An expeditioner's guide to sub-Antarctic diction

The meaning of Macca

During my time on Macca I have added some new and somewhat interesting words to my vocabulary. For me words are a significant part of any adventure and can subtly shape the way we see the world, helping to categorise our experiences.

I will start of course with the most obvious; Macca: slang for Macquarie Island, a small island in the Australian sub-Antarctic that is raw, wild, real and dripping in wildlife. Synonym: Utopia.

Numinous: the powerful feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired. Immersing yourself completely in the raw landscape of Macca is something that very few people get to experience. It is inspiring, thought provoking, some might even describe it as enlightening.

Needle ice crystals: beautiful bits of ice crystal that are exposed when you kick a bit of Macca mud over with your boot. Usually occurs while walking along the Overland track in frozen conditions. The ice crystals are all unique, beautiful and never cease to create wonder.

Snow drift swimming: used to explain the motion of travelling through snow that is so deep, fluffy and powdery that there is nothing solid to apply purchase. Snow drift swimming can be unavoidable at times and results in a very unproductive flaffing movement.

Tussock swimming: a very slow and mentally painful movement through deep tussock, precariously avoiding deep and stinky wallows. Can be likened to a game of twister, but requires a deep focus as leaving anything to chance could prove to have disastrous consequences.

Peat bog swimming: the motion of swimming through a peat bog, which as I learnt last week can be up to 6 metres deep on Macca! One minute you are casually walking along the coast and the next swimming in water up to the neck. Exiting the bog proves the most difficult part when what is supposed to be the earth is just a thin layer of green vegetation known as ‘featherbed’. It wobbles like a very fine film of jelly and threatens to collapse when you try to lever yourself up onto it.

Fahfangoolah: it’s a long winter and desperate expeditioners make err…. questionable movie choices. However, when you exit the cinema with a new word under your belt, suitable for use on almost any occasion, it makes the balderdash that’s passed off as entertainment almost worth it.

Eleutheromania: an intense and irresistible desire for freedom. The driver for some of us to be on a remote sub-Antarctic island, ironically complicated by the fact that we have in fact willingly confined ourselves to a reduction in life choices.

Glaze ice: ground vegetation glazed in a thick coating of ice on all sides and reaching upward. If you are lucky enough to score optimal conditions along the Overland track it is literally a garden of ice glimmering in the sunlight as far as the eye can see.

Trubalubbing: the propulsion of an elephant seal. This movement is slightly more graceful than galumphing, resulting in the rippling of blubber down the seal’s enormous body. It is able to be performed both forward and backward.

Apodictic-silence: an indisputable silence. It is rare to find total silence in a natural landscape, there is usually the rustle of trees, the drone of insects, the trilling of birds. Macca is a bit different; noisy in its own right with the booming crash of the wild Southern Ocean, the squawks of penguins, the howl of the wind, and growls of elephant seals. However, when Macca presents us with the rare still day the air on the plateau is motionless, it is possible and breathtaking to experience the rare phenomenon of true apodictic-silence.

Crepuscular: a beam of sunlight that radiates from the sun when it is low on the horizon and shines through openings in the cloud. This phenomenon can be regularly seen on Macca and is best viewed in a snowy white landscape with giant petrels calling overhead and frozen lakes at your feet. Likely to cause an intense feeling of awe and connection to this beautiful island and you may not want to leave.

Shelley Graham and your friendly neighbourhood crew at Macca