Macquarie Island expeditioners are preparing for the end of their summer, and the impending resupply. Lots of work is happening including albatross research and cleaning up the hydroponics shed.

Station update

This week on the ‘Green Sponge’ we have all been busy!

With resupply and the end of our season approaching, everyone has been working hard despite some wet and windy weather. The trades team of Nick, Terry and Tim have been putting the finishing touches to works that will accommodate some incoming science equipment, Mark completed his fire testing, and Rich and Rob tied up remaining loose ends down at Comms. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) team have soldiered on with the usual observations and have been chipping into odd jobs all around station. Louise led the pack up of hydroponics, and Duncan has been on the JCB moving cargo into place to facilitate an efficient resupply operation. Lionel serviced plant and machinery, including our LARCS. Meanwhile Dom has the store looking ship shape.

The rangers headed off into the field, with Ranger Anna holding down the TASPAWS fort on station. The science teams are steadily working towards the end of their program. The remediation team of Robbie K and Jez continued on with taking soil and water samples, Jane and Karen were still out and about collecting seeds and soil, rain, hail or shine, well mostly rain and small hail! The albatross team are still out in the field, trying their best to work around the high winds of the weekend. The winds on station in the 30 to 40 knot range translate to approximately 40 to 50 knots up on the plateau. It’s not much fun to be out working on steep slopes. As a result the team have been forced to take a few ‘hut days', and spend time in field huts.

We were granted an unexpected low wind day on Monday. We all watched with amusement as the giant petrels and light-mantled albatross, which usually soar on the winds above station, flap frantically to both take off and maintain altitude. Whilst the light breeze made life easier for us outdoors, it made hard work for our avian neighbours.

Taking advantage of the lighter breeze, we also squeezed in two boating trips. Rich and Robbie skippered two boats on Monday assisted by a trusty crew, to retrieve the automated weather station (AWS) from the Ball Project. On Thursday Jac, Robbie, and FTO Ian led a three boat team to deliver gear out to Waterfall Bay, Green Gorge and Brothers Point, which will greatly facilitate some end of season work by science and infrastructure.

All in all, a very successful week at Macca.

Jacque Comery

Green Sponge Interview Series: Kim K

Name: Kim Kliska

Nicknames: Kimmy

From: Melbourne, Victoria

Previous seasons? No, first at Macca.

Job: Albatross Researcher

Hobbies: Surfing, diving, mountain biking, hiking, paddling, photography

Tell us about the project work that you are doing on Macca this summer: (What is the project, what field activities are you up to, etc.)

I am working on the albatross and petrel program that is in its 22nd season this year. I spend most of my time field based at the southern end of the island, hiking around and up and down the slopes monitoring the four species of albatross (wandering, grey-headed, black-browed and light-mantled) and two giant petrel species that live on Macca. The project investigates the breeding effort and success of albatross and petrels on Macca as part of international obligations to monitor the wildlife populations here. Best job ever!

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

Not applicable, first time south and loving it!

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

Working with the amazing wildlife and being surrounded by the ever changing environment here on the island.

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

A guitar, leatherman knife, down jacket and a really good book!

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

Miles Away by Years Around the Sun.

Favourite element of the Macca weather?

The sun, when it shines.

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

Natalie Dormer.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Hurd Point.

If you were not an albatross researcher, what would be your dream job?

Marine scientist. 

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division/Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife kit?

Fleece neckwarmer worn as a headband.

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

Teleporting machine so I could visit family and friends then come straight back south!

Please name the royal penguin on our 68th ANARE logo.


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

Everything — something with a beat like Fat Freddy’s Drop to dance around the kitchen to.

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

Sight: The view from the top of Petrel Peak on a clear day = spectacular.

Smell: The moulting king penguin — pungent odour.

Sound: Elephant seal belching.

Feeling: Awestruck.

Taste: Hot Ginger cordial at the end of a hard day out hiking the slopes.

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?

Neither. 500.

2015/16 Hydroponics wrap up

Over the past few weeks, the Macquarie Island hydroponics set up has been dismantled in stages as the time draws closer to a change of personnel for the next 12 months. It has taken many volunteer hours to pull out all the plants and scrub clean the entire hydroponics set up.

The first plants to be pulled out of hydroponics were the chilli plants, followed by the tomato and cucumber plants. The next stage of the clean up saw the removal of the lettuces and celery. Finally, the basil and silverbeet were pulled out. Once the plants were pulled out, their tanks and pots were scrubbed clean and then wiped down with a weak bleach to ensure everything was thoroughly cleaned.

It is routine on all the Australian Antarctic and subantarctic stations for hydroponics to be dismantled and cleaned out at the end of each season in preparation for changeover to the wintering crew. This is to remove any diseases that may have developed amongst the plants over the months and also removes algae that is constantly building up in the tanks. It also gives the incoming crew a chance to start their own hydroponics set-up afresh and grow whatever plants they see fit for their crew.

Over the past 12 months, hydroponics has provided the only source of regular fresh food for the station. The only other fresh food provided to expeditioners on the island has been from the French ship L’Astrolabe resupplying the station six months into the season.

This year’s hydroponics has been plentiful for the Macquarie Island expeditioners of the 68th ANARE. As of the end of February we produced approximately 125 kilograms of fresh product. We look forward to seeing what foods the next wintering crew will produce in their hydroponics set-up.

Louise Carroll

Photo gallery: Autumn boating

This week we were fortunate to find two weather windows to facilitate boating ops.

Cosy but bulky looking dry suits? Check. Suitable boating themed call signs? Check. A large container of orange almond cake? Check.

With each crew member well briefed and packing an excellent sense of humor we took to the water.

On the dash to Waterfall Bay, Green Gorge and Brothers Point we were buzzed by blue eyed shags, grey-headed and black-browed albatross and light-mantled albatross. The orcas eluded us, but the curious king penguins were there to steal the show. In a maneuver coined ‘The Whirlpool’ by expeditioners, each time we stopped at Green Gorge they would swim in a high speed circle around us leaving us in the center of a penguin created whirlpool.

As you can see, we all enjoy boating at Macca! 

The last word

The rare windless day makes hard work of a take off.