Sunday, July 26, 2009

A beautiful day, with some little surprises!

Well I wrote this up a few days ago but I've been having some technical difficulties! Looks like its all set now though.

Yesterday I spent the day working on Matiu/Somes Island which is located in the Wellington harbour. The island is rich with history and amazing wildlife. The island has been used for animal and human quarantine (some of the human quarantine stories are quite sad and shocking). It also has military history (both in early Maori times and in both world wars) as well as many other interesting little titbits (a particularly interesting story dealing with leprosy). I could probably write pages about all the history and the biodiversity of the island so instead I’m going to post a link to a short video on the island at the end of this blog…I STRONGLY suggest you check it out!

In the morning I hopped onto the ferry to transport me to the island. I was accompanied by 5 volunteers from ANZ (a bank in New Zealand) who were going to work with myself and the historic ranger on the island. The first thing we did upon arrival was a mandatory self bag check in case any pests like mice or an invasive species of ant, were hiding in our packs. Once cleared we learned about what our mission for the day was. In the morning we would be clearing out the degaussing station on the island (more on what that is in a minute) and in the afternoon we would be helping prepare the old maximum security animal quarantine station to be opened to the public as an exhibit on the island this coming summer.

Now you are probably wondering what the heck a degaussing station is….I know at least I was! In World War II the German’s developed magnetic mines that were wreaking havoc on their enemy ships. Degaussing is the process of decreasing the magnetic fields of ships by using coils. All that is left of this station is the foundation and our job was to clear away all the overgrowth of vegetation around the site (which included rather evil vines!).
It could not have been a more perfect day to be working out on the island. The sun was shining and we were working in T-Shirts….a rare occurrence since New Zealand is in its winter season!
Everything was going well when I started clearing out a large pile of woody debris. I lifted up a large fallen branch and I discovered a Little Blue Penguin nest with two Little Blues cozying up together in it! I was shocked and jumped about a foot. Little Blue Penguins are (like their name) the tiniest breed of penguins but they are also the most vicious. The penguins I found however were far from vicious and more scared then anything. I ran to grab my camera but they the time they got back they had retreated farther into their nest. I snapped a few photos anyway and resumed work. However the volunteers working with us were quite distracted by the tiny creatures which ended up being a problem. The poor penguins were frightened and we were blocking their pathway to the sea if they wanted to escape back into the big blue ocean. With all this going on, the Ranger and I decided it was time to move to a different location and let the little blue penguins be. The rest of the morning consisted of breaking down the larger tree branches into smaller pieces for the chipper.
(My horrible picture attempt...I put a red box around the penguin)
Once work was done at the degaussing station we moved up to the maximum security animal quarantine station. The first task was to move the original items from the vet’s office in the station and place them back in their original spot. Unfortunately the desk and filing cabinets were extremely heavy and they needed to be moved from the island’s Visitor Centre (old hospital) which was 300 feet down the hill. Doesn’t sound that far but after lugging all that stuff my back wouldn't agree with you. We then proceeded to the old animal holding pens. Depending on what type of livestock was kept in the pen at the time, different wooden pallets had to be put on the ground. We setup pens that were once used for cows. We also found out the hard way that each pen had to have its own specific numbered pallets. A lot of guesswork and back breaking work went into this. As a result of our team efforts everything looked great and it was pretty cool to have help set up an exhibit that visitors from all over the world will be seeing for years to come,
After all the day’s work was done it felt so good to get back on that ferry. I left with a feeling of accomplishment and I think working outside released all my happy emotions I was a little tired but all smiles! I could definitely see myself working in this type of setting because I love the outdoors and places with rich historical significance. Working on Matiu/Somes Island is a great mix of the two!

Click this link to see the video!

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