A wet, wild and windy week here on Macquarie Island.

Station update

Here at Macca, we have experienced the full gamut of Macquarie Island winds in the past seven days.

The week started with extremely light winds at around six knots, which finally gave us a window to undertake maintenance on our inflatable rubber boat (IRB) fleet. A busy roster of volunteers put into action all of the skills that we learned in back in Australia during training, and we stripped, cleaned and reassembled the boats so that they are now ready and awaiting some brilliant boating weather.

Then, the wind changed.

The past four days have seen maximum winds over 50 knots, with today’s maximum exceeding 70 knots. The winds have been accompanied by large seas ranging from four to eight metres, and the outcome has been spectacular. The southern ocean was whipped into a frenzy, and looked like a cauldron of boiling froth. Over a few days we have had waves washing over the isthmus, dumping rocks, kelp, and elephant seals all over the road. Our buildings on the west side have been blasted with breaking wave spray, thrown by the wind high into the air and across station, and layers of salt are starting to appear on the desks of those with offices with west facing windows. Presently the LARCS are still holding down the helipads, although it may all need to be dug out from under the sand if these seas continue.

Winds lashing station on Sunday night blew off the boat shed doors — typical, we had just cleaned the boats — and the tall radio mast of the IPS project collapsed into a twisted pile in the tussock.

The seas pounding the coast have also caused concern for heritage sites on West Beach, where a digester site is located. Ranger Andrea has had a close eye on this over the past few days, but little can be done whilst the big seas continue.

With the weather making outside activities a little challenging, expeditioners seized the opportunity to have a get together, hosting a Sunday afternoon tea party soiree for Duncan’s birthday. We were treated to chocolate cake prepared by the rangers — Chef Justin was having 'R&R' at Brothers Point – with cake by Anna, ganache by Andrea, accompanied by a lovely selection of tea, followed by card games.

We are now awaiting the weather to abate so that we may embark upon this month’s marine debris surveys.

Messing around with boats

Inflatable rubber boats (IRBs) are part of our equipment at Macca and are used for ferrying people and equipment up and down the coast during the season, and from the boat during resupply. After resupply is complete one job is to clean the boats of all the little rocks and sand and to prepare them for use when needed. If left there the rocks rub and eventually cause punctures that may render the boat unusable. Cleaning necessitates the removal of the motor and floor boards before lifting the boat up and washing out not only the top but the inner part of the speed tubes underneath.

With volunteers assigned a boat, and slushy radio on, the cleaning started. After a few hiccups and adjustments with the first boat all sailed smoothly, with very few people getting saturated during the hose down. Floor boards were reinserted (after playing around with orientation) and the boats put back in the shed.

All of the safety gear was checked and repacked allowing the expeditioners to familiarise themselves with what it looked like. With the boats ready to go all we need now is a reason, and some good weather.

The Hasselborough Bay digester

After some stormy weather over the weekend, Andrea and Jacque went to check on the digester on the southern end of West Beach.

The iron digester and nearby boiler were installed at Macquarie Island in 1917. They were both part of the smallest and last of the sites set up to produce oil by the notorious sealer Joseph Hatch. It was used to boil down blubber from west coast seals until all sealing operations at Macquarie Island ceased in 1919. It is one of many historic seal processing sites that are scattered around the island.

Rangers have been keeping an eye on the digester since it was toppled and moved 50m from its original location in a huge storm in 2003. A heavy rainfall event in January 2013 resulted in lots of mud sliding down the hill and surrounding the digester. Wave action continues to alter the beach around the digester and it is often surrounded by large groups of elephant seals.

The digester represents one of the many management challenges at remote Macquarie Island. Subantarctic conditions and wildlife continually impact historic sites. The cold, wet climate and the salt-laden winds deteriorate ironwork and most sites can only be accessed by walking. Rangers are considering ways to move the heavy and corroded digester up into the tussock area where it will be less exposed to the ocean.

The Green Sponge interview series: Edition 1 Duncan Bullock

Name: Duncan Bullock

From: Canberra ACT

Previous season? Greenhorn

Job: Met Tech, brewmaster and boat officer.

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

Getting to watch the weather for work and how it changes. How it changes quickly, the range of it in the day, just kind of awe inspiring.

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

Sat phone, a good book as I don’t know how long I would be there and I might need to read it multiple times, an IRB so that I can get back to Hurd Point hut, fuel for the IRB.

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

I can’t think of a song that could sum up all my experiences so far on the island.

Favourite element of the Macca weather?


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

Jason Statham.

If you were not a met tech or electrical engineer what would be your dream job?

Winemaker and/or brew master. It is always something I thought would be fun. Whether [or not] I’d be good at it, I have no idea.

Favourite piece of AAD kit?

Tough one, but going with the Carhartt jacket.

It is [the year] 2115 on Macca. What is the coolest thing we have on station?

Jet packs, for getting all over the island quick time so that you spend more time seeing what’s there. Not a teleporter as people would get here too easily.

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

Bob (homage to Blackadder).

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

Rock. No favourites.

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

Different greens, rotting kelp, wind, being blown over, [and] salty!

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?


Thanks Duncan and Happy Birthday!

The last word…