Date: 02 January 2012
There has been no sighting so far of the missing Department of Conservation volunteer, with the aerial search of the coastline of Raoul Island called off around 8pm due to fading light. Evidence suggests that the man was swept into the sea while carrying out routine meteorological readings around 6am today.
The search will be continuing tomorrow, with a long range helicopter being sent by the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ). If weather conditions allow, the crew will be available to depart at 10am for the five hour flight to Raoul. The aim is to re-fuel on the island and search the coastline and high probability areas, with this type of aircraft best suited to the current sea conditions.
There were no replies to a mayday relay broadcast sent out earlier today, signifying that there were no vessels in the area available to assist. The NZ Navy are also not in the vicinity.
The six staff and volunteers remaining on the island have been doing everything possible today to help find their workmate and friend and will be briefing the helicopter crew when they arrive.
It is expected that the aircraft will remain in the area for at least 24 hours, when the situation will be re-assessed by DOC and the RCCNZ.
The Kermadecs islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, are a nature reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. The chain of islands some 250km along the western edge of the Kermadec Trench, with Raoul Island being the biggest at 2900ha.
Only one of the Kermadec Islands is inhabited. This is Raoul, the largest island where a DOC base is located. It’s currently home to 3 DOC staff and 4 volunteers.
A major part of the conservation work conducted by DOC staff and volunteers based on Raoul Island is eradicating weeds to protect the 113 plants that are native to the Kermadec islands.
As well as their conservation work DOC staff and volunteers based on Raoul island:
- Run a weather station for the New Zealand Met Service
- Monitor seismic and volcanic activity for the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
- Collect air samples for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) which is important in monitoring global warming
- Monitor and maintain equipment for the United Nation’s Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation
The weed eradication programme is vital for the ecosystems that sustain the rich birdlife on the Kermadecs. The islands are home to 35 bird species, five of which are unique to the islands. Birds found only on the islands include the Kermadec petrel, Kermadec red-crowned parakeet and Kermadec little shearwater.
Fourteen species of seabird nest on the Kermadecs with an estimated six million birds involved in breeding every year.
There are 23 species and sub species of plants that are unique to the Kermadecs. These include the Kermadec pohutukawa, the Kermadec nikau and the Kermadec nettle tree.
DOC has eradicated rats, mice, feral cats and dogs that were threatening the Kermadec’s unique birdlife. As a result Kermadec petrels and Kermadec parakeets, that were breeding only on outer islands, are now breeding on Raoul Island again.
The pest eradication has also seen the recovery of the Kermadecs as an internationally important stronghold for seabirds ranging from tiny storm petrels to wandering albatrosses which have the largest wing span of any bird in the world.
The 745,000 hectares of ocean surrounding the islands are also protected as New Zealand’s largest marine reserve. This means these waters can not be fished.
Liz Maire, ph 021 234 0831
Operational search information: RCCNZ, ph +64 4 499 7318