Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Finger of Death

“Pink tape!”

This is the shout we listen out for when we are in the field doing what we came here to do. It signifies the discovery of an “inf,” or infestation, of any of the plants on the wanted list. High on that list are Black Passionfruit, Brazilian Buttercup and …Peach! I guess that just emphasises how the definition of a weed can include any plant not in its natural environment.

We grid-search plots looking for the location of previous weed discoveries; they are marked by the tying of the aforementioned pink tape to a tree or branch. We then search for evidence of new seedlings and rip out any that we find. GPS is used for navigation, but also the outside of a search path can be delineated by string that unwinds from a spool inside a container fixed to someone’s waist. That way nothing is missed.

Craig on the weeding track - he's in there somewhere!

It might sound like a fairly genteel way to pass the time, but it’s not. The ground is steep – vertical in places – and clogged with bracken, ferns, nikau and windfall pohutukawas.

Pohutukawa snaking off downhill

These latter are amazing in that they can grow huge, blow over in a storm, re-root themselves from branches and then repeat the whole cycle many times over. We have discovered some that loop off downhill like petrified giant serpents, for 30 or 40 metres. If they are on your intended track, sometimes the only way to get past them is to wriggle underneath the lowest branch on your belly. You can climb over them, but it’s not uncommon to find yourself 7 metres off the ground with no more handholds to keep you from falling. Slips are common and happen after rain or sometimes earthquakes

A weeding team re-gathers for compulsory DOC morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea out on the track somewhere and typically then we will then solve the problems of the world. So far we have sorted out religion and politics without long term fallout, although our leader Chauncy tells us that in the past people have had major disagreements that have tainted everyone’s experience of the island. They can no longer speak to one another, won’t sit at the same table to eat and bail out with a tent at every opportunity in order to get away from the offending party.

Break time! Sometimes you just have to climb a tree.

Anyway, here are some of my GPS stats from yesterday’s effort on LF06, which includes the dreaded “Finger of Death,” a long and very steep ridge which drops straight down into the valley.

Speed 900m per hour
Odometer 7.76km
Total ascent 648m
Max height 299m

Post Script: This entry was written after our foray into LF06 on Friday. Another team went back to finish off the plot on Monday and found that the whole hillside where I took some of these photos had let go and is now piled 10m deep on the valley floor....

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