Last Thursday, the Aurora Australis arrived at Macquarie Island, bringing seven new expeditioners to Macca for the summer: Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife (TasPWS) Ranger in Charge Chris, Wildlife Rangers Mel and Drew, Field Training Officer Rich, Stores Officer Dom, Plant Operator Tim, and myself, Ivor, as summer Station Leader. All of us (bar Tim) are returning after previously completing one or more stints on this incredible island, and count ourselves as very lucky indeed to be doing so.
Our trip down on the Aurora Australis provided an unexpected and very interesting diversion to the French Antarctic research station Dumont d'Urville. For some of us, this was a first visit to the Antarctic continent. This arose as a result of the French icebreaker l'Astrolabe encountering mechanical issues unexpectedly, requiring dry docking in Fremantle to repair, when it was almost due to depart for their annual resupply and station crew changeover voyage to their station.
As the Aurora Australis was close to embarking on the return trip to Macca, we were able to help the French program out of a predicament by including a return trip to Dumont d'Urville into the Macquarie Island voyage. The initial plan was to drop us off at Macca on the way south to Antarctica, but as the weather at Macca on the necessary dates was unsuitable for safe ship to shore operations by inflatable rubber boats (IRBs), the plan was amended en route to go to the French station first and carry out the personnel changeover and very minor resupply at Macca on the way home.
So we really had the scenic tour! After six days at sea, the Aurora Australis spent a day and a half penetrating pack ice at sea before lodging into the “fast ice” (secure sea ice at the shore) about a kilometre off shore from the French station, and then unloading the incoming station supplies onto the ice for movement across the sea ice into station. The scenery was fantastic and cameras worked overtime. We didn’t get ashore into station but had great opportunities to get off the ship onto the fast ice to indulge in photographic heaven.
After two and a half days at Dumont d'Urville, we departed for Macca for another four days of sea travel. On arrival at Macca, transfer to shore was by Zodiac IRBs. We had four hours for station role “change overs,” before the four outgoing expeditioners (Ranger in Charge Andrea, Ranger Stella, Field Training Officer Billy, and winter Station Leader Kat) boarded the IRBs to return to the ship and depart for home.
Since then, we have been settling down to our new home and work roles, and life and work on station has settled back to normal. We have already got Rangers Drew and Mel, together with Field Training Officer Rich, off station and walking down island to commence TasPAWS wildlife monitoring activities, and Drew and I completed refresher field training.
For those returning after several years away from Macca, the extent of recovery of the vegetation now five years after completion of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program is astounding….more to come!
Ivor Harris, Station Leader