There is lots happening at Macquarie Island including a large northern giant petrel census.

Station update

We had some excitement on station over this past week, following the Chilean earthquake and the suggestion that a tsunami may be headed our way. We were contacted by many of our friends and family who were enquiring if we were planning to head to high ground! Macquarie Island does have a tsunami emergency shelter, which is located on Wireless Hill above the station.  We monitored advice from the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre operated by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and Geoscience Australia, together with the operations team back at head office in Kingston. No formal warning was issued, and station life continued as per normal. Coincidentally, later this week we have an emergency muster drill to our tsunami shelter planned.

The Macca weather has again been kind to us this week, with two days of light wind allowing us to get the boats in the water on another two occasions. The first trip successfully delivered spare batteries and replacement wind generator parts to both Brothers Point hut and to Green Gorge hut. We are reliant on boating operations to move items too heavy to be carried in on foot, to areas south of station. The second boating trip was with our two Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife rangers. We collected a cache of old vegetation plot enclosure materials, including wire and tools, from The Nuggets. Then we checked out the rock stacks around Brothers Point for suitable access routes for grey petrel nest sites for Anna who has work planned in the area this week. Viewing some of these steep slope sites from the water is the only way to be able to adequately ascertain if a safe route to the nest sites is possible. Once again the orca pod showed up on the trip to Brothers Point and Green Gorge, perhaps curious about what we were up to.

Mark is now out in the field, assisted by Louise and Duncan, troubleshooting and repairing the remote area power supply units (RAPS) at the huts using the equipment that we delivered via boat. A few of our huts have been losing battery power, and we are keen to get these repaired before the busy summer season of field work.

On Friday last week we held an all station search and rescue (SAR) exercise. The objective of this exercise was to draw upon the skills that we have been practising all season and to work together as a station to respond to a scenario which involved an injured expeditioner on North Head. Over five hours we worked as a team and used our wilderness first aid training, technical rope rescue skills, and exemplary teamwork to retrieve our ‘injured’ patient back to station. Many thanks to those in Operations and the Polar Medicine Unit back at Kingston head office who participated in the exercise with us. We wrapped up the afternoon with a charcoal BBQ hosted by the trades team in market square, complete with braziers and marshmallow toasting.

Oktoberfest (yes it is in September) was celebrated on Saturday with a day of feasting on bratwurst, pretzels, apple cake, and pork and potatoes prepared by cooking slushy Marion. We all enjoyed the Moto GP screening late in the afternoon, followed by a beer tasting event of last years Brewer’s beers. 

The spring wildlife explosion continues to build in intensity. The northern giant petrel (NGP) census is all wrapped up. The Antarctic terns are starting to display their brilliant breeding plumage, and bright red beaks. Gentoo penguins are now nesting and laying eggs around station. Some of the less well thought out nest sites are in areas that we use on a daily basis so we are having to modify our paths of travel and the way we do some things. The trades team together with the rangers have had a few challenges with Beachmasters, the big male elephant seals, breaching the protective fencing around some parts of station and rampaging around the place. Luckily the big guy who made his way into the fuel farm managed to avoid all of the critical pipework in his shenanigans. Most obvious with the increasing arrival of female seals, is the return of the skuas. They are already found in large numbers around newly born pups, scavenging the placenta and milk from the female seals.

The rangers have now headed out into the field again. Anna is working on the east coast checking grey petrel burrows and Andrea has gone south to check on the albatross chicks amongst other jobs.

Northern giant petrel census

Last week the rangers completed the census of northern giant petrel (NGP) nests. This is done every year on the featherbed in the north west part of the island. The NGPs nests are tucked up against rock stacks and tussock mounds, so searching involves combing through tussock, circling rock stacks of all shapes and sizes and looking in nooks and crannies. Luckily for the rangers, we had a group of keen volunteers ready to get their feet wet on the soggy featherbed and risk falling in smelly wallows.

When a nest was found, we marked its location using GPS and wrote a description to help researchers, who will revisit the nests in January, find them again. We were also checking to see if the birds were banded (chicks in this area are marked with an individually numbered metal band on one leg) and reading the band numbers. These banded birds provide information about chick and adult survival and about the age structure of the breeding population. The oldest banded birds we found during this census were two birds banded as chicks in 1980, which means they hatched in 1979, making them 36 (older than several of our expeditioners!).

It took us eight days to search the census area. In that time, we located just over 480 nests, the highest nest count since the 2010/11 census, and a positive sign for the recovery of the NGPs after the secondary mortality suffered during the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project. A special thanks to all our volunteers: Dan, Duncan, Jacque, Justin, Louise and Rich. Our legs might have fallen off without you!

Green Sponge Interview Series: Episode 8 — Dan Laban

Name: Dan Laban

From: Sydney

Previous seasons? Wintered at Casey Station 2013/14

Job: Senior Meteorological Observer

Hobbies: Socialising, guitar, reading, watching movies, kayaking.

What do you like about island life?

Being constantly surrounded by wildlife. Living here for a year provides the opportunity to see the full cycle, from birth to adulthood. Also, the scenery is spectacular. It’s great to be able to go for a hike for the weekend and see this amazingly unique landscapes.

What is the favourite part of your job here at Macca?

Knowing the work done here is used throughout the world in weather prediction and climate change research.

If you were exiled to Bishop and Clerk Islands to the south of Macca what four things would you take with you?

Sparklers, cocktail umbrellas, a VHS copy of E.T., bowling ball

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

Weezer’s Island in the Sun. Except for the sun part…

Favourite element of the Macca weather?

The snow. I never tire of it.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 68th ANARE season here at Macca?

A Tim Burton claymation character voiced by 1985 Bobcat Goldthwait.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Favourite hut is easily Green Gorge. Walking route would have to be the feather beds, especially from Bauer Bay to Aurora Cave.

If you were not a Bureau of Meteorology observer, what would be your dream job?

Astronaut pirate.

Favourite piece of AAD/Tas Parks kit?


It is the year 2115 on Macca. What is the coolest thing we have on station and why?

A pocket-sized replacement for all the survival gear we have to carry whenever we leave station.

Please name the royal penguin on our 68th ANARE logo.


What is your typical Slushy FM genre? A particular favourite?

I’ll generally begin with something heavy to try and kick start the day, then quickly transition to my usual ska collection to get through the bulk of the day. By afternoon as things start to lull I’ll switch over to a more folk/indy vibe then for dinner a bit of classical for background music.

Describe your Macca experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

Penguins, petrichor, seal burp, moist, chocolate.

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?


Photo gallery: The west coast

This week’s photo gallery features photos taken by Tas Parks Ranger Andrea Turbett on her recent trip to the wild and beautiful west coast of the island.

The last word