Great news for plant recovery post eradication, a fancy dress evening, another makeover and some storm action are all part of the week here on the island.

Life for rare plants on Macca much easier now without rabbits

The airwaves over Macca are fair bit quieter these days and the field huts not nearly as busy as they were during the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP). The reminder of the success of the project is ongoing, certainly more evident to people that are familiar with the island landscape from previous times. The revegetation process is certainly kicking into gear now as the plants of the island rebound with new-found vigour.

I first came to Macca early in 2013 with the last MIPEP team. I was amongst a new generation of ranger that would thankfully not see rabbits on the island. Mind you, there was plenty of old poo, the odd skeleton or mummified carcass discovered by the hunting teams and their dogs. However, the battered landscape of severely grazed tussock, megaherbs and the very short cropped grasslands was proof enough of how things had been. The hunters and dogs went about their job patiently scouring the countryside looking for clues of rabbits or rodents — the smallest clue was sign of more to be done. The success of the project of course came in April 2014.

I was particularly reminded of the dedication and diligence of the hunters on my last trip to the field. Taking a break from the track markers task, I was revisiting sites hoping to confirm the ongoing presence of one of the rarer plant species on the island — Huperzia australiana. This small epiphytic plant looks not unlike a ‘tiny pine tree’ and grows to about 60 millimetres tall. On Macquarie Island, this species is listed as rare and was confirmed at only a handful of locations up on the plateau. An added bonus of having so many people in the field with MIPEP was that eager eyed hunters were often able to report the presence of the plant at different locations. By projects end, Hyperzia australiana was recorded at just over 30 locations.

Most recently I was checking on the status of some of these previous sightings, checking on the plant status as well as gathering additional site information that could be added to the DPIPWE Natural Values Atlas, an electronic database that helps guide decision management processes on the reserve. Data collected included site soil type, slope, landform, plant associations, area occupied, potential threats, plant number, and breeding status — all valuable information. Site data I had on hand for my job was quite simple, a set of GPS coordinates, observation date, maybe a rough site description and a number of plants (on this occasion — one plant observed by Leona at a site south of Mount Law). There were a number of sites to check in the general area of Leona’s observations, so it was well worth deviating off the normal track network to follow up.

I set off from Green Gorge Hut on an average Macca day, with overcast grey skies and a clear view of the plateau. Of course that all changed by the time I got up on top — low cloud and visibility reduced to 100 metres. Relying mainly on the GPS, I navigated to the plant site — watching as the distance gradually decreased on the screen, finally the proximity alarm indicating arrival at the site! Treading carefully knowing that I was looking for a needle in a haystack, a careful search of the site finally paid off — one little plant 20 millimetres high, 20 millimetres across! An interest in plants and a passion for the island combined to keep the motivation up as the visibility and temperature decreased, and the wind picked up! I checked out a few more sites on the way back down to the hut and confirmed all sites previously recorded had plants present.

Quietly processing the data back at the hut that night, I couldn’t help but reflect on times past, thinking about the people that had been to Macca. Day after day, week after week, they methodically walked the hills, checked the ground, searching for signs often in the fog, most often in the wind and the elements, and to stay focused enough to pick up a plant so small… a job well done!

As for the Huperzia australiana population on Macquarie Island, there are now almost 70 site registrations for the species. Some sites I’ve visited recently have recorded 70 or more plants, some specimens up to 70 millimetres tall… the plant is still not common but certainly appears to be enjoying life after rabbits.

Chris Howard

Meat-lovers feast

With all our vegetarians safely out in the field dining on those delicious dehydrated vegetables, Saturday night was a perfect evening to engage in all things meat, to excess some may say!

Rocket volunteered to cook a ‘Medieval Feast’ and busy fingers conjured up costumes to transform themselves into ladies and gents of ye olde times, and decorations to transform the Mess (well, if you squint and have had a few…) into the finest castle dining room.

As ever, food was delicious and bountiful, with plenty of leftovers to get us through our chef-less Sunday… thanks Rocket!

Macca Makeovers — Warren

The Macca makeovers continue. This time it is Warren’s turn. Although looking a bit tired and frail on the outside the real issue was on the inside. The door lining was removed, the door removed a new cast put in place then rehung. There was a bit of curing to be done, then it was back to work.

(For those who don’t know, Warren is an incinerator)

Joe Ahearn


Wind is a regular feature of life here that dictates what we can and can’t do on any particular day. Under 20 knots – lovely walking day. Over 35 knots – hut/inside day as it’s too unpleasant to work or wander about in that unless you really have to.

