Raoul Island diary by Lachlan Wilmott
Raoul Island is one of the Kermadec Islands, far North of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. DOC has a small team of biodiversity rangers that live there in relative solitude, doing research and maintaining the native species on the island. Since Raoul is so remote, we get the diaries from the team members and post them up on behalf of them. Todays diary is by Lachlan Wilmot.
After almost being wiped out by goats, the once rarest plant on Raoul Island, the endemic hebe (Hebe breviacemosa) has staged a dramatic recovery. In 1983 there was just one specimen, now thanks to the ongoing efforts of staff and volunteers over the past 30 years the hebe has been downgraded from “serious decline” to “naturally uncommon” after the population census revealed sustained population growth. In the past the hebe plants clung to survival in the most inaccessible places. With the eradication of goats and rats, the major threats to this species have been removed. Wild sites have been monitored and plants propagated from seed and cuttings in the nursery to establish new sites to give the hebe’s recovery a helping hand. Another conservation success story for Raoul Island!
I am a huge fan of hot springs so when I heard that there were some on Raoul I was sold. To be honest at first sight they are a little underwhelming. A trickle of hot, hot water (70c) appears between some rocks on the beach and disappears into the ocean. Not quite the deep shaded pools I had envisioned. However the Oneraki springs do offer some less obvious delights. On those amazing full moons when the sea is calm it’s the perfect place for a midnight swim. Upwellings of hot water are scattered through the area and the toasty sand keeps you warm. It’s just a matter of clinging to a good spot while the waves and other swimmers try to knock you off! Another time, on one of the rare cloudy, rainy days we have experienced this summer, a troop of us headed to the springs with a shovel and buckets and set about digging a hot pool to enjoy. Battling the waves and rocks we managed to enjoy lounging about in the pool for about half an hour until the tide came in again. But it was worth it!
February also saw the arrival of our Christmas presents care of the New Zealand Airforce. In preparation we mowed the airstrip and set up a target in the middle for them to aim at. Unfortunately none of the six drops landed on the mown section! Instead our mail ended up dangling in a tree over a 40m ravine and a pallet of four 44 gallon drums landed in the middle of a tree. With the help of a chainsaw, tractor and climbing gear we managed to retrieve it all and finally got to open all the good stuff….fresh fruit, letters and presents from home.
After a quiet first 3 months the Raoul Island Hospital has finally got to see some action, much to us medics’ delight! After all our training we worried we wouldn’t get any opportunities to use it. Injuries decimated our small team in February. Most excitingly Ash had a wee collision with the point of Robbie’s surfboard while out surfing. After evading any lingering sharks during the paddle back to shore he staggered out with a deep 8cm gash down the front of his shin. Instantly our medics swung into action, after a quick liaison with doctors back on the mainland we had Ash on his back and whacked in 10 stitches. Tragedy averted. After a week on crutches and a course of antibiotics the stitches came out. Ash has made a sterling recovery and is back in the surf, just in time for the Cyclone Thomas swell!