Monday, August 31, 2009
Here are a couple of shots from the many I clicked off. More to come soon.
We do have plenty of frozen, dried and canned foods. Fresh food is always preferred, however.
Since arriving here, Neil and I have “taken over” the bottom vege garden. We have been enjoying salad meals of rocket, radish and lettuce and recently broccoli, beans and coriander from Chauncy’s garden. The supply of red and green chillies has been constant and they are a welcome addition to our curries, pizzas and the odd Mexican meal that is served up on our historic large red Formica dinner table.
Chauncy and some of the garden goodies
We grow all our plants from seed and it has taken me until now to realise I need to think ahead and have things in the seed raising mix at least six weeks ahead of when I intend to plant them out. Germination and growth has been slow with some of the cool wet weather we have had until recently. Things should be humming along nicely for the next guardians of Raoul Island when they arrive here in mid-October.
Our bottom garden is well fenced against the pooks as they have mercilessly ravaged it in the past. The kakariki still visit at will and a few seeds are lost to them, but on the whole they don’t do a lot of damage and in fact are helpful as they nibble away at the oxalis corms. We know they’ve paid us a call when we discover the silver beet plants stripped back to the stem.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Yes, we read that we cannot visit the flagpole if an excess of alcohol has been consumed (someone once drank too much, fell off the cliff there and had to be evacuated with a broken arm)
But who warned us about encountering overprotective pukeko parents like Lone Wolf and Georgina? No-one.
Future residents of Raoul, please take the following short clip as your official caution.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We have no need of money on Raoul Island. No-one here carries a wallet or a cellphone. Our requirements are pretty simple and we have a marvellous facility that is designed specifically to cater for them – Arkwrights.
Fans of the golden age of British TV will remember Ronnie Barker’s classic comedy, the one in which he lives in fear of the savage till in his grocer’s shop and spends much of his life dreaming about Nurse Gladys from across the road. His character was the original Arkwright.
If it's your night to cook or you want a snack of any kind all that is required is a quick trip to the building behind the hostel. It’s stacked to the roof with a year’s supply of food.
The only drawback to all this is that sometimes this delicious fare gets a little past its use-by date.
Gaye and I have recently spent a few hours in this mighty establishment, completing the annual stocktake. We were under instructions to "be ruthless," so previous inhabitants of the island may be disappointed to read that the cans of nutmeat that arrived nine years ago have now gone, that shipment of canned food that fell in to the sea has been disposed of (they rusted out) and there is no longer an opportunity to enter the competition advertised on the Banana Nesquik containers, the one that closed last century.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The bay contains a variety of other old trees including oranges, limes, a turpentine tree and a date palm.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It’s hard to say whether the rather gloomy history of settlement in the bay has coloured people’s perceptions of what took place, but the first account we heard suggested that a crewman had committed suicide on board and his shipmates then decided that the vessel was cursed and resolved to get off it “with extreme prejudice,” as they say in the movies. DOC people on the island at the time apparently looked down from the top ridge and noticed a group of 15 to 20 Japanese seamen wandering aimlessly along the beach, looking lost.
My attempts to discover the truth that I knew was out there were initially rather fruitless. Two links to Lloyds Shipping Register went into automatic internet loops and ultimately failed. The only other reference I could find to the boat was that one of its portholes had been sold on TradeMe in 2008. A user called “SubMaureen” was quite interested in the purchase, but missed out.
Eventually we tracked down a book called ‘New Zealand Shipwrecks’ which had a rather more prosaic explanation for the disaster. The captain had been the only person on the bridge at the time and had elected not to use any of the navigation equipment or warning devices, despite it being pitch dark. He was described by the investigators as “negligent and incompetent.”
Perhaps a little too much Suntory whisky had been consumed that night?
Footnote: November 2009
Just before we left the island a document arrived detailing the Team Leader's memories of the stranding of the Kinei Maru No 10. It makes fascinating reading, not least because the subtext is that the group on the island at the time had some tensions between them. Most of these were exacerbated by the departure of the ship's salvors with their task unfinished. That led to a decision by the island's residents to get stuck in themselves.
