Much has been documented about life on Macquarie Island over the years. One only has to find the right book in the Library, sit and carefully read the station logs or these days, type ‘Macquarie Island’ into the appropriate search engine on the internet and vast amounts of information will slowly trickle down from cyber space, the speed of the download being directly proportional to the amount of traffic running over our communications link!
On that note momentarily, recently reading the diary of Leslie Blake (Lost in the Mists: Leslie Russell Blake, Mawson’s Cartographer and Hero of Pozières, Australian Scholarly Publishing) I learned a message was transmitted from Mawson’s team in Antarctica via wireless to Macquarie Island. This message was subsequently retransmitted to a telegrapher in New Zealand, who rang the intended recipient, and was able to pass the reply back to Antarctica in less than 5 minutes. The year — 1914. On other occasions, weeks would pass where atmospheric conditions or equipment failures resulted in no communications, sometimes months at a time!
Contacts established with prior station personnel have again this year provided valuable insights and answers to some of our queries about previous life on station. The celebration of Midwinter last week also reminded the current team of our place in history — lots of photographs were taken that in time to come may provide a valuable insight into life on Macquarie Island.
There are occasions where records and information available on station simply can’t answer the question. Such was the case recently with the pendulum clock in the Mess — a valuable piece of memorabilia, the origins of which were lost in the midst of time, that is until some tantalising snippets of information were passed by a previous expeditioner (thank you Colin from the 7th ANARE, 1954). Colin has been able to describe the role and function of the chronometer in the process of taking magnetic observations, albeit in a slightly different configuration to it’s current form. Research conducted by Pete, our current station dieso coupled with Colin’s recollections is that changes in technology may have made the variometer clock redundant, and someone has been able to make modifications to the instrument to create the beautiful old timepiece now present. A bit of detective work further supports this theory; the clock mechanism and clock face are of a different age and linage. The old saying about 'necessity being the mother of invention' holds true for the clock – a small flexible metal strip onto which the pendulum mounts and swings has long since worn out and has been replaced by a thin strip of aluminium from a beer can – it works!
So, this week we have some more questions to pass to the ANARE family. Does anybody have any more information on the pendulum clock in the Mess? For example, when was the variometer chronograph upgraded in the Magnetic Observations project, which may lead to a suggestion of who was able to resurrect the clock and when? Perhaps a photograph of the clock in its original use?
Next: to a pair of snow shoes and an ice axe that has pride of place in the Mess. Perhaps not of the same vintage as the clock, and our ‘warm’ weather this season has thus far not seen a need for return to service; does anybody have any information on the lineage of these items?
Our intention is to put a small plaque with relevant information alongside the clock, and the snow shoes in order to provide a snippet of information to the next team…
Chris Howard — Ranger in Charge