This week at Macquarie Island: 7 June 2019

The wild west gets a clean-up, and practising a skill we hope to never use.

Cleaning up the Wild West

With low winds and clear skies forecast, it was a perfect opportunity for the Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers (Andrea and Stella) and two legendary volunteers Doug (Station Communications Technical Officer) and Tim (Senior MET observer) to head down the wild west coast to collect marine debris washed up by the westerly winds and strong currents.

This enthusiastic bunch were based at Bauer Bay Hut and worked south along the rugged coastline to Cormorant Point. As the giant petrel flies, this wasn’t a very long distance but the four of us managed to fill our backpacks and have two rubbish bags each to carry back to the hut.

Although Macca is a tiny sliver of rock in the middle of the vast Southern Ocean, the island lies directly in the path of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). With no large land mass to contain its flow, junk collected by the ACC can float around in circles for a long time before it becomes washed up on remote islands like Macca.

The rubbish we found was accumulated on sandy beaches, tangled in kelp piled up on the rocky shore, wedged in rock stacks and even up in the tussock plains far away from the high tide mark. Plastic bottles were the most common junk collected but we also found fishing buoys, plastic rope, polystyrene, plastic storage drums and lots of tiny miro-plastic fragments.

The star find of the day was a soccer ball, still inflated which we imaginatively named Wilson. Not only was this a great help to the Macca Rangers, it was a fun few days out in the field seeing some of the more remote areas of the island.

Stella (TasPWS Ranger)

two people pull a large blue plastic drum out of a swamp of brown kelp
Stella and Doug pull a plastic drum out of a swamp of rotting kelp
(Photo: Andrea Turbett)
a stack of colourful plastic debris is piled up on the grass including plastic bottles and buoys
Plastic bottles were found way up amongst the tussock, pushed there by strong winds and big swells
(Photo: Stella Thomas)
A man wearing a yellow jacket and beanie sits on a large pink buoy found washed up on the beach
Tim has a well earned rest on an escapee fishing buoy
(Photo: Stella Thomas)
three people stand waist height in tussock grass carrying plastic bags
The tussock regeneration since rabbit eradication has created lots of hiding places for plastic bottles
(Photo: Stella Thomas)
a woman holds a rabbit jaw bone in the palm of her hand
Relic of the past — a rabbit jaw bone. Rabbits, rats and mice were successfully eradicated in 2014
(Photo: Stella Thomas)

This won’t hurt a bit

Here at Macca we do our best to stay safe and healthy, but as a small team living in a remote location we are all aware that one day we might be called on to assist our colleagues in a medical incident or rare accident.

Having a highly skilled doctor, a lay surgical assistance team and a well-equipped medical facility on standby is supremely reassuring.

However, if an incident occurred in the field, any one of us could be called upon to provide assistance under Dr Kate’s medical supervision. With some expired medication (and leftover pork hide from the kitchen!), this week a group of expeditioners were trained by Dr Kate on how to use syringe needles to inject medication. Didn’t hurt a bit.

Yet another useful skill acquired as part of our emergency response training program that we hope to never have to put into real use! 

Kat (Station Leader) 

four people wearing blue gloves are practising how to use needles for injections
Dr Kate demonstrates to Kerryn, Lionel and Mark
(Photo: Kat Panjari)
a doctor is demonstrating an injection technique on the arm of a man wearing an orange shirt
Shane this won’t hurt a bit!
(Photo: Kat Panjari)
Some expired medication, pork flesh and syringe needle are on a surgical mat
The injection training kit
(Photo: Kat Panjari)
Three people wearing blue gloves are practising injecting a needle into a piece of flesh
Billy, Pete and Doug practice jabbing
(Photo: Kat Panjari)