Working for a living (Part 1, day 1)–Island Life

One of my jobs is as a pest control contractor.  No, I don’t fumigate buildings or chase raccoons out of urban areas. This is pest control New Zealand style–trying heroically (and perhaps futilely) to dial back the clock and eradicate a handful of introduced mammals that threaten native (flightless) bird species like Kiwi and Kakapo.  I’m lucky enough to do this work in the largest of NZ’s national parks, Fiordland National Park.  And occasionally I’m super lucky enough to land a spot on a trip to one of the Park’s two big islands.

Resolution and Secretary Islands (the seventh and eighth largest islands in New Zealand) both sit in the middle of nowhere.  And a decade or so ago they were both chosen as sites to try to make pest free to serve as sanctuaries for native critters that were being decimated elsewhere.  After a decade of work, both are free from most of the non-natives that were threats to the indigenous birds.  But both are still subject to potential reinfestation by mustelids (stoats in particular), which can make the swim from the mainland when population pressure gets high enough.

So long story short, they cut a series of tracks around the islands and lined them with kill traps every 150 meters. It’s my job to check those traps and rebait them.

Secretary island from the tops. It is steep everywhere!

Secretary island from the tops. It is steep everywhere!

This last trip I was on Secretary.  Five days of work out of a tiny hut.  A helicopter commute on both ends and communication once a day via inReach.  Being in Fiordland, the weather is often pretty, well wet.  But this last trip I got all time lucky and had 5 days of sunshine.  My socks stayed dry (thanks to some fancy footwork) the entire time.  Such a feat is simply unheard of–normally I’m soaked to the skin from the knees down within 10 steps out of the chopper. But I digress.  It was a great trip.  A great jumpstart to hill training for GodZone, and an awesome way to earn some dollars to keep food on the table back home.  Because of the fine weather I even decided to carry my camera with me for the duration to share some of the vistas and document my luck.  Enjoy!

Tracks along the ridge can be nice, or they can be gnarly. Thankfully, periodic wands with markers lead the way

Tracks along the ridge can be nice, or they can be gnarly. Thankfully, periodic wands with markers lead the way

My day's route ends up over that peak that in the distance...

My day’s route ends up over that peak that in the distance…

The pad for 5 days. Cozy.

The pad for 5 days. Cozy.

Brussel sprouts for dinner!

Brussel sprouts for dinner!

Good looking surf break down there...if only I'd brought my board!

Good looking surf break down there…if only I’d brought my board!

A sunny day in the mountains, looking at other mountains, is good for the soul!

A sunny day in the mountains, looking at other mountains, is good for the soul!