Macquarie Island expeditioners welcome tourists and share pics of adorable fur seals.

Station update

This week we celebrated the birthday of Wildlife Ranger Anna. Anna loves peas! Fittingly a feast of pea risotto, peas and a giant pea cake were a key part of the birthday celebrations!

There has been some wet weather over the past week, and a few intrepid travellers headed out into it on Saturday anyway. Jac, Robbie and Jez headed to Green Gorge, and Rangers Paul, Ro and assistant ranger/plumber Tim trudged along into a very wet head wind moving north.

On Sunday however, we were presented with a day of blue skies, sunshine and gentle breezes. Expeditioners scrambled for their boots, and hit the trails in parties of varying sizes and destinations to revel in some lovely Macca weather. The crew at Green Gorge welcomed the ranger team for pancake brunch, and basking in the rare sunshine was enjoyed by all.

The sunshine was short-lived though and by Sunday evening rain was once again pitter-pattering on the windows, and has continued into this week.

On an interesting weather note, on Saturday evening whilst we were all tucked into bed, our Bureau of Meteorology team observed the rare occurrence of zero knots of wind for approximately two hours!

It has been a while since we have had fresh fruit here on Macca, with the exception of our apples. Volunteering on the tourist boats always offers the opportunity to grab a piece of fruit! Anna in particular loves bananas. On last week’s ship visit, the chefs aboard presented Anna with an array of bananas in the full array of ripeness. As expeditioners, sometimes we get excited about the things which would have those back home scratching their heads!

Jacque Comery

Macquarie Island tourist ship visits 2015–16

On 6 January, the Macquarie Island rangers and station volunteer guides hosted the visit of the largest tourist ship yet to visit the island. Le Soleal, a cruise ship in the full sense with 179 passengers, shuttled passengers in a carefully planned operation during two days to enable a visit and tour of the isthmus on day one and then Sandy Bay on day two.

Rangers/guides stayed overnight on board. Apart from relishing the chance for fresh fruit and some French cuisine, there was also a stage show in the 200 seat theatre after dinner! The passengers were mainly from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Britain and Canada but of course also many from France.

Le Soleal was the fourth ship to visit this season but the only ‘high-end’ ship. The main company which brings tourists to Macquarie Island is Heritage Expeditions with seven ship visits this season.

Most ship visits this season have been lucky with sea conditions and have been able to come ashore on both of the two allocated days, although one ship cancelled the visit due to rough seas concerns en route.

Isthmus tours give visitors a chance to see the station with even some merchandise for sale by station staff in the mess. Jimmy the chef and other staff have shown terrific hospitality, providing visitors with tea and scones and giving them a chance to chat with the locals.

Sandy Bay is the highlight of the visit for tourist ships due to the large wildlife population which calls the beach home. Visitors are able to wander freely within a section of the beach. Many are happy to just sit and let the inquisitive penguins come to them.

Rangers Paul, Ro, and Anna depend on the help of station staff who volunteer to be guides assisting with isthmus tours and the Sandy Bay visits. Fresh fruit on board, the chance to meet some interesting people and to see the Island’s east coast from the ship are part of the fun.

Many other station personnel are a tremendous help on station in the mess (dining hall). The visitors love the chance to meet and chat with station personnel and hear about the work done here by the Australian Antarctic Division, Bureau of Meteorology and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TASPARKS).

The visitors are full of praise for the walkways that TASPARKS have provided in recent years at The Razorback and Sandy Bay. For most ships, the visit to Macquarie Island is the best part of the entire trip.

Paul Helleman, Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger in Charge

January weather summary

January has kicked off the year with cool and windy conditions. Winds were above average for the month of January, as has been seen for most of the season. We saw winds in excess of 22 knots on 29 days during the month January, nine more days than we would normally expect for this month. The twenty-first of January saw the strongest winds of the month with 49 knots recorded.

As has been the mantra for us this season, temperatures continue to sit slightly below long term averages. Daytime maximum temperatures were 0.8 degrees lower than the long term climate average for January, which is 8.8°C. We managed to crack double digits on 29 January for the one and only time this year, peaking at 10.1°C. We would normally see temperatures crack double digits on more days of the summer. Only seeing double digits once this year indicates that we’ve had a somewhat cooler summer than would be normally expected. Our coldest day was on 9 January with a balmy 2.1°C.

The amount of sunshine unimpeded by cloud was close to average with a typical day seeing 4.8 hours of sunshine. January was a spectacular day for maccerites with 13.6 hours of sunshine! Rainfall was also close to average with 83.2 mm falling throughout the month. We only saw four days without any rainfall in the month. Our wettest day was 14 January with 18.0 mm falling in that 24 hours.

January wasn’t a particularly foggy month with fog observed on only two days and mist observed on ten days. However, we saw hail on ten days during the month, whereas we would typically see hail on only two days of the month.

As we depart from the warmest, calmest month of the year we look forward to our last months as the temperatures begin to drop again and the wind picks back up to those sand-flinging gusts we love so much.

Jacque Comery 

Photo gallery: fur seals

The Green Sponge Interview Series — Karen Z

Name: Karen Ziegler

Nicknames: KZ (well that barely rates)

From: Southern Tasmania.

Previous seasons? First timer.

Job: (On other islands) Botanist and conservation land management. On Macca, offsider to the lovely Jane.

Hobbies: Farming, gardening, dancing, preserving and cooking, reading, listening to music, conservation projects in wild places, life.

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 lucky to be working with Jane who is the PhD student studying the ecology of the introduced chickweed, Stellaria media on Macquarie Island. The distribution of the chickweed provides us with regular field visits between Brothers Point, Bauer Bay and Island Lake and back to station to study the ecology of species.

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

Being on Macca and being frequently diverted by the presence of seals, penguins and flying birds. And being drawn to the tiny flowers from the minute to the contrast with the megaherbs.

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

Nicki Lloyd, a hot water bottle, the magic pudding basin, a life time’s reading material.

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

Favourite element of the Macca weather?

Wind rocking the Brothers Point hut.

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

Toni Collette as suggested by my casting manager Jimmy.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Green Gorge hut. Great view from the window, convenience of the facilities and the best bucket shower on the island.

If you were not an offsider to a PhD student, what would be your dream job?

Ethno botanist in the South Pacific.

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

Banana hat. Makes me look frightfully attractive while keeping my ears warm.

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

Internet that works*. [Edit: *like it does on mainland Australia.]

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


What is your typical 'Slushy FM' genre? A particular favourite?

No particular genre: mix of bluegrass, pop, folk, indie. Alison Krause, Jack Johnson and Fleet Foxes have featured on my Slushy FM.

Describe your Macca experience with:

  • A sight: the mass flowering of Pleurophyllum hookeri in Green Gorge
  • A smell: foetid sea elephant wallow
  • A sound: the rocks on the beach rolling back as a wave goes out
  • A feeling: the sudden sand blasting with a wind gust
  • A taste: minted peas

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?

Neither — knitting.

The last word