This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 21 January 2011

Amazing discovery

In startling news from Macquarie Island, fur seal researcher Dean has made an incredible discovery while searching for fur seals in mud wallows on North Head. We thank Dean for the following story of this amazing find:


In 1959, the vessel SS Titanic II struck the reefs off of Aerial Cove.

“The seas were horrendous,” said one of the survivors, Horacio Knibbles, Chief Petty Officer on the ship.

"Unfortunately for us, Macquarie Island appeared from nowhere. I say appeared from nowhere particularly as we were sailing in the North Atlantic at the time….. and so anyways, the rest as they say is history! The seas were coming over the reef and up to twin rocks, wild and foaming like a rabid dog. Seventeen of the crew of 21 survived that day, and washed up across the rocks onto the beaches of Aerial Cove. How we survived, I never know. But fate was to play its cruel twist when we least expected it.

"We had just thanked our lucky stars, and for those of us who partake, lit up our trusty pipes (an act that unwittingly was to save our lives). Within three steps inland, all 17 of us were up to our necks in elephant seal wallow and feather bed bogs! Little did I know that this would be my home for the next 50 years! We tried and tried but couldn’t pull ourselves out, and were finally resigned to the fact that this was to be our new home. The more we struggled, the worse it got. I watched poor Angus, a fine fellow, sink below the surface never to be seen again. Thankfully for me and the other smokers, as we sank, our pipes were our lifelines. If only Angus had smoked! If only he had smoked!

"For 50 years I have lived in that bog sweet bog, not seeing the light of day, breathing through my pipe as if it were a snorkel. I thank God that I took up smoking, thus saving my life! Now, upon coming back to civilisation, I am horrified to see that smoking is being banned in all public places! If only people knew how to always be smoking a pipe is such a good safety precaution. Like I say, it’s better to be safe than sorry – take up smoking!

"Sometimes when I see how the world has changed so much with modern technology to when I was a young man, I sometimes long for my secure little bog and just hanging out with the crew there in it, playing our own little version of Monopoly and Cluedo and Charades, and enjoying that darkness and wetness and the way those natural muds really helped improve our skin…. Sometimes now I wish those fur seal researchers had never found us, but I really did enjoy the pancakes they gave us!"

Expeditioner dressed up as a bog man
Horacio Knibbles with his trusty pipe ‘Betsy’, celebrates life and smoking just…
(Photo: Dean Richards)

Busy tourist season underway

We are in the middle of a busy tourist season here at Macquarie Island. Last week the Orion visited, this week it was Spirit of Enderby’s turn, and this weekend Orion returns. These visits usually involve a half day visiting the isthmus and station area, including tea and Kelly’s scones in the mess, and a half or full day visit to Sandy Bay where the tourists visit the king and royal penguin colonies, utilising Justin and Marty’s terrific new boardwalk and viewing platform.

The Tasmanian Parks ranger staff, with enthusiastic volunteers from the station staff, act as interpretive tourist guides. This often includes a night on the ship interacting with the tourists and enjoying some fresh food and an excellent dinner, so these opportunities attract considerable interest.

More importantly this week, the Orion on Saturday will take seven of our expeditioners home: electrician Ken, plumber Clinton, plant inspector Chris, and biologists/plant ecologists Jess, Kate, Justine and Aleks. Orion will also bring us Tasmanian Parks builder Peter who will be constructing another tourist viewing platform on Razorback Ridge, which provides an excellent viewing point overlooking the isthmus and station looking north towards North Head. Sometimes the ships also bring a bit of mail.

Tourists with penguins in foreground and ship in background.
Tourists from Orion meet the locals.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Tourists on beach with inflatable boat.
Tourists from Spirit of Enderby land (unusually) on the western side of…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Ship at anchor
The Spirit of Enderby at anchor off our west coast.
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Expeditioner with mail from home
Comms tech Kevin was delighted to get a letter from home on…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)

Newly hatched

The king penguins on Macca now have newly hatched chicks brooded on their feet under their warm belly folds. The nearest breeding kings to station are at Gadget’s Gully, 15 minutes walk away. There have been many evening walks to Gadget’s Gully with some big camera lenses, in order to obtain good photos of the chicks without infringing the specified approach distance to breeding penguins. The opportunity to so readily observe this natural wonder, really brings home to us what a great privilege it is to be at this fantastic location.

The light mantled sooty albatross also have young chicks in the nest now, so there is another challenge to the big lenses to get photos of the albatross nests across First Gully near Gadget’s.

King penguin with young chick.
King penguin with young chick.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
King penguin feeding chick
King penguin feeding chick.
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Very young king penguin chick
Very young king penguin chick.
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
King penguins mating
King penguins mating.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Light mantled sooty albatross with young chick
Light mantled sooty albatross with young chick.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Sooty albatross feeding its chick
Sooty feeding chick.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Skuas making short work of a dead royal penguin
Skuas making short work of a dead royal penguin.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Elephant seals on beach
The adult female elephant seals have returned to the island to moult,…
(Photo: Greg Stone)

Dome party

We normally have a Friday night pre-dinner social get together in various places, usually different workplaces, to celebrate the end of the week. Last Friday, communications staff Adrian and Kevin hosted us inside the ANARESAT dome. This dome houses the dish which provides our communications and data link to Australia via the ANARESAT satellite link. Many of us had never been inside the dome, so it was an interesting experience.

We finish with a few photos of other moments around station over the past week.

Best wishes from all at Macca!

Social get-together inside the ANARESAT dome
Social get-together inside the ANARESAT dome last Friday.
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Expeditioners in the ANARESAT dome
Brendan, Dean, Jess and Clinton in the ANARESAT dome.
(Photo: Kevin White)
Expeditioners perform autopsy on seal
Fur seal researcher Dean, station leader (and vet) Ivor, and doc Jamie…
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Expeditioner conducting testing of rescue system anchors in soft sand using the JCB loader and a load test measurement
Doc and SAR leader Jamie conducting testing of rescue system anchors in…
(Photo: Greg Stone)
Expeditioner constructing helipad
Ranger Justin in the JCB constructing a helipad in Market Square for…
(Photo: Jamie Doube)
Expeditioner working in the kitchen
Albatross biologist Amber enjoying working in the kitchen as “slushy”.
(Photo: Greg Stone)