overland track and down to Green Gorge then up again before turning off at the Brothers Point track and back to familiar countryside with the little smarty hut at Brothers Point all to myself.
I felt comfortable as it was only a 3-4 hour walk back to station via the east coast. I was up and away early again with more heavy snow coming down, but no wind so it was great walking along the beach.
The BIG male elephant seals are spaced out along the beach as I walked along and there is a penguin colony not far away. It’s always good to visit the king penguins as they breed irregularly so there are always young fluffy brown penguins in the crèche.
All good things come to an end. I’d made it down the island and back and I felt recharged with renewed energy when I arrived back on station. It was certainly a great experience that I may do again!
It seriously feels like winter now as it has snowed continuously since I have been back and is currently -4C which is serious for Macca. The days are getting longer and the changes in the wild life are amazing and worth seeing. We have been here over six months now and our first ship L’Astrolabe arrives in a few weeks at the end of October. This will be followed by the Aurora Australis in early December. We will also be having several cruise ships stop in to visit the island.
We are going to be overrun by wild life and people. The experiences here on Macca are to be enjoyed!
John Hodgson (Station electrician)
AS you can see we are very fortunate here on the AAD stations, in that we rarely want for anything other than family and friends back home.