On the 24th of May a group of seven departed Timaru aboard the MV Norfolk Guardian bound for Antipodes Island 450NM South East of NZ at 49° south. The group included pilots Tony Michelle and Darron McCully, engineer Dave Ives, doctor Jamie Doube from Adelaide, builder John Henderson from Glenorchy and DOC staff Keith Hawkins and Finlay Cox.
In the hold we had two AS350’s supplied by Amuri Helicopters and Southern Lakes Helicopters respectively, one R44 from AHL along with 134 drums of fuel, 65 ton of bait, a temporary “Simple Shelter” hangar, four baiting buckets, as well as food and resources to sustain a team of 13 for up to 150 days.
All the aerial resources were supplied through a contract with Island Aerial Solutions, a company formed by Peter Garden and Tony Michelle to provide expertise and resources both domestically and internationally to support island rodent eradication programs
At the same time the yacht “Evohe” sailed from Dunedin with four more builders, two project staff from Island Conservation and the balance of the project team from DOC taking 2 days to reach the island.
Over the ensuing two weeks the Norfolk Guardian was unloaded in the challenging open waters of the sub-Antarctic and the temporary hangar erected before the NG and Evohe departed with the build team leaving 13 project members to the elements.
Antipodes Island is 2100 ha’s and home to around 26 endemic species of birds ranging from Petrels, Albatross and Skua Gulls to penguins, pipits, snipe and parrots. It was estimated there were 200,000 mice on the island that severely impact the feed source for many birds – especially those feeding on invertebrates.
Two drops of Brodificum were made – the first in June at 16 kgs per ha then a second drop in July of half that rate. Calm days usually bought thick fog so most baiting was done on windy days when there were relatively constant laminar winds. Weather opportunities’ had to be capitalized on whenever they decided to grace us with their presence.
Once the baiting was completed we then had three week wait for the NG to return from a scheduled run to Norfolk Island however we made the most of this time monitoring vegetation and birdlife and demobilising all our resources – 150 loads to fly back onto the boat. We returned to Timaru on day 75 well ahead of budget and now await 18 months until monitoring is undertaken to determine whether we have been successful in eradicating every rodent.
The New Zealand public gave generously, raising $250,000 towards the project. World Wildlife Fund- New Zealand (WWF) kindly gave $100,000. The Morgan Foundation matched the donations dollar for dollar, raising enough money to get the project underway and providing a significant sum towards the project’s cost. Island Conservation joined the team as partners providing more generous support. The rest of the final cost was funded by the Department of Conservation.
Read more about the project on the Million Dollar Mouse website, or the Island Conservation website
Click below to watch a video of the crew loading a helicopter onto the Nortfolk Guardian
Click below to view videos of a northerly storm on the island.