Raoul Island Diaries: Four fresh volunteers join the team

 —  07/07/2010
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 Heather Thorne
In mid-April four fresh volunteers joined the team on Raoul Island – Chloe, Nichy, my husband Stu and myself, Heather.  Jokingly the year long team members saw our arrival as a dark day as they farewelled the previous team of vollies who returned to New Zealand on the Braveheart after their six month stay on the island.
New team Nichy, Heather, Stu, Chloe with Lachlan.

New team Nichy, Heather, Stu, Chloe with Lachlan

Our main job on the island is to continue the weed eradication programme. The aim of the programme is to eradicate all weeds and return the island flora to its native state.

Firstly, you have to learn to recognize what is a weed – looking back now we were as green as grass in our first few weeks. The most common weeds we look for are Brazillian Buttercup, Black Passion Fruit and Peach but there are others including vetch (localized to one area), Air Plant, Paw Paw and Guava. Weeds can be seedlings, adolescents or matures. We usually weed for three days of the week and the team (usually 4 – 5 people) are allocated a plot which may take a few hours or a few days to cover.  Plots are usually grid searched and previous finds are marked with pink tape tied in trees near the site.  Competition for pink tape can be intense and there is nothing sweeter than arriving at a tape and seeing a host of weed seedlings at your feet!!! I know I am a noisy and competitive weeder but I just cannot contain myself. 

Weeding is hard work. The island topography is steep – one minute you might be scrambling uphill steeply and the next minute yodeling down a steep descent. Scrambling under, over, around and through tree falls and bracken is also part of the day’s work.  Cuts, bruises and sprains are pretty common.  We do have lots of laughs though and it is a fabulous feeling to have a good haul of weeds at the end of the day.  Previous teams have done an excellent job and there are days when you come home weedless.

Weeding on Meyers.

Track maintenance

Life on Raoul is not all weeding – over the last week I have earned competency credits in road maintenance, painting and scrub barring .  Chloe and I take care of the top vegetable garden and on arrival I envisaged planting carrots one week and struggling down to the kitchen a week later with one carrot that would feed us all for a week.  Not so.  Catepillers love the vege gardens on Raoul particularly courgette plant stems and broccoli seedlings.

Queens Birthday race.

Queens Birthday race

We make our own entertainment – quiz nights are often noisy and unusual (blind tastings of marmite vs vegemite), board games, darts, pool, listening to music, watching DVD’s. On Queen’s Birthday weekend we visited the hot pools at low tide.  A ‘half half ‘marathon had been planned but had been postponed early in the day because of very heavy rain but at mid-morning it was decided to go ahead with the event.  You can only get so wet!  We all competed in the ten km run with Mike being the winner and Ian second.

Keeping in touch with the world outside our island paradise usually happens through internet or Skype.  Recently we had a visit from the Soren Larsen a tall sailing ship and passengers and crew came ashore over two days to go walking and enjoy our hospitality at the hostel.  We all also visited the vessel which was really special.  Private yachts also obtain permits to land and we have our second yacht due to visit within the next week.  An Air Force Orion buzzed the Soren Larsen on her arrival which was pretty exciting to watch.  Hopefully (!!!) the Air Force is going to do a mail drop over the next few weeks.  This means that goodies from home and mail can reach us!

I feel extremely privileged to be able to participate in such a practical way to a major conservation programme run by the Department of Conservation.  Missing family and friends is hard but missing a Wanaka winter is not.  Those on the island at the moment are a diverse bunch but we all contribute to the goal with individual skills and have so much fun in the process.

See also:

2 responses to Raoul Island Diaries: Four fresh volunteers join the team

    Melanie Charters 12/07/2010 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for the link to the video – great to see!


    The crew of Tallship Soren Larsen reported that they had a great stop over there. Thanks for all your hospitality.

    A brief video of landing the supplies we brought up can be seen at http://www.sorenlarsen.co.nz/Video/2010/Neal_Raoul_Video.htm

    All the best – Soren Larsen crew.