Dogs on rocks, people climbing things, animal husbandry, a seal pup milk moustache and some photos of landscapes that would make National Geographic green with envy, this week from Macca.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

Pete’s September report was completed a few days ago with more good news recorded:

  • September was a further month where no rabbits or sign was found.
  • The hunters covered a total of 3289 kms on foot.
  • Team assisted the ranger in charge with the annual northern giant petrel census, whilst undertaking the census everyone was still keeping an eye out for rabbit signs.
  • There were six ducks observed along with at least three ducklings and a nest of 12 eggs.

It’s wonderful to see so much wildlife returning to the island and this has been a real boost to an already enthusiastic team. From a few months ago where the elephant seals, king and gentoo penguins, were scattered along the beaches it has now changed. Our beaches, hills, escarpments and skies are teeming with numerous species of wildlife. It’s hard to know which way to look in fear of missing out on the action. 

This coming weekend the hunters will move from their current block to the next whilst the dog handlers remain in their current position. On station we say goodbye to Kelly who will head down to Hurd Point and we welcome Lauren on station for the next month.

Ranger In Charge

The elephant seal Census is upon us. For the last six weeks, expeditioners have been counting all female elephant seals on the isthmus. Numbers have built rapidly and on the 15th October many staff are involved in counting females in harems. In mid October, many females have pupped, some have weaned pups as the pups only get milk from their mothers for approximately four weeks and the first pup was recorded on the 7th of September.

Over the weeks, the pups feed exclusively on milk and they change from wrinkly black pups weighing around 40kg to fat grey weaners weighing 120kg. Females mate approximately three weeks after giving birth and are then pregnant for another 49–50 weeks to the next breeding season.

Expeditioners look forward to seeing more male seals fighting for the right to mate with females in the harem. The ‘beachmaster’ is the term used for the dominant male, a very arduous position and over 90% of males do not reach the age of seven to ten years when they are big enough to hold that position. Most beachmasters only last one year in the position, two if they are very robust.

The plan of the census is to get an idea of total elephant seal population by determining the total number of females. Therefore all females, dead pups and weaned pups are counted as all reflect all females present in the study area. The study sites this year involve the west and east coast of the isthmus, the northwest coast and southeast coast, over 60% of the island. Every five years the total coastline is counted.

Work on Station

This week the team was focused on repairing lights in one of the accommodation blocks, replacing a censor on the combo oven in the kitchen and tiling the bathrooms, toilets and corridors continued. Jim was able to test out his carpentary skills on an old window in the science block.

When we discovered our dam at Gadgets Gully was nearly empty due to a leak, Tom and Robby spent their Sunday de-silting and cleaning the dam before repairing the water outlet gate. The dam is now full and the leak is no longer.

Robby remained busy in the mechanical workshop servicing machinery and repairing one of the pumps. 

The Comms team (Colin and Mango), amongst other things, started planning for the upgrade of Mt Jeffrey’s repeater, inspected and cleaned the tide gauge solar panels at Garden Cove and made another long, windy, cold and tiring trip to the repeater on Mt Waite.

Everyone else worked on stock-takes and reorders for the 2013 season. Our focus for the next few weeks is now on the arrival of L’Astrolabe due on the 26th October, our first ship since the Aurora Australis departed our shores last April. With her she will bring six summer personnel and over one ton of essential cargo (and a Christmas present or two).

Moments in Time

Extracts from old station logs

October, 1975

Seal count on isthmus and North Head. Developed seal shots of harems. Done some office work for a change. Also seen 34 fur seals and 7 pairs of Rock Hoppers at R/H cave, North Head. It is only about 4 weeks before relief crew sails and I still haven’t heard Who’s Who new OIC etc, thought he would have been up for a chat and could have informed of any odd items required on petty cash, maybe another “SNAFU”.

Chippy finish tiling new wash room — Bob working on heating system, Smith working on phone radio hook up to operating theatre for Doc.

October, 1984

Continued work on fuel drums for field huts. The Radio Operators at Kingston and all Antarctic stations propose a ban on all official messages in pursuit of higher pay. In my view this is entirely misguided. It will not inconvenience the Public Service Board but it will certainly inconvenience individual expeditioners, particularly so close to change-over.  Went to gadgets Gully with Ivan to retrieve the temporary water line we put in during the last freeze up. Also worked on RTA items and general clean up. Ten days tomorrow.

October 1997

Weather generally fine. Saturday duties  — the paths shovelled clear of sand, the JCB washed (which resulted in a burnt out starter motor so the vehicle is U/S), Woollies tidied up. Heather baked a cake for Miles birthday (which is actually on Monday but which was celebrated tonight because he was threatening to disappear into the field). Ken cooked again today and provided a wide range of courses with lots of vegetables. French rolls and garlic bread. “Come in beauty or bad taste”  theme party tonight. Ken rolled up minus beard in drag, also in dresses were 6 others. Miles looked very fetching in a backless blue satin number.  Boisterous party ensued.


All creatures, great and small.