Good news from Team Albatross, an epic journey to Hurd Point and a favourite film on Macquarie Island in the news this week.

Wandering Albatross update

Last week ‘Team Albatross', made up of Marcus, the wildlife ranger and Kim, the albatross researcher, headed down to the south west of the island to monitor the wandering albatross chicks. This was the first of the monthly winter checks conducted by the team, who change the camera batteries and retrieve data from remote wildlife cameras. These cameras monitor the chicks as they grow from a hatchling to a fledgling in 10 months.

We can report good news this month, with five of five eggs hatching and all chicks looking very alert and lively. All parents have left the chicks to fend to themselves, returning every few days to regurgitate a meal for them.

Wandering albatross have the largest wingspan of any seabird at up to three metres. They can live over 50 years and spend their life in the Southern Ocean, returning to their place of birth to breed. The global population of wandering albatross is estimated to be approximately 6300 breeding birds and with only 4–12 pairs breeding on Macquarie Island every year, the population is in decline. The survival of chicks is integral for the breeding population of wandering albatross on Macquarie Island. Long-term monitoring helps us understand population trends and contributes to protecting them from disturbance in breeding areas through designated special management areas. From the data gathered over 20 years we can also determine who is breeding with who and how successful they are.

Introducing ‘Anna'

The first of five albatross, Anna, was named after last year’s wildlife ranger Anna Lashko, who first observed Anna’s parents on an egg in December 2015. Anna hatched around 6 February 2016 at the top of Petrel Peak at the southern end of Macquarie Island. Her father, wandering albatross 087 was there. He is a known breeder 25 years of age. Her mother is currently unknown for this season, having eluded observation by the alby team. However, wandering albatross breed bi-annually and in two previous seasons (2011/12 and 2013/14), 087 has bred with 022, a female who is 26 years old in the same location. Wandering albatross pair for life, so 022 is most likely the mother of Anna. Anna was observed looking healthy and alert by Kim on 23 May. Pictures from the camera showed there was snow and strong winds at the top of the peak and Anna’s parents were visiting regularly every few days to feed her.

Kim Kliska

Hurd Point or bust

Gather the kids around, put a cuppa on and work your way deep down into your favourite comfy chair, because this week’s station news from Macca is EPIC! It’s a high energy tale of a leg pumping, muscle straining and sweat dripping six day trek down to the southernmost tip of Macquarie Island.

We start the story off on station where the four youngest expeditioners of the 69th ANARE readied their survival kit and rations in prep for the gruelling 70km round trip that lay ahead.

'Spot tracker on’ – 'check' – ‘radio with spare batteries' – ‘check' – ‘gaiters and walking sticks at the ready! Right let’s go'… and like that our team of four (George, Kim, Marcus and Benny) waved goodbye to the oldies and powered on up the treacherous and near vertical slopes of the giant green sponge.

It’s not all beer and skittles on the muddy, icy tracks of Macca, and the enthusiastic four soon reached their first major hurdle… Doctor’s Track… first up was Kim. Powering up slopes like the great mountain goats of Serendia, the team gathered at the top to savour the fresh, crisp air that blankets the start of the Overland Track.

'All good every one?' trip leader Marcus asked.

'Yep’ replied George and Kim. Benny quietly nodded. The first hurdle had put a dent in Ben’s amour but he wasn’t about to let his mates down. They needed him and his fantastic trade skills to repair the Hurd Point remote area power system. The wind generator was down and science was at risk! Their route would turn out to be high paced over steep, mountainous and sometimes snow covered terrain to the first night’s accommodation… Green Gorge Hut.

It was mid-afternoon by the time the weary travellers navigated the final bearing through the hut’s doors and their minds instantly turned to food.

'I’ll whip up some bread,' said Ben.

The other team members were unaware of Ben’s culinary skills and he promptly produced a perfectly risen seeded loaf. Nightfall quickly set and the four intrepid expeditioners filled the wooden cabin with sounds of laughter and flatulence.

Our team awoke the next morning to a cool overcast day filled with 40 knot winds. Trip leader Marcus quickly re-routed the destination and informed the other three that the Hurd Point hut would not be achievable and we would be making our way down to Waterfall Bay Hut. The freshly rested explorers trudged through the swampy bogs and down to the orange coloured ‘googie’ that is Waterfall Bay. A night of pizza, 500 and coma-like sleep followed.

