Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hey Look, there's a Boat!

Damn ship ruined a good shot of a penguin.

Ship, I mean ship. We get in trouble for calling it a boat. The AA is here, resupply is in full swing and we're getting close to done. Still a couple of weeks until home, but in the mean time there's a few days in Hobart for debrief and general milling about and annoying people.

I don't know what's happened over the past week or so since I last posted on this here blog, all I can really say is that I'm tired and it's about time I went home. The year has been amazing with ups, downs, sideways and inside outs, but I'll miss the people here and those who have already left. For those who I didn't keep in anywhere near enough contact with over the year, I'm sorry. If you read the rest of this blog then I think you'll see that I fully immersed myself in life down here and lost a little perspective of life in the real world.

Oh, yeah, now I remember. We had our final dinner last Tuesday, that was the big thing. A great night all round with fresh salads from hydroponics, a main of meat wrapped in more meat and I'm having trouble remembering dessert although I do remember the very sore head I had the next day. A fitting send off.

I may get one more post in before we ship, but if not, hope you've enjoyed the stories and photos and hopefully I'll see you somewhere in the world.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Almost There

With a few days until the ship arrives the station is buzzing with energy to get everything cleaned, tidy and ready to go. In reality, the work is getting done, but not necessarily with all that much enthusiasm as it has been a busy year and all are tired. We'll be having our big end of season dinner Tuesday night and I'm the lucky sod who gets to be dish pig for the day. I don't mind so much because the slushy gets to choose the music for the day and that means finding the strangest collection of music possible... or spending the day in the 1990s.

The brewing is completed, I'm not doing any more. If we run out of beer for resupply, it's the next crew's problem. I think that after brewing 5750 litres of beer I deserve a break.

Last Wednesday I had one last quick little jaunt to Green Gorge hut and spent the night there with Ben T, Julia and Tim. As I was preparing to leave, with 1 long neck and 1 six-pack already in my bag, I received a radio call from Julia requesting her last 4L cask of wine. So, as I started the walk the sky burst, the rain came streaming down, the winds were howling and Glen said "you broke the weather, fix it before you go!" I think I should've listened to him as the appalling conditions stayed around until well into the early hours of the next morning. I arrived at the hut at around 3:15pm and was completely saturated, then Tim turned up a couple of hours later and was worse off than me. Luckily, Tim also brought a bottle of champagne and a great night was had by all after having only about 1L of the wine left.

The next morning was a fairly slow start with pancakes being served at about 10am and no-one leaving the hut until 11:15. Tim was heading down the east coast to Waterfall Bay Hut, Ben onto the escarpment for hunting, Julia returning to station via the main track and I went to Brothers Point on the east coast. Luckily the weather was much improved with slightly lower winds and sunny patches. At Brothers, I felt as though I'd had enough of the field and decided that heading back to station would be best. I took the main track and was caught up by Julia and by that time we were both feeling the effects of the previous night. The rest of the walk was very slow, but we kept each other going and had a well deserved feed and hot shower.

Most of my gear is packed so photo editing is a little difficult. Here's the crew on Christmas Day.
 On another note, a huge congratulations to my cousin Lisa and her new hubby Richie. I'll be glad to be home for a bit and to stop missing all these things (although I might be heading south again next year...)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Macca Art Comp

I know I've been updating this thing more than usual, but there was a long story to tell. This is the last post for a week or so while we finish off packing the cargo.

Over the past month and a bit, expeditioners have been slaving away making secret little projects. These projects were made for the Macquarie Island Art Competition where all pieces were anonymous so that voting couldn't be rigged.

The rules were simple: carve, draw, paint, photograph, perform, knit, record music or do something else and have the piece ready for the exhibition on March 31st. The only thing that we couldn't do was use materials that must remain on Macca such as stones, grasses, historical artefacts and other such things.

In the exhibition, each piece was simply given a number and we were asked to vote for our top three. 1st prize was a giant bottle opener made by the diesel mechanic (a coveted object), 2nd prize was a choice between a massage or a champagne breakfast and 3rd prize was having your room cleaned by a couple of the characters that have appeared over the year.

I'd like to say I won something, but really, I simply enjoyed making what I made. Unlike most other galleries, we were able to touch all of the works. Now tell me, can you guess which piece (or pieces) are mine?

Pretty photos of Macca

Look at all them people

Not sure that'd make such a good ice-axe ;)

Some pretty jewellery.

Multiple works here: A wooden vase, a frame in the shape of an albatross and wooden swirly sculptures

Wooden axe anyone? Another sculpture and more jewellery on the table to the left and right of the woman

A posy of cosies

Sketches galore!

A very pretty photo of seaweed

More drawings

There's those bracelets that were next to the carved woman in the photo above

Fly sooties, fly!

