An update on station activities at Macquarie Island including a search for grey petrel chicks and a chat with one of the rangers, Andrea ‘Turbo’ Turbett.

Station update

This week expeditioner by expeditioner we returned to a full station population again. It seems positively crowded at the mess now with all 13 of us at the table.

Over the weekend there were large snowfalls down to sea level, making for some adventurous travel home from huts for those out in the field. Snow combined with high winds resulted in some deep drifts on the Overland Track.

Rich and Duncan returned from their huge round island trip to all of the radio installations on the island. Whilst they looked thoroughly exhausted, their smiles shone from their wind ravaged faces. Indeed all who have the chance to get off station return refreshed, having had the opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of this wild place.

The rangers, Andrea and Anna, have also come in from the field (for now!) and are busy catching up on station based work, and enjoying hot showers after their long, but very successful down island trip.

Marion and Dan departed with plans to walk to Waterfall Bay. The weather had other ideas, and high winds which developed on the plateau combined with snow and ice, had them dropping into Brothers Point for cover, and then resetting a target of Green Gorge as their final destination. They returned from their five day walk with bulging SD cards.

Ben and Jacque went walking on the weekend. Ben was bound for Green Gorge to assist Andrea in removing some old wire fencing. Jacque planned to meet Anna at Brothers point to help out with petrel chick counts. The snow buried both the wire and the burrows, leaving Andrea and Ben to enjoy some hut time with Dan and Marion at Green Gorge, and Jacque alone at Brothers Point. Anna made a break for station in a well-timed weather window.

We are a station of many ‘vertically petite’ expeditioners. When the taller amongst us were sinking into our waists in snowdrifts, we began to hold fears of our travel mates disappearing into the white abyss! Ranger Andrea’s tactic was to let the gym loving and fit expeditioner Ben forge ahead like a human snow plough and clear the path. Thanks Ben for not losing Turbo.

In news on station, the Macquarie Island team, despite being reduced to a station population of seven, managed to field a precision darts ensemble for inter-station darts (with non-darts player Anna returning from the field just in time to join in). We snatched victory over Casey station. The darts match was telecast via video link between Macca and Casey, and was certainly the highlight of the Macca social scene this week.

Thanks to the hard work of the trades team, Warren (our incinerator )is finally back up and running. The guys received great support and advice from our colleagues at Davis, in an example of the value in drawing upon the experience of fellow expeditioners in the wider AAD network. The water main from Gadgets Gully has kept the team on their toes all week with cracks and splits following the water supply freezing and thawing this week. As usual though, they manage to plug holes and fix breakages all whilst steadily making progress on the larger projects that are on the go.

With everyone back on station we will finally watch the recorded AFL Swans v Hawks game, and the Wimbeldon final, the results of both we have successfully kept in blackout. The advantage of slow internet? We successfully can remain spoiler free when big games are on, being able to enjoy them days afterwards as if they were live!

West coast grey petrels

On our recent trip down island, Andrea and I went searching for grey petrels at some of the remote west coast breeding sites. Many of these sites suffered major degradation in the years prior to the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program due to the combination of rabbit burrowing destabilising sites and high grazing pressure removing vegetation cover. During the worst years, some of these sites were so unstable that rangers were unable to safely visit to check if petrels were present. Happily, these sites are now recovering and are once again accessible.

Many of these sites have had no sign of breeding for around 10 years, so I did not hold out huge hopes for a successful search. Still, not finding birds breeding is an important result and so off we headed northwards along the coast from Davis Point one grey morning. Sure enough, at the first site we checked (North Double Point) there was no sign of petrel activity — no burrows with scratching at the entrance, or poo or the distinctive petrel smell.

Our second stop for the day was at Flynn Point where, searching up on the ridgeline, Andrea poked her head up from a burrow entrance with a cheeky grin. “You'll be visiting here again!” she said, and passed me the camera she’d just poked into the burrow to see into its depths. There was a downy grey petrel chick, the first seen at the site since 2004! We were lucky again at our third and final spot for the day, Sellick Pt, where we found another grey petrel chick, the first at that site since 2006.

It was a red letter petrel hunting day for the rangers and a very promising one for grey petrels on Macquarie Island.

Anna Lashko 

The Green Sponge interview series: edition 4 with ranger in charge, Andrea Turbett

Name: Andrea Turbett

Nicknames: Turbo, RIC!

From: Hobart, Tas

Previous season? Summer 2014/15 as Summer Ranger, and a quick visit in August 2010

Job: Ranger in Charge, Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service

Hobbies: Hiking, camping, photography, soccer


How would you describe the difference in the island environment from when you first cane here in 2010, as compared to now? Since I was here in 2010, rabbits and rodents have been eradicated and the island’s recovery is incredible. The vegetation is lush, lovely little fungi keep popping up everywhere and the animals are loving it. A few days ago we found downy grey petrel chicks in burrows on the west coast at places that have had no sign of breeding for around 10 years!

What is the favourite part of your job here at Macca? Getting out and about to explore all parts of the island.

If you were exiled to Bishop and Clerk Islands to the south of Macca what 4 things would you take with you? Satellite phone, fully stocked RAPS (the off the grid hut power supply unit), a book, and my iPod.

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far? Cranking energetic tunes as we depart the hut to pump me up before taking on the very steep grassy jump up at Hurd Point.

Favourite element of the Macca weather? How it is always changing, absolutely nuts and so crazy sometimes.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 68th ANARE season here at Macca? Christina Ricci but mostly because she is short! Michelle Rodriguez, except she is always a villain. (Ed. And Andrea is a big sweetheart!)

Favourite hut or walking route? The remote places on the wild west coast. It is spectacular and there’s always fascinating marine debris to find.

If you were not a ranger or a Parks planner what would be your dream job? Isn’t it the most bizarre thing that I actually can’t think of a better job than this!

Favourite piece of AAD/Tas Parks kit? My battered map of the island.

It is 2115 on Macca. What is the coolest thing we have on station? It would be something that we actually wouldn’t have! No new invasive species, especially rodents!

Please name the royal penguin on our 68th ANARE logo. Elizabeth, because it is a royal penguin and it is my Mum’s name and she’d probably like them. (Ed. Shout out to Andrea’s mum!)

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? A particular favourite? Kinda everything. Favourite is Daft Punk on repeat (shout out to Benny B).

Describe Macca with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste. Golden, rotting seaweed with that awesome marine smell, elephant seals snorting, awe for the island, crispy Fray Bentos (canned steak and kidney pies).

Settlers of Catan, or Darts? Darts for sure!

Thanks Andrea Turbo Turbett. A big shout out to Andrea’s Grandma Mildred, who is a keen follower of our station news and Andrea’s island adventures (and probably America’s biggest Macca fan)!

The last word…