The new expeditioners at Macca

The 73rd ANARE team arrive at Macca

Well, what a couple of weeks for the new incoming winter team for Macca. After months of training in specialised technical skills, search and rescue techniques, science project support, firefighting and how to run a post office, we said farewell to our family and friends on the 10th of March to spend a few days on the RSV Aurora Australis as we sailed down to Macquarie Island.

There were plenty of ohhs and ahhs as the Green Sponge appeared on the horizon and the welcoming party of gentoos, king penguins and a wide variety of birdlife flew or swam out to have a look at the Aurora and the Island’s new inhabitants. There were also a few worried looks on some of the new team’s faces as the realisation of how big the hills are on either side of the station and maybe some regret on the lack of hill climbs and treks attempted in the lead up months before arriving on station.

The first few days on the island provided some cracking weather which allowed the team to jump straight into resupply tasks and handovers from the outgoing team. Helicopters, LARCs (lighter amphibious resupply cargo vehicle), IRBs (inflatable rubber boat), and plenty of plant equipment filled the island with activity as a year’s worth of food, toilet paper, replacement parts and fuel were transferred into the station. Round trip projects from Geoscience Australia, ARPANSA (Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency), CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), the Macquarie Island Modernisation project team and various other maintenance tasks got stuck in to help keep the station running at 100 percent.

After a very busy week the station was handed over from Ivor and the crew of the 72nd ANARE to some very enthusiastic penguins and the 73rd ANARE. There were a few sighs of relief as the outgoing team could finally put their feet up knowing that the station and their home has been left in some very capable hands.

As per tradition, the new team set off some flares from the Ham Shack to farewell the Aurora as she departed Macca for the very last time. The island thought it would be fitting to throw up an Aurora and give the old girl a fitting farewell for her last journey home!

First impressions from new expeditioners to Macca

The 73rd ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) crew is quite experienced this year with a large number of returnees coming down for their 2nd,3rd,4th, or even 5th season with the Australian Antarctic Program. Most of these expeditioners will admit that one of the best things about coming down is seeing some fresh faces as they get their eyes on Antarctica or Macca for the first time. This year we have 5 newbies on the team who are spending their first season away down south. Sara, our Wildlife Ranger, Jamie, our overly enthusiastic Carpenter, Alana, our Senior Weather Observer, Alex, our Field Training Officer and Finn, our Station Leader. Here are some of their first thoughts about Macca:

What motivated you to apply for the Australian Antarctic Program?

Sara — since I found out about long-term monitoring programs on remote islands, I’ve been fascinated by this kind of place. I worked with penguins at University and got side-tracked by kākāpō for a few years, but have always wanted to burrow my way back into seabird work.

Jamie — I applied for the job to get the chance to see amazing wildlife and work with great people.

Alana — It was always on the bucket list, especially as a weather nut. I’ve met a lot of past expeditioners along the way and they painted such an awesome picture of the place, it was hard not to apply.

Alex — I’ve always held a fascination with Antarctica, and as a landscape of wild extremes, incredible wildlife and immense snow and ice landscapes. To be a member of one of the incredible communities down south is just an added bonus!

Finn — For the nature and the community leadership challenge, where we bring together strangers and form a community on a remote island for a year; I’m hoping it’s good different at Macca.

What are you most looking forward to doing over the season?

Sara — Getting to know the island in all kinds of weather, and becoming familiar with the life cycles of the many amazing species that live here.

Jamie — Experiencing life with fellow expeditioners and enjoying the island.

Alana — Penguins! And making awesome — and likely funny — memories with the other expeditioners/new ‘family’.

Alex — Getting out and experiencing the incredible island ecosystem with my fellow expeditioners.

Finn — Penguins, people and I’m lucky enough to have had a fly over the island in a helicopter, so experiencing the island on foot.

First thoughts of Macca when you saw it from the Aurora?

Sara — pretty bleak to be honest! I’m used to trees. However, after spending some time in the field, I’m very quickly developing an enthusiasm for the various shades of green generated by many, many species of moss.

Jamie — Amazed and so excited! It’s a dream come true.

Alana — Excitement! Finally to be here after seeing lots of photos was really surreal. It still is.

Alex — I think the most poignant memory was the impressive welcoming committee of a dozen king penguins porpoising towards us through the water.

Finn — Last year I came on a familiarisation trip to Macca, I thought, wow, this tiny isthmus will be our home and then wow king penguins are so beautiful.

Do you have a favourite animal on the island yet?

Sara — The elephant seals are quite endearing, I’ve already started talking to them.

Jamie — Rockhopper penguins are so cute, love the way they sit on the rocks. 

Alana — Definitely king penguins. The colours are amazing! Gentoo penguins are also good for a giggle on the way to work at the office.

Alex — I think the light mantled albatross would have to be up there. The way they ride air currents along the plateau is simply mesmerising. To hear the calls of a couple hundred thousand king penguins was also pretty special.

Finn — Sub-Antarctic fur Seals playing in the shallows and laying on the tussocks or the rocks.