Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kermadec Bulletin

A few weeks back we revived this august journal. It quickly became the newspaper with the widest circulation in the whole Kermadec chain of islands, much to everyone's surprise.

Having said that, every single one of the fourteen pages did demonstrate an absolutely stunning standard of journalism.There was Cooking with Auntie Gaye, Brewer's Corner with John Mac, Weeders in Space and.... and....well, a whole lot of gossip, really.

Bearing in mind the calibre of our average blog reader (we have in place a tracking programme that analyses who reads it, where they live, what they had for breakfast and much, much more) I thought I would reprint our cartoon page. But it was too big to upload by satellite, so we're stuck with a single frame from "Breakfast at the Hostel."

This could also be by way of warning to the new crew, shortly to leave NZ to take over from us. Just in case they think they're coming to Paradise Island....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Driving with Dave

Here's a little clip that shows why it's not always a good idea to travel in the back of one of our Kawasaki Mules:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A fun guy

Chauncy with a striking example of some of the plant forms that thrive in the damper, darker parts of the island. This log looks like it's left over from the prosthetics department for the Lord of the Rings films.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Celebration and salivation

We had what is probably our last birthday celebration on the island this last weekend. I say "probably" because residents have been restricted to just the one birthday per calendar year as some were claiming two or even three per annum in order to capitalise on the food, cake and drinks that would be wheeled out in recognition of their big day(s).

Some had to have their passports checked for verification!

Anyway, this party had a theme of "NB" and it's a sign of the times that even on an island which has a current total population of eight, we had trouble with gatecrashers. We were invaded by a rough looking bunch of ne'er-do-wells; they took photos of themselves, ate all the food and left us with an empty punch bowl!

An ad you can actually believe

Those of you who have read other entries on this blog will recall that my previous camera gave up the ghost while I was snorkelling with it at the Meyer Islands. Somewhat aggrieved that it did not live up to its claim of being waterproof to 10m, I gave it a good bagging and then replaced it with a later model.
This camera was advertised in NZ with some delightful footage of a slobbering great dog wolfing it down, and it re-emerging unscathed from the dog's darkest recesses with a stunning visual record of its adventures.
Today we celebrated a sunny sky and glistening blue sea with another visit to Bigboy, the giant grouper who hangs out at Fishing Rock with his harem. We took with us some long-expired frozen fish so we could feed the big fella.

Gaye and Bigboy

A metre-long Kingfish joined in the fun underwater and Bigboy was his usual friendly self, nuzzling up to wetsuits, chasing away his girls and allowing himself to be stroked and patted. Our frozen fish disappeared all too quickly, and one by one the others got out to dry themselves off.

Gaye, Bigboy and kingfish

I was about to join them, having taken my full quota of photos, when Bigboy made another lazy, close pass at me and I watched his big jaw crank itself open wide enough to swallow a football. Completely unperturbed, he glooped down my shiny new Olympus Tough camera!

That camera looks tasty!

The good news was that the camera had a piece of webbing attached to it, and that cord was looped securely around my neck. Wait – hang on! Maybe that good news wasn’t quite so good; I was now being dragged along by the neck, underwater, by a very large fish.

Luckily Bigboy is so gentle he let me grab hold of him, prise open his jaws, unhitch the cord from his retroflex needle-teeth and extricate my camera from his oesophagus by pulling backwards away from him.

I’m not sure which of us was more relieved, but this camera lived to shoot another day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

John Mac's photos

Looking down into one of the sites of the 2006 eruption

Three kakariki, the cheeky local parakeets

A well-camouflaged kakariki

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Three of Craig's photos

Craig took some nice shots, many of them in and around our home, the hostel.
Dave and Bas late one Friday night. Dave is out of focus for a good reasonHostel and Navy helicopterHostel and annex plus outbuildings

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Thankfully, we don’t have many incoming field casualties to the Raoul Island Hospital. However, the fact that the island is 1000km and a 10 hour round trip by helicopter from New Zealand, means we need to be well resourced in order to deal with medical emergencies.

