How to get a Mule to Raoul

Department of Conservation —  01/12/2015

By Geoff Woodhouse, Conservation Services Manager

Problem – how to get an 800 kilogram light utility vehicle across 1,000 kilometres of water, landed on a rock then winched up a bluff. Solution – pull it apart.

Brownie Walker supervising the weighing of the Mule frame and engine.

Weighing of the frame and engine

This was the challenge faced by the Great Barrier Island team when the time came to replace Raoul Island’s two multi-use light equipment (Mule) vehicles, which were rapidly reaching the end of their useful life.

The team purchased two replacement Mules last year and the original plan was to have the Navy helicopter fly them onto the island as part of a planned re-supply mission. A request was put in to the Navy and approval was granted but the nearest date they could make the transfer was September 2016 – another year away!

With a little bit of lateral thinking, the team hatched a plan to see if one of the Mules could be stripped down to be light enough to safely transport it to Raoul Island on board the DOC vessel Hauturu. If this worked, the second one would follow in the December re-supply visit.

Moving the Mule before loading it aboard the Hauturu.

Moving the Mule before loading it aboard the Hauturu

The team on Great Barrier Island started stripping the first Mule down, weighing each bit until they hit the magic figure of 400 kilograms. By the time they had finished, the Mule was down to the frame and engine plus three wooden crates of “bits”.

The Mule getting loaded for the trip up to Raoul.

The Mule getting loaded for the trip up to Raoul

Next it was loaded on board Hauturu at Great Barrier Island then transported on the three day voyage to Raoul. Once the team arrived at Raoul the Mule was carefully offloaded onto the HMNZS Manawanui tender boat which was at the island supporting Geological Nuclear Science work on tsunami gauges.

The Mule was taken across to Fishing Rock where it was winched off the tender boat and carefully lowered onto the rock. From there it was attached to the flying fox-way carriage and moved up the 280 meter fly-fox cable before arriving at the top and lowered into the waiting trailer.

The Mule arriving at Fishing Rock on Raoul Island.

Landing at Fishing Rock

Once all the crates containing the parts and roll bar arrived, the team set about reassembling the Mule and less than 48 hours after arriving the Mule was ready for action.

The happy team and fully functional vehicle fleet on Raoul Island.

Mission accomplished! A happy team and a fully functional vehicle fleet

During the re-supply visit other repair work was completed including a new engine for the old Fiat tractor which had been out of service for two years and new rear tractor tyre was fitted to the New Holland tractor. Thanks to the re-supply visit the entire Raoul fleet is now operational.