This week George provides another wonderful walking story, Joe finds Wilson while collecting marine debris, we feature the Macquarie Island Shag and Helen reminisces about yacht visits from 1991.

Another Walking Story

Regular readers may have noticed that bushwalking is something of a theme here on the vertical swamp (thanks to George Cook of the 1968 expedition for the nickname), and this will be no exception to the rule.

Keen to take in some west coast sights before the area is closed to give the breeding birds a bit of privacy, I set off into a rather bracing south westerly to rendezvous at Green Gorge with team TasPAWS for a marine debris collection trip to Davis point.

The elephant seals seemed to find the deep malodorous piles of decomposing kelp on Sandy Bay beach an enchanting place to spend an afternoon. After determining experimentally that the depth was considerably over my knees and discovering a healthy population of kelp fly maggots I confess to being somewhat less charmed by them than the seals apparently were.

Oven fresh scones and hot tea courtesy of Marcus and Kim made a very pleasant greeting on arrival at Green Gorge hut, however a forecast for three days of westerly gales put paid to the Davis point trip. Plan ‘B’ was put into effect with day trips out of Green Gorge and fresh snow put a gorgeous finish on the scenery as we made our way across country to count grey petrels in Sellick bay.

Coming home via the Featherbed track provided an opportunity to look in at Aurora and Eagle caves. The caves nestle among the coastal rock-stacks uplifted with the Featherbed that make such intriguing landscapes on this part of the coast. A number of legends of debated authenticity and varied unsavouriness surround the use of Eagle cave by survivors of the “Eagle” wrecked on the west coast while they waited a year for rescue. I wouldn’t like to live in the caves, where a certain dampness pervades, but a return visit to the Featherbed is definitely on the cards. Perhaps in a year or two, when my boots dry out.

George Bettingham-Moore

The Short Stroll

I was heading on another trek down Island for some work and Recreation. After climbing to the plateau, facing a strong headwind and donning my bootchains I began wondering about the term ‘recreation'. Things went to plan this trip, I caught up with Chris at Green Gorge hut. After a good night’s sleep we headed across island to Davis Point to do some marine debris collection and for me to get a look at the west coast. After collecting about a half a Bulka Bag of debris I found Wilson. Upon my return to station I contacted Fed-Ex requesting Tom’s address and being the Macca Postman I would send him Wilson once I get off the island.

Joe Ahearn


Wildlife feature: Macquarie Island Shag

Macquarie Island is renowned for its wildlife. Even over the winter months were are privileged to be regularly able to observe more than ten species of seabirds, four species of seals and so far two whale species, and then there’s vagrant species such as Hooker sea lions, leopard seals and other seabirds.

As we regularly update on the wandering albatross and grey-headed petrels, we will focus on the other winter species for the weeks in between. This week we will start with the Macquarie Island shag.

The Macquarie Island shag is endemic to the island, however other species of blue-eyed cormorants are found in the sub-Antarctic and South America. Shags are present on Macquarie throughout the year and breed during the summer months on offshore rock-stacks. They are often observed collecting grass for nesting material on the island. Shags are easily identified due to their wing shape and size and the striking blue ring around the eye.

Shags feed on small fish and invertebrates and can dive to depths of 100m, however they are quite often seen surface feeding between the rock-stacks and surf zone.

Kim Kliska

Flashback — Yacht Visits

Every now and then a passing yacht arrives at Macquarie Island — sometimes planned, sometimes not. During my first visit in 1991 an unscheduled yacht, the Cruisetet, arrived on 23rd January and requested permission to land. On board were a Frenchman Bernard Espinat and an American Joe Adami. As Macquarie Island would have been the vessel's first Australian port, officialdom intervened!

Initially Parks ‘categorically refused permission to land’ according to the station log. Quarantine declared that they were not allowed to land except in ‘emergent circumstances’ — a condition which was apparently not met by their need to repair the yacht’s torn mainsail!

The following day the yacht again requested permission to land declaring an emergency situation as repair of their sail required a large flat surface out of the wind. After much conferring back in Hobart between AAD and Parks permission was granted subject to:

  • them signing a statutory declaration that they weren’t making it all up,
  • them remaining on the isthmus,
  • quarantine and customs requirements being met.

At that time the doctor was always the default local quarantine officer, so I completed the necessary forms and issued their certificate of pratique and the guys came ashore.

They remained with us for three days while the sail was repaired with the assistance of the locals. As a result they were here for our Australia Day celebrations including the cricket game with Joe wielding the bat as though he was playing baseball and Bernard mostly shaking his head in amusement at the silly English game. The log notes that the Bay 13 barrackers were ‘troublesome'. There was also a yacht race held off the western side of the island with fierce competition between the yachts constructed by various teams. From the station log:

“The Met entry was a real flyer and looked the goods until dismasted by a well aimed opposition missile. Bio’s entry mysteriously caught fire, burnt to the waterline and sank. Our visiting yachtsmen were put in the hot seat as judges and gave line honours to the UAP (Upper Atmosphere Physics), with overall victory to the Met on protest.”

Bernard and Joe boarded Cruisetet late that evening and after a few days anchored in Half Moon Bay departed the island headed for the Balleny Islands.

Helen Cooley

Walking to the ‘South Pole’ and Darts

This week Macca topped out socially. Today the Gumboot Ramblers aka team Macca had walked, run, skied and rode 2447km to the ‘South Pole’ in solidarity with Team Mawson to raise money for AMRRIC and Headspace.

We also had a moral win in a close darts match with Casey. In the best of three rounds, Casey won the first match, Macca came back strong-delivering a ‘bliz run’ to the team at Casey… In a tightly contested third match Casey claimed victory down to the last dart!