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By Raoul Island Ranger Louise Mack

Invaded!

It is crazy to think that the Scottish pirates from the RV Braveheart—parading themselves as GNS workers and boat crew—were our first contact with people, outside our small team, in four months!

The pirates arrive!

The pirates arrive! The RV Braveheart off Raoul Island with
GNS scientists on board

The scientists and divers from GNS were up here fixing their tsunami reader and checking over their gear on the island.

The trip was combined with a research expedition with Dr Tom Trnski, from Auckland Museum, and Steve Hathaway, an underwater videographer. Check out the blog of their trip, it has some amazing footage from the Kermadec Islands.

In preparation for our guests, we slogged away getting everything just right. Lawns were mowed, wood cut for the BBQ, the Ranch cleaned and sparkling. All was set. Now we just had to wait.

A bit of a dampener

I don’t know if other ex-Raoulies got this feeling while they were up here, but every now and then I get the vibe that the island enjoys tormenting us. True to form, a few days before the arrival of our guests, the rain begins. Torrential. Non-stop. Rain. 102.5 mm over two days. Everything was wet. Everything was muddy. Good times.

Then, just for a bit of extra excitement, a water main to the house breaks. Figuring losing one tank of water was child’s play, we opted to drain them both. That’s 60,000 litres of water seeping into the ground.

Now, if this had happened two days earlier, finding the leak would have been easythe wet spot would’ve been obvious in the dry. Unfortunately, the entire island was a wet spot—it also has very permeable and quick draining soil. This meant the job continued on over many hours (days)—digging in mud. In the rain. Always with the rain.

Let me tell you, water out of a tap is a luxury! I will never again take that for granted. Using buckets from the fire reservoir for flushing toilets and hiking up the hill to fill containers for drinking was not fun.

So, wet muddy clothes we had been wearing for a week and no showers was how we greeted our visitors to the island. I am not 100% sure, but it may have been the sight and smell of us that made them only stay ashore one night and then flee back to the comforts of their ship.

All good though! The island did a complete turn around and the day they came ashore was sunny and perfect.

A lot of merriment and cups of tea were had by all and it was a great visit by a nice bunch of people.

A couple of camping trips

It is not all work work work however, despite what it may sound like. Boss man Neil does occasionally let us off the leash and allow us a few hours of free time for exploring.

Labour Weekend at Sunshine Camp was the setting for an adventure for Ross, Jenny and myself.

Looking back now it feels like a Tui ad waiting to happen and I can actually laugh at the irony. A weekend camping + a place called Sunshine + Labour Weekend in New Zealand = non stop rainy good times.

It started off well. Before the rain at Sunshine Camp.

It started off well. Jenny, Ross and me (in the middle)
before the rain at Sunshine Camp

Actually I shouldn’t complain. We left home in brilliant sunshine and had it beaming down on us while we staggered there with full packs. It only started to cloud over as we arrived. And, even then, the rain held off until we were tucked up in our tents.

The plan for a second night quickly changed to a wet muddy slog back to the Ranch though. I cannot deny it, I am a fair weather camper.

And the rain came down... a wet camping trip.

And the rain came down… a wet camping trip

There are so many places to go and things to see here. The humpbacks had gone, but their departure coincided with the arrival of a seabird bonanza. Amazing birds and strange noises became the norm—it’s like a whole new channel on Raoul TV.

Tam and I spent a night camping out on Hutchies Bluff a few weeks ago and got to experience a pod of dolphins cruising past, with one of the humpback stragglers and her wee calf. The sun was setting directly in front of us, there were seabirds galore, and a full moon rising behind us. It was one of those moments when you pinch yourself and think, ‘wait this is my job?’!

Tam taking in the view from Hutchies campsite.

Tam taking in the view from Hutchies campsite

Under the sea

Snorkelling here is epic. The water is so clear, visibility is amazing, and the fish!

Schools of kahawai follow you around, tiny mimic blennies nibble your legs, mado, lion fish (definitely no touching those suckers), giant limpets the size of your hands, the noise of kina crunching away on the rocks.

Snorkelling selfie!

