Plumbing in the subantarctic, travels of the MIPEP team, stunning landscape photos and the daily life of seals and petrels plus more from Macquarie Island.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

August figures have been compiled — the team of 12 covered a total of 3206km on foot in 1288 hours and it was another month of no rabbits or signs found.

Extra attention was paid to coastal areas, especially the longer tussock areas that surround most of the penguin colonies on the Island, as access to those areas is to become increasingly difficult in the coming months with wildlife returning to the island to breed.

Most of the coast will continue to receive attention in September, with the team helping to complete the annual northern giant petrel census. However, this will be without benefit of the dogs going over those areas as they will be left at the huts due to the amount of close interaction with giant petrels the hunters will have while completing the census.

Excitement is mounting amongst the team knowing the first ship since the Aurora Australis dropped us off last April will arrive in six weeks. On order are new boots, new wet weather gear and new cameras, and maybe even a parcel or two from loved ones at home.

Ranger in Charge

The start of spring also marked the start of a new breeding season for many island inhabitants. The first gentoo penguin egg was noticed on the 3rd of September. Much to her excitement, Karen Andrew (MIPEP Hunter/Dog Handler) correctly guessed the date of the first elephant seal pup to arrive which was the morning of the 6th of September. Duck nests with eggs were recorded on the 8th in tussock along the northwest coastline. The MIPEP hunters and ranger are spending many long days searching for rabbit signs and northern giant petrel (NGP) nests from the shore to the escarpment around the entire island. NGPs nest solitarily around tussock and rock stacks so a very comprehensive search is required to allow scientists to gain accurate information of the numbers and breeding success. Northern Giant Petrels are listed as vulnerable nationally.

Along with the NGP census, the elephant seal census also began with weekly counts of adult females in harems around the isthmus. Brave expeditioners have volunteered to undertake the counts, carefully sidestepping mature ‘beachmasters’ and harems whilst undertaking the counts. There certainly is the feeling that the island will soon be teeming with wildlife and we will be exposed to the rawness of nature, life and death.

Don’t follow the Park Ranger

Note to Macquarie Island expeditioners: if Richard, the Ranger in Charge, says “Look over there, follow me”, DO NOT FOLLOW!


A mysterious loss of hot water in large quantities on Tuesday morning led to a systematic search of the station’s pipe work, revealing a leak near the back of the mess building. Today the repair job got underway, but just as Tom and Robby thought they’d nailed it, another one turned up! Fortunately both were breaks in copper piping which were (relatively) easily accessible.

The lay surgical team got together last week for a refresher on setting up the operating theatre to receive a patient, and getting the patient, in this case a very kind (and healthy) volunteer in Ray, our sparky, settled into place and ready for surgery. The next session will involve getting gowned and gloved for a mock operation so that everyone can revise skills and be confident about their roles in the unlikely event of needing to do this ‘for real’.

Moments in Time

September, 1975

Gale force winds and rain continuing all day. Seal count only for cows and pups. One cow and pup missing leaving only 2 pups at Western Rookery. 33 cows now ashore only on beach. Beach master settled in at Western Harem where there is 18 cows and 2 pups. Painted two rooms with finishing coat. Louie put on selection of nice cakes, picture night but I retired after first feeling a bit tired, have only had a few days off all year and some of the gripes I’m hearing are giving me the pips, the experienced ones should know better and they are the main stirrers, the reason, naturally I’m lost for one but I feel it’s for letting XXXX get away with his big act. Naturally those doing the most griping are those who are doing little to help. I wonder who wrote, “Weary is the head that wears the crown”.

September, 1992

Small leopard seal (A94) on landing beach this morning. Ellie females — East (2), West (23). Observed a bull chase 2 females off into the water. Recorded 2 pregnant females in the tussocks watched by a small male. No pups. Recorded female 2303 in West Razorback harem, tagged on this day 4 years ago as a pup. Along feather beds from Bauer Bay to station reports of gentoos on eggs, pregnant ellies on Bauer Bay, Douglas Bay and Half Moon Bay. 4 plovers just north of the Nuggets. Bob Orchard cooked apricot chicken tonight. The movie shown in Market Square projected onto a screen where the store door is. We watched some old classic cartoons from the 1930’s and “Gigi” starring Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan. It started raining and we adjourned to the mess. A beautiful fine day, with the BBQ and drive in movies as a highlight.

September, 1997

Intermitted snow and hail squalls — wind from WSW. ‘Aurora Australis’ ETA now 0800 Saturday 13th Sept. Station duties done. Final clean up of SAD, paths and walkways swept spring clean of Science, sauna and ham shack cleaned as well as routine ‘Saturday duties’. Extra tables and chairs set up in the mess for the masses. Meeting after dinner re V1 and for me to say ‘thank you’ to winterers for co-operation and tolerance during the year.

 These are actual station journal entries and not edited from the original in regards to grammar or style.