Our Hospital is a small separate building located behind the hostel.

The hospital

It contains a modest supply of pharmaceuticals, an extensive range of dressings, plastering materials, surgical and dental instruments and oxygen. As we are away from base most days (sometimes a walk of 90 mins) each group has a team member that carries a well equipped field first aid kit which includes adrenaline, antihistamines, analgesics and dressings. In the event of a serious field injury, a grab-pack is stored in the hospital and this can be brought to the injury site when requested by radio.

Inside the treatment room

We swung into gear last week when informed at base, that a weeder had been hit by a falling rock. Chauncy and I headed up the hill to met the team who were accompanying a rather, pale shaky, bloodied patient. Thankfully the head wound was minor although the bruising was moderate. There were no neurological sequelae.

Injured patient Bas - unfortunately not sick enough to escape the dishes!

DOC trains two interested permanent staff as the medics for each year. They are supported from New Zealand by General Practitioners in Warkworth and a consultant at Middlemore Hospital. As a GP, I have been able to provide support to the medics in their role during my stint here. Aside from the two medevacs off the Island (neither of whom were DOC staff or vollies) the majority of the medical work has been minor and injury-related. For example, we have treated sprains, eye foreign bodies, infected cuts, allergic reactions and lacerations.

Generally though we have all kept very good health and with swine flu circling the globe, we have undoubtedly been in a very safe isolated spot. No one has had any type of viral illness or cough and the only sniffles are those caused by allergy to plants, dust or a bottle of bubbly, as one staff member discovered last week.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dave's perspective

I like these three shots that Dave took. They go a long way towards capturing the notion of the vastness of the sea that surrounds us, and the sky above it.
Sunset as viewed through a porthole of the Kinei Maru No 10, our rusty shipwreck
Big sky
Big sea

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Overnighter to Hutchies Bluff

Gaye and I have just returned from an overnight visit to Hutchinson's Bluff, which is at the western tip of the island. It was a work/pleasure trip in that she tagged all the track markers with reflective tape in order to assist the progress of any walker caught out by the dark, while I attacked the overgrown fern with a scrub bar.

We stayed in the hut out towards the Bluff. There are four huts on the island and these humble dwellings are a rare privilege to stay in because they are all fully stocked with food (and you KNOW it's going to be there). There is no concern about rats or mice bothering you, because they no longer exist on Raoul. The cookers can be a little cantankerous as they are fuelled by pressurised kerosine, primed with methylated spirits. If you don't do things exactly right - particularly with the one at Hutchies - it can scare the bejeesus out of you by suddenly flaring up to the roof with a big orange flame. Consequently, Gaye hid her eyes on the bunk or stood by the fire extinguisher while I did all the igniting.
Inside the hut - Gaye cooking up the rice for dinner
The highlight of the trip was gazing down from the spine of the island and seeing a Humpback whale propelling itself right out of the sea and then smacking back down with a cascade of water and a crack that arrived with us a full second after splashdown. To see such a huge creature leaping at the sky like a salmon was completely breathtaking!
A thousand feet of cliff face beneath your feet
Also very exciting was just negotiating the track - in a couple of spots you can only move while hanging on for dear life to a fixed rope and the ground drops straight down into the sea beneath your feet. It is such a knife-edge sliver of earth in other places that one more decent slip would make the end section into another island altogether.
Fixed ropes are essential to keep you on the track

Friday, September 11, 2009

Photos from Gina's camera

Here are some more shots from the marathon viewing session.
Me eating lunch - the reason for the day!
This sorry looking bedraggled lot had been weeding in Blue Lake and were caught in the rain.Gareth and friend
Lots of caves in this island

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chauncy's Pics

Before the other two left last week we had a MASSIVE photo viewing session and I collated everyone's twenty best shots. Well, that was the request, but most of the island found it too hard to restrict themselves to a mere two score and Gina broke the record with no fewer that five. Five files, that is.

