Lots happening on Macquarie Island as gentoos take over a station road, orcas return, the chef is interviewed and more.

Station update

Summer has arrived on Macca this week. We have been sweltering in +6°C temperatures with clear skies. New season fashion of shorts and t-shirts, sans merino base layer, has resulted in much exposure of alarmingly pale flesh. With single digit temperatures feeling like a heat wave, those heading back home on the next ship in late December, to an Aussie summer, are wondering how they will cope! We have revelled in light winds and beautiful sunshine for most of the week, with a little fog thrown in for good measure here and there. Despite the clear skies, all day high cloud seems to drift over the island as soon as the very limited darkness descends, smothering our hopes of a pre-Christmas aurora opportunity.

The station gentoo penguin chick crèche has moved from the front steps of the science building to an even less convenient location. They are now staging a sit in on the road which links the north-south station buildings. (A view of which should be possible on the webcam). A small team is required to gently persuade the awkward fluffy chicks to clear the area in front of the balloon building so that Bureau of Meteorology staff can release their balloons twice a day on the road. The slapstick antics of these awkward little creatures provides endless entertainment to all who pass by.

The first Macca poker night of the season was held on Saturday, following a delicious steak dinner. Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) observer Dan emerged victorious (perhaps on account of hiding his poker face behind his luxurious beard), while ranger Anna, on her second game of poker ever, was runner up.

A boating party headed off station to both Brothers Point and Green Gorge early on Saturday morning, to deliver critical cargo (and new pillows) to both huts. We made an early start taking advantage of a flat, almost windless morning. After stopping at the Nuggets for a quick chat, we were visited again by our resident orca pod, sending many diving for cameras. The pod travelled with us down to Brothers Point, to a cacophony of whoops, squeals and cheers from excited boat crew.

Station is now getting into the swing of Christmas planning. We are looking forward to a special day for the community, with everyone bringing along a little of their own idea of how to celebrate together here in the subantarctic. The resultant mash up will no doubt be wholly unique, regardless of the form it takes.

The parties based out in the field are dashing around trying to wrap up their work down island before Christmas. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife ranger team are undertaking an Antarctic tern census across the whole island. Team albatross has one last walk down south and back to finish off before taking a well earned rest. Mel continues with invertebrate sampling for which the light winds have been a blessing. Margi, Kate and Ian are also taking advantage of the amazing weather and are hoping to squeeze in one last overnight camp out up on Pyramid Peak before walking home.

On behalf of Macquarie Island station, we wish station news followers a safe and relaxing holiday period. We have enjoyed sharing our life here on station so far this year and we look forward to bringing you more insights and adventures from the beautiful ‘Green Sponge’ into 2016.

Green Sponge Interview Series: Jimmy P

Name: James (although, very few people call me James these days)

Nicknames: Jimmy         

From: Ballarat originally, although mostly based in Hobart for the last few years

Previous seasons? Yep, this is season number four: two previous seasons here and one very short one at Wilkins.

Job: Chef

Hobbies: All the hobbies! I am quite enjoying making things at the moment: shoes, jewellery, knives, friends (?)

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

It’s completely different to every previous season: the crew this year are just as odd as every other group, but in their own special way, the island is the same in its ever-changing kinda way, the weather hasn’t changed a bit but, the season as a whole is a brand new experience.

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

The amazing people. As a chef I fill a role which is very social and centrally placed within the station. It’s a privileged position which gives me access to all the people on a day-to-day basis. While I love this island for everything it is, the seasons are made or broken by the people inhabiting it. Most of the people I've encountered in this role are pretty incredible.

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

Fray bentos [pies] times four.

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

Oh, tough question. There is a certain Boney M song which has gained some traction amongst the crowd. If I ever here the song Ma(rk) Baker in the future, I’ll be instantly transported back to Macca.

Favourite element of the Macca weather? All of it! If it weren’t for the wind and rain then we wouldn’t appreciate those rare glorious days of sunshine and blue skies, and if we didn’t have the bad weather, then we wouldn’t be on Macca!

What actor would play you in a film version of our 68th ANARE season here at Macca?

I've been told that Mark Ruffalo would play me in the story of an old girlfriend’s life, but I reckon that in the story of the season I should be played by someone much prettier.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Green Gorge is a special hut — a tiny little escape from the craziness of the world (which is also how I describe this island as a whole!). One of my favourite memories from a previous season involves having a shower at Green Gorge in the middle of one of the prettiest snowfalls I've ever seen.

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

These days I don’t really treat what I do as a job, so in some ways I am livin’ the dream. I am on the way to a career within the health field though, so maybe something in that direction…

Favourite piece of AAD/TASPAWS kit?

I love the yellow bib and brace Gore-tex shells! You stand out from a mile away so you’ll always be easy to find in the field, although you’ll probably never get lost as you won’t ever leave station in those things.

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

There’s this brilliant relic from, like, the old days: it’s this weird flat tin (they so used to eat food out of these things!), we can’t really make out what it’s called but there is this faint, scratched picture of what looks like a pie. I did some research and I think it might be a ‘Fray Bentos’ — those freaks used to actually eat this stuff. 

Please name the Royal Penguin on our 68th ANARE logo.


What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? A particular favourite?

Mix it up! I cannot escape Slushy FM — it’s right there in my ‘workshop’, therefore I like a decent variety. I love it when the slushy comes in and is (slightly) imposing with their selection — it’s their chance to express themselves. I dislike it when they’re all P.C. and considerate, and play what they think others might like to hear — so boring.

Describe your Macca experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

Sight: Peering out my porthole on board the Aurora Australis on the (early) morning we arrived. In the pre-dawn light all I could make out was a mountain looming over the water with silhouettes of seabirds flying past. A sprinkling of snow capped it off, letting me know that it was definitely Macca.

Smell: For those who haven’t been here I could describe the separate prominent smells which smack you in the face when you arrive (the birds, the wallows, the rotting kelp), but for me the smell that means Macca is an odd amalgamation of these. I’ve been nowhere else that has all of those aromas in quite the same way as this little island.

Sound: Ghraaah-oo-eee (that’s the best spelling I can come up with for my poor attempt at a light mantled albatross cry).

Feeling: Home.

Taste: There’s something special about the eggs here. I have not had a single egg elsewhere that manages to taste six months old… It’s an experience!

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?

Darts — it’s closer to the bar. 

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