The Contrast of Islands
November 12, 2018

The third day brings more rain and I have been assigned “dinghy duty”.  This entails a dinghy with three people rebaiting coastal traps – a driver and two trappers are leapfrogged from one trap to the next along the coastline.  Our task is to cover as much of Long Island, which lies between Resolution and the mainland, as we can.  This island is important to maintain because stoats and rats use it as a stopover when attempting the swim from the mainland to Resolution Island.  Because it has rats, the island uses double set traps.  These are particularly good for rats and stoats in combination, as they are both attracted to a dead rat– it was common to find traps that had two captures in them – efficiency!  

The dinghy driver waits for the swell to pass, accelerates forward into the rocks and holds the dinghy there while I launch myself off onto the rocks and scramble up to the marker.  The dinghy is filled with supplies for the day – spare bait, warm clothes and lunch.  The driver makes notes of every capture and location.  We make our way around the island, where almost every trap marker is accompanied by a waterfall pouring into the sea. At morning tea we watch a seal frolicking in the outgoing tide of the fiord.  At lunch we board the Southern Winds for a warm toastie.  While eating, we watch a couple of Fiordland Crested Penguins fishing around near the launch. 

After lunch we reach the northern side of the island – because it’s not exposed to the cold southerlies, more rats live here and almost every trap is full of them.  In the distance we get a shock as we round a corner and there is a huge cruise ship on its way out of the sound – it seems so alien in this pristine, remote oasis. We spot some bottlenose dolphins in the distance and move towards them to get a better view.  From our observation spot a hundred meters away, there are dolphins as far as you can see in almost every direction.  They are leaping out of the water and the pod must be at least 300 strong.  Back to work and Jamie goes in one side of a tiny island and out comes a seal on the other, cross at being disturbed from its slumber.  The wildlife is abundant – I have to keep pinching myself!  Early dusk falls and the fish are active so the penguins are all out feeding.  The water is so clear we are able to observe many different types of fish beneath us – bright orange parrotfish and leatherjackets to name a few.  Jamie collects some green lipped mussels from the shoreline.  We end the day 11 hours after we started, with 200 traps serviced and a total of 58 rats caught.  The contrast between today and yesterday is striking in terms of captures and birdsong, which just goes to show the value of keeping Resolution Island low in predators and rat free.  Nothing beats a hot shower and a cup of tea after a cold, wet day on the dinghy.  We share stories – the others have been out running trap lines nearby and conducting some track maintenance.

Pippa Halliday

Pippa Halliday

BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2018