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.
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!
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.
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.
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!