This week meet the largest penguins ever spotted on Macca, see the cutest seal photobomb and enjoy all the regular stories as well as the stunning wildlife and landscape photos.

Winter Team Photo shoot

It’s an Antarctic tradition on all stations across the continent to take a photo of the winter team and have it displayed on a prominent wall in the main building on station.

In the mess at Macquarie Island, black and white framed group photos are on display for all to see. These date back to the 1950s and are quite often a topic of conversation as many of us recognise and know some of the expeditioners featured. One of our current expeditioners is in one of the photos dating back to the mid-1980s. All photos are still black and white, keeping with tradition. Another tradition which has developed over time is the ‘double sided’ team photo. What you see when you walk into the mess are photos of the team posing for the camera, however, if you turn many of the frames over there’s also a not so serious photo of the team. Our favourite is the 2006 team, barely dressed, only in rabbit skins.

Two of the following photos will be chosen for the wall.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

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

Winners and losers in vegetation recovery

With each growing season, the vegetation will continue to recover and finding sign of rabbits will be that much harder. It’s also hard to know which rabbit is the last. Progress toward the eradication goal is reviewed annually based on the principle of continuing hunting for two years after the last known rabbit is accounted for. That Macquarie Island is rapidly recovering from the incredible devastation that resulted from the grazing pressure of a rabbit population estimated at greater than 100,000, is indeed heartening, but the question is, how long will it take for a new ecological equilibrium to become established?

Senior ecologist with the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), Dr Jennie Whinam, is among those who have seen the island at its worst and are now keenly documenting the recovery. DPIPWE scientists started monitoring the island in the 1980s and are now analysing 30 years of vegetation data up until the beginning of the eradication program. They hope to travel to the island this coming summer and begin recording the vegetation recovery. What was obvious to all who visited Macquarie in recent years was just how bad the island looked as its most charismatic species such as the megaherbs and large tussocks largely disappeared from some areas under intense grazing pressure. What was worse, according to Jennie, was the landscape scale ecological changes.

“The island had changed to a very simple island. It was a much less exciting and complex mosaic of landscapes and vegetation and the specialness of it had gone with the loss of the iconic species,” Jennie said. It had gotten so bad that staff on the island had fenced off known populations of certain species like the prickly shield fern (Polystichum vestitum) in the hope of preserving them for the day when the island was free of rabbits. “At this time the rabbits were so hungry they started burrowing under the fence to eat the rhizomes. What is just so amazing now is that in some areas that weren’t fenced, people are seeing the tiny little fronds starting to unfurl.” While the island started ‘greening up’ within six months of the removal of rabbits, scientists acknowledge that ecological recovery will be a long process.

“The thing about sub-antarctic and alpine environments is that things happen slowly… but the photos I’ve seen so far just bring joy to my heart. With one of the photos sent to me of the native silver leaf daisy, Pleurophyllum hookeri, I realised I’d never seen a landscape of pleurophyllum that didn’t have rabbit damage, so to see an entire hillside of it without a single bit of rabbit damage was very exciting.”

While Jennie is confident that the island will look significantly different in as little as five years’ time, she is mindful of the message from colleagues involved in other sub-antarctic island restoration projects — expect the unexpected. “The sleeper is what will happen with the weeds. There are three weed species on the island and we’re expecting some of them to increase initially and then hopefully decrease as the native species re-establish. What we don’t know is whether there have been new arrivals that have gone unnoticed simply because it’s been very hard for us to identify plants when they were so heavily grazed.

“The initial response will be fast and lush, but it’s likely to be 20 years before we can start talking about what the new ecological equilibrium will be.”

There is a graphic contrast between the lush native vegetation inside the fence and the ‘lawn’ of exotic Poa grass outside. Macquarie Island’s birds such as this grey petrel chick, are also recovering, with significantly increased breeding success.

Ranger in Charge

What a difference a week can make in the subantarctic. The ranger returned after a two day trip last week and returned to find 40 Gentoo penguins having taken up residence at the office door. Four days later, the first egg was laid in the rapidly constructed nests. Mating and nest building continues. What a privilege it is to work on Macquarie Island.

Staff are combing the beaches in search of the first elephant seal pup that is due any day now. A staff competition on guessing the date of the first pup has gained great interest and the elephant seal census has begun with AAD staff volunteering time to assist in weekly counts of the Isthmus. Peak breeding is expected mid-October. Of interest, during the last count was two male elephant seal sporting what appeared to be shark bites on the lower body. One of the bites measured approximately 500mm across.

The Marine Debris Survey at Bauer Bay was conducted in sunshine. Yes, sunshine! A welcome change, as was finding ‘only’ 225 items of rubbish/debris. This number is well down last month’s total.

Skuas are increasing in numbers and the ranger spotted 14 black duck during the monthly bird count of the west coast featherbed. These are the first ducks spotted on the monthly counts since resupply.

Search and Rescue Training

A few weeks ago, we featured a number of photos taken during the SAR (Search and Rescue) exercise we conducted Friday 17th August. Lauren arrived back on station during with week with a few more photos worth submitting.


This week the station-based expeditioners continued with work associated with the general running of the station (maintenance routine tasks) as well as the unexpected jobs. Tom and Ray repaired the urn in the mess, repaired the scales in the store, audits were completed on height safety and confined space equipment, stock take completed on fire team clothing and on materials in the UAM (Unusual Animal Mortality) kit.

An ultrasound bath was installed in surgery and Tom changed over the oxygen. Robby, our Senior Dieso, spent many hours removing, cleaning and repainting the axle to the stations trailer as well as servicing the Ihat compressor and fire pump.

Our comms team made frames for the solar panel at Mt Waite, ready to transport it down the island, and five of our expeditioners were briefed by Richard on how to conduct weekly and daily seal census.


With the Hunters back on station for six days (the station population doubling overnight) many social activities were planned. Mango showed a number of his Everest climb photos on the big screen and talked about his climbing experiences, there were a few band rehearsals, the winter team photo shoot, a football game, cards, spa and sauna, and a full/blue moon party on Friday 31st August. We voted Stu as the best dressed person on the night!


Moments in Time


2nd September : Bob arrived back in camp with crook right knee xrays show N.A.L.D.  Doc suggests too much weight in packs. Did seal count over 200 breeding bulls ashore but no cows. One bull branded MW40 13 year old photographed at southern fuel farm on the beach. Leopard seal (6 footer) Garden Cove today.

Alan still working on piping — had sewerage blockage yesterday caused by using soft hand towel for toilet paper as we ran out of soft tissue toilet paper some weeks ago. Also run out of washing detergent as Sharps didn’t order any — now using liquid detergent. Have few packs of Flash and Softly plus plenty of bars of old Velvet if you want to cut it all up.

TX got caught in the dark and called for a torch to guide him back to base as there is some big beasties along the way. 

Dirty rainy day stayed in the cot most of the day, everyone confined by weather.


Friday 5th September: temperatures slightly above zero but calm conditions prevailed. SW antenna for Cumpstons re-erected by Tom today. Still no flow from Gadgets Dam so water restrictions still in force. Power outage today of about 10 minutes caused by surging fuel in day tank fooling the sensor into thinking fuel was low. Friday drinks in the office went on a little later than usual.

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