This week we share how any walk is full of new discoveries, more Macca makeovers, pink food for a cancer awareness brunch and an update on our photo points.

Treasure hunt of sorts

For the last few weeks the Macca team have been scouring the featherbed looking for northern giant petrels (NGPs) on nests. The nests are hidden behind thick tussock and among large rock stacks. It is quite laborious work when the ground is like a thick sponge, but the encounters with NGPs, the fascinating geology and life on the featherbed make it all worthwhile.

Searching the thick tussock brought us up close to some hidden ‘treasures'underfoot. Between the blades of tussock we found all sorts of mushrooms springing up. Out in the open we kept an eye out for the elusive winter berries of the Coprosma perpusilla (Macca’s only woody 'shrub'). They couldn’t hide from the prying eyes of the NGP census team. We even found an unusual rock stack that seemed to be leaching some amazing bright blue dye (any ideas?); the blue was very conspicuous against the vast green featherbed landscape.

The featherbed has some vast stretches of flat open sponge, but also some rugged sections of rock stacks. Kim and Marcus spent a sunny day searching ‘the labyrinth’ of rock stacks just south of Bauer Bay Hut, high and low there were few NGPs to be found in there.

Come morning smoko, we get to sit and take in the scenery around us and what better place for a break than up on a coastal rock stack. Chris enjoyed the view from Unity Point, probably wishing he was on a boat cruising the coastline to inspect offshore stacks for burrowing seabirds.

We never pass up the opportunity to clean up the coastline and you also never know what you might find! Amongst all the single use plastic drink bottles, we also found a few unusual pieces of ‘treasure’ like a rusty ball, any ideas what it might be?

In a few weeks time we will get to search the area again for my favourite Macca species — the skua. I’ll be sure to let you know how we go.

Marcus Salton

Macca Makeovers — Green Store door

With the Green Stores interior reorganisation complete, it was time for the exterior face lift and a more convenient means of entry. Those familiar with the early morning ritual of pulling the roller door chain can now be assured of a simpler and a much more effortless start to the day. Entry still requires chain pulling, but is now user friendly.

The installation of the new doors was a combined effort by the trades team along with the storeperson and the dieso. There was an ‘A factor’ degree of difficulty associated with the task, but with a bit of AAD improvisation, the new doors are working just how they were meant to.

The planning process started in 2014 with sketches, photos and measurements travelling back and forth to Kingston via cyberspace, resulting in delivery to Macca in April 2015, when I was leaving after my first summer on the island. It didn’t cross my mind that two years later I’d be back here and be the one installing them…

Joe Ahearn

Pink brunch for breast cancer awareness month

Taking our lead from Kingston, we had a pink brunch for Breast Cancer Awareness month on Tuesday 11 October to show support for ”Opal" the pink Hägg, which will be heading down south to add some colour to the ice, and a tribute all our loved ones that have been touched by this horrible disease.  

No challenge is too great for our chef Rocket and we had tomato and beetroot soup (sadly soup doesn’t photograph well…), prawn and scallop pies with a pink mash top, pink lamingtons and a chocolate and beetroot cake with pink bits. That’s the last of our fresh beetroot gone for a very good cause!

We did manage to find one pink ribbon on station to cut up and make the smallest little ribbons for wearing…

Photo points

The photo point series continues again this week. Contrast the first images taken back in early September and compare now to those pictures taken this week. The beaches of the island are bursting with activity with the elephant seal breeding season. Consider a handful of animals on the beach in September to hundreds now. Unfortunately, a photograph does not capture the cacophony that accompanies such an event. Elephant seal cows calling to pups, skua by the score all calling in random as they stake a claim to a tasty morsel or piece of beach, and through it all the distinctive call of the bull elephant seals declaring ownership of a portion of beach or challenging for the right to a harem.

The harem near the clean air lab now numbers over two hundred cows — the larger group most distant in the image now numbers almost 700 breeding cows! Imagine most of those cows having a pup, and add in the resident males as well.

Temperature and smell are two other sensations that cannot be portrayed in the images. Snow on the peaks last night has melted by the time the photographs were taken, but the cool chill remains. Ambient temperature at the time of photographs was a balmy 3.5°C. Add a bit of wind chill to that and the temperature feels a tad warmer than zero — but not much!

Shielded from the wind however, the temperature on some days of late has been almost tropical! Solar radiation is warming the ground and this in turn is providing all the energy the plants need to make the most of a short growing season. Take a close look at the dried clusters of last seasons Pleurophyllum hookeri leaves near the bottom rail of the fence. Dried stumps four weeks ago and now giving way to lush fresh silvery green for this season. Still got a fair way to go until the flowers emerge — be patient!