First, the boss and one mate slipped across the island in the dead of night, intending to be first on the boat with all the attendant rights to what could be salvaged. Then the captain of the ship presented a magnificent bottle of cognac to his counterpart - apparently worth thousands of dollars. This led to so much resentment from the troops that a compromise solution was arrived at - give the grog to someone back in NZ who had been supportive of the programme.
I was intrigued by the list of what was on the boat. Apparently the catch of tuna was worth more than the ship itself, safely frozen to -50 degrees in the hold until the engines stopped working. And then there were the electronic goods, 300 cartons of cigarettes, 20 dozen crates of spirits (mostly whisky and brandy), wine saki and liquers and let's not forget the 100 dozen cans of beer.
I imagine they had quite a party with that lot!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Island ornithologists were stunned at the recent hatching of two chicks to the ‘civil union’ Pukeko couple of Lone Wolf and Boy George. Earlier confident predictions that the two birds were a same-sex union that was doomed to permanent breeding failure have been hastily revised. Boy George has been renamed Georgina.
In keeping with the spirit of New Zealand’s politicians and their limitless ability to preach restraint at the same time as they claim generous expenses from the public purse, Lone Wolf has decided that the feeding of his offspring is as much our responsibility as it is his own. He has taken to standing on the kitchen doorstep and screeching until the food arrives, then scuttling off to the little chicks with their breakfast in his beak. Whatever he gets, it’s never enough.
Both parents have also become very aggressive, which occasionally makes hanging laundry on the line outside the kitchen a challenging activity. One of them even had a pecking attack at a towel that was revolving insolently in the wind in the vicinity of their progeny.
The surprise development will make for interesting adjustments to the balance of power in the ongoing pukeko wars that rage around our homestead. The Eastsiders have also recently given in to their own need to breed, and are sitting on yet more clutches of eggs.
Undoubtedly they have done this in the hope of retaining their numerical supremacy.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Actually, the second of our three generators blew up here yesterday so we are limping along on a solitary source of electricity at the moment. The island may well be permanently incommunicado by the time we return.
Denham Bay has been the centre for many of the abortive attempts to settle Raoul Island, mainly because the water supply is more reliable. It is also one of the few areas on the island which has flat ground and if our experience of Sunday’s preliminary visit is anything to go by, it is a wonderfully sunny and peaceful place to stay.
It also has a rather tragic history.
The settlers in the bay at the time were infected with this illness and many of them died too. The survivors were taken off the island by Captain Marutani on the Rosa Y Carmen, and their cattle, chickens and other provisions were appropriated by him at the same time.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Our weeding task took us through Bell's Ravine last week. This is a steep-sided slot in the hillside that is characterised by multiple waterfalls. Working your way up to the top of the ravine means you have to be happy to do without the sun for a while and also to do some compulsory rock climbing.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Another role that fell to Neil and I is the co-ordinatation of the annual land crab survey. This is a research project initiated by Kala Sivaguru and Alison Botha, which aims to find out more about the recovery rate of land crabs following the eradication of rats here, along with their population density, sex ratio and other bits and pieces.
The nocturnal land crab (Geograpsus grayi) is endemic to Raoul and our island is the only place in New Zealand where they can be found. The crabs live in burrows and are 30-40mm in carapace length.
During daylight hours we went to the designated research areas, marked out our plots and familiarised ourselves with our areas (it always looks very different at night). The search areas usually involve the floor and sides of ravines, which makes for an interesting time in the dark with torches covered in red cellophane so as not to frighten the little creatures.
Here on Raoul we have a different set of signals, including the one spotted no fewer than three time in the last couple of weeks – whales. We have seen both Minke and Humpback whales close to the shore in front of our home, sometimes only a hundred metres or so away.
They have migratory paths that track through the Kermadec Islands as they head south to the food in cooler waters. One had a calf with her and seemed to be interested only in lolling around in the sun.
Fantastic to see - such impressive creatures!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Surfers can be an exclusive clique. This is reflected in the distinctive terminology that weaves its way into their conversation – grommet, dropping in, out the back etc etc
In this picture from Saturday afternoon Chauncy gives us a visual illustration of the surfing term ‘Beach break’….
Sunday, August 2, 2009
My favourites are the many varieties of Maidenhair fern. In bush clearings and under the cliffs these ferns provide a fabulous display of lush green.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Was there kicking and screaming? Not much!The finished product would have delighted any mother and there’s only one of those on the island at the moment.