Snorkelling selfie (me on left)!

Neil saw a kingi as big as himself (not a lot is as big as Captain Longshanks, so that is saying something). It is all a bit overwhelming really.

Last week I saw a turtle and had my first snorkel with the sharks experience. It was only a small one, but seriously, 1 metre looks massive underwater. Yes, I did use Tam as a human shield, but I stayed in the water! Big ups to me.

Cue scary music ... it's Jaws!

Cue scary music … it’s Jaws!

Tam, Neil and I decided that our first weekend, post pirate invasion, we should chill and have a relaxing visit to the Oneraki Beach Day Spa to recharge.

I really cannot think of a better way to round off a weekend than chilling in a hot tub, sipping on my home brew ginger beer with my Raoul family. The rates at the spa are fab, and the view immense.

Enjoying a beverage in the Oneraki Day Spa.

Enjoying a beverage in the Oneraki Day Spa

Life is good. Home is beautiful.


Interested in becoming a volunteer on Raoul Island?

DOC is currently recruiting for volunteers for August 2014 to February 2015 now. See www.doc.govt.nz/raoulvolunteers for more information.

By Raoul Island volunteer Katie Grinsted

When there is work to be done on Raoul Island, the most difficult thing is to get the workers to the island. Fortunately for Raoul, the Navy ship Wellington agreed to make the journey.

"E Ihowā Atua..." Flag hoisted to welcome the Navy to Raoul.

“E Ihowā Atua…” Flag hoisted to welcome the Navy to Raoul

Over the last two weeks the population of the island grew, at peak, fluctuating to 33 personnel – that’s more than tripling the population! A party of three GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences), two MET (Metservice) and two DOC workers came to complete building work for ten days. Meanwhile, the Navy deployed several work crews to the island for a different training experience and to help DOC out with some track work.

In readiness for their arrival, as with the arrival of any ship to the island, we solemnly raised the New Zealand flag. With a slasher as our weapon of choice we paid homage to her majesty and prepared for the arrival of her NZ Navy representatives.

Late on a Friday evening, the first transmission was heard – “This is Warship Wellington. Warship Wellington calling Raoul Island. Do you copy?”. We copied and from the hostel balcony we watched as the vessel anchored off the picturesque Meyer Islands, the angular grey metal hulk creating a sharp contrast in this place of rugged contour and line.

The Wellington anchored off the Meyer Islands.

The Wellington anchored off the Meyer Islands

This was to be the first of many contrasts. Firstly in communication…

Warship Wellington: “We will contact you on channel one, two, I repeat, channel one, two”
Raoul Island: “But we don’t have a channel one or two. Can you repeat?”
Warship Wellington: “Channel one, two. Twelve! I repeat, twelve!”
Raoul Island: “Ahh, copy that.”

Then in timing…

Warship Wellington: “We will begin operations at sixteen hundred and thirty, I repeat”
Raoul Island: “Sixteen hundred and thirty? Oh, you mean, four thirty? That sounds sweet.”

After sorting out some of these finer details, the unloading of the ship began. The new ‘Civies’ (civilians) set about to their building work. DOC worked hard to build a new quarantine shed…

Biosecurity at its finest! The new quarantine shed.

Biosecurity at its finest! The new quarantine shed

GNS checked their monitoring equipment around the island and completed some building work, while the MET builders slaved away putting new doors onto the ‘bomb shed’ (the place where the weather balloons are released).

What mighty fine doors! The new doors on the bomb shed.

What mighty fine doors! The new doors on the bomb shed

Meanwhile, the ship had kindly invited the volunteers out to the Wellington for lunch. It was a thrill to get up some speed on the boat ride over, as anything over 15k/hr is extreme here!

The need for speed! Speeding out to the Wellington for lunch.

The need for speed! Speeding out to the Wellington for lunch

It was fascinating to get an insight into a totally different way of life. We unanimously agreed that none of us could handle living in such confined quarters.

When the first Navy team arrived we all had to have a little giggle. In ripped shorts and faded t-shirts we Raoulites shook hands with the smartly dressed Navy in their slick ‘GWD’ (General Work Dress).

