Tuesday morning last week the arriving Macca crew were aboard the 110m icebreaker the Aiviq (Inuit for Walrus). After four days of sailing from Hobart we were still heading south, peering through the mist waiting for Macca to come into view.
On the other side of the mist, the island winter crew were busy preparing for our influx, saying goodbye to those leaving, creating space and food for our arrival and no doubt wondering how island life may change with the influx of extra numbers and fresh faces.
Tuesday afternoon we were there, in the bay, waiting… As is usual down here, mother nature played her card and gave the islanders a final night of serenity as the wind stubbornly refused to drop sufficiently to allow the LARC (half boat/half truck) to be lowered over the side of Aiviq, or the IRBs (Inflatable rubber boats) of the station to be deployed off shore.
Wednesday morning came with the first shift of nasal probing for the final of our scheduled PCR tests to be undertaken and processed by Dr Meg (voyage Dr) and Dr Rhys (new MI Dr). Our voyage leaders Chris and Jacob were overjoyed by our collective negativity (test results) and the wind drop finally came, allowing our skilled and very experienced boat crews to take us ashore in the afternoon.
What an arrival! The rope ladder descent, the swell sucking the boats out from underfoot and launching upwards as we timed our dismount and the taste of salt spray as swell crashed into the zodiac, throwing water upwards. The beach, when we reached it, was a mass of teaming wildlife, elephant seal bulls roared, rolled and slept as mums suckled pups, penguins shuffled and the seabirds, with the prehistoric looking giant petrels a personal favourite, soared overhead. I could almost feel my smile reaching right to my ears as the sun burst through cloud for that rare sunny day Macca experience.
A few busy days of briefings, introductions and inductions followed with our surgical masks finally coming off by Thursday night as Station Leader Pete and Dr Rhys, grateful of the outcome of our thorough polar medical COVID protocols, could finally confirm that our insertion into the station appeared to be pestilent free.
By the weekend the transition into summer life was well underway. Old hands were teamed with the new as we began to find our feet and get to know our way around. This happened through all aspects of life down here; work teams coming together, for Saturday duties (the collective tasks we undertake each week to help maintain, clean and tidy our station) into the ways we help support ongoing wildlife monitoring as teams performed the current isthmus area elephant seal count. By Saturday night the mess was humming as our island family came together for another fantastic meal by our amazing chef Annette, getting to know new faces, throwing darts and making plans.
Work teams have come together and spare moments are being filled with climbs up Wireless Hill, and on to North Head, beach runs and station gym sessions for the active moments as well as movie sessions in the refurbished cinema. There will be more to come!!