New Zealand
Harbour Cone

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  • Day24

    Earthquake! Albatross & Penguins

    November 14, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Monday 14th November
    As I felt so rough last night I put my phone on silent before going to bed. It has woken us in the night a few times with messages and alarms from home. Tonight we were determined to sleep well. But we overlooked earthquakes! At two minutes past midnight NZ time a massive earthquake 7.5 on Richter scale hit. Epicentre was around Hamner Springs, a few miles from Kaikoura. So when I awoke at around 6am and checked my phone I wondered what on earth was going on. I had missed calls from Bruce and Lois plus messages from friends and relatives. Once I looked at the messages I realised what had happened, I quickly woke Peter and we tuned into local radio and TV which is running updates on the damage and situation. Tsunami warnings in place along the east coast, Dunedin stood down from state of emergency (I hadn’t realised we were in a state of emergency!) Being in a castle we are on high ground so should be safe from tsunamis but we are due to go to see the albatross nesting sites and yellow eyed penguins down the road this morning.

    10.50am –
    • The interislander ferry has had to drop anchor at sea and is stranded outside Picton harbour as the landing port has been damaged.
    • Kaikora cut off, no power, water or sewerage. Landslips blocked roads in and out of the town. Several houses demolished.
    • Wellington had landslips
    6.3 aftershock
    • Military aircraft to airlift people from Kaikora
    • Estimated repair at billions, taking days or weeks
    • Dam breached on Canterbury’s Clarence river, lot of water to flow down to the sea, people advised to stay away

    Severe storms forecast for tonight. We’re in for a wild one! Not helped by the super moon which will deliver high tides as well.

    The albatross nesting site was very interesting. Because of high winds we were able to see fantastic flying displays from lots of seabirds. They have the Royal Albatross here. Saw an albatross sitting on an egg. Amazingly huge birds with a 3 metre wingspan that have to fold in 3 places to be put away. Watching them glide effortlessly on the storm winds is quite breathtaking. I’ve always loved the Fleetwood Mac song ‘Albatross’ and today it seemed very fitting. We walked up a steep hill to a hide which gave views over the top of the cliff where the albatross were nesting. One couple were very funny, they were nest building, a sort of gathering of stones, grasses and sticks on the ground. He had done his best and arranged the various bits in what he thought was an acceptable way. She however took one look at it and promptly took it apart stone by stone, grass blade by grass blade, stick by stick. She picked up bits and threw them away or replaced them in a different place. He looked at her disconsolately as she destroyed his hard work. Then he turned his back and started to waddle off down the grass path. We joked he said ‘right well I’m off down the pub’. Then he turned round and came back to help her, probably saying ‘I forgot my wallet’. Beautiful birds that seem to have a permanent smile.

    The yellow eyed penguins were also special in their own way. Sadly, their numbers are declining on the mainland, breeding colonies also exist on some islands off the coast of New Zealand. They are private birds that do not gather in groups, preferring to pair off and just remain like that. No artic walk for hundreds of miles in a big gang like the emperor penguins. We saw one in a nesting hut with a chick which was pretty special and another sheltering alone in another hut. He was a lone male but as there are many more males than females he may have a long wait for a partner.

    Stopping for lunch in a local pub on the way back we caught up with the earthquake news on the TV then with wild storms forecast we are back in our castle hunkered down to weather the storm before our early start tomorrow to fly to Bangkok from Dunedin via Auckland.
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Harbour Cone