8 February 2008

An update from our Bechervaise Island Biologists – Part 2

The great (but dead) Freddie Mercury, a plastic duck and a french dairy farmer (still living in France) – seemingly very different, but part of the interconnectedness of all things, or so said the Great Sage speaking at the start of Monkey Magic.

Science was thin on the ground this week on Beche. With only 65 chicks left over the weekend there was little work to do. There are only so many times you can count the same chicks.

Luckily our week was enlivened in a most surprisingly fashion……Firstly Freddie Mercury – lead singer of Queen, and world ambassador for moustaches and tight pants – continued to visit us, once again manifesting as a plastic duck . He obviously felt comfortable in his unusual avatar as he would often give a medley of Queen's greatest hits each night before departing elsewhere.

Between Freddie's visits the duck was unusually silent, except once when Rhonda overheard him muttering "Watch out for my blue suede shoes, mister". Perhaps the duck is a more general conduit to the other side? It does seem to suggest that the King is dead, and not hiding in a burger joint in the Arizona desert (sorry to all those true believers).

Image of Freddie Mercury (former) lead singer for Queen
Freddie Mercury in his better days

When not working, Rhonda and Dave have been seen wandering the island in search of ……..well, we'll let you know when we find it. One day while walking, David was visited by a spectre of a French farmer watching the Tour De France. They had a lively conversation (in French of course) on the nature of life, how hard the Pyrenees were to ride and the difficulties in finding well cooked bread in foreign countries.

The peleton rode past and the farmer bid David 'au revoir' and strode out over the ocean. Rhonda can't disclose who she met, as legal proceedings are still pending.

Group of people lining a road
Waiting for the Tour de France platoon to arrive on Beche

Oh yes, on Sunday 3rd Feb people came and rescued us in the boats, just before the insanity hit. Lucky that, and we had our first showers in a month.

Two boat teams in IRBs (Inflatable Rubber Boats) leaving for Bechervaise Island
Mawson boating team to the rescue, Mike, Zane, Tony and Thomas
Photo: Peter T
IRBs making their way to Bechervaise Island
Team wondering what state of mind they will find the biologists in?
Photo: Peter T

Or were they rescued by this boat ?

Expeditioner built model boat
Help is on it's way!!
Photo: Peter T

SAR (Search and Rescue Training)

Expeditioners heading out for Search and Rescue training
SAR Busters
Photo: Thomas S

After three days of gruelling training around Rumdoodle Hut, Field Training Officer Thomas thought that the new winter SAR team was tough enough to tackle the ultimate challenge: the SAR Field Scenario. Carpenter Mike, volunteered to fall down a wind scour, to be impaled with an ice axe in the process, become very hypothermic and confused due to concussion and some blood loss.

He was duly rescued by the 'Intrepid 6', headed by SAR Team Leader Tony. Initially SAR Coordinator Narelle had to deal with Mike's worried mate who was ordered to remain at Mt Henderson Hut and not go out to look for his friend on his own.

When the First Responders arrived, they reinforced that message, with Charlie holding him back while Boj excelled as tracker, following Mike's confused footprints in the snow until he found him. The beckoning option of lowering the casualty down an unknown slope was abandoned in favour of a back-breaking 2 hour stretcher carry back up to the hut, that showed dedication and wise decision making on behalf of the team.

Lessons learnt: SAR is not an ambulance service – even the best SAR team takes hours to recover a casualty.

Expeditioner with ice axe 'impaled' in abdomen preparing for role as Search and Rescue 'victim'
Mike preparing to be rescued – ice axe placed firmly in abdomen
Photo: Thomas S
Search and Rescue team leader hanging on edge of ice cliff
'Mike's not up here'…says Tony
Photo: Thomas S
Search and Rescue team member hanging from harness halfway down rock wall
'He's not down here either' says Boj
Photo: Thomas S

Serach and Rescue team carrying patient on stretcher
Patient is found and carried to safety
Photo: Thomas S
Search and Rescue team taking a rest
An exhausted SAR team taking a rest
Photo: Thomas S
Preparing Search and Rescue 'patient' for transport in Hagglunds to Station hospital
Preparing to transport the patient back to the station hospital
Photo: Thomas S

The outcome : due to the quick and professional actions of the SAR team and the Station Doctor, Mike the patient recovered quickly, all broken bones mended, ice axe removed, and he was later seen at dinner and at the bar.