Journey to Codfish Island
January 22, 2014

With weather reports of thunderstorms, 60kph winds, and a plane flight already cancelled in favour of a helicopter flight the next day… Dannie and I weren’t certain that we’d get to Codfish on our planned day. However – we received no call, so we packed up all of our de-seeded and trigene-washed gear and made our way to the quarantine store in Invercargill where all of our gear would be checked before departure.

An important piece of information I didn’t include in the above paragraph was that we were so prepared and eager that we arrived at the quarantine store… an hour early. Whilst usually there is someone present at the store throughout the day, we weren’t aware that the quarantine team were only turning up specifically for our trip. So there Dannie and I were with all our de-seeded, trigene-washed, and most specifically dry gear… locked outside the quarantine office in Invercargill, where heavy rain and hail wreaked havoc on us with no shelter. About twenty minutes in – a lovely company along the road offered us their meeting room which we were incredibly appreciative of – we got to dry out, have a hot drink, and a staff member even put the heater on for us!

When 12 pm hit, we were back off to the quarantine office where we met the team we would be working with: Sandy King contracted to the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust, and Riki – a volunteer selected from a scholarship opportunity through the Southern Institute of Technology. Sandy runs her own business Paws for Conservation on Stewart Island, alongside being a dog trainer for rodent detection; whilst Riki studies environmental management specialising in organic horticulture.

All of our gear was then thoroughly looked through for seeds, dirt, and stowaways. Even after thorough cleaning of our own gear – the process was definitely required. Apparently it has become a bit of a game for regulars through quarantine to try and get through the process without the staff finding anything – yet to have happened! We all made it through with all our gear cleared – and off the airport we went! (In a van that had also been quarantined). For Dannie and Riki, it was their first experience of flying in a helicopter and I hadn’t had much experience either. We were all very excited – loading gear, boarding, and getting our seatbelts on happened so quickly that before we knew it – off we went! Lift off was smooth and we made our way to Codfish with a renowned pilot from the area. We were definitely in safe hands and could enjoy the incredible views on our journey over. Seeing the bottom of the South Island, the rough subantarctic looking waters, the large swell with streaks from high surface winds, and rugged Stewart Island coastline was amazing! We had some crazy weather come through during the flight – seeing hail approach from a helicopter was definitely a new experience!

We made it safely to Codfish Island, where we were greeted by the current DOC rangers and researchers on the island, as well as those who were returning to the mainland. What a beautiful place we had arrived at – the phrase “it’s always sunny on Codfish” was thrown around. We brought all in all our gear for a second round of quarantine, and then it was time for introductions, health and safety, and hut familiarity. The island is rich in history and is renowned for its conservation work and nature reserve status. There has been plenty of stories heard and reading done on the island itself as well as its inhabitants!

As we went to sleep for the night, you could hear plenty of wildlife – particularly bats and yellow-eyed penguins! With no predators here and no anthropogenic disturbance – you can hear why the YEPs are called the Hoiho (noise shouter). We begin on chick assessments tomorrow – excited to work with a new team in a very special place!

Samantha Collings

Samantha Collings

BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2014