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. 

A calm beach on the isthmus
Our normally wild western isthmus beach was a mill pond
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A wild beach on the isthmus
While our normally calm eastern beach had a roaring surf
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Six elephant seals lie on a mound of kelp on the beach
Elephant seals on the eastern beach enjoying a mound of bull kelp…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A group of elephant seals lying in kelp on the beach
Elephant seals on the beach
(Photo: Keon Stevenson)
Two elephant seals facing off in a play bout
Elephant seals on the beach
(Photo: Keon Stevenson)

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.

There is little vegetation
Looking up Gadget's Gully Dec 2010
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Same spot with improved vegetation
Same spot this week, note the numerous Stilbocarpa polaris (Macquarie Island cabbage)…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
A knoll with badly degraded vegetation cover
Razorback Ridge viewing platform (under construction), Dec 2010, showing apparently lifeless tussock…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Same spot with good cover of tussock grass
Same spot this week, note lush cover of revegetated Poa foliosa (tussock…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)

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.

Weather observer checks a ground level thermometer
BOM weather observer Evelyn checks the ground temperature thermometer as part of…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Observer checks rain gauge
Evelyn inspects the cylinder from the rainfall gauge
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Observer opens a screened box
Evelyn opens the Stevenson Screen box which contains the air temperature and…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Observer with an inflated weather balloon inside shed
Evelyn inflates the weekly ozone sonde balloon in the balloon shed
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Observer exits shed with weather balloon
I have often wondered why we affectionately refer to our antarctic weather…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Weather balloon is released
Up and away
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Texchnician removes large air filter container
Communications technician Ryan removes the ARPANSA equipment air filter container from the…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Technician places sample into detector
Ryan places the compressed daily air filter sample into the radionuclide detector…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)

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.

Expeditioner on beach with penguins
Doctor Meg at Bauer Bay beach
(Photo: Graeme Freeman)
Expeditioner on the beach
BSS Graeme at Bauer Bay beach
(Photo: Meg McKeown)
Extensive assortment of food items
Graeme's supplies: the culinary approach
(Photo: Graeme Freeman)
A sparse assortment of food items
Meg's supplies: the minimalist approach (and light weight)
(Photo: Graeme Freeman)
Beautiful sunset over the ocean
Sunset at Bauer Bay
(Photo: Meg McKeown)
Beautiful aurora
Aurora at Bauer Bay
(Photo: Graeme Freeman)
A seal flipper which resembles a dried hand
Meg has advised Graeme to remember to take some skin moisturiser the…
(Photo: Graeme Freeman)
This page was last updated on 16 December 2010.