Chris Howard

Flashback

Continuing our field hut tour down the east coast, we get to Waterfall Bay hut, which was built as a replacement for Lusitania Bay hut, the other original old Walrus aircraft engine packing crate hut being used on the island which had been erected about the same time as Sandy Bay hut. Cramped and a haven for rats, it was ideally positioned in the middle of the Lusitania Bay king penguin colony, so was a sentimental favourite for some, however the location was no longer workable once the colony grew so large that access to the hut became increasingly difficult.

A decision was made to reuse one of the Googie huts from the 1992 Heard Island expedition, and this was installed in December 1993 approximately three kilometres north of the old Lusi Bay hut, overlooking a small rocky beach protected by numerous rock stacks and kelp beds.

Well clear of the king penguin colony, there were no major animal or bird sites to disturb at this location (this was the first Googie brought to the island as Brothers Point hut didn’t arrive until 1996).

There is no mention in the station log of the actual hut installation which happened over resupply and changeover that year, but Don Hudspeth, FTO at the time, recalls: 

Don Hudspeth — FTO 1993

Waterfall Bay hut was flown in by helicopter from the Icebird — which steamed to just offshore to make the flight shorter – a team of us dug foundation holes and received the slung concrete bases, support ring and hut. 

The ‘smartie’ looked like a cumbersome orange UFO flying in from the ship but was slung straight into position first time by Jerry the pilot.

‘Waterfall Bay Hut’ by Ingrid McGaughey

Nicknamed ‘googlies’ or ‘smarties’ the hut prototype had been designed by Attila Vrana, an engineer at the Australian Antarctic Division. They were radically different from conventional hut form, basically looking like a squashed egg on stilts and accessed by a short flight of aluminium steps. Advantages were improved aerodynamics, preventing accumulation of drift snow and effective utilisation of space with floor hatches for food and gear stowage, curved beds and benches to fit the shape of the hut, and water storage in the base.

Inaugurated on 28th December, 1993, in the presence of Kendi Davies, Don Hudspeth, Christo Baars, Brett Melbourne and Terry Reid, the first entry in the Waterfall Bay hut log reads:

Terry Reid – wintering ranger:

Well new Lusi (or whatever you end up being called) here’s wishing you a long and active life. You have a hard act to follow… some of us consider the original Lusi to be the most amazing hut anywhere… By comparison to other huts you lack kings at the door; or royals under the window; or elle seals beside the wall; or gentoos at the porch! But any port in a storm… methinks you will serve a more than useful purpose in the years to come.

The different design was often cause for comment.

Waterfall Bay hut log 30/1/94

Dave and Glen arrived from GG after a very wet and windy walk. Very comforting to see the orange UFO on the beach from the track above the rookery.

Waterfall Bay hut log 2/5/94 — Cam

Cam in from Sandell Bay, where the wind was so strong that I, literally, got blown over the top of the scree slope! Arrived at the ‘Martian’s base camp’ and what a relief to dry things out after miserable cond’s on the plateau. The UFO looks a little out of place, but definitely is a haven in such poor weather!

For a couple of years there, both huts were still being used.

Lusitania Bay hut log — 15/5/94 — Joan Russell

I do like this hut — and I’m sad that it’s leaking and starting to disintegrate generally…

However, Lusi Bay hut was finally completely decommissioned in June, 1996, by the same wintering team that installed Brothers Point hut.

Lusitania Bay hut log — 1/6/96 — Rick Besso

A party of six people arrive from VJM by IRB to clean out and decommission Lusi Bay hut. Beautiful weather with snow on the plateau and peaks. The ground was frozen with sheets of ice surrounding the hut… The king penguin chicks took great interest in our activities and I feel sure that this disruption to their daily lives was not appreciated and the removal of this well used hut will be to their benefit. Party consisted of: Rick Besso, Darron Lehmann, Paul Klemes, Tracy Tarves, Ray Bajinskis and Dave Pottage.

A cold porch was added to the hut in 2000, giving it the look still familiar to us here this year.

Waterfall Bay hut log — 9/2/00

After four long days with no jenny and two blunt panel saws Kev & Doug finally erected a new cold porch to the hut.

And finally, a word of warning to potential travellers:

Waterfall Bay hut log — 7/4/08 — Ali D, Barry & Alby

Saw an aurora and when Alby went out to look, he fell waist deep into the bog, just off the verandah ramp — poor Alby was soaked and all Barry and I could do was laugh. Nice one Alby!

Since tales travel and people love a good naming, this feature is now known as ‘Alby’s bog'.

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