Since I have been temporarily deserted by inspiration, I thought it would be good to have a look at everyone else's shots over the next few days.

So here are a few of Chauncy's:

This is Western Springs. Chauncy had to climb down the face in order to get this shot!
There's a surfer in that tube. It's Toby, vollie from the first half of the year.
Galapagos shark. They're apparently very friendly.
This is Lava Point, to the northeast. I love the way the wind has sculpted the trees.
Octopus on the beach.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beer O’Clock

Last Saturday afternoon we had the Raoul Island Beer Tasting Competition.

It's a tough job and we were pleased to be able to do it

The historic giant red formica table was hefted out on to the front lawn in the sunshine, the bottles all “blinded” so we didn’t know which of the 18 brews we were tasting, and we set to work.

Johnny B wondering if this is his winning brew

Colour, carbonation and turbidity are all part of the 'Appearance'

After all, it’s not easy after a few ales to distinguish ‘nutty’ from ‘grainy’ in the scent category, is it? And once you’ve read the ‘Finish’ notes carefully in order to be able to describe correctly the lingering sensation after a beer has been swallowed, how can you NOT use phrases like “Light Struck – Having the characteristic smell of a skunk.” I’m just grateful that none of my brews was described as “Oxidized-Stale – Taste/odour of wet cardboard…rotten vegetables…baby diapers.”

Nevertheless, there were some harsh judgements. Dave’s scores went from 50/50 to a damning 0/50 and it was distressing to see that one of my young (admittedly rather fresh) bottles was dismissed with the term “DANGEROUS” by one of my fellow judges.

We persevered to the bitter (or was it lager?) end, and the appropriate brews were lavished with universal praise. Johnny B took away the coveted “Best Beer in Show” award, and John Mac cleaned up in the Dark Beer category with first, second, third and fourth places. Actually, he may have got fifth sewn up, too, but my memory of the prizegiving is a little hazy. John Mac has specialised in low carb, low alcohol brews by putting in little or no sugar, and they’ve been a great success.

Gina and Gaye were both invited to participate in the judging but (for some reason I cannot fathom) they both declined. This meant we had a photographer and cracker-server, Gaye, and a chief pourer, Gina.

They both did a grand job!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Goodbye Craig and John Mac

We farewelled these two last night, when the Canterbury's helicopter came and took them away at close to midnight. It was sad to see them go, and to realise that our time here will also end all too soon.

There were the inevitable jokes about what disasters would occur the moment Craig left the island, as all our catastrophes seem to take place when he is away. So it was a little spooky when we were shaken awake at 6.10am by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that was centred only 95 km away. It was a window-rattler. This was also a little sad for John Mac, who was desperate to feel a decent shake for the whole duration of his stay, but managed to sleep through all of them!

Anyway, here are their official departing portraits:
John Mac

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bigboy again

Bigboy again - he's very photogenic!

One of Bigboy's harem - there were three females with him here

Two more underwater shots for your enjoyment.
The water is particularly clear, as you can see, but these fish are easy to photograph because they hang around in a mere two metres of water. Bigboy is very inquisitive and often arrives to say hello to snorklers as soon as they jump into the water. This has made for some anxious moments for those who are slightly nervous (because of sharks etc) as he has no idea of personal space and is often right in your face as soon as your eyes get focussed under the sea. Sometimes we need to be careful of landing on him when we leap off the rocks.
These groupers all begin life as females and then can change sexes as they get older. They can live to be a hundred years or so - a good argument for Marine Reserves, don't you think?
Bigboy was accompanied by three smaller females this time, with lighter colouring. All four fish trailed along behind us as we circumnavigated Fishing Rock.
He gets a bit stroppy with the girls at times, and has been seen giving them a nip if they get in his way. Clearly the feminist ethic has yet to make it into the world of large fish!