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.