Penguins learn to swim, we learn about the remediation project and cormorant chicks are revealed.

Gentoo swimming lessons

Our station photographer George, who has the patience needed to catch the perfect moments, was out on West Beach the other day and caught a parent gentoo giving swimming lessons to its two chicks.

They weren’t too certain what it was all about in the beginning, but soon got into the swing of it all.

Remediation project at Macca — IHAT

The remediation project team continued its multi–year project work at Macca for the 16/17 season with a field team consisting of Robbie Kilpatrick, Jeremy Richardson, Tim Spedding and two colleagues from the University of Melbourne — Prof Geoff Stevens and PHD candidate Becca McQuillan.

Nostalgically known as IHAT at Macca (see side note), the remediation project’s main goal is to research and test cost effective technologies that clean up fuel in soil and water in the Antarctic and sub–Antarctic, while simultaneously implementing active remediation at selected sites at Macca, Casey and Davis.

In conjunction with full scale remediation, the team also research to what level of remediation is required, if any, to protect the unique environments that we work and operate within. As the overall environmental “risk” varies depending on numerous factors — the type of petroleum product (ATK, petrol, SAB, hydraulic fluid, lubricants etc.), how long it’s been “in the ground”, how quickly it moves in the soil and water, and where it’s moving to. The research is an essential component to any environmental management strategy.

At Macca our applied research primarily focuses on:

  • In ground remediation techniques (that purposely shy away from bulk excavation).
  • Containerised remediation systems (nicknamed “Quarterpile”) equipped with in–built aeration and (soon to be) passive watering systems.
  • Extensive assessment of toxicity of fuel (i.e. how bad (or good) is it?) on soil organisms, microorganism, plants, and the mobility of fuel in conditions specific to Macquarie Island.
  • Passive ways to remove fuel from water as it passes through in ground treatment systems (effectively in-ground water filters) the filter media, and ways to regenerate that material over time, rather than removing and returning it to Australia for landfill disposal.

Side note:

For those who have been to Macca, the term “IHAT” is seen as synonymous with the remediation project. What does “IHAT” stand for? IHAT is a legacy acronym for a group within the Human Impacts program from circa 2006 and stands for “Impacts of Humans Activities in Antarctica — Terrestrial”.

IHAT should not be confused with the more glamorous “IHAM — Impacts of Humans Activities in Antarctica — Marine”, better known for their under ice diving and media savvy underwater ROV videographers.

For those with an interest in acronyms (if you’re not, how did you get past the selection panel?), the remediation project has variously been part of (in chronological order):

  • HI — Human Impacts
  • IHAT — Impacts of Humans Activities in Antarctica — Terrestrial.
  • HIRP — Human Impacts Research Program
  • EPIC — Environmental Protection and Change
  • TNE — Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems
  • ACAM — Antarctic Conservation and Management (currently)

In short, the IHAT name, despite being almost a decade past its use-by-date, has stuck around kicking and fighting at Macca (and within that old stalwart, the ECON system), in a manner similar to the station itself…

Tim Spedding

Cormorant chicks

A common sight over the last couple of months has been cormorants flying over the isthmus back to their rock stacks with nesting materials in their mouths. 

All of this nest building is part of their egg–laying and chick rearing cycle: George was at Cormorant Point recently and lucky enough to get some photos of cormorant chicks.


Whilst there is plenty of birdlife that thrives here and calls the place home, occasionally other species turn up unexpectedly, as with our sooty terns earlier this year (Icy News June 17).

Digging in the station logs we find two instances of homing pigeons ending up majorly off course…

Station Log 31/10/89

A homing pigeon from Tassie flew into the store this morning. Its owners were contacted and we learnt it had been released on Sunday in Victoria… a long way for a small bird to fly in two days! It appreciated the grain and water we fed it and is now located in a cage outside the mess.

From a “A Fragmentary History”, compiled by Jeremy Smith:

This pigeon was “quite tame and lived in the main store, where it was fed. Occasionally it would take a flight outside where it was pursued by skuas, although it easily outpaced them. When the expedition’s year came to an end a few weeks later there was a strong feeling that the bird should be repatriated. The bird was caught and caged, smuggled aboard the relieving ship, fed there in captivity for three days and then released as the ship was moving up the Derwent estuary.”

Station Log 20/8/97

Omitted to mention that a racing pigeon arrived at the station on Monday. It was banded and was captured by Mario on Monday and is now sitting in a cage on top of the piano. The band has a Hobart phone number which was called. The owner rang back this evening and spoke to Ken. He would like the bird put on the ship and send back to Hobart, It seems in good condition.

This one’s arrival made the news back home:

From a “A Fragmentary History”, compiled by Jeremy Smith:

Sydney Morning Herald, p7 — 23/9/97 — Andrew Darby

Off–course pigeon flies halfway to the Antarctic

A racing pigeon has survive an unplanned, freezing, 1500 kilometre flight across the Southern Ocean, to be recovered on the only land between Tasmania and Antarctica, Macquarie Island.

“I think I“ll call her Abelina Tasman, after the explorer, you know?”, said its owner, Mr Ken Gore. “She’s done almost as many miles as he did.”

The hen from Mr Gore’s loft on the Tasman Peninsula was released on August 18 for a race from Devonport on Tasmania’s north–west coast. With a strong north–westerly behind the flock, Mr Gore’s other birds made the 250 kilometres to Taranna in 2.5 hours. But Abelina’s pied head and blue barred wings were nowhere to be seen.

“I thought she’s been taken by the peregrine falcons or something,” he said. “She must have just lost her bearings somehow or other and just flown on.” And on. Abelina was spotted by meteorological observer at Macquarie Island, when he looked out of his hut on August 20.

After also surviving predatory local skuas and the occasional feral cat, a thin and bedraggled Abelina was caught and put in a cage.

Abelina made the trip back to Hobart on the resupply ship Aurora Australis.

Mr Gore said Abelina proved to be a capable bird before, having returned from as far afield as King Island and Wonthaggi in Victoria but he did not intend to push his luck. Now she would get a rest.

“She deserves what they always want. They want to settle down and have a couple of eggs.”