An Alby update, a significant birthday and tales of Rocket’s island adventures are our week’s highlights.

Wandering albatross update

This year, a total of five wandering albatross chicks are braving the cold of winter. As of last week, we are happy to confirm that all five are looking strong and healthy. Standing about two foot high, these fluffy balls of down are huge! Alert to any passers by, they defend themselves with the clapping of their big beaks as giant petrels fly overhead.

Last week concluded another field trip down to the south west of the island. This was the second of the monthly winter checks conducted where daily data is retrieved from remote wildlife cameras. These cameras will monitor the chicks as they grow from a hatchling to a fledgling in December.

See previous stories from 29 April and 3 June for more information on the wandering albatross on Macquarie Island.

Introducing ‘Angel'

As the five wandering albatross chicks hatched around the same time as the 2016 Australian Open, all five have been named after tennis stars (including Anna whose name was inspired by both wildlife ranger Anna, and Anna Kournikova of the tennis world). As this wanderer chick resides at Cape Star and Angelique Kerber was the rising female star of the Oz Open, the name fits. Angel hatched in April on Cape Star.

Each wandering albatross wears a small identification band on each leg, allowing us to collect demographic data on the species. From this we know Angel’s father as 022 and mother as 075 and they are a new breeding pair on Cape Star. Both parents are known breeders, however 075 failed with a previous partner two years ago and has now paired up with 022. Pictures from the remote wildlife camera show that both parents were attending Angel every few days to feed her.

Kim Kliska

First time out

On Sunday 27th, a sunny calm day not long after my 56th birthday, I’m informed that I have won a cruise via IRB down to Green Gorge, which will be the start of a six day field trip to some of Macca’s holiday huts.

Out on the water heading south to Green Gorge, the landscape reminds me of my time in the Northern Arctic, Iceland and Greenland: steep grassy, shale slopes with bird life making use of the air currents and dotting the coastline, all in their day’s work.

Black sand, king penguins, gentoo, elli seals and a log cabin. We disembark the IRB and unload all the supplies, then it’s a wave from Kim and I, as Pete, Chris, Marty & Rob head back to station to pick up Marcus.

It’s dark here at 3:00pm so we are all settled in for the night after a hot bucket shower; dinner conversation is anything and everything. Kim: “Hey Rocket, how ya feeling about walking down to Hurd Point Hut… 18 kilometres?” I reply, “I’m trying not to think about it.”

8:30am, misty morning: Kim’s my personal guide… haha, no… Kim is here on the island to study the wandering albatross. Heading out: they call the slopes a ‘jump up’ or ‘jump down’ when we are leaving or coming in to a hut, but some of these jump up and jump downs can be a workout on their own.  

The valley is mustard with a tinge of green: up, up and up we go, breathtaking — that is the view, not me — as I get into it, as you do, adjusting gear and settling in to the walking motion and taking in the view along the way. Overland Track (Cradle Mountain) or Macquarie Island: same, same but different.

Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Peak 250 metres, Cadbury chocolate, water, Jessie Niccol Track to the left that heads to Waterfall Bay. “Rocket, you’re doing really well. We have just walked four kilometres”. That is my guide Kim, Alby Girl, so now only 14 kilometres to go, thanks Alby Girl for helpful tips on packing things and having your needs at your fingertips as you walk. This young lady has just met the halfway point of her time here on Macca, and has a head full of knowledge and ways of working with the elements on this remote island out in the middle of the Southern Ocean.

The landscape changes more and more as you head south, Mount Gwynn 345 metres, and now we are on a hard surface, which is better than your boots sinking down into the water-soaked, grassy ground. Martin Track, Mount Martin 360 metres.

I’m loving the change in the landscape, but more so the landscape textures, recorded as photos, to later become art — my microscopic eye — I see it differently. Rolling valleys to the sea, the shading of the ridges produces a canvas of art as does the shale, jagged cliff face (either bare or with a coating of moss) or tussock slope.

