Macquarie Island prepares for tourists and welcomes new expeditioners in style, with a field trip.

Station update

Last Saturday we took advantage of some light winds to make a boating trip down to Sandy Bay and Green Gorge. With the first tourist ship arriving on the island in less than two weeks, the TASPARKS rangers needed to move some bio-security equipment down to the tourist landing site at Sandy Bay. Our sparky Mark was also keen to take the opportunity to deliver the new wind generator that recently arrived on shipping voyage VR0 on L’Astrolabe to Green Gorge to restore full functionality to the RAPS (remote area power supply). On Friday night we planned the trip and set out with Robbie and Jacque as coxswains, and Helena, Terry, and Ben as crew. We successfully dropped off our cargo and transferred Mark and ranger-come-trades-assistant, Anna, to Green Gorge. It was a wonderful perspective to see the island coming alive for spring, from the water. The royal colonies are now well populated, and porpoising penguins were our guides as we scouted a path through the kelp.

The remediation team members and chef Jimmy headed out on their field familiarisation trip on Saturday, led by comms tech Rich. The guys were blessed with some beautiful weather, which has us thinking that we might need to send them back out in some wind and rain to shatter any illusions that Macca is all sunshine, gentle breezes and azure waters lapping at the shore!

The albatross project team of Kris and Kim, and field training officer Chris ‘Psycho’ G are still working in the rugged southern part of the island, looking at the colonies of black-browed albatross and grey headed albatross. This week they are moving on to the Lusitania Bay area where the light mantled sooty albatross are nesting. The team will no doubt be looking forward to returning to station for some company and Jimmy’s cooking after 18 November!

Our four strong ranger team and some dedicated Australian Antarctic Division volunteers are out this week scouring the plateau and the featherbed, undertaking the annual skua nest census. (Yes, there is always something to count here!) After a few clear, wonderful days the team is now being lashed with rain and snow, which might slow them down a little. All in a day’s work at Macquarie Island.

Our infrastructure team has completed the latest section of the fire hydrant main replacement this week, successfully removing the old asbestos cement pipe and replacing it with a new poly line. Contending with curious weaners, sandy ground, a high water table, and a trench depth that left the guys working at eye level with the blasting sand, it was all a part of the job this week.

The count down to the arrival of our first tourist ship of the season is well under way. Not only will the first ship arrival offer the chance for some of our team to guide tourists around the sights of station, but we will also welcome our next influx of summer project crew into our community and island home.

Summer crew field trip

Last Saturday the remediation team (myself, Robbie & Terry), chef Jimmy, and our leader Rich embarked on field training; an arduous three day hike battling the wild, windy island. That is, unless you score exceptionally good weather (sunshine! light winds!), a chef who pulls out lamb shanks for dinner, and a cosy field hut with pre-baked cookies and miniature scrabble. Yep, we did it pretty tough.

From tussock to cabbage to sludge we trudged to the western coast. Snorted at by bulls, yet seduced by weaners, the ellie seals scattered everywhere provided constant companionship, and an aurora lit up the sky as we tucked in for night one at Bauer Bay. After too many morning coffees, we learnt the tactful phrase of ‘taking the Silver Lady [a certain shovel] to the beach’, and that achieving this daily task is not altogether comfortable when being keenly watched by hungry skuas and horny seals. Other hut-based rituals were carried out (log-book, power off, kettles full, gas off, water off, rubbish out, radio in, phew!) and we headed back up onto the plateau to test our navigation skills.

As we descended to Brothers Point for night two, the wind began to whip the ocean and showers bounced playfully off our Goretex, and as we pulled the door shut on our cosy ‘googie’ hut the downpour finally unleashed, making us feel extra smug about our impeccable timing. Some of us were begrudgingly subjected to another field tradition — the dreaded Fray Bentos pie-in-a-can — followed quickly by potatoes from a can, cooked with butter from a can, finished off with cherries from a can. Not an ideal time to discover that the hut desperately needs a new can opener.

Day Three was a jaw-droppingly stunning rock-hop and wallow-dodge along the east coast, admiring king and royal penguin colonies, sooty albatross overhead and a surprise fur seal. A terrific trip, on a magnificent island with a top bunch of people. 


Author: Helena Baird 

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