A well dressed arrival. The Navy arriving at Raoul Island.

A well dressed arrival. The Navy arriving at Raoul Island

After an amount of time taken up with the necessary Navy briefings, the shore crews worked hard and with good humour to carry out their latest ‘deployment’ – slashing and raking of cyclone damaged tracks.

A clear way through. The Navy hard at work clearing Raoul's tracks.

A clear way through. The Navy hard at work clearing Raoul’s tracks

Each team enjoyed the opportunity to eat as many cakes and biscuits as they liked, and even had the chance to have two different kinds of meat dishes for dinner!

Raoul Navy crew take a break

Raoul Navy crew take a break

Although I struggled at times to stop myself singing, “In the Navy, we can sail the seven seas, in the Navy!”, I believe both the Raoulites and the Navy benefited greatly from the experience of the past two weeks. All those who came onto the island seemed to leave with a smile on their face, and no doubt, with as many stories to tell about us as we do about them!

So on Sunday the Wellington departed, leaving eight exhausted Raoulites waving goodbye at the flagpole. It had been an eventful, and at times challenging two weeks. By far the hardest part of it all has been the departure of our dear friend and colleague Dave, who left for home on the Navy ship. He is already sorely missed but we all wish him the best of luck and look forward to seeing him on the mainland. For him, the Raoul Salute.

One final swim off Fishing Rock.

The Raoul Salute – one final swim off Fishing Rock

As the Navy departed we raised a renegade skull and crossbones in tribute to Dave. Ragged and painted on an old bed sheet, once again we saw the contrast to the Navy ship. But, somehow it seems to fit the character of the island and of its inhabitants.

The Danger Dave flag is hoisted.

The Raoul Salute – one final swim off Fishing Rock


Interested in becoming a volunteer on Raoul Island?

DOC is currently recruiting for volunteers for August 2013 to February 2014 now. See www.doc.govt.nz/raoulvolunteers for more information.

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 Katie Grinsted.

Interested in becoming a volunteer on Raoul Island? DOC is recruiting for volunteers for August 2013 to February 2014 now. See www.doc.govt.nz/raoulvolunteers for more information.

On our way

It has been just over a month since us five volunteers departed Auckland, waved goodbye to the world we knew, and began our life on Raoul Island. I have been to some pretty special places in my life but I think this may just take the cake. We are actually marooned on a (sub) tropical island. We’re stuck here with the volcanoes, the earthquakes, surrounded by sharks and we are lovin’ it!

The journey began with a five day crossing on the sailboat Ranui. Sometime on a Friday morning, the high cliffs of Hutchison Bluff appeared.  We were almost there!

Cripes! Look at this place! View of Raoul Island from the Ranui.

Cripes! Look at this place! View of Raoul Island from the Ranui

It seemed no time at all that we were onshore, after so long at sea firm ground felt like an illusion. Thankfully we were steadied by the welcoming arms of our new island mates. The nine Cruisers of Sunday Island united!

The island itself

Raoul Island is a beautiful place. Everyday as I walk around I try and take a moment or two to look around me and yell, more often out loud: “Woo hoo! So lucky to be here.”!

Despite being located so far from NZ, much of the flora and fauna here is identical or at least very similar, to NZ. The plant and animal life has had a boost with the removal of mammalian predators. The climate here is excellent for growing and everything here seems to shoot up so fast.

This is actually a five-finger tree for those of you who recognize it in NZ.

A five finger tree on Raoul Island.

Massive five finger tree. Woop!

What we do

With the animal pests removed it is now it is up to us to get rid of the other pests on the island – the unwanted plant species. Condemned for their lack of consideration for other plants, and their effects on the habitat of the animal species, the weeds on Raoul Island are the focus of the work here.

Volunteers weeding on Raoul Island.

Weeding – serious stuff on Raoul Island

The forest here is no walk in the park! Sometimes it is even a walk in a volcanic area!

Volcanic landscape on Raoul Island.

Volcanic landscape on Raoul Island

Yep! Weeding can take it out of you!

Volunteers lying on the beach.

