Category Archives: AUSTRALIA

What a Waste – Marine Debris to Heard Island

HI_Marine_Debris-2496I am 4,000km’s from the nearest populated land mass, below the Antarctic Convergence, and in an area where the ocean drift models suggest that marine debris will not reach. And yet I am observing more plastic bottles, timber, fishing net buoys and other containers than I would expect. And then there is the very valid question – what should I expect?

I am on Heard Island and there is clear evidence that marine debris is drifting onto the island. I walked south-west along the shoreline of South West Bay and observed all kinds of debris that has washed ashore. Along a 100m stretch of shoreline around Erratic Point I have counted –

  • 55 600mm – 1.5l plastic drink bottlesHI_Marine_Debris-2529
  • 7 cleaning product plastic bottles
  • 1 very large plastic float (1m circumference approx.)
  • 1 large marine float with antenna
  • 2 polystyrene floats
  • 1 gas cylinder
  • And an almost endless amount of machined timber that has been weathered by the sea.

Before I left for Heard Island I made contact with the Tangaroa Blue foundation, an Australian-wide not for profit dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris. We incorporated the collection of marine debris information into our permit application to the Australian Antarctic Division and the activity was formally included as one of the field team activities.

HI_Marine_Debris-1030789I did not expect this “simple data collection activity” to have the emotional impact on me that it had.   I was stunned by the first glimpses of the cliff lines of Laurens Peninsula as we first approached Heard Island. Day after day I had new experiences as we moved to different locations on the island.

But the most vivid picture I now have in my mind is of all the plastic drink bottles floating in the water at Erratic Point. At the time, as Fred and I wandered around the small gully at Erratic Point and counted the debris items I felt sick. It reminded me of a rubbish dump.

HI_Marine_Debris-2491It’s feels hard to explain, having returned Sydney, but I now “get” the Tangaroa Blue message. Heard Island has given me a unique view on the significance of this sentence from the Tangoroa Blue web siteif all we do is clean-up, that is all we will ever do“.

How do we clean up Heard Island – and should we need to, there’s no need for the debris to be there in the first place!

I hope the image of rubbish on the island fades and is replaced by another, maybe the Leopard Seal resting on the beach – I much prefer that one.



Heard Island Expedition Preparations Nearing Completion

Tomorrow we leave Cape Town for Heard Island.

The last 4 days have been a blur. Immediately on arrival in Cape Town it has been a busy period of time pulling last strands of this expedition together.

2016-03-06 13.24.44By the time I arrived the two air beam tents had been erected and were already the subject of much discussion.   They needed cleaning that was very obvious but how and by whom? Thankfully the decision was made to engage a commercial cleaning company. Looking back if we had tried to complete the full pressure wash and interior wipe down they completed for us we would never have achieved our planned departure day and time. As it was out team cleaned every metre of Velcro on the tents to make sure that there was no soil, or worse still seeds attached there.

All of the expedition equipment was emptied from the container that shipped from USA 2016-03-07 10.03.10onto the floor a warehouse floor at Victoria wharf.   All of the cases were opened, contents checked and then ordered on the floor in the reverse order required on Heard Island.   Everything is to be reverse loaded to the BraveHeart today.

Final shopping trips have been launched for all sorts of “last minute” requirements –

  • Gas cylinders for stoves, heaters and cook tops
  • Dehydrated food packs for the field team
  • (More) large stakes to anchor the radio antennas
  • Personal food items from the local supermarket


2016-03-09 14.03.23And this has been going on to with the backdrop of the Cape Towns public Port area. If you live in NZ , think Viaduct area Auckland, if you are in Australia, think Pyrmont Sydney. My first day in the city was on the day of the Argus bike race, the biggest organised bike race in the world. There are so many people in the area.

And with such a resource near by it has not been an unwelcome effort to “drop tools” and take a coffee or a lunch break at one of the many eatery’s in the area.

2016-03-09 20.00.42So today it’s final preparation, all equipment loads to the Braveheart, we get final details of the immigration requirements that we need to complete tomorrow and then one last walk around the port area that we have come to call “home” for the past 5 days.

The Storm Is Clearing, at Last!

Slightly off the travel and outdoor adventure theme but last week’s trip to Newcastle on the NSW coastline did not run to the script.  I was all for some sun and walking on the beaches, sprinkled with an occasional cafe lunch and coffee.

In the end my wife and I managed to time our trip to coincide with 3 days of almost continual wind and rain, and the end result – flooded roads, lot’s of time in the cafes reading newspapers and many cups of coffee.

On day three just as we were leaving to head back to Sydney the sun crept through and we achieved one short walk along the rock wall beyond Nobbys Lighthouse.  The light was awesome and I managed some good photos as the storm clouds were clearing and the wind was whipping the sand of the beach.