Watercolours galore

See the photo projected on the wall? That's a series of bums from all the animals of Macca

Nancye made herself into an exhibit with all this rope, brilliant!

The only clock we need

In case you're confused, the frame was in the competition
Same goes for this frame and there's more jewellery over on the right *ahem* left
There were two lamps made from washed up buoys, great idea.
Very pretty metalwork.

A few different pieces here: 1. Tassie Devil photos; 2. a doctored photo of Wally; 3. Someone's first ever painting (which was a favourite for all); 4. Four photos of the station looking down from North Head; and 5. a series of watercolours.

Das Boot! Yes, there's a surfboard on station. Sadly the tip has been broken off.

A closer look at more wooden jewellery and some one handed bottle openers above.

Hopefully something similar can be continued next year, perhaps simply an art show instead of a competition?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Last Big Trek, part 4

This awesome pink and orange beanie was knitted for me for my birthday

Hurd Point Hut, situated at the southern tip of the island and surrounded by the plateau edge, is a wonderful place for a rest day as there's plenty to see outside the big corner window and it's a lovely area to go exploring the lands around the hut. I spent the morning reading and relaxing before having a little sleep and then taking the camera for a walk. As the weather was fairly ordinary, Adrian the head ranger, decided to stay in the hut until it cleared. And how lucky we were that the winds dropped, the clouds slowly dissipated and we had a gorgeous afternoon for weather and I had a great time with the wildlife. That evening Dana, Adrian and myself were joined in the hut by ranger Meg and I made pizzas for dinner. With the calm and clear skies we would've had a perfect night for aurora (if there were any), but instead we were treated to a spectacular display of stars helped by the distinct lack of moonlight.

Male ele seals being very lazy
Jostling for beach position

Roaring seal warning the others to stay off his sand

Royal penguins returned for their moult

Dana taking the dog for a walk.

Next day was my final day in the field as I had work the day after, so with an early rise and a couple of trips to the beach, I quickly packed up, got my gear ready and was off at the slightly civilised time of about 7:45am. The winds were calm enough and sun warm enough that I didn't need the Gortex jacket nor fleece top when walking up from the hut. At the top I met up with Claudia and Dana for a quick chat and continued on my merry way, stopping occasionally to take in the views and say goodbye to the southern half of the island. 4hrs and about 17km later and I was back at Green Gorge hut for a tea and a short break. While there Dr Eve and weather observer Janelle arrived with hunter Tony and I had a great little catch up with them. One this trip I carried seeds collected from the azorella plant by ranger Meg and mail that Nancye had left for me to deliver further north. The seeds are being added to a seed storage/vault thing as well as being studied to learn more about the plant.

Next up was the rest of the walk back to station and I was that warm that I decided to ditch the Gortex layer and walk with just my thermals, shorts and fleece top - what a shame the drizzle started to fall later on... hah! I loved it. I had mud splashing up my legs, I was comfortable and generally having a good time. The only time that I was feeling any sort of cold and needed to give myself motivation was near the end of the walk where there is a large open rocky area. The wind is always stronger through here and this time the visibility was about 20 metres, so I started singing nonsense songs to get me to the end. When I finally arrived on station (again around 4hrs and 16km later) I had walked the approximate 34km length of the island in a day. Something that a number of people have done this year and something I felt like doing. Interestingly enough, while walking towards Hurd Point hut a few days previously, I found that I no longer wanted to do the walk - I already knew that I could, but had to to get back for work. That evening I was in bed by about 7:30pm, but woke again at midnight and only slept lightly afterwards.

I felt completely (mentally) refreshed and am still buzzing from the walk. Hopefully I get the opportunity to do one more quick jolly before the boat arrives. Wheeeee!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Last Big Trek, part 3

The walk over to Waterfall Bay Hut is fairly short, but on this particular day it definitely wasn't uneventful. The winds were up, the drizzle was soaking through and I had a mid morning date with hunter Nancye. Well, not really. I was being a bit of a pack horse and taking meat into the field for the hunters who had been off station for two weeks. I met up with Nancye at Pyramid Peak for some tea and a nice chat, then wandered the rest of the way to the hut. Later in the day wildlife ranger Bree and hunter Ben H arrived to a warm hut and some freshly made bread. I made gnocchi for dinner, something that Ben hadn't had before.

Bree and Ben H resting after a wet and windy day

Next day I bade farewell to Bree and Ben as they went off for their respective jobs and trotted of towards Hurd Point. First stop was the lookout over the top of Lusitania Bay and the weather was about as good as could be asked for: a little clearing drizzle, low winds and mostly useful light. After that was a little pit stop at Windy Ridge before heading down the scree slope to Hurd Pt where I was joined by Dana and Adrian.

Look at all those penguins!

The top of the Lusitania Bay catchment area

The boilers that once rendered those penguins down to oil
As you can see, I was having a bit of fun with black and white photos.

