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.
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.
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 assistants.....plus 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