A pesky sea lion irritates the huge elephant seals in an adorable way and the usual reports are included in Macca’s news this week.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

The following editorial is from the August Edition of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project Newsletter, produced by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service

In the nine months since the last rabbit was found and dispatched on Macquarie Island, there’s been no let-up in the hunting teams in efforts to ensure that any remaining rabbits are removed from the island.

A total of 13 rabbits have been found and killed since aerial baiting finished in July 2011. The last rabbit killed was in November 2011 and project manager Keith Springer is confident that rabbit numbers are now extremely low, with a ‘best guess’ estimate that there may be fewer than five rabbits remaining on the island.

A fresh team of hunters joined the effort in April 2011 with four of the 2011/12 team selected to stay on with the project. Peter Kirkman is this year’s eradication team leader after joining the project last year as assistant team leader under Peter Preston. Dana Boyte remains, but has changed roles from hunter to dog handler. Jane Tansell has also taken on extra duties as assistant team leader for the dog handlers. Jack Bauer continues as a dog handler. The eradication team includes six hunters and six dog handlers.

The team’s first month on the island was taken up with familiarisation and training in recognising rabbit signs such as grazing, scratchings and droppings and in hunting techniques including trapping, fumigating burrows and shooting. The dog handlers were paired with the dogs in an effort to find the best fit of skills and personalities. Each of the dogs has different skills; some are good on rock stacks, some for ranging at a distance from their handler, and some are best for close work in the thick tussocks. The island is divided into six hunting blocks, with dog handlers and hunters tackling one block for a four-week period. Each block has two huts and the teams roam between the huts, returning to the island’s station at the end of the month’s field work for four days of catching up on emails, phoning home to loved ones, socialising and resting.

Peter downloads all of the GPS units carried by the hunters and coordinates the combined tracks onto a map. In June 2012, they covered 2233 kilometres in their search for rabbits and a map produced of their patrols since August 2011 shows that only the steepest slopes and lakes and tarns are exempt from their attention. Since August 2011, the hunting team has clocked up an incredible 33,412 kilometres in their search for those rabbits that found the bait unappetising and survived. Of course as time goes on, the job gets much harder with so few rabbits remaining. Although the winter weather is very hard on both dogs and people, it has its advantages for locating rabbits: a light cover of snow highlights any rabbit tracks or droppings, and the shorter days and long nights are ideal for spotlighting.

Ranger in Charge

This week has seen further signs of spring and the start of mass breeding on the island. The northern giant petrels have started laying eggs; large would be ‘beachmasters’ (very large male elephant seals of breeding size) are coming ashore and having their first few fights for space in the breeding colonies. Gentoo penguins are making nests all around station and the Macquarie Island shag are finishing nests built on rock stacks. The skuas are returning to the island and it will not be long before the albatross return to Petrel Peak in the south-west corner of Macca.

MIPEP hunters have reported seeing many soft-plumage petrel (listed as endangered under state legislation) when spotlighting at night.

The RIC has been surveying grey petrels at Brothers Point and Green Gorge, undertaking bird counts and the monthly marine debris survey at Bauer Bay.

Ralph, the station named Hooker’s sea lion has been laying on elephant seals on the isthmus to great amusement to expeditioners but not the elephant seals.

Work

Last week when Mango and Colin arrived at work they noticed glass all over the floor. If you were on the mainland, your initial response would be to leave everything where it is and call the police. However, at Macquarie Island, the only vandals we occasionally come across weigh close to four ton and burp obsessively. A large male ele seal must have seen his own reflection in the window, thought “Now there’s a mean looking fellow” and decided to take him on. The loser in all this was the double glazed window located on the southern side of the comms building.

As part of the ongoing station requirement for personnel to maintain competencies to be able to support a search and rescue operation, a Rope Rescue Systems activity was conducted on 24 August 2012 for all station-based staff.

The aim of this activity was to safely revise rope rescue systems as used by the AAD on Macquarie Island. The activity was conducted by lowering and raising a stretchered patient on simulated sloping ground with an initial slow walk through each main area (main line, belay line and stretcher and attendants).  The station staff then rotated through various systems and roles.

Other jobs during the week requiring work around the huts included repairing wind turbines and generators.

Heritage

At Lusitania Bay, sitting at the base of one of the old boilers amongst a scatter of other artefacts, is the cast-iron lid to a ship tank.

Ship tanks were cubic wrought iron or steel containers used, as the name implies, to transport fresh water and other liquids on ships. Due to their robust nature, they were also commonly found in other places where secure storage of drinking water or perishable goods was critical. The lid sat on the top of the cube and was locked into the tank body with lugs.

The photo below shows the lid to be in remarkably good condition, and the name of the manufacturer can be read clearly: JOHN BELLAMY (BYNG) ST MILLWALL LONDON. This company was founded in the 1860s and, besides ship tanks, also manufactured buoys, water hauling tanks and, later, underground petrol tanks. This style of tank lid appears to have been manufactured.

You can see that the tank lid is exactly the same as the painted example shown below, except that the latter is missing its central metal bung, which would have been removable to allow the contents to be accessed without removing the whole lid.

It would seem that our tank lid formed part of the stores and equipment landed at Lusitania Bay for the establishment of the oiling works and the living quarters for the men that worked them, and shows that items from all around the globe, or within the British Empire, at any rate, found their way to Macquarie Island.

Comprehensive information on ship tanks and their use in Australia and Antarctica may be found in the excellent article PDF written by Michael Pearson in the journal Australasian Historical Archaeology. The article helped to inform this story and mentions this very tank lid (p.26).

The photo of the painted tank lid below is used with kind permission of Mr George Radion and may be found, with more information, on his website www.ozwrenches.com. Thanks also to the museum at the Booleroo Centre in South Australia where this tank lid forms part of a large collection.

Mel Van Twest

Moments in Time

August 1975

Sunday. Up early and took the camera, binoculars and seal counting gear and a .22 pea rifle and went for a walk up to Gadgets Gully Dam to check the state of same prior to change over rush. 1 leopard seal on the beach at the foot of gully. Dam in good shape but could be rebuilt out of hardwood next year if desired. Returned over the top after noting heavy sand and rock slides into gadgets gully about half way up where the base is not much more than 3 to 4 feet wide now. Found a 2 x 1 metre wooden sledge in a gully between Gadgets and Doctors track coming back — 5 large beach masters only along eastern side. Carried out seal count — 120 on western side mainly immature to 9 year olds with 20 large breeding bulls 5 metres / 3 tonnes (approx).

1st September, 1997

Weather — overcast and windy with rain from 15:00 onwards. Max temp : 4 degrees C. Dale, Jeff and Graham at Waterfall Bay (caught one cat on way from Hurd Point — total cat count 168), Phil at Davis Point. Ken hosted “First Day of Spring” drinks and nibbles with the theme ‘Bring a Flower’ in the office/surgery at 17:00. Dave is stand-in cook, pork chops and baked fish for dinner.

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

Wildlife

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