This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 13 December 2013

Thanks Macca from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

I came to Macca seven weeks ago to get a job done; to increase the number of plants in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) seed orchard of the endangered Macquarie cushion plant, Azorella macquariensis, from 9 to 54 plants.

This work involved setting up the pots and irrigation and making the mix for the new plants on Wireless Hill, then getting out into the field to collect plants from right across the island. That was the job and I am pleased to say 45 new plants are now sitting in their pots on Wireless Hill. It all sounds so simple.

I very quickly learnt that nothing is simple on Macca. First there is the weather and in the seven short weeks I have experienced snow, hail, rain, mist, a fair amount of sunshine and wind – lots and lots of wind – which can make working outside challenging. Then there is the landscape; starkly beautiful, but always ready to present challenges. Steep jump-ups and sometimes even steeper jump-downs to the coast, the windswept gravel landscapes of the plateau and the moonscapes of the mountain valleys and even the odd earthquake.

The other side of working on the island is that you are constantly surrounded by a wonderful assortment of wildlife that you have to appreciate are the real owners of the island. Elephant seals, from enormous bulls to extremely cute weaners, block your path at every turn. Others like gentoo penguins and southern giant petrels need to be given plenty of room and the odd inquisitive king penguin will walk right up to you when you are sitting on the beach.

Collecting and putting 45 plants into pots sounds pretty simple but the reality is I could not have done it without the help of all the other people on the base.

From collecting and autoclaving peat before I had even arrived, to carting loads of peat and pebbles up the steep track to Wireless Hill, to patiently dealing with the irrigation pump, I have many people to thank. Thanks to Chris, the ranger in charge, for his help in running the project and mapping and collecting plants. Thanks also to my field collecting buddies Jimmy, Aaron and Ingrid, who ventured up and down the island in all sorts of weather and especially to Pete and the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Programme team who collected over half the plants and reached areas I would never have had the time to get to.

Working on Macquarie Island is never straightforward and being able to adapt to the moment has been a great lesson for me. I have loved living and working here, it is a remarkable island teeming with wildlife that acts as a temporary workplace to a great group of people.

Natalie (Nat) Tapson

'Moonscape' of gravel interspersed with ground cover plants above Lake Ifould.  There are hills and valleys in the background behind the lake
'Moonscape' above Lake Ifould
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Azorella dieback on the plateau. Small 'islands' of azorella lie in a sea of gravel
Azorella dieback on the plateau
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Healthy young Azorella, nestled amongst rocks, to collect for the seed orchard
Healthy young Azorella to collect for the seed orchard
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Aaron standing on a slight slope of gravel and azorella, taking a reading on his GPS,  helping with field collecting. He is wearing his wet weather gear and carrying his red survival pack
Aaron helping with field collecting
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Pete, Ange and Cody (the dog) from the MIPEP team working on Wireless Hill. The east coast and escarpment are in the distant background
Pete, Ange and Cody (the dog) from the MIPEP team working on…
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
The completed seed orchard of 54 plants. The orchard is made up of 20cm plastic tubes fixed together in 6 groups of nine tubes on the grassy site near the Wireless Hill antenna. The east coast escarpment and the Nuggets can be seen in the background
The completed seed orchard of 54 plants
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)
Thanks to everyone on Macca from staff at the RTBG. There are 6 adults including Nat and a little girl on her lap, all sitting on a lounge settee
Thanks to everyone on Macca from staff at the RTBG
(Photo: Natalie Tapson)

Fur seal entanglement

A young Antarctic fur seal had a lucky escape recently when Macquarie Island Pest Eradication (MIPEP) team-member Dean Richards found it near Waterfall Bay entangled in a length of fishing line.The line was embedded deeply in the neck muscle and without intervention the seal faced a slow and painful death from infection or starvation.

Fortunately, Dean was able to capture the seal and remove the entanglement - fur seals are incredibly resilient and this youngster is now expected to make a full recovery.This incident highlights the dangers that lost or discarded rubbish and debris can pose to marine wildlife, even somewhere as remote as our little green sponge in the Southern Ocean.

Close up of the seal showing the entanglement of green fishing line embedded deeply in the seal's neck. Without intervention it faced a long painful death
The entanglement was embedded deeply in the seal's neck. Without intervention it…
(Photo: Dean Richards)
The young Antarctic fur seal prior to capture, clearly showing where the green fishing line is embedded around its neck with some of the line dangling down in front of its chest
The young Antarctic fur seal prior to capture
(Photo: Dean Richards)
The length of green fishing line cut free from the seal lies on a dark green fleece jacket
The length of fishing line cut free from the seal
(Photo: Dean Richards)

Macca Gallery

A pair of Antarctic terns in flight
A pair of Antarctic terns
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Three elephant seals in different stages of moulting, lying side by side amongst the tussock
Three elephant seals in different stages of moulting
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Gentoo penguin family, consisting of an adult and twin chicks, near the machinery shed
Gentoo penguin family near the machinery shed
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Visit by the tourist vessel Caladonia Sky. The three BAS team members Dom, Steve and Wim  went back on the vessel. The image shows the black IRB in the foreground with crew and passengers just about to make their way to the ship which is visible in the distant background
Visit by the tourist vessel 'Caladonia Sky'. The three British Antarctic Survey…
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Wireless Hill track, showing a close-up of one of the weathered timber guide rope poles in the left foreground. The view is down the track towards the isthmus and escarpment beyond. The vivid colours of the sky, sea and land are enhanced by the sunny conditions
Wireless Hill track
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
King penguins all in a row on a pebbly beach on the east coast, most of them moulting. North Head appears in the distant background. Again the bright sunshine enhances the vivid colours of the penguins, sky, sea and land
King penguins on the east coast, most of them moulting
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Orographic cloud over the escarpment. Two large elephant seals are 'chesting up' to one another in the foreground while in the background two distinct cloud layers can be seen capping the island escarpment
Orographic cloud over the escarpment
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Orographic cloud over the island. Two layers of cloud can be seen capping the escarpment, while in the foreground is the tussock covered isthmus and the huts of the magnetic quiet zone
Orographic cloud over the island
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Orographic cloud over the island. This time the view is from the 'golf tee' up above the station near the Wireless Hill track looking south across the station, isthmus and beyond to the cloud capped escarpment
Orographic cloud over the island
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.