Flat out on the beach after a hard day’s work

Downtime

But it is a lot of fun and life isn’t all hard work! There are plenty of other things to entertain your average cruiser. There are the water sports – snorkeling in New Zealand’s largest marine reserve for example…

Three people diving in the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve.

Having fun in the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve

And brewing high-quality beverages for another…

Volunteers check on the beer in the storehouse.

Checking out the brew

Then there are the forest sports. The other weekend we spent a night at the wee sky-blue Mahoe Hut before battling our way down a large dry waterfall to the coast. We emerged sweaty and exhausted but none the less, happy.

Mahoe Hut on Raoul Island.

Our weekend getaway, Mahoe Hut

And of course, there is the sport of ‘just cruisin’, a natural and accepted progression of island life…

Who could ask for more?

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 Prue Fairbrass.

Not a cyclone??

Today I am going to tell you about our cyclone in June which, according to the weather office was NOT a cyclone, just a deep depression.

The damaged "bomb" shed, or Met Service shed.

The storm damaged “bomb shed”, or Met Service shed

Well, it was so deep it has made a complete mess of everything here. Trees are down in every available and unavailable space – on tracks, sheds and roads.

Surveying the wreckage

The ‘bomb’ shed where the weather balloons are sent from is now an open air, roofless, door-less structure. The fire shed lost its roof and side and was tipped over, and the fuel shed is no more.

We were trapped in the hostel area with tree fall, some of which we have managed to clear, but it will take months to get it all back to normal. We have no way of getting off the island at present until Fishing Rock Road is cleared, which we are currently working on (not that I want to get off the island, as it’s a fab place here!).

Luckily the hostel itself is okay, although we lost two windows from the hospital. Leaves and branches are piled up all over the place so it is an effort to go anywhere, but each day things are a bit better.

Are we in the outback?

The fuel shed.

The obliterated fuel shed

The saddest thing is the bush –  much of what is still standing has gone brown with the wind and salt spray and whole areas look like Aussie – i.e. dried open bush which is fine in Australia but not here!

The vege gardens are decimated and I had just planted a whole lot of cauliflower etc. The lawns have gone yellow and look as if they have been sprayed with weed killer.  Oh well, at least we were all okay.

The early settlers had several storms as well as rats and goats to contend with. It must have been devastating for them as all their food supplies would be wiped out. Arkwright’s (named after the TV series which I think was called ‘Open all Hours’) is our food store and was undamaged so we can eat ourselves happy!

Shutdowns and sun cards

The upended fire shed.

The upended fire shed

About the meteorological side of things. The buildings here are owned by the Met Service and leased by DOC. We are contracted to do certain weather readings 365 days of the year and send up weather balloons.

This is done by the DOC staff only (as a volunteer I don’t have to do this.) We have a roster for those doing this and also for “shutdown” (which I do), which consists of turning off the computers and putting them in a warmed cupboard as it gets very moist here, turning off the Met Service computer and doing the ‘sun card’.

The sun card is a most fascinating piece. There is a structure with a big glass ball on top. Behind this ball is an area to put a piece of thick paper (the sun card) and each day the sun shines through this ball and burns the card. This is sent to the Met office whenever we can get mail to them which is probably about every six months. It is probably an out-of-date thing to do but I am no authority on this.

Oranges on the ground.

Oranges, oranges everywhere!

Every cloud has a silver lining

There was one good thing that came out of the storm – I had been eyeing up the oranges at the top of the tree (why is it the best ones are always at the top?) wondering how to get them down.

I have picked up nine fish bins of them since the storm with about 150 oranges per bin and the pukekos, ants and tuis are having a ball with the rest.

Raoul Island oranges are famous for their juiciness and taste. They don’t look that great but they taste marvelous. I am making a bucket a day into juice – yum.

Well, this is but one of many experiences I am having on Raoul Island. It is an amazing place and I am having a ball here.

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.

The hostel veranda in the sun.

Where we relax after a hard day’s weeding – the hostel veranda in the sun

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.

We’re here!

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.

A curious young masked booby looking at us.

Who’s looking at who? A curious young masked booby looking at us

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 view of the crater from Mt Moumoukai.