Of course it’s not just wind that we regularly notice the impact of, it’s also the sea. Being on a skinny low-lying isthmus with open sea on both sides, we’re usually being pounded from one side or the other (or sometimes both) and the shape of the beach can change dramatically from one day to the next.

Last Sunday was windy enough (40 – 50 knots with peak gusts around 67 knots) that an old melon hut awaiting a ship back to Australia blew itself apart and now is no more, which surprised us as it’s been sitting there quite happily for two years weathering various storms and blows. 

These days we get reliable advance weather warnings, including notice of significant waves and possible isthmus inundations, and our station buildings are better constructed to withstand the conditions, which means we’re better prepared for the big storms and don’t have to run around in the middle of it all attempting to tie things down like they used to…

Station log 1/6/53

Stocktaking commenced in all sections. However from midday on all hands employed in saving the Hydrogen Shed from blowing out to sea. Several cables were passed over the roof and the building saved from total destruction. However the roof was torn from its bearers and the walls strained out of shape. Heavy seas have washed away the tractor route E of the radio sheds. Several aerials were blown down. However by nightfall further damage was checked and all buildings were inspected for security… The door of No. 1 store was sprung open and its hinges strained. June was certainly ushered in with a vengeance giving us our first taste of severe winter conditions, with heavy seas pounding both sides of the isthmus.

Station log 30/4/59

Started when very boisterous wind developed to 70 mph average, maximum gust 106 mph at 11 am, when engine room began to blow in — repaired this when it was noticed that one of the three connected water tanks developed leak due to flying debris. After lunch meteorological tank wrenched from area briquettes and carried across Garden Cove — followed it and lashed it to rocks with wire and steel piquets… Had early cup of afternoon tea and then noticed the seas on the western side of isthmus had reached enormous height… At 1545 first wash from huge almost 20 ft wave trickled across isthmus. Large wave washed right across and moved whole fuel dump eight feet east arrested only by loaded sledge.

Station log 11/12/60

Was awakened at 0430 by Duty Met man R Frost who informed that wind had freshened to 80km and one of our 1000 gallon tanks in the process of motion had taken off vertically, cleared radio and met huts and was last seen airborne in SE direction. Inspecting the camp area for further damage to exposed stores I discovered our almost completed Nissen hut flat on the ground with damage to purlins and ribs, but nothing missing.

Station log 22/12/60

Had another big blow today. From early morning it had been blowing at up to 99 mph. First casualty was our second 1000 gallon tank, secured in a sheltered position. It took off about 11 am, blew to the beach and after many torrid moments Edward and myself managed to secure it and lash it down in a web of 1” rope. Three hours later it came free again and was blown out to sea… At 4 pm the cow barn started to break up and in the process of securing it I was lifted up by a heavy gust resulting in a badly sprained ankle & bruised knee. Shortly after dinner a hydrogen explosion occurred blowing out the doors, burning Merrony slightly on the face and hands and shocking him mildly… No damage was caused by subsequent fire which was easily extinguished. Three aerials blown down. Routine work continued smoothly.

Station log 5/11/63

During night heavy seas on East Coast wrought havoc with Radio Beach. Washed road away — about 60 ft water pipe broken off fire line & exposed oil pipes in places. Washed away about 40 ft of sewerage line in Garden Cove and undermined South East corner of fire pump house.

Station log 17/5/64

At 4 pm Stair advised OIC emergency medical store was blown over. This was shortly followed by south end of the Nissen hut being blown in. All hands were summoned to help… inspected all buildings. New 2000 gallon tank was lost as high winds (103 mph) snapped 1 ½” anchor rope, riometer twisted, lining of auroral hut damaged, fire alarm blown off wall in power terminal hut, galv iron bent in OICery.

Station log 23/5/75

Tremendous seas and swell running. 1 wave and spray observed breaking 1/3 the height of North head – three witnesses suggest 100–150 ft height. The keel of the Gratitude has been washed away from Nuggets — drums of fuel washed away from Green Gorge — building equipment at Sandy Bay washed about, most of the eastern side of the island reformed with beaches and tussock points gone – the isthmus lost 10–15 metres of shore line & tussocks from south eastern Rhombic mast being undermined and guy wires loaded with kelp. Main fuel line washed out on beach to No 2 fuel farm.