A history lesson from Macca

The History of Macquarie Island's Furphy Tanks

Many expeditioners that have travelled to Macquarie Island over the generations are in one way or another familiar with a couple of Furphy tank ends lying around the island. Most recent visitors to the island would note seeing the brightly painted tank end hanging in the station mess. The story of its rescue from the tip on West Beach and subsequent ‘restoration’ for hanging in the Sealers Rest by a former expeditioner is recalled on the small plaque mounted alongside it. This artefact has moved around various buildings on station gathering dust until it was mounted for display in 2015. For those expeditioners that have been fortuitous enough to have traveled in the field, to Green Gorge and beyond, recollections of seeing two Furphy tanks ends lying around outside the ‘Shang’ at Green Gorge Hut may also surface from the dim dusty past. Recognition of the potential heritage value of the cast iron tank ends was noted in 2014 and the items were repatriated to the station, cleaned of rust and preserved with Fisholene – currently stored out of the weather.

Most recently however, a trawl through the Australian Antarctic Division's photographic archives, has helped to reveal a little more of the history of the items.

Images of stores including two Furphy tanks coming ashore with the First ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) dated 03 March 1948. Stores are being landed at Garden Cove.

An additional image of the early days of Green Gorge Hut note the Furphy tank in use with the original hut (now serving as the Shangri-la) in 1967. The current thinking is that once the tank became unserviceable, it was left, and the cast iron ends with their distinctive trademark Furphy designs become curious at the site. This remained until the items were rescued in 2014 and carried by IRB (inflatable rubber boats) back to the station.

Most interesting perhaps was the chance stumbling across the location of the second tanks location. Close examination of an early photograph chanced upon the use of this tank, mounted on the tussock covered mound in the centre of the station complex. A glimpse of the distinctive cast end and accompanying filler neck can just been seen tucked away on the northern side of the tussock covered mound. In this location it would have served as a valuable day tank and provided gravity fed water to the nearby kitchen and mess.

Now, if only the tank end could talk – there would be some amazing yarns to be told………………

Chris Howard - Ranger In Charge