A tour through Hurd Point hut, wildlife gradually returns, surgical assistant training, a look back at 1984 and much more from Macca.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

On Thursday 19th September the sun finally came out, much to the delight of the hunters — it had been absent for 14 days and during this time the team were constantly battered by winds exceeding 40 knots, very cold temps and snow. However, there’s always a mountain to work behind or a valley to slip down into to find protection from the challenging weather. The team also assisted Richard the Ranger with the Giant Petrel Census.

This week we’ve decided to take you on a tour through Hurd Point hut, one of the more popular huts on the island. If only it was up for sale, imagine how the real estate advertisement would read:

  • Secluded location, the ocean at your doorstep
  • Light and airy with no neighbours for miles
  • Open living area — the lounge, dining, kitchen, laundry, entertainment and bedrooms are all in one room.
  • Stunning outlook, easy to maintain natural gardens
  • Location attracts over 1 million Royal penguins, thousands of seals and numerous species of birdlife.
  • Views and smells to take your breath away
  • Paparazzi proof

Ranger in charge

The biggest news for the week is the return of the first royal penguins to colonies on the east coast and albatross to Pyramid Peak in the far south-west of the Island. MIPEP hunter/dog handler, Dave Seelye, working out of Hurd Point, reported a number of black browed albatross and grey headed albatross at the site, having returned for the new breeding season.

Elephant seal pup numbers are increasing with a number ‘popping out’ around the isthmus. The male bulls and potential ‘beachmasters’ are saving their energy for all the fighting and mating in the coming weeks after the cows have pupped. A number of expeditioners have commented on how quickly the pups put on weight. They can put on 50 kilograms in under four weeks, feeding exclusively on the fat-rich cow’s milk.

Spring has come with very strong winds and snow flurries. A number of days this week have had winds on station of over 40 kts. On the Plateau and in saddles between the mountains the winds can be significantly more than this, making it difficult to get around.

Moments in time

Twenty eight years ago a young Carpenter by the name of Jim Milne wintered at Macquarie Island. The year was 1984. It was his 4th winter — the first was at Mawson in 1978 and since his first trip south Jim has completed 8 full winters and 2 summers at all 4 stations. Jim, who is now at Macca to chalk up yet another winter, enjoys talking about his experiences from all those years ago. He has a wealth of knowledge and is a great mentor to everyone on the island.

On request, Jim was able to scan some of his old photos from 1984 for inclusion in This Week at Macca …enjoy:

Photo 1: Jim at Lusitania Bay enjoying what sun there is.

Photo 2, 3, 4: a supply drop. Three times per year the RAAF would fly over and parachute drop between 20 — 30 containers. Supplies would consist of food, mail, and essential building and mechanical items. According to Jim, the RAAF viewed these drops as good practice for other RAAF operations.

Not all parachutes landed where they were supposed to. Expeditioners were required to catch the parachutes and spill the air from them before they would blow into the ocean. The RAAF would aim for the isthmus whilst attempting to dodge station antennas, buildings, seal wallows or the ocean. When the drops were completed the chutes had to be retrieved, dried out and sent back to Australia at the end of the year. Occasionally some containers did land in the wallows — “we never lost any in the ocean but it did happen previous years” said Jim.

Photo 5: OH&S — Jim grinding rusted bolts on the balloon release shed doors. OH&S rules were very different back in those days.

Photo 6: Andrew the doctor and his injured giant petrel. The petrel had a broken wing and would not have survived if not for the generosity and sympathy of the team. The petrel was often seen following expeditioners around station and down to the beach.

Photo 7: Andrew the doctor and the giant petrel in the kitchen — dinner time.

Photo 8: young Jim today, Macquarie Island 2012.

Is Jim planning on heading south again after this year? You bet he is!


Phase two of surgical assistant training took place on 12 September as the team carried out a mock operation with a real patient — who was really asleep, though without drugs, at one point!

It was a great opportunity for everyone, doctor included, to revise training and skills and to identify any potential problems if the situation arose for real. It certainly made for some good photo opportunities, as seen below.

Other jobs on station — numerous stock takes, revamping the clothing store and renovating bathrooms.

And what’s so special about September 19th? It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and all day around station and across all radio calls we heard a lot of “Arrrrhhhh we be pirates” or “where might your chart say where you aarrhhhhh?”.