Raoul Island Diaries: The big clean up

DOC on Raoul Island —  07/10/2010

Raoul Island is one of the Kermadec Islands, about 1,000km north east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. DOC has a small team of rangers and volunteers that live on the island in relative solitude. Their main focus is controlling weeds on the island, maintaining infrastructure such as buildings, roads and tracks, and carrying out work for Met Service and GNS.

Since the island is so remote, we get these diaries from the team members and post them up on their behalf. Today’s diary is by volunteer Nichollette Brown.

Beach clean up at Oneraki Beach.

What’s this we’ve found? Collecting rubbish on Oneraki Beach.

First ever beach clean up

Another way we here on Raoul feel we have contributed in a small, but global way is through a series of beach clean ups along the coast.  The first clean up was undertaken on Oneraki beach in mid August.

Two teams started at each end of the beach with rubbish sacks in hand picking up rubbish as they moved towards Low Flat, the middle of the beach and the parking spot for the mules bought down to load out the rubbish.  The majority of the rubbish found was plastic, most of it broken down and weathered.

The problem with plastics

Plastics in our oceans are becoming an increasing problem with reports of a floating gyre of rubbish twice the size of the continental United States, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Trash Vortex, seething and growing in the Pacific.  Not able to be seen in satellite imagery, ships and yachts report kilometres of rubbish in the North Pacific Gyre, mostly plastics, floating just below the water surface.

Raoul team with the rubbish they collected.

Raoul team with their haul of rubbish from the beach clean up.

As plastics are exposed to the elements they undergo photodegradation, disintegrating into smaller particles down to a molecular level.  This process can leach bisphenols and PCB’s into the environment and the particles can attract other floating pollutants such as PCBs, DDTs and PAHs.

These pollutants enter the food chain via marine organisms such as birds, turtles, fish and eventually humans.

What was our haul?

During our first clean up we removed approximately ten rubbish sacks; although small in the scheme of things, that’s ten less sacks of debris to contribute to this global problem.

Happy Birthday!

We had a couple of birthdays in August. Our team leader Ian Thorne and I both recorded another year over within a fortnight of each other and were both very satisfied by the delicious roast dinners and cakes laid on in our honour.

Freaky Friday 13th party.

Living in isolation makes you a little strange! Freaky Friday 13th party.

Friday the 13th fell conveniently between both birthdays, and always looking for an excuse for a party, the team decided a spooky themed dress up party was in order to celebrate both birthdays.  Hideous clowns, blood sucking counts and chainsaw wielding crazy’s contributed to a spooky and interesting night!

That’s it from the team for now. Catch you next time!

DOC on Raoul Island


The Raoul Island diary is written by "Raoul Islanders" - DOC staff and volunteers living and working on Raoul Island in the Kermadec Island group. DOC staff include a team leader, mechanic and rangers. Up to 10 volunteers spend approximately 5 to 6 months on the island helping DOC staff get rid of weeds.