This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 4 April 2014

Macquarie Island Resupply

Macquarie Island is in the middle of our annual resupply and changeover of year-round station personnel. The 2013 station crew who have been here for the last 12 months will be heading home. Accompanying them will be all the MIPEP (Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project) personnel, who have mostly also been here for 12 months, and the summer science project personnel who have been here for up to 6 months. The station manning will drop from currently around 40 to just 15 for the coming winter.

The resupply this year is a little different from usual. Due to the longer duration of the Mawson station resupply being undertaken concurrently using the Aurora Australis, our changeover and resupply is being done using the French Antarctic Program research and resupply ship L’Astrolabe, which normally operates from Hobart to the French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville. Normally when using the Aurora Australis, the resupply operation is done using a combination of helicopters and LARCs (Lighter,Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo). The LARC is a Vietnam War era ex-military amphibious truck which has proven itself to be an extremely useful tool for these operations at Macca and elsewhere. Without the usual helicopters, the LARCs and their dedicated operators just need to work a bit harder this year!

The cargo is mostly palletised into cage pallets. The ship’s crane lifts them into the LARC alongside the ship at about 600 meters off shore in Buckles Bay on the calm eastern side of the isthmus, the LARCs take them ashore to the isthmus, the JCB Loadall telescopic forklift lifts them off the LARC and transports to the station main store, the small forklift moves them to their destination in the store, and then a human chain gang moves the cage pallet contents to their final destination on the shelves in the freezer, cold store, or elsewhere. 

A LARC amphibious truck is unloaded from the ship
Unloading LARC from L'Astrolabe
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
The ship with LARC amphibious truck alongside
L'Astrolabe with LARC alongside
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
The ship is seen out in Buckles Bay
L'Astrolabe in Buckles Bay
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
The ship is seen lowering a cargo pallet to the LARC
L'Astrolabe cranes cargo to LARC in Buckles Bay
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A closer view of the cargo being lowered to the LARC from the ship
L'Astrolabe cranes cargo to LARC
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
The ship is seen out in Buckles Bay past a group of king penguins on the beach
L'Astrolabe in Buckles Bay during resupply
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A LARC is seen sailing toward the beach
LARC brings cargo ashore during Macca resupply
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
The LARC is seen driving up onto the shore
LARC drives onto shore
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
The JCB Loadall telescopic handler is seen lifting a cage pallet from the deck of the LARC
JCB Loadall removes cage pallet from LARC
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Two expeditioners are shown placing the pallet at the main store with the JCB
Graeme and Paul deposit pallet at main store. Graeme appears to be…
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
An expeditioner operates the JCB Loadall cargo handler.
Paul operating the JCB Loadall during Macca resupply
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A cargo pallet is being moved in the main store using a forklift
Forklift to move cargo pallet in main store
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
An expeditioner is seen operating the forklift
Greg operating the forklift in the store
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Three expeditioners move cargo from the pallet into the cold store
Scotty, Evelyn and Ryan form a chain to place cargo items into…

Biosecurity during Macca resupply

Following the outstandingly successful MIPEP program, the island is now rid of all introduced rabbit and rodent pests. In order to keep things that way, bio-security of incoming cargo is a paramount concern. To guard against introduction of rodents in cargo, all the Macca cargo is checked for rodent presence before departure in the AAD secure cargo facility in Hobart, and again on arrival at Macca. This is done using specially trained rodent detecting sniffer dogs. Here at Macca we currently have two New Zealand based rodent dogs and their handlers from the NZ Department of Conservation, who have been taking part in MIPEP. Every cage pallet is opened in the store and immediately checked by one of the dogs. When the dog has given the all clear, a rodent trap and bait is firstly removed and inspected before any cargo comes out. 

A rodent sniffer dog checks the contents of the cage pallet
Biosecurity check for rodents in incoming cargo cage pallet in store
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A ranger is seen checking the rodent trap and bait taken from the cage pallet
Ranger Chris checks rodent trap and bait from pallet
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A ranger is shown holding a rodent detecting dog
Leona and rodent detector friend
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A rodent dog is shown inspecting a LARC
Biosecurity check by a rodent detecting dog on a LARC
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)

Refuelling at Macca

The other vital function carried out to support the station for the next year is the ship-to-shore refuelling with diesel fuel. This is carried out via a floating hose, with very strict precautions and multi-layered risk management systems in place to ensure against any possibility of a leak or spill. These precautions include maintaining a close observation of the length of the hose by crews in the inflatable rubber “zodiac” boats throughout the procedure, which extended over two days.

A handover of the station from the outgoing to the incoming station crew will take place later this week, and the ship will depart for Hobart. The new crew then have a quiet weekend to settle into their new accommodation and surrounds, before starting their new life on Macca. Early work priorities will include field training for all, SAR training for a new SAR team, refresher training for our fire team and medical our real jobs! 

Many thanks to: captain Stan and crew of L’Astrolabe, voyage staff Nikki and Sharon, refueller Brad,  the amazing LARC and boat crews, 2013 SL Mark and the outgoing 2013 station crew, and perhaps most of all, Keith and the outgoing MIPEP personnel for their dedicated and very hard work in taking MIPEP to a fantastic conclusion and leaving an island in an amazing state of regrowth for us to enjoy!

Ivor Harris, Station Leader Macquarie Island 2014

The ship is seen with floating hose to shore for refuelling the station
L'Astrolabe refuelling station with floating hose and zodiac boats
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
The ship is seen off the shore beyond the giant bull kelp
L'Astrolabe beyond the coastal giant bull kelp during refuelling
(Photo: Sean Reynolds)
zodiac boats are seen in the water off the beach
Macca beach with zodiac boats in the water during refuelling
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
A group of gentoo penguins on the beach
Gentoo penguins on the beach
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
Two young for seals are shown lying in tussock grass
Young fur seals in the tussock grass
(Photo: Evelyn Sandoval)
A group of king penguins is seen walking down the road towards us
A welcoming party of the outgoing station crew come to meet the…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)