Imagine, if you will, you have a 15kg thing that you must always carry no matter where you go (the hunters are generally carrying around 30kg). Now cover yourself in a thin, but warm fabric from neck to ankle and all the way to the wrist. Put on a pair of lining socks (if you're that way inclined), thicker socks, a pair of shorts and some sort of thin fleece top. Wrap yourself in plastic wrap to keep the wind and rain out, pull on your boots, then pick up your thing and start walking. There's no to worry about traffic, or intersections or anything like that, you are simply walking and only stopping if you need a rest or have some sort of work to do. While walking the wind is blowing strongly enough to help prop you up and you most likely can only see for around 60m. Do this for as little as 2hrs or as many as 10hrs and you'll have a vague idea as to what it is like walking around here.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Last Big Trek, part 2

At Green Gorge I was greeted by Doggo (luckily, wearing clothes), a movie and many, many snacks. Julia joined us on her way back to station after two weeks at Hurd Point bothering large birds (albatross) and Claudia arrived later on her way from station to the southern section of the island to get those rabbits. Claudia and myself had brought in meat in various forms and others had left some on their way through, so dinner that night was a lovely mix of pork chops with various sauces and pineapple pieces - yum!

I spent the evening playing with the 50mm lens and looking for more aurora to match the previous night. Alas, while there was aurora, it was nowhere near as brilliant as the night night before. An enjoyable night was had by all and the morning started at around 6am when Doggo got up to go hunting for the day. This may not seem such a great time when on holiday, but it does make the afternoon nap more engrossing. Tony and Jaimie turned up at various times and stayed that night in the hut, while Stumpy made a pit stop on his way through.


Look at all them stars

Next morning I was the last out of bed and last out of the hut, making my way further down island (in wonderfully horrible conditions) to Waterfall Bay Hut.

Penguins hanging around the hut

Secretly, they wanted to steal all the food

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Last Big Trek, part 1

As the time here draws closer and closer to the end, there's the last adventures people are taking and for as long as possible. I walked off station on the 16th, returned on the 23rd and had a fantastic and relaxing time out there. I think I'll be able to have one or two nights out there, but no more long trips for me. As it turns out, we won't be having any recreational trips off station between the end of Easter and whenever the ship arrives (which looks like it might be late)...

Anyway, on to the story, which starts on a crappy day where the wind was out of the Northwest and the cloud was low. I had a few jobs to sort out around station in the morning and didn't leave until after lunch, but luckily was only going over to Bauer Bay Hut - the nearest hut to station on the western side and only a short 2hr walk away. As I wandered along enjoying the blasts of wind, the rain started up and soaked me right through. Good thing the walking kept the heat up. On arrival at the hut, dog handler Melissa greeted me with a hug and snack of popcorn, she then proceeded to kick my arse at cribbage (one of the favourite card games for the year). Dinner was fried tofu, cheese and beans wrapped in tortillas - as you may have guessed, after a year of heavy use, the field huts are either running low on food stocks or the hunters have started to inventive with the selection.

The next morning Mel went to work, looking for those wascally wabbits and I took it easy in the hut. Breakfast was scrambled eggs on toast, however as there's certain foods not allowed in the field and eggs are one of them, I had to make do with powdered eggs and powdered milk (just add water!). If I were to try this again, I wouldn't have added so much water. For the rest of the day I read through most of a book of short stories about murder, all collected by Alfred Hitchcock; wandered around the beach and took photos; played the hut guitar (not that I know what I'm doing with it - there's another guitar at Green Gorge); played my harmonica; worked through an Italian grammar book (which is going fairly poorly) and had a nap in the middle of it all.

Ocean, having a bit of play

Bauer Bay, looking North to Douglas point

Robbie and Lisa (the newest expeditioners) arrived from station later in the afternoon and we started the evening off with more popcorn plus M&M's and lots of talking and a maybe some beers in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. We then ran around at sunset taking photos in the very pretty light and finished the night off with another big aurora. Dinner was a combination of more popcorn some time around 9pm and a steak and kidney pie-in-a-tin at around midnight. What does a pie-in-a-tin look like? Use Google to find Fray Bentos. What does it taste like? Pestilence. No, in all seriousness, they're not that bad, but they're not that good either. They're pretty greasy, the pastry is fairly poor and mushy and they need a bit of dressing up to make them bearable.

A pretty sunset

A skua tried to eat my head while it was in flight.

More sunset
Look at those penguins having a great time in the nice evening weather
And more aurora. Did you see this?

Next day was pikelets for breakfast, made by Robbie and a nice dawdle over to Green Gorge hut. Robbie was kind enough to lend me a 30yr old 50mm Pentax lens for the rest of the trip, which happened to fit my camera perfectly. And the stay at Green Gorge will be the next post, probably tomorrow or the day after.