Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Whole Lotta Linking Going On

Here is the promised summary. I tried desperately to continue my procrastination but a cold confined me to quarters on this grey mid-winter day, so I sat inside by the fire and got the job done.

Raoul island is a tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean, roughly midway between New Zealand and Tonga. You can walk/run around its tracks in a day (as long as you are fit - the tracks are steep in places!) The island is right on the Kermadec Trench, which is also the boundary of the Pacific plate. Just offshore is some of the deepest water in the world, some 10km to the bottom. The volcano is an active one and has two calderas - Denham and Raoul. It last erupted in 2006, killing a DOC worker, Mark Kearney. Earthquakes are frequent occurrences. The isolation is at once an appealing factor and a potential risk, with help a long way away if things go wrong.

Read about our impressions of the island physically or look at this overview of what is was like for us to live on an active volcano. You could visit the Meyer Islands, just off the northern coastline of Raoul. Sunshine camp is on the SE coast of the island, accessible only on foot or by boat. Hutchison's Bluff is on the western tip. We spent a few nights at Mahoe Hut and conducted a search-and- destroy expedition on a new plot of Brazilian Buttercup there, hooking out some Mysore Thorn on the return journey. Denham Bay gets more than one entry, here and we examined the unfortunate history of the many graves there. The shipwreck of the Kinei Maru No. 10 also gets a mention.

Earthquakes are covered here and here. We had a few, but nothing spectacular.

You may want to read about what it was like going out weeding in this rugged terrain. Or you can go into the crater and visit BL08 with us, with the added bonus of a giant haul of that nasty tuber Madeira on the same page. Some of the steep ground we encountered was in Bell's Gully, not far from the hostel at Oneraki.

There were lots of other interesting jobs, although I realise now I didn't ever post a blog on my many happy hours mowing the airstrip on the tractor with the iPod volume turned up loud. Emergency preparations got a good going over and of course we had two real life medevacs and a tsunami. Gaye wrote up a nice outline of the Raoul hospital here and I penned a rather sardonic review of the obsession with risk management here. Yes, yes, I know it's a long way to get help but I still can't help thinking that piles of paperwork and outright prohibition have taken over from what we used to refer to as common sense. Measurement of Co2 is covered and the weather station work gets a look too. Ditto the land crab survey. Start-up (we were always in bed too early for shutdown) of the generators got a mention here.

Most of our travel on the island was on foot, but there is a brief video of our Monday morning commute to work in one of the Kawasaki Mules. The same link also covers our efforts to maintain the few kilometres of roading on the island. Pictures of the unique flying fox by which our boats were launched and all gear is brought on to and taken off the island are here.

Lots of space was given to the flora and fauna of the island. Gaye looked at some of the ferns, mosses and fungi and also some very old trees; there is a picture of some weird orange fungi here. Pukekos, those raucous stroppy birds, take up a bit of blogspace. More video here. The shock Pukeko sex-change page can be viewed here. Kakariki were very photogenic so shots of them appear thoughout, but Johnny Mac's page has some nice pics and there is another one here. This page has a Petrel chick pic on it too and our Meyers visits got in some nice chick shots too. Gaye wrote up a trip to visit the Sooty Terns and used some of Gareth's nice photos for that. Whales preoccupied us for the last weeks of our stay on the island, with more here, here and here. Brief video of them can be seen on our departing voyage. Bigboy the Giant Grouper features quite a lot because he was always around when we got into the water at Fishing Rock and we developed a real affection for the old fella.

Food and drink occupied a reasonable amount of space, and so it should! How much chocolate to take with you for six months? How good is home brewed beer? How many birthdays should one person have in a year? Should food be thrown away just because it expired last century? How much do the gardens produce? And just how good are those oranges and grapefruit?

Rest and recreation loomed large in our experience of island life. Gaye and I used the library as our bedroom for the first week or so and a wonderful resource it is. We probably took too many books with us as there is heaps of excellent reading for all tastes in this marvellously dusty old room. Everyone took movies and DVDs too. Obviously, the sea was the source of lots of pleasure with surfing, soaking in the hotpools at Oneraki, swimming and snorkling favourite pastimes. More kayak surfing shots here and the hazards of a enjoying the fast, steep beach break are traversed here. One of the more curious theories relating to beachcombing can be found here. Contact with the outside world was mostly via the interweb, with email and Skype heavily in use. However, we also got real mail delivered by the airforce and by a passing yacht. Just once. But there is a fantastic file of old letters written to Raoul Island and Chauncy (as postmaster) carried out a regular correspondence with a young boy from Timaru who was keen to collect the coveted island postmark.

Photos from people's "best-of" collections are here, here, here, here and here.

Wikipedia has a good overview of the island and some excellent external links to things like the GNS webcam, a history of the Bell family and a great site detailing the visit to the island by Dr Floor Anthoni of Seafriends. There are some excellent underwater shots on this site.