Autumn emphatically announced its arrival at Macca this week with plummeting temperatures and the first snowfalls. Flurries of snow and small hail lashed the station over the weekend, and we awoke on Monday morning to see the plateau proudly displaying a pretty white dusting of snow in the crisp morning light. Temperatures hovered around four degrees with apparent temperatures below zero much of the time. The wintery weather that blasted the island also left Rangers Paul and Rowena unable to leave Hurd Point hut to return northwards on account of strong winds. They made excellent use of their time though doing maintenance on the huts and stocktaking the tools and food supplies. Upon their return, the rangers also reported that the royal penguins are also leaving now, and their colonies high on the hillsides are getting smaller.
News of the grounding of the Aurora Australis at Mawson, had expeditioners on station sending thoughts in the direction of our fellow expeditioners at the continental stations. Whilst there was abundant healthy interest and curiosity about how our voyage home in late March might be affected, for the most part an overwhelming air of patience and understanding prevailed. Helpful suggestions from the Macca crew flowed freely. Standout innovations included building a raft from our old fuel drum supply, resupplying huts via meteorology balloon, and calling back luxury vessels Le Soleal or Silver Discoverer to take us home.
On Saturday, the Macca mess was transformed as Jimmy and slushy Duncan drew upon Duncan’s time spent living in Japan to create a marvellous Japanese banquet which included agedashi tofu, okonomiyaki, yaki soba, yaki tori and yaki tori kawa. The meal was capped off with an extravagant crème caramel.
On Sunday the albatross team of Kim and Marcus, set back out into the field for their final field trip of the 2015/16 season. They were accompanied by Doc, Mal and Chef Jimmy who graciously volunteered to accompany the team to count southern giant petrels.
With only three weeks to go, we are well and truly in pack up and clean up mode, and serious resupply planning is also underway. Trades projects are being completed with great fervour, and planning for the strip down of hydroponics and the food stores has started. Dieseo Lionel is working hard servicing all of the vehicles ready to assist in cargo operations, and the first of the LARCS (our amphibious vehicles) have been de-winterised and is ready to roll. Science teams are getting samples ready for shipment and Storeman Dom is entering the final pieces of return cargo into the system.
This week we were visited by our final tourist ship for the season, the Professor Khromov. This ship was returning from a voyage down south to the Antarctic continent. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative and large easterly swells rolled in accompanied by high winds which meant the tourists were unable to visit us on this occasion.
The sight of the ship in Buckles Bay was a strong reminder that in just a few weeks we would again be welcoming another ship, but this time most of us will be the ones on board, and waving our island home farewell.