Raoul Island Diaries: Brooke Connolly realises her Raoul Island dream

Department of Conservation —  07/03/2012

Raoul Island is one of the Kermadec Islands, about 1000km north-east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. DOC have a small team of staff and volunteers who live on the island in relative solitude, doing research and maintaining the native species on the island.

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 ranger, Brooke Connolly, who has dreamt of being on Raoul Island since university.

Tropic bird

Getting to Raoul

After our extensive training and preparation for our stay on Raoul Island we were finally at the Devonport naval base ready to board the HZMS Canterbury.

Our cabin was small and cozy and our voyage was rather rough for such a large ship. We were looked after extremely well by the navy, fed like kings and had guided tours of the engine rooms and up to the part where they steer the boat. I woke up at 6 am on the morning of the 3rd of November; we were due to be at Raoul at 6.30 am. I remember rushing to the flight deck and seeing the island blanketed in cloud for the first time, my dream had finally come true.

Getting onto the island from the navy ship was very fast and bumpy, much like a ride at an amusement park. I was second to set foot on fishing rock to a warm welcome from the current team. Finally; I was on Raoul Island, my home for the next year. I almost cried I was so happy!

White tern

The change-over

The change-over period flew past, receiving and unloading all the supplies from the Sea-sprite helicopter, feeding the mass of 40 people as they worked hard to complete their assigned tasks and creating a new era using solar energy (instead of diesel) on Raoul.

The main task for our team of seven people staying on the island was learning how to run and weed the island. During the change-over period we learnt to grid search the bush for weeds. We also had the opportunity to boat to the nearby Meyer islands to do some tobacco weeding. What a privilege to be in such an untouched ecosystem. I cannot describe how amazing it was to see so many sea birds on one rock. The call of the Kermadec petrel was like nothing else I’d ever heard before.  Yyeeeeeeeooooowwwww  waaahhooo waaahhooo waaahhooo waaahhooo.

Everybody on the island has also been blown away by all the humpback whales up here. Daily we see full breaches, tail slaps and general mulling around the island. 

The island routine

When the boat left, the island was comfortably yet strangely quiet. We were sad to see everybody leave, but at the same time we were all ready to start our own adventure.

We began by giving everything a big spring clean and organising all our food. We are now settling into a routine on the island. We cook together at night time which is somewhat difficult; we have to modify each meal to be meaty, vegetarian and gluten free. All our meals have been great so far and the variety of food is great! 

White tern egg

The plants on Raoul

I love plants! The differences and similarities of the plants on Raoul compared to mainland New Zealand is fascinating to see, as are the plants that are endemic to Raoul, or only occur on some Pacific Islands.

We have been teaching our volunteers about the native plants and the weeds on the island and they are learning to tell the difference very fast and are enjoying spending the day out in the bush.

Weeding has been exciting so far. We have been finding some weeds, which has been good to make sure we are searching for the right ones because the seedlings can be tricky to tell apart. We have also been finding a lot of the native cucumber, Sicyos. It has large prickles and they end up in you!! They are not particularly nice when they get in your ears, or anywhere else on your body for that matter! Some of the weed plot names are very deceptive, Low flat plot 8 is not very low or flat like it suggests, it is very high and steep and full of fallen trees, large bluffs and slips. 

The birds on Raoul

I also love birds! The tui have a rather different call up here on Raoul, and the kākāriki graze on the lawn like sheep, they also graze on my corn seedlings. Grrr.

Black-winged petrels fly over the hostel at dusk. My favourite so far are the white terns at Boat Cove. They fly in pairs or groups on wind draughts up and down cliffs and valleys. They nest in trees, which like the Noddy on the Meyer Islands or other sea birds on the main island, isn’t all that uncommon. But what is rather strange is that these birds lay their green blotchy egg on a flat bit of a pohutukawa branch. It is the most uncanny thing I have ever seen, but also the most awesome.

A noddy (seabird from the tern family)

I can truly say coming to Raoul Island is both the biggest opportunity I have ever had and the best decision I have ever made.

3 responses to Raoul Island Diaries: Brooke Connolly realises her Raoul Island dream


    Thankyou for sharing this. It is wonderful reading. Pamela (Friends of Flora)

    Bob Edington 05/04/2012 at 4:09 am

    Brooke, I was thrilled to read your blog re Raoul. My name is Bob Edington and I am the great grandson of Tom Bell. My grandmother Ada Edington nee Bell was born in 1884 on as she called it Sunday Island and was a big part of my life. I listened to many stories about the family living on the island. I visited Raoul in 2002 and it was a thrill. Did they finally rid the island of the rats? If you feel up to it my e mail is bobedington@hotmail.com. Thank you Bob

    Will Parsons 07/03/2012 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting blog and a challenge you won’t forget. Nice pictures and good luck in the future.