Macquarie Island: Milestone reached as baiting is completed

07-09-2011

Milestone reached as baiting is completed

The Macquarie island pest eradication team landed on Macquarie island on 22 april, 2011, with high hopes of achieving their mission to deliver approximately 300 tonnes of bait to the island’s rabbits, rats and mice.

Only eight weeks later, this milestone was reached. this is how events unfolded.

Three bait depots containing bait pods and helicopter fuel were established at the strategic locations of hurd point, the isthmus and Green Gorge. Aerial baiting began on 3 May with a ‘shake-down’ exercise on North head and the isthmus. This area of approximately 90 ha was baited in 2010 and was known to have very few remaining target animals. the station buildings were next on the target list and these were baited by hand on 3 and 4 May.

The helicopters took to the air to begin their precision baiting runs whenever there was sufἀcient visibility and the wind dropped below 25 knots. The team began at hurd point at the southern end of the island, which provided the most challenging terrain and weather. From there they moved onto Green Gorge, halfway up the east coast, for baiting of the middle portion of the island. By this time the two bait loading teams were working as a well-oiled machine, shifting tonnes of 25kg bait bags out of, and onto, bait pods before feeding the insatiable maws of the bait buckets slung under the helicopters. Each time the four helicopters left the loading site another 2.3 tonnes of bait was about to be spread.

Pilot Fletcher anderson described the challenges of flying in the sub-antarctic.

“For such a small island with relatively low topography, it is incredible how turbulent it can be. With the predominant westerly winds, the eastern coast is often not a fun place to be for a helicopter. the wind rolls over the small hills and rotors over the lee side creating unstable air. there is no time for complacency here, especially when Ḁying with a bucket with 650kg of bait underneath the helicopter,” Fletcher said.

“The weather can also change incredibly quickly, for better or worse. One minute you are in sunshine flying north on a sowing run and when you turn around cloud has formed on the hills behind you making it impossible to continue baiting. this year however has been much more favourable with more clear days on the plateau making our job that much easier. While there are some similarities to flying at home in New Zealand, Macquarie has the weather cranked up to 11!”

A milestone was reached on 26 May when the ἀrst bait drop was completed, with a total of 205 tonnes of bait distributed. the second bait drop was completed during the third week of June.

Project manager Keith springer said there are two key factors contributing to the operation’s success so far this year.

“One is the arrival on the island a full month ahead of last year and the second is the weather which allowed the bulk of the ἀrst bait drop to be completed by mid-May,” Keith said.

With the ἀrst two whole-of-island bait drops complete, a third drop will be undertaken to cover areas of concern for harbouring rodents including the isthmus, around penguin colonies and on rock stacks.

Keith said that australian antarctic division staff have provided excellent support to baiting operations, particularly when the team was operating from the isthmus using most of the station machinery to move bait pods from the loading site.

taken from Macquarie Island Pest eradication Project Newsletter - Issue 8

Category: Subantarctic Islands
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