This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 2 May 2014
ANZAC day at Macca
Walking to Bauer Bay for marine debris survey
Every month, the TASPARKS rangers conduct a beach walk at Bauer Bay to thoroughly collect all items of marine debris that have washed up on the beach. This debris is then collected and sorted to provide data on the actual types and quantities of marine debris in the Southern Ocean at these latitudes. This has been conducted now for quite a few years, and the resulting information now comprises a useful data set relating to this worrying problem.
Items collected range from small plastic particles, many lengths of discarded braided polypropylene long line from the long line fishing industry, plastic bottles, and larger items like buoys. This activity in turn provides a useful opportunity for other station people to walk to Bauer Bay and stay overnight to assist in the collection.
Last week, Benny, Evelyn and Ivor accompanied ranger in charge Chris, walking to Bauer Bay along the coastal track around the beautiful northwestern corner of the island, in order to assist Chris and Mike the following day. This track runs through the coastal featherbed country, where the walker passes over the "quaking bog" ground surface. This comprises a thin veneer of grass and vegetation over a mostly liquid layer of waterlogged peat. It almost always bears your weight, but ever so often you go through it and sink up to your knees or waist!
Of the four species of penguins breeding on Macquarie Island, many people's favourite is the attractive rockhopper penguin. As the name suggests, these penguins live and breed on and around steep, rocky slopes. There is a colony of fifty or so birds living on rock stacks immediately behind the station buildings in Garden Cove, and we are able to observe them and get good photos from the steps to "ham shack" hill close nearby, without disturbing the birds.
Rockhoppers breed during the summer, and at this time of year the now fully sized chicks are losing their fluffy down and replacing it with adult plumage, and the adult birds are moulting. Within the next week or two, they will leave us to spend the winter at sea before returning to breed again next spring.
Auroras at Macca
Macquarie Island's subantarctic latitudes are supposed to be better for viewing the aurora australis than the Antarctic mainland. The problem is that we just don't get many clear nights. However, with the longer nights we are experiencing now, we're getting around one night a week when we can view auroras with perhaps a broken cloudy sky or rare completely cloudless sky (and no moon).
The keen aurora photographers amongst us are having a field day trying to get the elusive perfect aurora shot. Thanks Keon for these nice examples!