I came to Macca seven weeks ago to get a job done; to increase the number of plants in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) seed orchard of the endangered Macquarie cushion plant, Azorella macquariensis, from 9 to 54 plants.
This work involved setting up the pots and irrigation and making the mix for the new plants on Wireless Hill, then getting out into the field to collect plants from right across the island. That was the job and I am pleased to say 45 new plants are now sitting in their pots on Wireless Hill. It all sounds so simple.
I very quickly learnt that nothing is simple on Macca. First there is the weather and in the seven short weeks I have experienced snow, hail, rain, mist, a fair amount of sunshine and wind — lots and lots of wind — which can make working outside challenging. Then there is the landscape; starkly beautiful, but always ready to present challenges. Steep jump-ups and sometimes even steeper jump-downs to the coast, the windswept gravel landscapes of the plateau and the moonscapes of the mountain valleys and even the odd earthquake.
The other side of working on the island is that you are constantly surrounded by a wonderful assortment of wildlife that you have to appreciate are the real owners of the island. Elephant seals, from enormous bulls to extremely cute weaners, block your path at every turn. Others like gentoo penguins and southern giant petrels need to be given plenty of room and the odd inquisitive king penguin will walk right up to you when you are sitting on the beach.
Collecting and putting 45 plants into pots sounds pretty simple but the reality is I could not have done it without the help of all the other people on the base.
From collecting and autoclaving peat before I had even arrived, to carting loads of peat and pebbles up the steep track to Wireless Hill, to patiently dealing with the irrigation pump, I have many people to thank. Thanks to Chris, the ranger in charge, for his help in running the project and mapping and collecting plants. Thanks also to my field collecting buddies Jimmy, Aaron and Ingrid, who ventured up and down the island in all sorts of weather and especially to Pete and the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Programme team who collected over half the plants and reached areas I would never have had the time to get to.
Working on Macquarie Island is never straightforward and being able to adapt to the moment has been a great lesson for me. I have loved living and working here, it is a remarkable island teeming with wildlife that acts as a temporary workplace to a great group of people.
Natalie (Nat) Tapson