Still no time to be bored here on Macca – tracks need to be marked, a new water supply pipeline is hauled into place and the creative expectations of the Annual 48hr Film Festival take over the station.

The joys of being a ranger on Macca

The satisfaction of working on Macca as a TasPWS ranger comes in many ways! An incredible landscape to work in, while living and working as a small team in a remote location, alongside a group of people that are collectively focused on solving or working around some of the ‘little’ challenges that come with a windswept sub–Antarctic island in the middle of the Southern Ocean. The diversity of tasks ensures that no two days are the same. If the job is the same, the landscape is different and you can guarantee that the weather will be very different. This is my third winter on Macca and each day I see or learn something that I didn’t know the day before!

So what do rangers do on Macca? Most years, the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service has two rangers on the island. Regular readers of Icy News have already met Marcus, the Wildlife Ranger, whose principle focus is wildlife research. My role as the Ranger in Charge focuses more broadly on the management of the reserve. The TasPWS team this year has expanded to three — many will be familiar with Kim’s work as an Albatross researcher.

Over the next few months I’ll try to bring you up to speed with some of what I get up to. This last month was fairly typical, an 18 day stint in the field on tasks ranging from track management to plant surveying to heritage management to checking on the wandering albatross chicks, then throw in some risk assessment work as well! I covered a fair bit of the island and managed to clock up just over 180kms, which is a great way to burn off some of Chef Rocket’s plentiful tucker.

One of the projects this season is the upgrade of walking track markers (there’s going to be a few people out there that are saying ‘he did the last time’). The current project will see the progressive replacement of the old painted timber markers with a recycled plastic marker, which are bright orange! The addition of a fluorescent green reflector will further help in in the typical low visibility so often experienced on Macca. The island has approximately 96 kilometres of walking track that serves as the highway, called the ‘Gumboot Expressway’ or the ‘Skellerup Speedway’, it’s a critical piece of infrastructure by which most of the foot travel is done around the island.

The absence of helicopters on our last resupply has made the current task a little more challenging. Ideally caches of bulk track markers would have been dropped around the island during last resupply, allowing for a more ‘leisurely installation’. Instead, track markers are carried out — valuable and willing assistance to this logistical challenge comes from many of the team as they head out on recreational trips. Fee for service has not been mentioned yet, but the occasional cup of tea from my thermos for the intrepid traveller that I meet in the field seems to go a fair way! The use of IRB’s delivering a bulk supply to Green Gorge has helped to cut down on some of the hard work.

So far this season we’ve managed to install about 920 track markers over a distance of 24 kms of track — watch this space!

Macquarie Island is a nature reserve and in the context of reserve management this means that environmental protection is of the highest consideration. Absolute consideration is given to keeping to the track network and deviating off track is only permitted if there is work to be done. Researchers are given permits to venture off track as part of their work and rangers often need to travel cross country and always take into consideration the need to cross a particular piece of landscape for fear of causing damage. Times have changed since the days of old where we could gently ramble the hills. Even more important, we think about how the island is regenerating after a life time of degradation by rabbits. I was reminded on this last trip out of just how small and special some of the plants are when I was surveying the Huperzia australiana, but that’s for next time…

48 hour Film Festival

On Friday afternoon I was a little surprised when, by expressing interest in the 48 hour film festival I was suddenly volunteered to direct it, whatever that entailed! Somehow, under the technical advice of our movie making guru (aka Station Leader Esther), the ad–hoc creativity of actors (the entire team on Macca), cameramen George and Rob, producer Joe and gnome wrangler–Dr Helen, Macquarie Island 69th ANARE submitted a fun and somewhat hilarious five minute film in the International Antarctic 48 hour Film Festival.

The challenge was set on Friday night with the ‘five things’ we need to include announced (sound: an elephant trumpeting; object: stethoscope; dialogue: “May the force be with you”; character: mythical creature; action: someone walking as if they are are on a catwalk at a fashion show) and the plotting began. Over Friday drinks, inspiration was drawn from those near and far, including mythical creatures of the night. A quest featuring Dr Boris (aka Wildlife Ranger Marcus) began. Figuring out what scene to include an elephant trumpeting in was easy enough, but with Yoda in short supply, our storeman Dom stepped up to the task for the ‘Star Wars’ line. Catwalk models occasionally strut along in heels on Macca and luckily we had ‘Marilyn Monroe’ on call for the day.

Through all the re–shoots, dialogue adjustments, and rain we shot over an hour of footage that the editing team managed to, in a very long day, cut down into a fun five minute story. If I am to reflect on the experience, I would say we demonstrated how 15 people, with a little bit of dedication, can create something great in such a short time. We laughed through hilarious moments due to the individual creativity of the team here at Macca as they stuttered, strutted and starred on screen and somehow, in spite of multiple computer crashes in the edit, we got there, albeit with a lot more respect for all the dedicated filmmakers out there!

