Patty’s journey. We hear from Leona and Ange about life in the deep south. We celebrate an evening in the outback and wish Billy a Happy Birthday.

From Cairns to the sub Antarctic

Let’s just say that when it drops to 26°C up in Cairns, I would usually be wearing my trackies and ugg boots, I’d be sleeping under two doonas and I’d curse any further lowering of the temperature! One of my biggest fears in life has been the cold.

I’ve always wanted to go down to Antarctica, ever since I was very young. I must admit I’ve lacked knowledge on the historical side. My interest in and what’s really drawn me to Antarctica has been the magnificent wildlife and the extremely unrelenting habitat.

Five years ago I sat in a doctor’s office, I was reading through a National Geographic magazine when I came upon a story about Macquarie Island I was captivated. There was one particular picture that I couldn’t stop looking at, it was a beach covered with elephant seals, with this brilliantly orange and purple sky as back drop, a spectacular site. I turned to my mother and said “one day I’m going to insert myself into that picture, I don’t know when or how”.

I’ve seen many sunsets with amazingly stunning colours in this majestic place and my goal is to find one as close to that picture so I can slot myself into that beautiful image.

It’s only now that I am here, experiencing the unwielding elements, that I’ve realised the immensity of human endurance that has taken place in Antarctic history and I’m keenly learning about it all.

I came down to Macquarie Island as a dog handler. Unfortunately I hurt myself, which stopped me from finishing my training and getting out into the field. Finally on Sunday the 26th of May I set out to finish my field training, accompanied by Marty (FTO) and Steve (MIPEP Team leader) along with their vast experience and great knowledge.

I will let the pictures tell the story, but let me say that for someone who has never seen real snow I was given an amazingly beautiful gift, left speechless by the stupefyingly beautiful scenery. My endurance was tested with some ruthless weather on the second day, deteriorating slightly off blizzard conditions.

P.S I am no longer afraid of the cold.

The rodent team in the deep south

This month the rodent team headed to the deep south… working the Caroline Cove and Hurd Point area.

Working from the Caroline Cove water tank hut was interesting with the new conditions there, in the form of a massive landslide that has taken out the track. Making access to the food pods (which are located up on the plateau) rather difficult. Especially on one particular occasion after heavy rain when we decided to drag down the two new dog kennels for assembly at the hut.

Dog kennels which were soon covered in the thick sludge which we dragged them through, as well as through the penguin colony crap.

We needed the kennels though, the whole week we had had the three rodent dogs living in empty recycle bins strapped down alongside the hut. Which they actually didn’t mind, being small and warm for them.

Next up, Hurd point again. Where we searched through the east coast rock stacks up until Mt Aurora, when we started work on the west coast. Staying at Windy Ridge hut. Which was starting to get rather cold by this time, with the icy wind coming straight past the lake onto the small hut, freezing the water.

Not to mention the series of earthquakes that shuddered the island later on in the week. The first of which woke Ange and I up in the water tank hut around 2 in the morning. And the second of which happened at about 12:20 in the afternoon while we were out working. Ange watched a slide of rocks come down across the escarpment just about half an hour after she had crossed it. All over the island people were calling each other to make sure everyone was okay, as large rocks were dislodged and rolled down in different places of the coastal escarpments.

Soon we headed up to Davis point for our last week. It’s nice to be on the rugged west coast, which endured a couple of good winds, bringing the surf right in.

On Monday there was a big snow front covering the island, everyone everywhere was getting hammered by the squalls that came through one after another, with bright sunny breaks in between.

Our trip back up the island was good, going up the western side of the island to check our chew-stick lines for any rodent sign. The chew-sticks were set out the month previously.

Saturday Evening the Outback Extraordinaire

Hidden away in the great Sub Antarctic Ocean lies a little Island called Macquarie Island and yes folks, it has an Outback.

We were invited to the Macca Outback Spectacular at the Macca Ranch Bar and Grill run by the one and only Aussie Outback Chef Tony.

With the help of Ranger Chris, chef laid out the swags got the campfire going and grilled us up an assortment of deliciously tender meats and down to earth Aussie tucker that began with the great old outback damper.

The air smelled of that smokey country air we all know and love and soon country tunes filled our ears, all began to tap our toes standing still became impossible as we broke out into line dancing to Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits. There was lassoing and even the good old limbo dance.

What a night! A great Macquarie Island Outback experience.

Thanks Tony, Chris and all who helped.

Billy’s Birthday Surprise

Last Thursday (30th May) it was Stephen Barton’s birthday. Here and I imagine to most people (with maybe the exception of his Mum), he is known as Billy. This will become obvious when you see the photos.

Billy is one of the intrepid, amazing MIPEP team and last Wednesday, the team arrived back on station after almost a month in the field.

During Thursday the mess was decorated (thanks to Patty) with streamers, balloons and several pictures of Billy and his dogs.

Billy arrived in the mess (fashionably late) and had his meal, unaware of the decorations and photos. After dinner Patty came out of the small pantry at the side of the mess, carrying a large cake, adorned with two lit sparklers and a few candles. Everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’.

I think Billy was a little overcome. He seemed genuinely surprised and only then noticed all the decorations and photos of his dog.

The cake (thanks to Chef Tony) was beautifully decorated by Patty with an image of his dog Cariad, which is Welsh for Little Darling. Dave then handed him a brown paper bag full of goodies.

Just after opening his presents, we were all treated to a slide show shown on the big screen. Billy’s family had supplied the pictures., which Mark had made into a PowerPoint slideshow.

One of the slides showed Billy with his six dogs (shown below). He has two white german shepherds (Cariad and Moon), three germhounds (german shepherd/greyhound cross, a breed Billy developed years ago) and one foxy/beagle cross. It stands to reason that one of his germhounds is called Zappa.

It was a great night.

Happy Birthday to our Billy.