This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 9 May 2014
Unusual easterly weather
For about 98% of the time, all our weather at Macca comes from the north around to the west, as the regularly gale force winds of the 'Furious Fifties' - that's the one that comes after the 'Roaring Forties'! So it was quite a change for us this week to get two days of 50 knot plus winds (90 kph) with heavy driving rain from the southeast. This neatly reversed the usual beach surf patterns on either side of the isthmus and drove rain into the wrong ends of the station buildings, which were sited and constructed in order to best survive the normally prevailing conditions.
The animals were not sure what to make of it all, but afterwards the elephant seals on the eastern beaches have made the most of the opportunity to enjoy themselves, lying luxuriantly on the huge mounds of bull kelp produced by the high surf conditions.
Post-MIPEP vegetation recovery
We are enjoying immensely the post-MIPEP recovery of vegetation on the island, since the rabbits were eradicated in 2012. I was on the island in 2010-2011, when the we killed most of the rabbits by distributing the bio-control agent rabbit calicivirus, and saw and photographed places at the worst stages of rabbit degradation immediately before MIPEP.
Since arriving this time, I have been attempting to get matching photos showing the recovery of the vegetation. Here are a couple of nice shots from a walk up our 'exercise circuit', Gadgets Gully - Doctor's Track this week.
Work on station: BOM, ARPANSA
Macca has a Bureau of Meteorology weather observation office staffed by three people all year round, which provides vital data for forecasting southern Australia's weather. One of their duties is the weekly release of a hydrogen balloon with an ozone sonde attached to measure upper atmosphere ozone levels. We also have an atmospheric radionuclide particle detector station, which our two communications technicians run on behalf of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA). This is part of Australia's contribution to the UN Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and is one of a large number of similar stations around the world which are continually monitoring the atmosphere for air borne indications of a nuclear test or explosion anywhere in the world. The ARPANSA installation has a large air filter which filters a huge volume of air, and then detects any radioactivity in the filter on a daily basis.
A field trip to Bauer Bay
Our doctor Meg, and building services supervisor Graeme, walked to Bauer Bay hut this week to check and restock the first aid and medical kits and to inspect hut infrastructure issues respectively. As our only west coast hut, Bauer Bay gets beautiful sunsets. These expeditioners were rewarded with not only a great sunset but also a spectacular aurora.
As our usual hut resupply using helicopters did not occur, Graeme and Meg carried some essential food items for their overnight stay. From the evidence of their photos, it appears that Graeme likes to eat in style and didn't mind travelling heavy, while Meg took the minimalist approach!
At this stage, until our new search and rescue team is fully trained and operational (in the next few weeks), we are restricting travel for most to the northern sector of the island, but still making the most of available opportunities.