The view of the crater from Mt Moumoukai

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.

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 Raoul Island Team Leader – Restoration, Jess Clark.

On my bucket list

For 10 years, going to Raoul was pencilled in on my life agenda, and my time here is nearly over. In some respects the time is passing way too fast, in others it has been a long haul.

Walking along the coast towards Hutchies bluff and sooty tern colony.

Walking along the coast towards Hutchies bluff and the sooty tern colony

I thought I was off to live on a remote island and it would be fairly low profile, but this year has had more than its fair share of high profile visitors and media attention. Let’s hope the existence and significance of the Kermadecs is now more widely renowned.

It’s the beginning of summer when you arrive for the year long stint. Everything is flowering and breeding with cute babies everywhere as the next generation flourishes in a pest free environment.

There is sand on the beach for refreshing swims as you settle into the grand Raoul lifestyle. There is a good month of stinking hot humidity to sweat through the worst of the semi tropical climate. The top peaks of the island seem forever cloaked in cloud, creating its unique cloud bush habitat.

Getting to grips with Raoul

The bush is interesting and includes the lowland dry areas, as well as the cloud forest where there is the most diversity, with of course pohutukawa throughout.

RNZAF Airforce Orion delivering an air drop.

RNZAF Airforce Orion delivering an air drop

Admittedly, it’s frustrating at first at getting familiar with the plants. Species appearing like mainland species but existing in different habitat and others like ‘Mapou’ looking completely different to its mainland relative with the same common name.  Compared to the Waitakere Ranges there are distinctly less insects and spiders, which I have to admit I appreciate while scrambling amongst it all weeding.

The weeding is like going tramping in a team and sometimes when I’m climbing amongst the cyclone ravaged pohutukawa I feel like I’m in the movie Avatar, just without the flying and a bit more sweat, dirt and scratches.

Airdrops are always thrilling and I feel privileged to have had first hand experience with the NZ Navy, Air Force and Army.

A glimpse of a different world

Snorkelling with kingfish and blue maomao.

Snorkelling with kingfish and blue maomao

The sea is teeming with marine life, including a few seemingly impassive sharks, which are always magnificent to observe. Hours can be lost snorkelling and exploring the underwater world that collides against spectacular lava formations and rocks along the coast.

This is sea bird terrain, the racket of calls, squawks and chatter with their soaring wing spans or crowded flocks dominate the skies around the Meyers and infiltrate the subdued underwater world.

I’ll never forget the tropic bird stalling for a good 10 seconds mid-flight only meters away from me, turning its head to check me out. I have become accustomed to kakariki hanging out on the lawn, not bothering to fly away until you almost trip over them.

Tropic bird checking out the camera.

Tropic bird checking out the camera

It was an exciting and eventful winter with La Nina delivering Cyclone Bune and many other storms that raged over the island leaving destruction behind them, which in turn has opened up opportunity for the pioneer stages of Raoul bush to regenerate the open space left behind.

I feel like we are just coming out the other side of winter, and I’m glad I brought my hottie! A time of clear blue sky days with a crisp horizon line before it becomes hazy with humidity and wafts of the pleasant pungent aroma scent the air that will forever be a smell of Raoul for me.

More whales and sea birds are returning everyday for another season of their life at the Kermadecs and the change-over is drawing near for the annual swap of staff and volunteers.

The bird dominated skys on the Meyer Islands.

The bird dominated skys on the Meyer Islands

There is a certain amount of satisfaction surviving on a remote island for a year, although you certainly are not roughing it with the living conditions.

I feel incredibly honoured and proud to have contributed, weeded, protected, experienced and continued the legacy of many others in New Zealand’s most northern territory, and one heck of an environmentally significant place.

I’d like to send out a big welcome to the new team starting out on their Raoul journey.

Pair of Tasman boobies, North Meyer Island.

Pair of Tasman boobies, North Meyer Island

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 Raoul Island Ranger – Threats (Weeds), Biodiversity & Mechanic, Tim Butcher.

The Otago arrives

Usually for me, the month of May means one thing—duck shooting! This year however, May brought with it a whole new variety of activities. It was early in the month that the HMNZS Otago arrived for our resupply.

