How we keep everyone safe on Macca

Introducing the Macca 2023 winter Field Training Officer Matt Roberts

Hello everyone welcome to Macca this week and let me introduce myself.

I’m Matt your friendly FTO or Field Training Officer. My job is to make sure everyone is safe in the field as they go about their work and recreation on our wonderful sub-sub-sub tropical island home.

This involves making sure the field equipment is in good condition and available for the crew and to make sure they have access to it as well as knowing how to use it.

The other important role of the FTO is to make sure the other expeditioners are supplied with plenty of dad jokes (the funniest type) and luckily I have a few to share. For those of you that haven’t met me it might be hard to believe I am not a comedian when back on the mainland. For those of you stuck on the island with me, you have probably figured out why I am here and not at the Melbourne comedy festival. Lucky for the expeditioners they have 6 more months to warm to my humour in the cold winter period ahead. Or perhaps luckier for the crew, winds on Macca are often above 30 knots (54kmh) so it’s hard to hear each other.

One of the fun parts of my role is field training which involves wandering around the island with a 12 kg pack on your back enjoying the views (anywhere from a few metres in the mist to km’s in the sun), wind (see above) and the liquid sunshine drizzling down. We wander from hut to hut (distances vary according to the navigation skills of the crew) whilst listening to me waffle on about navigation, field craft, bog hopping, party management and did I mention trip planning? The chat also includes solving the problems of the world, if only the sat phones had the UN number we would have world peace by now.

I also help our Parkies 'Hang-Ten Helen' and 'Paddler Paul' with their work and educating our crew about wildlife and separation distances.

But its not all fun being a Field Training Officer as every now and then you have to be the tough cop on the beat and bring rogue expeditioners into line when they get a little wild. Luckily I have a few years of experience on the beat.

For regular readers of this site you will have heard of the rogue Macquarie Island Board riders club a few weeks ago. What their president Lord Nelson didn’t mention was the dangers of mind surfing and the risk to the people who participate, but luckily I am looking out for them! Mind surfing is a dangerous sport as there are unseen rips and rogue waves that have dragged the likes of Pete “Pig Dog” Petersen and Dingo Dan down some dark channels and almost out of reach or our fearless SAR team and their rescue LARC.

My work is never ending just days ago I caught club president Hang ten Helen eyeing the swell at Hurd Point whilst Paddler Paul was dusting off his surf kayak for a mind session. Just because you’re at the southernmost point of the island doesn’t mean I am not looking out for your safety! Recently I have had to shut down the Macca BOM balloon shooting club, the tractor pull team, the comms tower climbing crew. I even had to stop our Chef Jungle Jords using the ANARE sat dish to microwave food from the catch and kill fridge!

Safety in the field never sleeps, it’s for your own safety folks.

- Matt Roberts

2023 winter Field Training Officer (76th ANARE)