Surf’s up! Plus, murder? Expeditioners have a multi-birthday murder mystery party, Hawaiian style. King penguins are counted, the weather is reviewed and the weekly cartoon depicts male elephant seals readying themselves for breeding season.

Station update

Last Friday night on station we collectively celebrated the birthdays of five of the Macca crew who all shared August birthdays. Justin laid the ground work for a ‘Hawaiian Murder Mystery Luau’ at the ‘Sunset Beach Resort’ (a.k.a. the Macca mess). With the pig on the spit in the green store by mid-morning, we all received our first clue envelope, with background information about our characters, and some other guests that we had to ‘contact’. The luau kicked off after work, amidst a sea of Hawaiian shirts and lays! Throughout the night we received more and more clues, until Nick, or should we say ‘Jack Marrow’ fell victim to a rampaging ‘killer’ (and a tube of zinc cream) shortly after dinner. Much high drama, incredible (!) acting, and numerous accusations worthy of a Law and Order episode ensued, until Mark, ‘Harry Spotter', was ousted as the killer. Hats off to Dan who actually assembled an A3 page of notes throughout the evening in a quest to introduce deduction and logic to the whole affair.

We shared a Macquarie Island cake prepared by Justin, complete with a model likeness of each of the birthday gents and ladies, moulded by fellow expeditioners in icing and placed on the cake where each of them spent their birthday.

Rich and Andrea missed the party as they were down island, Rich was on a round trip to maintain communications gear and antennae at Green Gorge, Waterfall Bay, Davis Point and Mt Waite, and Andrea was finishing off a number of Tas Parks jobs prior to returning to station. Jacque headed to Bauer Bay to do the monthly marine debris survey on Saturday, and rendezvoused with Andrea and Rich on Sunday night, returning to station the next morning.

Sparky Mark was also in the field this week, joined by Andrea after she left Bauer Bay, trouble shooting our hut RAPS (remote area power supply) units that have been temperamental lately.

Lionel spotted a mystery whale in garden cove on Saturday, and over the weekend the skuas have returned to the island. The big ‘beachmaster’ male elephant seals are claiming territory on the beach now ahead of the arrival of the females in the next few weeks. There is a competition on station to guess the date of the arrival of the first elephant seal pup of 2015. Standby for an update in next week’s news.

Plans to launch the boats for the first time this season were in full swing this week. Wednesday looked like it would present us a window within our operating parameters. A keen group assembled at the mess early on Wednesday morning, to find winds higher than expected, already blowing over 20 knots. Sigh! Postponed again.

King penguin chick census

In August, rangers carried out the annual king penguin census which involves counting all of the king penguin chicks on the island. The chicks are currently in their brown coats and in crèches with their parents only visiting to feed them. All the king penguin colonies this year are on the east coast and, as usual, by far the largest colony is at Lusitania Bay.

We took photos of each colony for the census, which was particularly challenging at Lusitania Bay where the chicks were huddled in over 50 separate crèches along the expanse of the colony. We started from a high vantage point, where the crèches of all different shapes and sizes were laid out below us. We drew a mud map of all the groups in the colony and then tried to systematically photograph every one, keeping track of which photo was of which group. It took several vantage points to get good photos and then it was down to colony level to photograph the crèches tucked in close to the edge of the tussock.

It took us several days to travel between the different colonies and photograph them all and then the task of counting them began. We use a special program to help with the counting — it keeps count while you click on every chick in the photo. Tens of thousands of mouse clicks later (PHEW) the census is complete! There were almost 40,000 chicks at Lusitania Bay alone, and just over 49,000 chicks altogether on the island.

Anna Lashko 

August weather summary

Another great month on Macca started with a couple of days of heavy snow draping the island in white creating some beautiful photo opportunities. 

August proved to be another colder than average month with maximums 0.7°C and minimums 1°C less than the long term average. Very little sunshine was seen matching the average of 1.4 hours which was not surprising as it was a very wet with 119.6 mm of precipitation which was well above the average of 72.4 mm. We ended the month with 7.4 hours of beautiful sunshine on 28 August. Even with the limited sunshine, auroras were seen on nine nights.

Following on from July where winds were above average, August followed suit with both days of strong winds (≥22 knots) and gale winds (≥34 knots) being higher than normal at 26 and 13 days respectively. We saw our highest gust at 60 knots which did not reach the highest on record of 85 knots in 1959. With the high wind averages, the daily wind run average was 845 km which was more than 90 km per day than the long term average.

Duncan Bullock 

The last word