Raoul Island Diaries: Time is flying by

DOC on Raoul Island —  23/02/2011
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 who 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 diary entries from the team and post them up on their behalf. Today’s diary is by volunteer, Nicki Atkinson.

Time is flying by, I’m almost half way into my 5 month stint on Raoul Island as a volunteer and already I don’t want to leave!

I am getting used to island life now and haven’t experienced a second of boredom yet. These first few months have been fairly action packed with a visit from 14 German ham radio operators in November, an air drop as well as Xmas and New Year celebrations – all of which successfully distracted the team from, well, ourselves mostly!

Hamming it up

The ham radio guys (and one geek lady!) were an interesting pack. I didn’t know a lot about ham radio before they came – and actually I still don’t! They spent three weeks solid tapping out their call signs in tents that were pitched among a web of aerials. They worked as a team, on a rotation of twelve hour shifts, to make contact with as many other ham radio operators around the world as they could (apparently they did quite well with 140,000 odd contacts made).

We had a number of social gatherings with them and a few of our team took them up to the highest point of the island, Moumoukai, and along the beach near our accommodation. I did not get to know them particularly well however, and the day they were packing up, Sian and I walked passed their camp and saw one guy that both of us had never met before – a strange concept on an island that only had 25 people on it!

Into the blue

Jess, Toby and I managed to go for a dive while the Braveheart was here (the boat that brought the radio hams up) as they had a compressor and gear on board.

Exploring the underwater world of the sub-tropical Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve.

Under the water in the sub-tropical Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve

Unfortunately the visibility wasn’t great and an absence of any logical sense of direction (or a compass) hampered our efforts to navigate from the boat to the edge of the Meyer islands. By the time we got to the best part we were getting low on air.

Nevertheless we found ourselves in an undersea world with an intricate abundance of life only a semi-tropical marine reserve could produce – sharks, thick schools of docile kahawai and king fish, fluorescent wrasse, giant groupers and many more creatures all dancing in time with the surge of waves. Magic!

The marine environment here is just awesome! It’s rugged and dynamic and overflowing with life; we’ve been swimming with dolphins, seen huge sharks, turtles and whales, and been kept awake at night with cries from sea birds and crashing waves.

The sea temperature is up around the 25oC mark and whipping down to the beach for a swim, at least twice a day, has become part of the normal routine.

To the other side

Not long after the radio hams left, the weeding crusade took us west over to Denham Bay for a week. The bay stretches out 3km or so with a black sandy beach adjoining a thin strip of flat, pohutukawa-laden forest that is jutted up against steep cliffs and the edge of a caldera.

Wreck of the Kinei Maru at Denham Bay.

Wreck of the Kinei Maru at Denham Bay

With a west facing outlook, we spent every evening on the beach immersed in golden sunsets, magnifying the natural beauty of the bay.

Denham Bay is an area of the island that is particularly steeped in history; remnant fruit trees and artefacts from the Bell family era that began in the late 1880’s, graves of various sailors succumbing to sickness and shipwrecks, and the tales of slave ships dumping plague-ridden slaves overboard in the bay as a means of sorting the weak from the strong.

These stories of the past all give the bay an eerie tinge of harsh unhealed realities – a feeling that  is now often masked by the development of our relatively luxuriant lifestyles (at least it is in NZ). It is these, remote, raw and untouched aspects of the island that I have come to love the most.


Come the end of December, Christmas and New Year festivities were in full swing on Raoul. We kicked off on Christmas Eve with a golf tournament generously organised by our mechanic, Tim.

Toby proudly receiving his golf trophy.

Toby (R) proudly receives his Raoul golf trophy from organiser Tim (L).

There were a number of stringently enforced rules – no using names, attire had to be inappropriate, losing your ball resulted in the consumption of a beverage blindly chosen from a substandard selection of beer – as did taking a swing and missing the ball, cheating, and arguing with the organising committee (aka Tim).

The nine hole course was challenging with the second tee-off at the top of a cliff with the hole on the beach below while the fifth required an accurate and highly elevated shot over top of the workshop. Most surprisingly my ball landed closest to the pin on more than one occasion and I began to set my sights on the prestigious Green Jacket.

A couple of slips ups – missing the ball – of course due to the increasing  unbalanced set of golf clubs – resulted in my high sights being dashed down to second place which I shared with Maree . Toby took away the Green Jacket by four strokes and is now the new holder of the prestigious ‘Raoul Island Golf Tournament’ trophy

I’ve enjoyed the first half of my stint on Raoul so much – I can’t wait to see what more I can get out of it in the next half!


Raoul Island volunteer programme

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.

2 responses to Raoul Island Diaries: Time is flying by


    Hey Beth. Sorry for the late reply. We are all having a great time on the island. Have been really busy lately cleaning up after cyclone Bune. The golf tournament was awesome! Tim did a great job setting up the course and enforcing the rules! We have recently had a cricket tournament and a beer tasting evening also. Good times! Hello to all in the Whangarei Area office. Cheers Toby and Sian

    Beth Reynolds 10/03/2011 at 2:55 pm

    Hi all up there. Just read the latest blog and it sounds like the Golf at Christmas may have been a highlight!! Funnily enough we here at the Whangarei Area Office played golf as our Christmas wind-down with plenty of beverages to go…not very helpful I must say when trying to hit a little white ball into a wee hole!! Fun nevertheless. A special hello to Toby and Sian and also to Tim – tim we are keeping an eye on you big sister for you – all is well. I would love a visit up there but I think I would only manage about a fortnight and then will need my home comforts again plus I’m getting a bit old and have dodgy knees!!
    all take care – see you sometime….