HMNZS Otago near Raoul Island.

The HMNZS Otago steaming to Raoul Island

On board, along with our food and gear for the next six months, were our winter vollies, aka volunteers (a cyclone clean up crew), the Minister of Conservation and her party, a group of artists, a representative from the Pew environment group, two radio presenters and two sparkies (one of which was our DOC staff member from Warkworth, Paul Rennie).

A busy day of unloading saw everything and everyone landed on the island. The artists and the Minister set about exploring the island as they were here for only two days.

The short period of the Otago’s stay was a busy time; we were not used to having so many people to talk to! We were joined on shore by the Commanding Officer of the Otago on the day before their departure. We had organised a lunch and presentations for the VIPs which was held on the front lawn. I was a little concerned about giving a speech to the big boss (aka the Minister!), but it all went off without a hitch.

The next day we once again manned the fox (the flying fox, that is) and derrick and offloaded everyone’s gear. It was somewhat tricky with a solid northerly swell coming into Fishing Rock. To offload the people we had to launch our lancer (boat) with Toby driving and Zarak assisting. They were able to get right up to the rocks to pick people up and then deliver them to the Navy inflatable. No one went in the drink and Toby and Zarak did a mighty job pretending they were on Piha rescue!

Kermadec petrel chick, North Meyer Island.

Kermadec petrel chick, North Meyer Island

It was then time to say goodbye to our summer vollies Nigel, Maree and Terry. We were all sad to see them go as we’d had many a great time with them over the summer. They put a huge effort into the weed programme and into looking after the island.

Other ships in our waters

While the Otago was here we also had the Braveheart and Tranquil Image floating around with groups of scientists checking out the underwater life (as well as some who came ashore to catch insects and look at plants). Three boats out at the Meyer Islands all at once! Madness! The findings of the research conducted will be very interesting.

The clean up crew

Now that the Otago had left, we had a few extras for a month or so. The cyclone clean up crew (Mike, Zarak and Ian) got to work on cleaning up Boat Cove Road, which was hit hard by fallen trees and slips during the cyclone. After that they tidied up some other tracks and also repaired the derrick shed. They got through a mountain of work that would have taken us the rest of our time here to complete otherwise.

Tasman booby preening, North Meyer Island.

Tasman booby preening, North Meyer Island

The two Pauls got stuck into testing wiring, replacing fuse boards, digging holes, listening to Frank Sinatra and putting my tools were I couldn’t find them. As well as all this activity, we were getting the new vollies (Ed, Amy, Danielle and James) up to speed with the things that go on here.

The time with the extra people on the island was pretty fun. Mike celebrated his birthday during that time so a traditional dress up party was a must.

Out to the Meyers

A trip to the Meyers was a highlight of the month. We had two bird recorders to install—one on North Meyer and one on South Meyer. I spent most of the day sitting on the hill taking photos of the sea birds.

There were thousands of Kermadec petrels of all colour phases nesting, many with chicks ranging from newly hatched to bordering on being fully fledged. Hopping around between the nests were several kakariki.

There were still a good number of red-tailed tropic birds nesting on the cliffs. My best experience of the day came when a pair of Tasman boobies landed about three metres away from me. Without a care in the world they went about their business of preening and calling to each other. One was picking up small stones and sticks and giving them to the other as little gifts. Maybe a stick is the booby equivalent of a bunch of flowers?

There was also a juvenile that repeatedly flew low overhead, looking in on proceedings, but it never landed. At one stage, one from the pair walked to within a metre of me a stood there looking at me with a quizzical look on its face. Several hundred photos and a few hours later I left them to their business (even though they didn’t seem to care I was there) and headed back to the boat.

Red tailed tropic bird on nest.

Red tailed tropic bird on nest

From there we headed to South Meyer to install the second recorder. Once again it was covered with nesting Kermadec petrels. An interesting find was a recently deceased Kermadec little shearwater.

And back to normal life

Apart from our weekend activities, the hard work of running an island continues. There is always something that requires attention. But that’s what makes the job so diverse and interesting!