This week, we present #HUTLYF: An in-depth look at life working in the Macquarie Island field huts


During winter time we are limited by daylight hours, which means a lot of enforced downtime in the huts. In the peak of winter we’d try to arrive at a hut around 3 pm. After turning on the gas, power and water, we rip off all our stinky wet clothes. The first person in the hut will usually put the kettle on while everyone else artistically arranges all our stinky wet gear to hang strategically on a cascade of coat hangers near the heater, which forms the ‘chandelier of stench'. Unfortunately this is also the prime place for bread rising, so we may have to accept a little extra flavour in our bread in order to have dry socks!

Our next priority is a hot drink and nothing is more rewarding after a hard day battling the elements than a tall hot gingy (hot ginger cordial in a tall glass). Food is at the forefront of our minds at all times in the field. Normally sometime during the day (before 9 am) we have planned out our entire food for the day.

After a refreshing hot drink we get onto preparing lafternoon tea (this is a new meal we invented during winter time which is the size of lunch but consumed at arvo tea time). Standard lafternoon tea meals include: hummus with pickled onions, olives and savoys, fresh date scones, left over chocolate cake from last night’s dessert, or herbed popcorn.

By this time, shower water has boiled and we begin to argue who gets to enjoy the first luxurious outdoor bucket shower (nobody wants to leave larvo tea first).

Showers are all done and usually there are a number of hours to fill in until an acceptable time to begin preparing our next meal. We fill in this time with a range of activities, including data entry, battery charging, talking smack, laughing at the same jokes we’ve been laughing at for the last four months, making up parodies to songs about daily events in our lives, intermediate snacking and the very important stretching.

6 pm comes around in no time, which means we get to check in with VJM (station) for the nightly schedule, but more importantly, it’s Macca island hut gossip time. We get to hear what our fellow expeditioners have been up to and their travel intentions and dinner plans.

After schedule, this is an acceptable time to consider making dinner. Naturally, we have planned it all out already and either whoever is feeling the most creative or whoever wants to wash up the least normally volunteers to cook. The other two spend this time doing battle with our nemesis carbon monoxide, which is radiated into the hut from the gas heater and stove. The trusty yellow beeper, i.e. CO monitor alerts us with its deafening persistent alarm. We spend this time trying to achieve the fine balance of airing out the hut without getting too cold.

We are three passionate vego food lovers so we take our dinners very seriously. Because we have a GREAT chef cooking for us back on station, being in the field gives us the chance to get creative in the kitchen and remember how to cook. Some of our signature dishes include, but are not limited to, nutmeat spagbol, refried bean pizza, mexi-beans and chili non carne, polenta chips, dahl, nutmeat lasagna, potato and chickpea curry, gnocchi, nutmeat not-meat-balls with pasta, bean burgers and fried rice. After we’ve all had our fill, there is usually an awkward amount of leftovers. We cannot stand waste so normally we attempt to force each other to ‘finish it'!

After dinner, our energy levels spike and we tend to go a bit silly until about 9 pm when we initiate SCA (self-contained activities). These consist of reading, writing or listening to music. Normally we have one book on the go at each hut, which can get quite confusing when you’re half way through reading five books at once. After scabbing extra pillows from around the hut to create a pillow fort, Mel spends SCA time carefully and thoughtfully selecting a surprise alarm song for the following morning. After a brief second wind of energy where we continue to talk smack from bed we all have a great night sleep until abruptly awoken at 6:45 the next morning by the surprise alarm of the day.

After an interval of grumbling, the designated beach visit schedule ensures (Mel, Penny, big gap, then Emily). Breakfast construction follows and usually involves multiple cereal types with as many fruit, nut and seed toppings that will fit in the bowl. The stinky clothes from yesterday are grudgingly reassumed, packs are repacked, snacks and a cracker lunch are assembled and the hut is tidied. At 8 am the radio crackles into life again for the morning schedule from VJM, the weather forecast is received, our intentions for the day are given, and then it is back outside we go for another amazing day working in the field on Macca.

Team #HUTLYF: Penny Pascoe (Wildlife Ranger), Emily Mowat and Mel Wells (Albatross Program Research Assistants)