Hark! Hear the whales sing
Blogger: Karen Baird, Forest & Bird’s Kermadec Advocate
On Monday, we rolled into wind-lashed Raoul island – an anvil-shaped volcanic island at the northern edge of the Kermadec ridge.
The island has poor anchorage and setting foot on the island was further complicated by the fact our dinghy’s motor was now defunct .
Under the watchful gaze of three Galapagos sharks, we sent a flippered crew member ashore with a line, lowered our dinghy into the water, and used the line as a guide.
We then climbed into the mule (all terrain vehicle) and headed round to the DOC base on the north side of the island.
Kermadec parakeets frequently flew off the track in front of us, a reminder of the success of the DOC rat and cat eradication programme in the early 2000’s.
The four wheel track from Boat Cove passes through lush Kermadec pohutukawa and nikau forest and there was just enough mist hanging in the forest to give it an ethereal quality.
The DOC base is centred on the hostel, a fantastic colonial style 1939 wooden building with a double hipped roof and inbuilt veranda.
We met the current team and handed over the eagerly awaited mail bag from home, the last mail drop having been over 3 months ago.
Some scones and a cuppa later, and we were back on the ocean, destination: Nuie. Come Wednesday, we were sitting over the what is one of the deepest parts of our ocean.
The Kermadec – Tonga Trench is the second deepest place on earth next to the Marianas Trench.
We weren’t going to let this landmark go uncelebrated so we wetsuited up and leapt in for a 10,000m deep swim.
Leaving a crew-member on the boat and lines trailing behind in case we misjudged and floated off, in we dove, with masks at the ready to gaze into the deepness. Wow, incredible blueness! Bright, deeply intense blue. Bottomless blue.
No doubt there were whales under-flipper – surely some humpbacks and possibly some beaked whales.
Our whale audio device , or hydrophone has shown that these oceans are filled with the low –moaning song of the humpback whale, however we couldn’t distinguish the chatter of beaked whales amongst the recordings.
All we need now is an expert ear to help decode these mysterious deep-sea sounds.
To see my previous blog, go here