South Lusitania Track: not this time, Waterfall Bay Hut will have to wait till another time. Windy Ridge has only 25 knot wind on this day but when that 35 knot wind gust comes and pushes you off balance, you start to understand what a 50 knot wind could do to you if you’re here at the wrong time.

“Rocket”, says Kim. “We have just passed Mount Hamilton at 410 metres and we don’t have far to go”. These track walkers say this all the time and I know we have further to go than she is saying… Mount Jeffryes, Mount Ainsworth…

Now I’m standing at the top of this tussock slope 300 metres high, incline of about 45 to 50 degrees, legs like jelly and six hours walking done, looking down at a black dot. “That is the beach,” Kim laughs. I say “We're not going down there?” “Yes, we are going down there!”. I have tears in my eyes from laughter: OK let’s do this.

I stand at a floor to ceiling window that looks down the beach, look and think, “I’m at the most southern point of Tasmania, Australia… Macquarie Island.”

Rodney Charles (Rocket)

Happy birthday Joe!

We had another birthday to celebrate this week: Joe Ahearn — our Building Services Supervisor and Deputy Station Leader — turned 60, which was, of course, a significant number and another perfect occasion to get out the white tablecloths and good cutlery. At Joe’s request, the evening’s theme was ‘black and white’ and the cuisine was Greek, with a Black Forest gâteau for his birthday cake.

Everyone made sure they were back on station from the field and yet again, Rocket produced a splendid meal. The dress theme allowed for many interpretations and no one had an excuse not to comply as one could always come in their AAD issued thermals.

Surprise special guest Marilyn Monroe arrived to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and present the cake — now who wouldn’t want that?!

And then to work off all that food and cake, the music volume went up, our flashing disco lights were turned on and the tables were re-purposed as dancing podiums, something of a long-standing Macca tradition…


Those of us that arrived on V4 at the end of March had our 100th day on the island this week. For most of us, it’s all a new experience, but there are a few of us who have been here before, including over winter. So I thought I’d see what those previous winterers were doing during this week of July, last time around.

Our Doctor, Helen Cooley, has wintered here twice previously, in 1991 and 2005.

Station log 1991 — 44th ANARE

July 6: Weather overcast and rainy — still warm. Helen and Jim returned from Green Gorge.

July 11: Weather mild — overcast with NW wind. Helen Cooley started midwinter medicals and July monthly medicals today. All have put on weight so far.

Station log 2005 — 58th ANARE

July 9: Helen is slushy and cooks a spit roast.

July 10: Helen is slushy and chef. The movie is The Blues Brothers.

Our Senior Met Observer, Alison Skinn, spent 2 years here back to back in 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately there’s no station log here for 2007.

Station log 2008 — 61st ANARE

July 8: Ali S is staying at Bauer Bay, Ali D is at Hurd Point and working in the Caroline Cove and Petrel Peak areas, Ian is cross country to work in Sandell and Davis Bays. Barry departed for Brothers Point after lunch.

July 9: Barry heads from Brothers Point to Waterfall Bay and Ali S from Bauer Bay to station via Sandy Bay and the East Coast.

July 13: Ali S is cook/slushy for the day — pancakes in the morning and roast for dinner, followed by a movie.

Ranger in Charge Chris Howard is another expeditioner who did two years on the trot: 2013 & 2014. Again no station log here for 2013, however in 2014, when Station Mechanical Supervisor Pete Raymond was also here:

Station log 2014 — 67th ANARE

July 7 — Ian, Chris & Ivor at HP, Pete and Greg at WFB. Bar fridge failed, Paul investigating issue.

July 8 — Ian, Chris and Ivor at HP: walked up to Petrel Peak in Caroline Cove SMA to check wandering albatross chicks there. Pete and Greg at WFB.

July 9 — Pete got wind generator running at Waterfall Bay Hut. Ian, Chris and Ivor walked up to Cape Star to check on wandering albatross chick there. Pete and Greg at GG.

And as I write this, Ali, Helen and Chris are all out in the field again, enjoying the great outdoors and field huts of Macca this time around.

Esther Rodewald