Archives For GNS

By Raoul Island Ranger Louise Mack


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 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 for more information.