An overview of life on station this week from Macquarie Island — is that a giant crab? Scientist Kate K is interviewed and orcas feature in the photo gallery.

Station update

We have had larger station numbers this week with several people returning from working in the field.

Last Friday Rich facilitated a SAR (search and rescue) training session on how to use the Furno stretcher that we have here on station. Our emergency response capabilities are now significantly bolstered by the arrival of the summering expeditioners, and we are now busy with training to bring everyone up to speed with the gear that we have available. As the only way to traverse the plateau at Macquarie Island is on foot, any evacuation of an injured expeditioner would require a long stretcher haul. Our stretcher is fitted with a wheel to roll the patient along the flatter sections of track. There was certainly consensus that a stretcher carry of 30 km or so would not be much fun!

The festive month of December kicked off with a fun themed party last Friday, where expeditioners dressed up as ‘things that they feared'. There was much frivolity and dancing from a group of people who, on account of the amount of hiking and outdoor work that was undertaken in the previous week, could have reasonably been expected to be on the couch with their feet up taking it easy!

The second tourist ship of the season is set to arrive this week. Both Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife and Australian Antarctic Division expeditioner volunteers provide a valuable service in assisting with guiding visitors around station. It is also a joy to get out and about and share with others the wonderful place in which we are privileged to live and work.

The great cargo migration is on this week. The cargo that we have accumulated through the season has now exceeded the allocated space for storage down near the fuel farm, and is being moved up to the north side of the isthmus for processing, ahead of the voyage four (V4) resupply in March. We've had a huge clean out this season and generated many cage pallets of waste materials to return to Australia for recycling or disposal.

The trades team and comms guys have finished building Supply Officer Dom an office and storage area in the old Fort Knox. (Fort Knox is the secure alcohol storage area on station). Dom now has a warm place to work rather than sitting in front of an open roller door in the brisk Macca weather. A new Fort Knox has been constructed in a formerly disused space at one end of the green store.

Orcas are in fine form again this week, making regular visits to our shores and giving avid photographers some great photo opportunities.

Jacque and Paul went tick hunting to try and collect some samples of a tick found in Secluded Bay by Ben and Jac earlier in the season. Melissa, who is here sampling the island’s invertebrates, was intrigued by the stories of the elusive tick. A successful mission captured four or so ticks, which were brought back to station, creating much interest and speculation!

The gentoo chicks have now left their nests and have become incredibly active, running and tripping and falling all about the place — most usually on the main road through station. They have decided to crèche up on the front porch of the science building. With chick numbers lower than usual this year, expeditioners are having to use the back door into science to give the chicks the opportunity for as little disturbance as possible.

The green sponge interview series: Kate K

Name: Kate Kiefer

Nicknames: None that I know of, or that I’m willing to share!

From: The beautiful solitude of Southern Tasmania these days.

Previous seasons: Numerous, to the point that they all seem to merge into each other, or perhaps my memory is failing me.

Job: Field scientist with an exciting project aimed at uncovering the reasons behind the mysterious broad-scale demise of one of the island’s endemic plant species, Azorella macquariensis.

Hobbies: Many, depending on my mood — anything from fine embroidery work when I’m feeling patient, to gardening, when I’m feeling strong, and the all consuming process of being an owner-builder, which is a task that leaves little latitude for other hobbies and leaves me feeling exhausted!

How does this season at Macca compare to your previous seasons down south?

Cold. I don’t think I've seen it quite this cold and quite this brown at this time of year before, or perhaps I’m becoming a wimp.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Macca?

I love all of it. I love the science I do, I love the field work, but I also love being part of a fantastic station team, and slushy duty is always my favourite — time for my natural propensity for cleanliness and order to come into play.

If you were exiled to Bishop and Clerk Islands to the south of Macca, what four things would you take with you?

Definitely my hot water bottle (although I’d be hard pressed to find hot water to put in it), a camp stove to make hot water might be on the cards, a good warm sleeping bag, and of course, like any prepared Macca expeditioner, my survival pack. Can I add a good book to that? And chocolate, although I count that as part of my survival pack!

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

I always spend a lot of time with that song about “I love to go a wandering, along the mountain tracks, and as I go I love to sing, with my knapsack on my back.” It’s one of those brain worms that spends a lot of time getting a hearing as I pass the hours of walking around this island. Maybe also ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’ by Split Enz.

Favourite element of the Macca weather?

The fog. It usually means north westerly weather and lower wind speeds.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Waterfall Bay or Brothers Point by far. I have spent more time in those huts over the years out of choice, they just remind me of watching The Jetsons or Lost In Space as a kid or maybe it was my teenage obsession with David Bowie that drives it.“Ground control to Major Tom…”

If you were not a scientist what would be your dream job?

Landscape gardener, no question about it, closely followed by a desire to be a carpenter, perhaps invoked by my early years spent in my grandfather’s carpentry shed (he was a builder).

Favourite piece of AAD/TASPAWSkit?

Definitely not the outer shell, not a fan. But the thing I like most is the Icebreaker thermals — great base layer during our Tassie winters! And a lifesaver when we lived in a shed for two years whilst building our home.

It is the year 2115 on Macca. What is the coolest thing we have on station and why?

Teletransporter to get me from station to any place on the island without having to kill my ageing body! The sooner they work out how to transfer matter from one location to another in a nanosecond, the happier I will be, and think of the environmental advantages — no more bog holes created by humans trampling across the landscape!

Please name the royal penguin on our 68th ANARE logo.

Rick: looks as though he has the same level of attitude as his namesake in The Young Ones.

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre?

A particular favourite? I just love subjecting the whole station to my shameless taste in music and two days in a row is an added bonus! I will draw the line at corny 1980s tunes though.

Describe your Macca experience with:

A sight: piles of moulting elephant seals.

A smell: piles of moulting elephant seals wallowing in rotting kelp.

A sound: the bellow of an unhappy elephant seal being squashed by his mates at the bottom of a pile of moulting elephant seals wallowing in rotting kelp.

A feeling: an overwhelming sense that I am so bloody lucky to be able to experience the bellowing sounds of an unhappy elephant seal being squashed by his mates at the bottom of a pile of moulting elephant seals wallowing in rotting kelp.

A taste: not the elephant seal, or the kelp, but a taste I always associate with Macca is Frey Bentos pies, to the point that I know that if there was one standing between me and starvation, I’d choose starvation!

Settlers of Catan, or darts?

Definitely darts, a game of skill rather than chance (although I’m under no illusions that this comment may draw backlash from the Settlers fans).

Photo gallery

The last word

Please see the station update above for context.