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Macquarie Island Sealed Roads

Updated on August 22, 2012

The writer as he looked whilst on Macquarie in 1977

The only roads we had had seals on them - penguins as well
The only roads we had had seals on them - penguins as well

Antarctic Division expeditioners

Thirty-two years ago I, along with nineteen other Antarctic Division expeditioners, wintered on Macquarie Island. To keep ourselves amused, I chose to create and edit a magazine which I called, tongue-in-cheek, "Sealed Roads." There are, of course, no roads on MacQuarie. There are plenty of seals however: elephant seals, leaopard seals, fur seals, and the occassional weddel - hence the magazine's name.

Its first edition started a craze and, before long, the Officer in Charge (O.I.C.) Rod Ledingham, began to issue Macquarie Drivers Licences. They looked very official, bearing various stamps, and a photograph and description of each licence holder. I still have mine somewhere. From memory, it said I was licenced to drive Ferguson tractors, bull elephant seals up to three tons in weight, and various species of penguins.

There were two women on the 1976-77 expedition.

This picture was taken after my time on the island.  I don't know this young lady, but know the experience.
This picture was taken after my time on the island. I don't know this young lady, but know the experience.

Get out of my road! Your road? I don't think so...

Not a real fight.  Young bulls practicing for when they become 'Beach Masters.' in full adulthood.
Not a real fight. Young bulls practicing for when they become 'Beach Masters.' in full adulthood.

Antarctic Division environment - So much for our sealed roads.

Elephant Seal Harem near our base camp.   Note the old bull - Beach Master - bottom right.
Elephant Seal Harem near our base camp. Note the old bull - Beach Master - bottom right.

Macquarie's rate payers...I don't think so

It so happened that word must have got out somehow. Now I don't know whether you're aware of it or not, but MacQuarie is supposedly administered by a Tasmanian council. This probably dated right back to the old sealing and whaling days. Anyway, the relief ship, Thala Dan drops off a letter. It's addressed to our O.I.C. Would you believe it- it's a land-rates bill! They want us to pay up. If we don't, we'll be taken to court.

Our O.I.C thought for a while, then penned a reply for me to send off via our radio room. Here's what he said: "You fix our roads, we'll pay our rates."

We never heard from them again.

I hope you enjoyed this little tale about MacQuarie Island - Sealed Roads.

Be happy.

Young Elephant Seal. Probably only three or four months old.

Look at those gorgeous eyes...
Look at those gorgeous eyes...

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