It has been a week of change for us here on Macquarie Island, and an emotional one at that. We have farewelled a dear friend and welcomed 11 new ones.
The station was all geared up to welcome L’Astrolabe with our incoming summer expeditioners and cargo aboard. Plans changed with a decision to divert the Aurora Australis (AA) to collect an ill expeditioner on Macquarie Island who required medical treatment back in Australia. So on Sunday morning instead of a red, white and blue French ship sitting in the harbour, the big orange Aurora Australis was steaming up and down our coast.
The anchor dropped at 0500 and the helicopters were unlashed, rolling onto the helideck to blade up. A swift helicopter operation moved the incoming Macca summering expeditioners ashore, and flew off our unwell expeditioner to return to Hobart. The entire operation was completed by 0645 and the AA was headed back to Hobart.
The French resupply ship L’Astrolabe continued to head our way with all of our summer cargo still aboard. She was originally expected on Sunday, and then Monday evening, but heavy seas slowed her progress. At station we planned, watched the weather forecasts, re-planned and watched the weather some more, devising an operation to complete the cargo off-load in some spirited Southern Ocean weather.
Thinking outside the box, an unload plan featuring our amphibious LARC vehicles was devised, and we all awaited the arrival of the ship around midnight Monday with anticipation. We awoke on Tuesday morning to a typical Macca day which saw the Australian and French flags on the isthmus fluttering proudly. With a sigh of relief, we determined that we had been afforded a weather window to enable us the opportunity to put our plan into place.
L’Astrolabe was seamlessly unloaded in under two hours, supervised and skippered by two of our AAD watercraft operators, Robbie and Psycho, who opportunistically are here on Macca at the moment. Those of us who have only witnessed the AA arrive here at Macca, were surprised by how close the ship comes to shore! The dulcet tones of some lovely French accents of the L’Astrolabe crew over the airwaves were appreciated by many on station throughout the morning. Everyone pulled together to lend a hand — from wildlife spotting, water craft crewing, cargo handling, preparing refreshments and driving machinery — in a wonderful display of teamwork.
Once unloaded, the ship promptly left our shores steaming toward the French Antarctic base Dumont d'Urville, only to turn around and seek some shelter for the evening to avoid some big Southern Ocean seas.
The green store is now bursting with boxes of fresh food, ample mail, and project equipment. The observation of Christmas come early was expressed by more than a few people. Winter expeditioners rejoiced at the arrival of various bits and pieces to replace gear that had failed throughout the winter. Naturally, mail from loved ones and fans was also excitedly received.
We celebrated the completion of our resupply and the start of our summer season with a lamb spit roast in the green store.
Station is abuzz with excited new faces, whose enthralment with close proximity to so much wildlife around station is positively contagious.
With all of our expeditioners and cargo now ashore we look forward to settling in and getting summer season activities under way.
All on Macquarie Island send our best to our colleague now safely back in Hobart with wishes for a speedy recovery.