Intrepid interns take a trip to Matiu Somes

Department of Conservation —  10/02/2015

By Miriam Moore, DOC Intern, Wellington

In January DOC’s fresh-faced interns went ‘out of the office’ and boarded a ferry to Matiu Somes Island for the annual intern field trip.

The DOC interns on Matiu Somes Island.

The DOC interns ready for action on Matiu Somes Island

While the ridiculously bright Wellington sun only lasted about ten minutes into our boat ride, the two-day field trip was a raging success on all levels. The weather on the island may have been overcast but the spirit was not, as we landed and gathered in the quarantine building.

Matiu Somes Island is completely pest-free, so the local ranger and two volunteers first demonstrated the importance of checking our bags, clothing and food boxes for any invasive seeds or pests. Once we were sure that our bags contained no rats (only burritos) we were ready to make tracks around the island.

Ranger Emma teaches interns how to use the equipment.

Learning how to use the equipment

Volunteer Geoff de Lisle was our guide for the tour, and a hub of knowledge about the island and its history. While learning about conservation work on the island—like the penguin huts—we were treated to various stories about the history of the island.

One of the more crazy tales explained how New Leper Island got its name after one man was forced to live in a natural cave there on suspicion of leprosy. Long after his death it was discovered he most likely didn’t have leprosy at all! After hearing that one we felt very glad to be sleeping safely in the houses that night.

Intern Emma carefully trims the track.

Carefully trimming the track

We then divided into volunteer teams for activities. I chose to be in the weeding team. We were taught to identify nettles, thistles and African daisies, and how to deal with plants once they’ve been weeded. The thistles were the most satisfying as we got to ‘behead’ them so that the bulbs couldn’t spread their seeds. For the most part we were searching for weeds, which is a positive sign that not many are growing on the Island.

The other two groups did flax trimming and track clearing, which we learnt is very important to keep people on the tracks to preserve wildlife habitats. It also stops trees from poking people in the eye.

Sheep on Matiu Somes Island, warped by the camera's panorama function.

The camera’s panorama function made for some interesting looking sheep!

Dinner came after puzzles and a game of Pictionary. We bonded over outrageous numbers of burritos, featuring Argentinian chicken and guacamole. It was nice to finally get to know one another and share what work we’re doing at DOC.

At nightfall we retraced our steps in small groups and witnessed several giant weta, tuatara and even a solo blue penguin. It was a truly awesome experience to stumble across these creatures living in the wild and see the effect of DOC’s efforts.

Holding a giant weta at night.

Getting to know the friendly giant weta

The morning saw a swimming opportunity for the brave interns. The only real challenge left for us was to polish off all of the burritos, as we couldn’t leave any waste on the island. I think the boat was sitting a little lower upon our return.

Interns taking a swim.

Not many interns were brave enough to jump in.

It was a great experience to be able to spend a few days away from the keyboard to experience conservation in action.