This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 4 October 2013

A journey to the end

The goal was to walk to Hurd Point, 34km at the other end of Macca. Our station is situated at the northern end of the island and Hurd Point is a good two days walk for most although some do it in a day - but the weather and the terrain make it a very hard day’s walk.

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)


Looking west from the overland track across Major Lake with the ocean visible beyond
Major Lake
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking down from a high vantage point on the edge of the grassy jump up at Hurd Point. The hut can be seen way below just up from the beach and Hurd Point can be seen poking out into the Southern Ocean
Hurd Point from on top of the grassy jump up
(Photo: John Hodgson)
A big male elephant seal and a single gentoo penguin walking in front of him on the beach near the Hurd Point hut
On the beach near the Hurd Point hut
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking up the jagged rocks on the creek jump up from Hurd Point.  There is a lot of snow cover and it is snowing quite heavily
The creek jump up from Hurd Point
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking east from the ABC track across a snow covered landscape, consisting of ridges and valleys with the ocean visible in the distance
Looking east from the ABC track
(Photo: John Hodgson)
View of Waterfall Bay hut (red ovoid) from just to the east across the tussock with the escarpment in the background. The whole scene is covered in snow
Waterfall Bay hut
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking south from a high vantage point on the Jessie Niccol track towards Waterfall Bay and Lusitania Bay. The landscape is covered in snow and the ocean can be seen on the left
Looking south from the Jessie Niccol track towards Waterfall Bay and Lusitania…
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking west from the Jessie Niccol track up Jessie Niccol Creek. The landscape is covered in snow and Mt Blake can be seen in the distant background
Jessie Niccol Creek
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking north - panorama of the hinterland at Green Gorge, showing a broad flat valley with snow covered peaks in the distance north of the valley
Looking north - Panorama of the hinterland at Green Gorge
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Looking west from the Overland track - Midas tarn in the middle and Red River valley on the left with unknown peaks beyond the tarn. The landscape is covered in snow
Looking west from the Overland track - Midas tarn in the middle…
(Photo: John Hodgson)
Picture of John (top half) wearing his yellow wet weather gear and a snow covered landscape in the background
John
(Photo: John Hodgson)
King penguins at Sandy Bay - a mix of adults and brown furry chicks standing or walking on a snow covered beach
King penguins at Sandy Bay
(Photo: John Hodgson)

Snap shot

This is just a small snap shot of where we work, sleep and play here on Macca in no particular order.

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.

Bar and lounge - two couches and four single lounge chairs are around a large coffee table. In the background is the bar with several blue bar chairs and a dart board on the left wall. Over the bar is an old sign recovered from the old Caroline Cove hut - On the sign 'Caroline Cove' and 'Crabbe Inn'
Bar and lounge
(Photo: David Brett)
Hasselborough House cold porch - where we hang all our wet gear and take off our muddy footwear
Hasselborough House cold porch, where we remove and store all our wet…
(Photo: David Brett)
Dining area with three long dining tables and chairs. On the far wall are the photos of all past Expeditioners. An old clock is also on the wall with the kitchen bar visible on the left
Dining area with three long dining tables and chairs. On the far…
(Photo: David Brett)
Field store and excess kitchen supplies in the MPB (Multi Purpose Building). There are several rows of shelving stacked with plastic bins and other items
Field store and excess kitchen supplies in the MPB (Multi Purpose Building)
(Photo: David Brett)
Hasselborough House (Hass House accommodation) the only brick building on Macca. Wireless Hill is in the background
Hasselborough House (Hass House accommodation) the only brick building on Macca
(Photo: David Brett)
Library and sitting room in the MPB (Multi Purpose Building) - shows a lounge settee and two single lounge chairs with three shelve units stacked with library books. On the the wall behind are more shelves stacked with videos and dvd's
Library and sitting room in the MPB
(Photo: David Brett)
Cardio (exercise) room in the MPB (Multi Purpose Building). You can see a running machine two exercise bikes and a stepping machine, with a fit ball in the foreground
Cardio room in the MPB
(Photo: David Brett)
Kitchen, Mess and Surgery building. Camp Hill is behind the building
Kitchen, mess and surgery building
(Photo: David Brett)
MPB (Multi Purpose Building) - The carpenters and electricians workshops on the ground floor with Trades offices, Field training store and office, Library, Cardio room and sewing room on the top floor
MPB (Multi Purpose Building) - The carpenters and electricians workshops on the…
(Photo: David Brett)
Trades office inside the MPB (Multi Purpose Building)
Trades office inside the MPB
(Photo: David Brett)
Single unocupied room in Hasselborough House - showing a couple of wodden shelves and a single bed against the far wall under a small window
Single unocupied room in Hasselborough House
(Photo: David Brett)
'Woolies' where expeditioners can get their toiletries and exra bits and pieces. Shows meatl shelving stacked with cleaning products and implements as well as personal toiletries and other items
'Woolies' where expeditioners can get their toiletries and exra bits and pieces
(Photo: David Brett)

Macca Gallery

This weeks gallery features the variation of the skies over Macca, the elephant seal pups a beautiful sunset and the class of 2013 photo.
The yellow orb of the sun starting to set behind Handspike Bluff. A giant petrel is silhouetted against the sun
Sunset over Handspike Bluff
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The view from the isthmus across the tussock to the escarpment which is capped with low cloud. There are some big male elephant seals amongst the tussock in the foreground
Low cloud cap over Macca
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
A lone GP (giant petrel) sits on a mound. It's beak is covered in blood after feeding at the harem on west beach
Giant petrel after a feed at the harem
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Taken from the isthmus in front of the weather office - shows the numerous stars in the southern sky. The ozone building can be seen in the right foreground
Night sky
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Ten gentoo penguins in the foreground in front of  the 'North Ballpark' elephant seal harem on east beach. The station can be seen in the distant background
Gentoo penguins and the 'North Ballpark' elephant seal harem on East Beach
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
First elephant seal pup seen on West Beach on September 8th. It's mother is closest to him, with another female nearby and a couple of males in the background
First elephant seal pup seen on west beach on September 8th with…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The same pup as in the previous photo with it's (much thinner) mother, 3 weeks later - they put on up to 5kg a day. In the same time the harem had grown from 5 to 280 with around 125 pups
The same pup as in the previous photo with it's (much thinner)…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Station photo 2013 - all 25 expeditioners and the MIPEP dogs infront of the seal proof fence at Garden Cove
Station photo 2013: all 25 expeditioners and dogs in front of the…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.