The third day of travel produced a beautiful windless and sunny day. Large flocks of giant petrels surrounded the team in their little orange fibreglass egg, their Pterodactyl-like calls echoing off the Mount Martin range. Ben’s thoughts turned to how quickly these massive birds would devour a downed member of his party. He would be the first to go. Lactic acid build up in his thighs and signs of chafe had damaged his stamina.

'Ready to get into it?' screamed an excited George.

'You bet mate,' replied a deflated Ben. Kim would be leaving the team to conduct some bird studies so the team would be reduced to three. Ben’s odds with the giant petrels weren’t improving, but soon concentration was securely focused on scaling the 350 metre vertical climb that is the Mount Martin jump up. Fingernails buried deep within the tussock for grip, George expertly ascended the jump up, only stopping to yell words of encouragement into Benny’s sweat laden face

'You got this mate!' George yelled. Looking up at George, Ben’s stomach rumbled and instantly he knew the reason. Soy milk. Ben, not normally a soy drinker, had decided that Waterfall Bay Hut would be a good place to try new foods and why not start with a generous splash of soy milk on his morning weetbix? Lactic acid, early chafe onset and a protesting bowel is not ideal he thought. On he pressed though. Up, up and up. The team would trek the Overland Track with a bypass to Lusitania Bay king penguin rookery, then crossing the exposed windy ridge and finally down to the end prize, Hurd Point.

'PPHHRROOWARRR! BENNY!' yelled Marcus, holding his nose. But the stench wasn’t Ben’s used soy, it was the compacted guano of 50,000 king penguins! Little brown fluff balls socially waddled around everywhere leaving the team members in awe of Mother Nature and with a lifetime of memories. But lolly-gagging around with birds wasn’t their task and before too long it was time to move off, up the south Lusitania track to rejoin the Macquarie super highway known as the Overland Track.

The team now tootled along easily telling jokes and stories of home, and before too long the final six kilometres was completed and Hurd Point hut was in view.

'Geez it’s a long way down!' said Ben.

'If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space is my motto!' replied Marcus.

Looking down, the grass covered cliff must have been 350 metres high with a one in two gradient, but at the bottom lay the warmth of the hut, and food. George held his breath and began the descent. Sturdy, strong and secure on the greasy slope, all four members had arrived at the hut safely and triumphant! Ben promptly conducted much needed repairs, Marcus and Kim conducted much needed albatross science and George made a fantastic shepherd’s pie. The entire team rested contently and wondered what the 3 day return trip would bring…

…but that’s another story…

Ben Way


Whilst we don’t have live TV and our internet isn’t good enough to stream or download anything, we do have a vast library of movies and TV series to keep us entertained. However, it wasn’t always so and once upon a time the only resource available was 16mm films, and these in limited numbers.

'The Silence Calling’ by Tim Bowden, regarding the 3rd ANARE.

Sometime the films had a markedly civilizing effect on the community. Pride and Prejudice was the most popular film shown on Macquarie Island in 1950, and the entire station took on the courtly language of Jane Austen’s genteel nineteenth century England. Trevor Boyd recalls that someone asking to pass the butter at dinner would elicit the invariable response: ‘Such affability, such graciousness — you overwhelm me!'. When [Philip] Law arrived to relieve the station he was at a loss to account for the quaint mid-Victorian quality of the men’s everyday dialogue until he was told of the profound influence of Pride and Prejudice.

But who would have picked this film to go on to be the means of rebellion?

Station log 25/1/52 — 4th ANARE

Apparently of late it has been the habit of the ‘night owls’ club to put on private picture shows ad lib in the early hours of the morning, therefore on my return from Lusitania Bay the projector was locked up in the food store.

Station log 27/1/52 — 4th ANARE

Picture projector placed in locked kitchen overnight, however kitchen forced and Pride and Prejudice shown about 4 am. Lens now removed from projector and films locked up.

In 1956 the film was still here and considered worth a mention in the log.

Station log 28/1/56 — 8th ANARE

Picture night again. Interest in serial very high. Main picture Pride and Prejudice which was taken very humorously by the men. Also excellent documentary on the world’s food problem which promoted… very good general discussion. Picture nights are a great success. We have ½ dozen bottles of beer, one of brandy, a bowl of nuts, chocolate or other sweets and a special supper. Everyone enjoys the proceedings very much.

The film was still on rotation by the 60’s but the love seemed to be gone.

Station log 30/9/61 — 13th ANARE

Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. The camp is running so smoothly at present — and has been for some time — it is almost boring.

Have yet to hear anyone suggest a screening this year…