Take a look….





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Snowy Mountains for New Year

Snowy Mountains-0290 Day 2 started cold and misty, so misty that we delayed our departure from the “Schlink Hilton” in the hope that the wind, the sun, or maybe both would deal to the mist and give us some view of the terrain ahead of us.

By 9am we were underway and although the mist was dissipating  it was far from a clear start as we made our way up the ridge line to the north east of the hut.

(For those wondering about Day 1,  it was best forgotten!  A hard and unrewarding uphill road bash / slog in torrential rain [well that’s how I remember it] from the car park at Guthega Dam,  Not quite what I’d hoped for as my first day carrying a heavy pack for quite some time .

Snowy Mountains-0392I wanted to use this 6 day walk in the Snowy Mountains as a means to assess my fitness for the up coming Heard Island trip. The 25 kilo’s (approx.) on my back was making sure I knew exactly where all the pressure points from my pack harness were and exactly how strong (or not) my legs were feeling.

As so for day 2 those pressure points were still obvious, but slightly dulled from the day before. The day’s objective was to drop in at Mawson’s hut, descend down to the Valentine Creek at Big Bend and then finish the day approx. 1 kilometre to the north of the Geehi river with a view, north to Mt Jugungal and south to Cup & Saucer and Mailbox hills.  By mid afternoon we were at the camp site and kicking back for an easy afternoon.

Mt Jungunal could be seen on the sky line to the north west, it looked distant but in reality it was only 3km away.

At the top of Jugungal
Looking South from the the summit of Mt Jugungal
Snowy Mountains-0487
Tarn at Tarn Bluff. A reliable water supply by the looks of it.

An early (8.15am) start on day 3 had us heading to the top of Mt Jugungal, Our packs were light and the height to the summit gained relatively painlessly. and then by midday we were back in camp, packing down tents, reloading packs and preparing for the short trek through to Tarn Bluff where we would camp overnight.  Our walk back to Tarn Bluff was a comparatively short 4 km’s and the terrain was magic.  Rolling alpine meadow is the best way to describe it.  By mid afternoon we were at camp and tents pitched for the night stay.

Snowy Mountains-0577
Sun setting on Tarn Bluff camp site

Tarn bluff provided  us a camp site with a reliable water supply and a great view at the close of the day as the sun set and the colours of the grasses and sky were continually changing.

Snowy Mountains-0511Day 4, and immediately on leaving camp we were heading higher, nothing excessive mind you but enough to get the heart pumping.  We were on our way to Tin Hut located  approximately 9-10km’s to the south.  It was great walk.    Once again we crossed Snowy Mountains-0667Valentine Creek at Big Bend but this time we stayed down near the creek for the most part, only climbing when it really was necessary to avoid the swampy ground that reached out to the spurs that ran down from Kerris Ridge.   The distance passed quite quickly, and it was just after midday as we arrived at Tin Hut where we made out next camp.   The early arrival provided us time to set up camp and then later in the afternoon make a dash out to Big Brassy Peak and back before sunset.

An awesome sun rise greeSnowy Mountains-0715ted me on day 5!  Mind you I had to make an early start to see it – 5:10am and the horizon was on fire with a bright glow through the gum trees.  I sat out on the large rock near the camp site and watched this sunrise for 30 minutes and then it was into the usual routine of heating water, breakfast, COFFEE and pack down my tent so as to make the day starting line at 8:00am.  Today the aim was to head south, past the Schlink Hilton hut and through to a camp site approx.  a kilometre north of the Granite Peaks.  It was one of the hottest days Snowy Mountains-0784of the trip and the final push up to 1900 metres was a hard one.  This camp site had 2 distinct disadvantages – flys and ants.  Where-ever you sat you seemed to be overcome by both.  It didn’t take to much encouragement to get me moving on the next morning toward Guthega trig.  This was a small hop – 6 km’s so a side trip up to Mt Tate was added in to make sure we didn’t feel shortchanged on the day!

From Mt Tate to looking north to Mt Jugungal in the distance.
From Mt Tate to looking north to Mt Jugungal in the distance.

From here we could sit and look north – content in knowing that Mt Jugungal 22 km’s to the north had been well within our capabilities!

All that was left to do on this trip was to celebrate the end of 2015 and the beginning to a New Year.  Both were down in fine style with an awesome sunset and an even more impressive sun rise the next morning before the last hour walk down to the cars at Guthega dam.

The first sunrise of 2016 from Guthega trig.
The first sunrise of 2016 from Guthega trig.


Thanks to Owen, Michelle, Sue, Srini and Sun for having me along for the trip!



View the full gallery of photos from the Jugungal trip by clicking here.