by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Memento : Issue 35
12 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA Macquarie Island once had the southernmost parrot in the world, the Macquarie Island parakeet. In November 1820, the Russian explorer Thaddeus Bellingshausen recorded that 'to our surprise we saw a quantity of small parakeets, all belonging to one species, on this semi-Arctic island.' Bellingshausen's men were keen to get specimens of the rare parrot, and in three hours collected 20 dead parrots and a live one, the latter by trading a sealer three bottles of rum for it. The species survived on Macquarie Island until the late 19th century. Parrots were apparently very good eating (especially, I suspect, if there was not much else). In midwinter 1879, men from a shipwreck roasted parrots on sticks over a driftwood fire. Both the parrot and Macquarie Island's own flightless rail, a blackish brown bird, were extinct before the turn of the century. After World War I, concern about Macquarie Island's wildlife increased. Mawson and others called for the seal and penguin harvest to be regulated. This campaign reflected not only a local concern but a rising general consciousness of conservation issues during the early 20th century. Macquarie Island was protected as a wildlife reserve in 1933. In the summer of 1959--60, the first group of women to venture south with the Australian Antarctic Division travelled to Macquarie Island -- Isobel Bennett, Hope Macpherson, Mary Gillham and Susan Ingham. Antarctica had been an exclusively male province for Australians, and the women tested the waters in more ways than one. They were warned -- 'rather unnecessarily', said Bennett later -- to behave themselves because the future of women in Antarctica depended on them. Rabbits galore At the time of the discovery of the two islands, neither Heard nor Macquarie Island had any native land mammals. Many were later introduced, and some survived to become pests. On Macquarie Island, a sealing company introduced rabbits from New Zealand as a food source in 1878. The rabbits thrived on a diet of the island's showy and palatable plants, and it quickly became clear that they were causing extensive damage. Long before the early ANARE parties went to live on Macquarie in the late 1940s, slopes once covered with lush growth of tussock grasses and unique subantarctic plants, including Macquarie Island cabbage, had been eaten down to bare earth. Attempts at rabbit control started in the 1960s using the poison 1080, which reduced but did not eliminate the population. Entries from the Sandy Bay hut logbook reveal attempts to come to terms with the problem. In a log entry of Saturday 21 May 1966, A Parker and his companions wrote: Arrived 1215 hrs after intrepid trip around coast. Purpose of visit 'Rabbit extermination'. Departed 1300 hrs conceding overwhelming victory to rabbits. Though Parker's short trip was not a serious rabbiting excursion, many others in the logbook were. Three summers later Bob Gould wrote: 'Shot about 125 rabbits, collected 101 samples but found no rabbits with fleas.' The European rabbit flea had been introduced in December 1968, and the myxoma virus was introduced in the summer of 1978--79. After the removal of feral cats from the island in 2000, rabbit numbers increased rapidly, and the native plants continued to be badly affected by their browsing and burrowing. Walking across Macquarie Island In 2004, I walked on the long skinny island of Macquarie, carrying a permit from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service to 'enter and remain in Macquarie Island Nature Reserve.' As my colleagues and I skirted the black sand of Sandy Bay, peopled with king penguins and elephant seals, the ranger Richard Koch pointed out a steep, eroded hillside above the bay where dozens of white oval disks formed a mosaic on the dark, sparsely vegetated soil. The white ovals were the exposed roots of the native Macquarie Island cabbage, sawn off at ground level by browsing rabbits. From Sandy Bay we cut inland, following NAA: A1200, L10032 NAA: A1200, L10028