MIPEP’s Mike and Tom tell us of their time in the field. The main Macca gate is revamped. A big scale SAR exercise takes place. Some beautiful winter scenery in the Macca Gallery.

MIPEP Hunters Tom and Mike

Well, it has been four months since the departure from Hobart on the Aurora Australis. Morale is strong as the team focuses on the monitoring phase of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Programme, or MIPEP.

It has been almost two years since the last sighting of a live rabbit and we’re carrying on the work done by previous MIPEP teams. What seemed a daunting task to undertake in the rugged environment of Macquarie Island is now an achievable goal in everyone’s mind. Since the monitoring work has started this year we have found mummified remains and skeletons but no fresh sign to date.

Another addition to the project is the post-eradication rodent detection program. Leona and Angela have come from New Zealand with three detection dogs (Cody, Chase & Bail). This team of dogs and humans are putting in a massive effort to cover coastal areas where wildlife have left the island for the winter.

During the winter months the MIPEP team have been utilising the longer nights and focusing on spotlighting as another tool for monitoring. In the hours of darkness MIPEP hunters roam the island in search of eye shine from any elusive rabbit evading their inevitable demise. In the wee small hours, many of the world’s philosophical questions are raised but few are answered.

The next few months we will continue to spotlight before the long summer days return, concentrating on coastal areas before the wildlife come back to breed. We will also revisit areas of post baiting rabbit sign.

Eyes on the ground! Stay strong! Be good to your mother! Take care of your feet! Chew your food more and stretch!

Article courtesy of hunters: Mike Fawcett and Tom Clarke

Macca Gate revamped

During midwinter weekend there was a notice on the mess whiteboard that the Macca main gate was getting heavy to use! A week later the notice had changed to something on the lines of the gate is now a safety hazard as it has come away — watch your backs.

Whilst chatting to Nick, I said I would offer my services to get the hinge fixed, Billy the boilermaker, by trade. Nick offered to give me a hand, he was appointed the leading hand. So that was it, services offered to get the gate fixed. A few hours welding to remake the bottom hinge pin and retainer thinks I.

Well we got John in the JCB forklift and he lifted the gate off, after Nick and I unbolted the top hinge, and took the gate down to the workshop. Dave, our deputy station leader, came over and asked us ever so politely, could we rehang the gate level? ‘No probs’ says I, ‘just have to move the top hinge over a bit.' Along came Mark, our Great Station Leader, offering to lend a hand and advising that he wanted to be involved in the project, because apparently he can weld!

So, on closer inspection the bottom hinge was shot, no good and broken, so a new one would have to be made. Up came the oxy-acetylene gear to heat up the top hinge and reposition it, but that proved to be a bit tougher than expected and I decided cut it off and weld it back into position. As the gate and post had been hanging there for many years cutting it of was easy, welding it back on not so, a fair bit of rust rot in the post.

Oh dear, not so straight forward, side plates would be needed to beef it up. Nick’s use of the angle grinder and his excellent cleaning made the job a lot easier.

As I cut up the new plates for a nice shiny new stainless steel bottom hinge and pin and fabricated the hinge up, Nick proceeded with the cleaning off of the old rust on the gate, that in itself was a fair task. I assembled the hinge bits and welded them up to the post, in a nice Macca wind with the occasional sand blasting and the elephant seals looking on.

That day I finished the bottom hinge arrangement, and the next day finished the top hinge arrangement. Nick was still patiently cleaning the gate with the needle gun and wire brush ready for a coat of rust proofing.

Somewhere along the line we decided to ask Angela, one of our rat girls and a bit of a tidy artist, to get involved and paint up the ‘centre-piece artwork’ of the gate. We eventually dragged her in on the project.

Some four days later the gate was finished, rust treated, painted a nice shiny black, art work complete and ready to be hung. Friday morning saw us hanging the gate and it fitted perfectly, was hung almost perfectly level and swung open and shut with ease. We, the gate gang, had completed a great revamping project.

Many thanks to Dave for increasing the work load of the gate refurbishment and Mark… well, can he weld. MMM we’ve yet to find out, did he get involved? Yes, from afar, so far we didn’t see him. Also thanks to Lionel for the use of his workshop and equipment and his patience with the gate gang.

Written by Steve (Billy) Barton 

Station SAR exercise

Last week we conducted a full-scale Search & Rescue (SAR) field exercise. The main objectives were to practice using the newly introduced Incident Management System (IMS) and to test our steep ground rescue skills. Everyone on the island had a role to play and they participated with focus and enthusiasm.

John kindly agreed to be the ‘victim’ to get the exercise rolling. He was given a story to follow and had some moulage (injury make-up) applied before heading out for a trip up Gadgets Gully. It was a cold morning by Macca standards with a south west wind blowing snow squalls through and the whole island blanketed with a layer of snow down to sea level.

John called in about 40 minutes after leaving station to report that he’d had an ‘incident’. While climbing up the last of the steel ladders near the top of Gadgets Gully, some rocks had dislodged from above, hitting him on the hip and knee. He reported that he was in pain, couldn’t put weight on his leg, and would require assistance to get back down to station.

The station leader was notified and quickly convened a meeting with the Incident Management Team (IMT) to formulate the beginnings of a rescue plan. The SAR alarm was raised to muster all expeditioners in the Mess where they received a briefing from the incident controller (the station leader). Roles were allocated and rescue plans fleshed out in detail. Emergency response teams prepared themselves and their gear to head out, while the logistics team organised the support required for the operation.

A hasty response team of 4 people was quickly dispatched to locate John, provide him with first aid, and report back as much information as possible about the situation. They were closely followed by an 8 person response team carrying the technical gear needed to move him. The rescue coordinator also headed to the site at this point.

The technical phase of the rescue involved using a rope hauling system to raise the patient in the stretcher, then lower the stretcher down a series of steepening grassy slopes to a waiting vehicle on the beach. The response teams built multiple anchors and rigged the stretcher and rope systems in snowy ground conditions with frequent snow squalls pushing through. Regular contact was kept up with the IMT back at station to safely monitor and manage the rescue process.

With darkness setting in at about 4:30pm, the rescue teams still had 2 pitches (rope lengths) of lowering to get the patient and stretcher down to the coast. It takes considerable teamwork, communication and confidence in each others’ abilities to undertake multi-pitch technical rope rescue on steep, snowy ground in darkness. It was a fantastic effort by the rescuers to make the final stages of the descent run as safely and smoothly as they did. After the patient reached the beach the doctor coordinated stretcher transport to the station medical facility on the back of the all terrain vehicle (ATV) while the rescuers collected up the gear and walked back.

All up it took 8.5 hours from initial incident call-in to the patient and stretcher arriving back on station. Everyone carried out their role in the operation to a high standard throughout a long rescue day. It provided us with a great opportunity to practice a response, as an all-island team, using the new IMS framework.

Marty Benavente - Field Training Officer

Macca Gallery

Last week we had some days of heavy snow, then on Sunday the weather was great, plenty of sunshine and lighter winds.

It was an opportunity to get out the camera and take pictures of the beautiful snow covered scenery. Six of the pictures are shown below.