Kim Kliska

Macca Makeovers

All our water for the station comes from Gadget’s Gully dam approximately 1.5 kms south of the station. To get to us, the water gravity feeds from an elevation of about 160m along a 32mm poly pipeline that is currently routed down through the gully; depending on the winter, the exposed pipe is often known to freeze. Natural erosion of the gully over the years has meant that the pipe is becoming increasingly harder to reach — the nature of the erosion and overhead cliffs and steep gullies has also meant the route has become more hazardous with time. This means that in certain sections, the pipe is hanging in the air, which makes it even more difficult to access for maintenance.

So the time had come to lay in a new pipeline on a safer, more accessible route. This was going to require a team of seven to haul the pipe up the slope, leaving us just enough people on station to cover our fire team roles (three folk were out in the field). After some station wide juggling of work, slushy and fire rosters, a team comprising of tradies, met. and ranger staff set off for First Gully to manhandle the new pipe into position. As this ended up requiring more strength than we had, ropes, pulleys and belay systems were also required, so it became an unexpected refresher SAR exercise and a useful everyday application of these skills.

After a huge effort by all, the new pipe was in its new position. We are now waiting for an appropriate weather window in order to go back and make the connection to the actual water supply. Once that has all been confirmed as operational, the old pipeline will be removed. We’ll still be susceptible to freezing, but at least we can safely get to the pipe to see where the problem may be.


Much as some of us (well, me anyway) may moan about the ups and downs and constant wet feet of the the island’s tracks, before they existed travel around the island was a much more haphazard affair.

Excerpts from K Hines diary 1948 ANARE

“The first attempt to travel any distance down the island was made in May by Charlie Scoble, Charlie Speedy and Ron Chadder. They rose at 0530 and left the camp before sunrise, not even pausing for breakfast, and carrying a day’s food, a hurricane lantern to light them on the first part of their journey, and a flag mounted on a small pole to mark their most southerly point as a challenge to later travellers. They only walked a short distance along the beach before turning up the cliff and climbing to the plateau. They paused after this climb, had a meal, and then set out in a southerly direction using the bulk of North Mountain which they could make out to one side through the thickening mist. Once past North Mountain however, they completely lost their direction, and although the wind was blowing strongly from the north it was much deflected by the many rugged spurs and sharp declines so that even this method of determining direction was grossly misleading. As the journey was pieced together later, the wanderers must have walked around in circles for some time before realising that their efforts to progress southwards were meeting with no success.”

“By the middle of December, we were all becoming a little ashamed that nobody had reached the end of the island and it was decided that a serious attempt should be made… We had decided to favour the route along the top of the plateau… Having reached the plateau after a wearying struggle… It was not long before we realised that a great deal of energy was to be expended in the ascent and descent of the innumerable hills and undulations which constitute the top of the island. When confronted by a sharp drop in the level of the ground directly ahead, it was always difficult to decide whether to descend the several hundred feet and keep straight on or attempt to maintain the present height by deviating to one side.”

“By about 4 o’clock in the afternoon we had been pressing southwards for over 12 hours and estimated that not more than three miles remained to be covered before we were level with Lusitania Bay… (we) had skirted the base of a large hill in order to avoid wasting energy in climbing when suddenly, to our consternation, we lost all sense of direction… It was eventually concluded that the last stages of our journey had been in a northerly instead of southerly direction, and we promptly turned right round and set off to retrace our steps, before breaking into new country. (Two of this group of five walkers did make it to Hurd Point the next day, while the others sat out the weather at Lusi).

“Later in the afternoon Gersh and Ron returned from Heard Point (sic), and although they were wet to the skin, cold and uncomfortable they glowed with the sense of achievement consequent on being the first of our party to reach the south end of the island.”

Colin Robertson diary — 1954 ANARE

“It was rather eerie walking on the plateau in the fog. There is a sameness about much of the landscape as there are no trees or bushes and few rock outcrops so that it lacks landmarks in many places. This makes it difficult in the fog to gauge distances and the sizes of objects. I remember one occasion in the fog when we walked over the crest of ridge and saw before us what looked like a large lake. But as we approached we saw a seagull near the edge of the water. This immediately gave us a new sense of scale and we realised that the ‘lake’ was quite small, perhaps 50m across.”

With the 31st ANARE in 1978/79 Radio Officer Peter King returned, who had been last been to Macquarie Island with the first 1948 expedition.

Field hut log — Green Gorge 20/12/78

“Allan and Peter arrived 1700 hours from Hurd Point. Set off at 0800 and battled up scree slope, reached top at 0930 after going up wrong spot near top old metal stakes. Rather hair raising experience, was not game to look down. Good run thereafter to GG, tired but trip well worthwhile, had not done plateau trip in 1948. Marking of trails much appreciated and must have involved a lot of hard work by various people. Our thanks to all involved, this making our trip a rewarding experience.”