Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rats !

Thered be rats in them hills !

And rats there are, Xplore and the rat attack team have returned to Pitcairn after a successful expedition to Henderson Island, but there is a bitter sweet taste in everyone's mouths.

The key objective was to find out for sure if rats had survived the eradication project of 2011, or if there were rats there, if they were of a different type than what was at first being eradicated, meaning, had there been a different type introduced by an out side source since the eradication project.

The findings were quite definite, the original rats had survived 2011, there were no signs of any other species of rats, the numbers of rats at this stage are very small, but they are there in numbers, and rats breed very very fast, a new generation every 6 weeks.

One of the positives to this trip was that the special and endemic bird population is breeding well and coming back in good numbers.

One of the negatives to the trip is the fact that another rat baiting project cant be redone until the population reaches a stabilized, plateaued level, and that will take about 2 to 3 years to reach that point.
So, Xplore is now on-route back to French Polynesia

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I realized tonight that it was about 20 years that I have been sailing for my work, well maybe some wouldn't say its work, but for life style. And in my deep thoughts which I have at sea, I looked back to the times that I have shared with my actual family in those last 20 years, and the reality is that there hasn't been much time together. Sure there has been the short visits, the sailing trips, the family reunions and even the surprise arrivals, just to shock the hell out of someone that didn't have a clew.

But I realized that as a sailor, that my family have also adapted to my choice in life to ply the oceans and seas, the remote and wild places and the romantic dream lands that capture one's imaginations.
Sometimes I feel closer to them out here than when we stand face to face, feeling all a bit lost for words some times, you know that squeamish feeling of "what do I say now" and "how can I explain" what the last voyage and location was like without sounding like some sort of a boasting jet setter, but just a normal person, doing what they do best.

Sailors are different creatures, and through time and miles they adapt to the life and the ways of "being" what they are, forever changing, forever moving, the challenges of the elements seem absurd to land folk, they cant understand how we can cope or endure. But sailor's mould themselves to the role that they have chosen, just like flying fish, they didn't originally have wings, but they learnt that the best way to survive in life was to grow their arms to enable themselves to take flight when needed, quite nifty when you think about it.

But to my very special family, who must think that I have forgotten them most days and years, because "Stephen is doing his own thing" you are wrong, I haven't, I remember and relive so many of the enjoyable times, all the special moments that we had as children growing up together, learning from the curved balls of life that my two great parents steered us through, and still the new experiences that we share all together when we do meet again.

Like trying to explain to someone "who is god" to you, you cant really because its each person unique experience, and its what's there in your heart that truly counts.

So to my dear family, I do love you all so much, and each day and night, you are also slipping smoothly over each and every wave that I cross.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We've been ratted on !

Well since my last up date news has obviously gotten around, and I can just imagine the hoo haa out there on Henderson Island that the Rat Exterminator is on route.

There must be war drums beating, gathering the flocks to the central rat square in the coral caverns of this ancient historic island to plan their strategy and tactics.

Its already working because in looking at the weather forecasts they have already put the fear of god into us, and potentially canceled, or best postponed our arrival until they have prepared for the on

Rats are very very cunning creatures, because today's forecast has suddenly changed and shows that they have conjured up a powerful tropical depression building quickly in the NNW of us and intensifying over Pitcairn and Henderson islands, bringing gale and storm force winds into the area and very heavy rain for 2 to 3 days ( they must remember from last year that rat bait isn't any good if it rains hard)

Soooo, the plot thickens, we cant head to Henderson as the worst of the winds are coming early from that direction, and even if we could we couldn't land anyone on the shore with the surf and a tiny narrow cutting in the reef that will only allow a small zodiac to pass at high tide and in calm

So we are mulling over ideas and ways that we can keep the Rat Exterminator and his team in situ until the storm passes, but in the mean time we will have to try to find a side of Pitcairn to hopefully weather out the storm, and not get blown out to sea and have to deal with it out there.

Rats and washing machines

Its hard to find a rat in the world best washing machine, and we are trying dam hard I can tell you !

Hundreds of years ago sailors on tall ships used to do their washing in urine (terrible thought, but true) because the uric acid would clean and whiten the cloths. But since then sailors also have learnt that good old sea water, especially if mixed about will also clean and whiten well.

Since leaving the protection of the coral lagoon of Gambier Islands two days ago we have been living in the worlds best washing machine, a good old South Pacific blow, 25 to 35 knots right on the nose, with a mixed sea state that jars ever bone in your body, no real rhythm or cycle to lull you off to sleep, its more like being thrown out of your bunk, if you left any clothes on deck they would be spick and span in minutes with the tons of water rolling off the decks.

Now ships and rats have also shared the same space on board vessels for hundreds of years, and its probably because of those dam rats that we are bouncing away here at the moment, we have carried since Gambier Island a rat specialist from NZ, who considering the conditions has been a bit sheepish
to say the least (yes I had to say sheepish for this nice Kiwi chap)

Our mission (we have already accepted it) is to rendezvous and pick up another bunch of rat specialists from Pitcairn Island, along with 500 Kg's of rat bait and all the shore camping equipment for them to be able to survive on a remote coral island called Henderson for a week, Henderson Island is about 110 nautical miles ENE from Pitcairn Island.

Why the hell for ? you ask, well the world Royal Society for the protection of birds (RSPB), sponsored a huge rat eradication project last year and spent a squillion dollars on wiping out the rat population of Henderson Island, months of work, helicopters on ships, staff and tons and tons or
yummy rat bait. Their reason for this is to help protect the remaining endemic and rare bird species that live on the island.

Well it turns out after we met a recent team from National Geographic who visited Henderson about a month ago that one of their people who was on the island spotted a rat and took a photo of it ! dam, the shivers would have gone up and down the spines of everyone there at RSPB.

So being that Henderson is a very remote location, and that there are no ships in the area, good old Xplore has been put into service for the "Rat Race" to find out if there are any rats remaining on the island, find out how many, and if possible to wipe them out, sounds like a good theme for a movie, James Bond or the Mission Impossible team.

More Rat news to come, Stephen