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. 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 Helen Kay.
A world away
Having been accepted in to the Raoul weed programme as a volunteer, I had a matter of days to organise a flight over to New Zealand from the UK. I knew living and working on a remote island such as Raoul would be different in every way from my usual lifestyle in a city in northern England and it has not disappointed.
After spending a week packing gear and training at Warkworth, we departed for Raoul on the Braveheart. Three nights of large swells, the unending feeling of nausea and the constant dread of someone being sick near me certainly made the trip memorable.
Dry land and the warm reception of the team lifted my spirits no end. Having amenities such as a fully equipped kitchen and bathrooms undoubtedly made it easy to settle quickly into island life.
Having said that, there are numerous aspects to living here that are very different from back home; having to keep track of our food usage for example. We are currently left with one tin of mushrooms and are saving it for a recipe deemed worthy. Cooking here is fun, we have to use what’s available whether it be from Arkwright’s (our food store) or from one of the hostel vegetable gardens. Tinned peaches seem to make a common appearance in a lot of meals.
What do I do?
Every week day we walk into the bush and search for alien plant species such as black passionfruit and peach. A large majority of the weeds we find are seedlings, but when you’re the person who happens upon that massive adolescent mysore thorn, it’s very satisfying. Competition does arise when it comes to weeding; it keeps us motivated on those more challenging days.
Very little of Raoul is flat so many of our weeding days are spent traversing (slipping and sliding) across steep gullies and swathes of wind-fallen trees. Naturally this earns some people (including myself) an impressive repertoire of cuts and bruises as well as that well-deserved home brew at the end of the day.
And the weekends?
Weekends provide ample time to do what you want, whether it be walking over to Denham Bay or one of the other huts, relaxing around the hostel, or brewing beer in the Rat & Tui Brewery. When we’re able to, snorkelling is definitely one of my favourite past times on the island.
The best bits
It’s awesome living and working in a nature reserve. Being able to boat over to the Meyer Islets is extremely rewarding. Standing in a colony of Kermadec petrels with their tiny chicks or having a masked booby walk up to you completely unafraid are both amazing experiences.
I’m really enjoying learning about the flora and fauna of Raoul, especially the birds. The one exception is the pukekos between four and seven in the morning when they’re at their loudest!
All the new experiences here have impacted me positively in every way. We are half way through our six months here and there is still so much to see and do.