SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
November 22, 2018
Better Late than Never: More information on our second port stop
32° 31.29’ S 177° 26.76’ E
Course & Speed
010° & 4.6 knots
Main Stays’l & Fore Stays’l
Warm and cloudy with intermittent squalls throughout the night, Wind: NW BF 4
It was a pleasant Saturday morning when we sailed past the Hole in the Rock and into the Bay of Islands, just north of Auckland. The scenery all around us was stunning and we encountered lots of boat traffic, consisting mainly of sailboats. We then anchored just off of Russell, a cute little town tucked away between the rolling hills of the Northland. This location is where the C&M students in B watch would complete the second part of the Human Use Census of the Aotearoa New Zealand coastline. The survey was completed during the early evening of Monday, November 19th, 2018. We found that this port was used mainly for recreational vessels, with a majority of these vessels being sailboats.
We also saw kayaks and stand up paddle boards set up along the beach that were often in use during the day. Aside from recreational sailing vessels, we identified a few ferries that most likely contributed to the town’s economy through the tourism industry. These ferries took people on sightseeing tours for different geological attractions as well as for guaranteed marine mammal sightings. There was also an hourly ferry that took people over to the town of Paihia, in which the Treaty of Waitangi (an official document between the British and Maori) was signed in 1840. The last type of vessel that we identified was a small commercial fishing vessel, though two cruise ships were identified outside of surveying time as well. As such, we concluded that Russell did not provide many industrial uses, consisting mainly of residential, commercial, open space, and agricultural areas.
Russell’s sleepy atmosphere is quite distinct from the bustling urban and industrial environment of Auckland. The coast line was quiet in comparison, with little foot traffic and large-scale transport. In Auckland, we had been alongside a concrete wharf on which pedestrians could enjoy water-side restaurants, bars, and recreational seating areas. The wharf could also support large vessels, like the aforementioned cruise ship. Russell, on the other hand, had a small to medium-sized dock on which ferries and sight-seeing vessels could unload but was not supportive of many actions beyond that, though there was a small gift shop in the middle. Vessels were scattered about the port, anchored on open water rather than adjacent to the dock. A few fishermen peppered the dock, but recreational enjoyment of the water seemed to be more evident on the beach, as kayaks and other small recreational vessels lay along the sand. Additionally, the sheer number of sailing vessels was overwhelming. Overall, Russell seemed a lot more slow-paced than the busy city of Auckland.
The leisurely vibe of Russell is interesting given its history. We learned that Russell was a popular stop for mariners and other seamen. Known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific,” Russell was a lively place of drinking, brawling, and prostitution. Captains would often refuse to let their crew come ashore for fear of never being able to get them to return aboard. We are curious as to when and how the atmosphere of Russell transitioned into the sleepy town that it is today. Additionally, knowing what the bay looks like during the tourist season compared to the off season would also be an asset to this survey as perhaps the town would not be so sleepy during other months. If a New Zealand government agency were to make a marine spatial plan for the Bay of Islands, it would be pertinent to include the activities of both seasons. Knowing when to put restrictions or guidelines in place could positively impact the local economy while accomplishing the goals that a marine spatial plan aims to achieve.
We look forward to continuing our survey in Napier! For now and the next few weeks we remain bound for the Kermadecs!
- Camryn McCarthy, B Watch, Smith College, Kate Spencer, B Watch, Syracuse University, & Elena Beckhaus, B Watch, University of San Diego