Wild Macquarie is a happy place

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Kimberley Wallace gets up close with King Penguins on Macquarie Island. PHOTO JEFF TEDA

Methven’s Kimberley Wallace has been running survival training for scientists and research officers on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

The island is full of wildlife and the field officers have to know how to read maps and navigate using a compass and GPS.

Kimberley is a member of Methven Search and Recuse and the perfect person to teach them to survive on the island, which is south of New Zealand but owned by Australia, which sends scientific teams there.

“It is dripping with wildlife … albatross, elephant seals, fur seals, sea lions, five different types of penguins, heaps of other animals and birds,” she said.

Kimberley, or Billy to her friends, has worked for the Australian Antarctic Division for the past 10 years as a field training officer and will spend the next year on the island hunkered down with 15 others.

She is due home in April 2022.

It’s an isolated role with just 16 people for the full year.

“Normally there are a few tourist boats that arrive near the end of the year for a day or so to look at the wildlife but this year with covid this is unknown,” she said.

“We do have Wi-Fi, but it can be a bit patchy. It’s much better than it used to be years ago.”

Field crew use Whats App and Messenger to keep in contact with loved ones at home.

Majestic views … Kimberley Wallace on the west coast of Macquarie Island. Photo supplied.

When Kimberley is not working in Antarctica or the sub-Antarctic, or taking high school students to developing countries, she lives with husband, Rob, in Methven.

The 44-year-old has been to the Antarctic or Sub Antarctic 15 times in the past 21 years.

“Normally I would spend summers down south but two years ago I did my first winter over here on Macquarie Island and loved it so much I decided to come back,” she said.

She loves the abundance of wildlife in the area and getting to know the expeditioners that travelled there for science.

When Kimberley is home, she is an avid member of the Methven Search and Rescue.

“I have always worked in the outdoors mostly as a mountaineering or rock-climbing instructor, and have always had a love for getting into the outdoors,” she said.

She was full of praise for the work SAR volunteers did.

“New Zealand is a pretty special country with lots of challenging country out there to explore. We are fortunate to have a system where if something goes wrong, then people will be ready to help out no questions asked. And no money asked for,” said.

“They are a good bunch of honest hard-working folk. I would be stoked to know they were out there if I ever needed a rescue.”

Over the years she has worked with the Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation while being a ski patroller on Ruapehu and an outdoor instructor at Hillary Outdoors in the central North Island. She was also a member of the Alpine Cliff Rescue Team in Aoraki Mt Cook in the early 2000s, a team leader for the joint Antarctic SAR team, and ran the SAR training for the Australian Antarctic folk that come south.

“Through mountaineering I discovered the love of technical rope rescue systems, which led to being involved in SAR teams that required these skills for slope and cliff rescues of patients in stretchers.

“I have since gone on to teach these skills over the last 20 years or so … and often I get to run the trainings in some pretty sweet spots.”

Kimberley hopes covid will sort itself out while she is away, after it put paid to her work with World Challenge, taking high school students to developing countries.

“In the mean time I feel super fortunate that I get to work doing an amazing job I love and getting paid to be in some of the most spectacular places on Earth.

By Toni Williams