A marine debris clean up along part of the west coast of Macquarie Island was conducted last week, with a surprising find: a message in a bottle!

Marine debris clean up at Davis Point

Last week, TASPAWS rangers Chris and Mike and the station leader, Ivor, conducted a marine debris clean up along a spectacular section of the west coast of the island, including Davis Bay and Sandell Bay (centred on Davis Point). Davis Point is the location of one of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (MIPEP) ‘water tank’ huts, put in place four years ago for the use of the MIPEP rabbit eradication field teams. The huts are due to be removed by helicopter at our next annual resupply in 2015 following the successful completion of MIPEP. In the meantime they are still being utilised by the TASPAWS rangers for operational purposes.

Ivor had previously stayed at Davis Point in 2010 when he was assisting with distribution of rabbit calicivirus as a pest rabbit biocontrol agent prior to the helicopter baiting phase of the MIPEP program, and was pleased to find ample evidence of now long-dead bunnies and regenerated vegetation on the coastal slopes. Four years ago, the area was a rabbit-infested, very badly degraded part of the island. This stretch of the west coast can only be accessed by crossing the island east to west from the overland track in the vicinity of Green Gorge, then carefully descending from the plateau to the west coast via one of several steep paths known as jump downs or jump ups. Expeditioners will utilise steep rocky gullies or scree slopes to traverse while elsewhere, the plateau edges are just too steep.

The west coast of Macca receives a surprising amount of washed up marine debris brought here by the prevailing westerly currents and winds — possibly from the other side of the globe. TASPAWS staff, assisted by station personnel, carry out an annual clean up of this stretch of beach. The accumulated debris is then cached in bulker bags at several locations along the beaches for subsequent collection by helicopter for return to Australia at the next station resupply opportunity. The debris includes rusty fuel drums, fishing buoys and floats of various sizes, plastic and glass bottles, netting, lengths of heavy rope and long-line fishing twine, and miscellaneous plastic materials.

Believe it or not, on at least one previous occasion, a bottle containing a message has been collected here. Again this year, Chris astonished himself by finding a hand written note and a one dollar US bill in a plastic bottle! The hand written note includes email and postal addresses of a Russian person and a Finnish person, and some data which looks like navigational or drift or wind calculations. The point of origin of the note is not known, and Chris is currently in the process of attempting to contact the senders of the message in a bottle. Stay tuned for further developments!