This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 25 November 2011
The only transport available on Macquarie Island, other than 'shanks pony', is the IRBs – Inflatable Rubber Boats. The only trouble is that it is very difficult to schedule boat trips – you are entirely dependent on the weather, in particular the wind. We don’t take the boats out if the wind is blowing greater than 25 knots (46 km/hr). If the engine failed with high winds, your next stop would be South America!
Last week we wanted to get several solar panels and other equipment down to the Mt Jeffryes radio repeater. Mt Jeffryes is at the other end of the island – a long way to have to backpack solar panels! It took several attempts to get down there, and finally, on Tuesday, the weather blessed us. Dan and Wayne were dropped at a point where they could carry all the gear up the 400 metres to the mountaintop and then walk back to the station, and the boats headed back to station. The weather was magnificent and the boating party enjoyed some explorations along the coast on their return. They even discovered a dead humpback whale.
Ships - arrivals and departures
Macquarie Island is the ultimate destination for specialised cruise ships that visit the subantarctic islands. The Tasmanian Park and Wildlife Service Rangers and station volunteers provide guiding services for ships that visit the Island. Some of these ships also transport Australian Antarctic Division expeditioners between the Island and Tasmania. This week the Akademik Shokalskiy, under charter to Aurora Expeditions, brought four botanist expeditioners to the Island as well as a special tourist – Nancye’s mum (Nancye is one of the MIPEP hunters on the Island).
As the ship loaded its passengers, everyone from station was down at Landing Beach to farewell six of our colleagues returning to Hobart. After wintering together, it was like saying goodbye to members of our family. Also returning to Hobart was Hamish, one of the hunting dogs. We hope they all enjoy the summer temperatures back in Australia.
A boardwalk story
This spring/summer on Macquarie Island, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service rangers will be doing some priority track work. The priorities will be work to prevent environmental degradation and to improve safety for the people using the track network.
Earlier this year the helicopters, here for the Pest Eradication Project, were used to deliver a few hundred new track markers in bundles along the walking tracks. During winter/spring the Rangers have already installed almost a third of those markers at priority places such as all the track junctions. This will be a great improvement especially when visibility and weather conditions are poor.
Vegetation and soils on slopes on the plateau are vulnerable to erosion from foot traffic and are very slow to recover. In the past, several sections of second hand boardwalk were relocated by helicopter and installed to protect those vulnerable areas. But they were not of an acceptable standard, and will be replaced by simpler, safer on-ground planking. The planking will be new but some of the existing boardwalk material will also be re-used. This week as a practice exercise rangers Adrian and Paul removed about five sections of the old structure and installed new planking.
The plan is to continue with more work in the same area and to do similar work on the Island Lake Track. On other tracks it is also likely that there will be some track relocation due to unstable slopes and deep bogs.