Macquarie Island is currently in the middle of our annual station resupply and station crew changeover. As Macca has no harbour or unloading jetty of any sort, the resupply involves transfer of cargo in boxes and cages from ship to shore using helicopter slung loads or LARCs. A LARC (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo) is a Vietnam-war era amphibious truck, developed from the World War 2 DUKW’s (“Ducks”). They are a very capable vehicle in this role, and have been the mainstay of Macca resupply activities for quite a few decades, in both Army and Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) service at different times. Obviously this process is very weather and sea state dependant, and Macca resupplies can become problematic if the weather gods do not favour us.
Helicopters are quicker than LARCs, but can be limited by weather and ship movement, so it is fantastic to have both capabilities available and the job has been progressing rapidly this year with a fortunate spell of good weather, using both modes. Helicopters are also required to service our six “down island” huts for resupply, retrieval of hut rubbish, and also retrieval of collected caches of marine debris.
On arrival, all incoming loads are subject to a biosecurity inspection in order to ensure protection of our important pest rodent free status on the island. This includes running the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service’s rodent detector dog, Nui, over the opened containers.
Our resupply voyage, designated V4, is the last station resupply voyage of the AAD’s summer calendar and the last voyage of the long serving Antarctic research and resupply vessel Aurora Australis, the famous “Orange Roughy”. So it will no doubt be a nostalgic trip home for our returning Macca expeditioners, most of whom have travelled backwards and forwards to and from Antarctica and Macquarie Island on the Aurora Australis multiple times.
By the end of the week, our resupply should be completed, including the station refuelling and crew changeovers. The 2019 station crew of the 72nd Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) will happily hand over custodianship of the station and island to the incoming 2020 crew of the 73rd ANARE and head home to loved ones.