Thursday, August 23, 2012

Raoul Island - part I

After two days of steaming and a lot of pumice,we finally arrived at Raoul Island. Unfortunately Raoul is rocky and difficult to land on unless it is really calm. So the first half of expeditioners got on to the island via the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) and Zodiac on to the rather sketchy Fishing Rock landing. However, the weather packed in, so when it came to the second half of the team to swap over, the transfers had to be done with the Seasprite Helicopter. Fortunately the helicopter had finished hauling gear back and forward for the Department of Conservation (DOC), so it was available to shuttle us on and off the island. So I got to go in a helicopter for the first time in my life. Not sure I would rush to do it again as the sudden jolting and changes in direction didn't sit very well with my stomach. So while I don't get sea sick, I am definitely prone to air sickness - possibly due to the more random nature of the movements.

Dressed in my helmet and life jacket for the helicopter flight

The seasprite having dropped us off on Raoul Island

Life on the island was very different. DOC is a very different beast to the Navy. The island had been hit by a cyclone just 5 weeks earlier and some areas were devastated, including several of the buildings that were being fixed. There was also the annual changeover and lots of annual checks on instruments etc.. However, it seemed a lot more relaxed. We were camping on the lawn in front of the Hostel, with the Pukeko, friendly Tuis and Kakariki. Now I can understand how the Tuis and Kakariki got to the island from mainland New Zealand as they can fly pretty well... although we are told these are different subspecies so must have been here a while, however the pukeko are rather pathetic flyers - so their presence didn't make much sense unless they were brought there by maori (or they could have floated on pumice rafts!)

 Nikau palms knocked over and killed by the cyclone

The roof of the shed had been blown off and was a few hundred metres away in the trees...

Our first day on the island it was pouring with rain and we looked around and chatted to the DOC guys on the large verandah at the hostel. The DOC team spend most of their time weeding on the island trying to get rid of the plants that europeans brought with them, including peach, passion fruit, guava etc.. However, there are several orange and other citrus fruit trees and fig, that are allowed to stay and not be removed as they are now deemed historical (I assume as long as they don't spread). They also have several veggie patches so that they get fresh greens throughout the year and to supplement the food that is airlifted in once a year.

 One of the veggie patches

The hostel and tents on the lawn

In the evening we were given army RATion packs to eat. See below for what they contained. I barely managed it through the noodles and the main meal. One of the students took it upon himself to try and eat the whole lot - it does say that you should consume the whole thing in 24 hours -but I assume that is only if you are in a intense combat situation when you are burning lots of calories. I think he had a rather bad belly ache after he tried.
The contents of the RATion pack - it is canned cheese!

The hostel lit up at night by the newly installed solar panels and batteries

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