10 Oct 2017


Albatross Island is a tiny 18 hectare patch of rock off the northwest tip of Tasmania. It’s home to around 10,000 shy albatross.

These famous storm birds have made their home here for centuries, kept safe by the isolated location.

But isolation has its downsides. With wild weather caused by climate change starting to take a toll on shy albatross populations, WWF-Australia and partners have stepped in to introduce artificial nests to the island to keep their young safe from the changing elements.

Last week a crack team of two scientists and a photographer ventured to Albatross Island to see how the conservation project was going and if the birds had taken to their new nests.

Unfortunately, they got stranded!

While they were checking out the nests, the weather turned nasty, so no boat or helicopter is able to extract them from their harsh environment.

Thankfully we’re able to keep in contact with the team, so we asked Matthew Newton, our photographer and cinematographer how they’re surviving.

  • So, how’s it going?

All good out here on the island, though our trip is a bit longer than expected due to the extreme weather conditions! Because there’s nowhere to land a boat on the island when arriving or leaving, you need to jump from the rocks to get to the boat. This can only happen when it’s very calm. So essentially, you can only get to the island in good weather, so we’ve got to wait until the next calm weather window to get off. The obvious issue with this is, it's hard to know exactly when that will occur...

  • What’s the weather like at the moment?

The weather’s really windy, and late yesterday quite a large electrical storm came through as well. Because the island is quite exposed in the western Bass Strait, the weather changes very quickly many times a day.

  • What’s the temperature?

The temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius although when you add some rain and wind to that it can get very cold quickly.

  • What are you doing for shelter?

Luckily we have a large cave that we’re camping in that gives us some shelter from the wind. It can be quite cold and damp though. And in the evenings it fills up with a variety of marine birds and is pretty noisy!

Dr Rachael Alderman in a cave on Albatross Island
Dr Rachael Alderman in a cave on Albatross Island © Matthew Newtown / WWF-Aus
  • How are you charging your phone/laptop?

We have an array of solar panels but charging phones and other necessary equipment is a constant struggle.

  • Who is with you?

I'm here with two marine biologists working on the shy albatross monitoring program.

  • How are you spending your days?

The scientists have a long-term monitoring program on the island, so during the day they are really busy with that. Meanwhile, I spend my time filming and photographing the birds and the landscape.

Dr Rachael Alderman stuck on Albatross Island, October 2017
Dr Rachael Alderman stuck on Albatross Island, October 2017 © Matthew Newtown / WWF-Aus
  • Do you have food?

Yes, thankfully we have plenty of food due to the fact that we knew we could potentially be here for a while. Exactly how long is uncertain!

  • To go with the classic question, ‘what would you take if you were going to be stuck on a desert Island’, what are you wishing you had right now?

A hot tub would be pretty sweet about now!

As of Tuesday, 10 October 2017, we’ve just got the word they’ve been successfully extracted from the Island… seven days later than they were expecting.