Rich Days and Poor Knights

My month with family in New Zealand was a time wonderfully rich in togetherness, fun, exploration, and adventure.  The weather gods truly smiled upon us, with only one day of light rain in Auckland and another partial one on the day when we visited the Waipoua Kauri Forest (see my last two posts).   CD and I had been there for Christmas two years ago, and Squiddy and Batty presented me with two wonderful presents at that time.  The first was a diving mask in which they had had a lens installed that had my prescription, and the second was a promissory note for a snorkeling trip to the Poor Knights Islands, a spot well-known by many divers and snorkelers around the world, as it is New Zealand’s most famous.  You may have seen an unforgettable sequence in the BBC’s Blue Planet series that shows the annual migration of hundreds (thousands?) of huge sting rays that swim through the underwater canyons of the Poor Knights.  On the day that we had set aside for our outing in 2011 (January 22), the weather was foul, with strong winds driving stinging rain.  Due to the poor conditions, our crew had cancelled all marine excursions for the day.  We were all quite disappointed, but we made up for it somewhat by exploring the water off Goat Island, another marine reserve.

But this year when we tried again, on February 6, there was a only a light breeze, no chance of rain, and a beautiful blue sky with only a few puffy clouds.  We met at the dive shop in Tutukaka at 8:00 am sharp and, along with some half-dozen other snorkelers and four scuba divers, stood in line to get the gear we needed (those of us who didn’t have our own)—fins, neoprene wet suits, etc.  Ours wasn’t the only boat going out, so the proced- ures took about two hours until we were ready to launch.  The trip out to the Poor Knights took the better part of an hour.  There was a two-meter swell, providing for some interest- ing rocking of the boat, but only one of the passengers had a brief bout of seasickness.

Along the way we saw numerous sea birds, though none very closely; no dolphins, unfor-tunately; and several other islands in the distance, the most impressive of which were these three amazingly-craggy and sheer ones, which—I believe—are called The Pinnacles.

The Pinnacles 7977The Poor Knights Islands are volcanic remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire and, according to our crew, were named by Capt. James Cook, because, as he approached them, he thought they resembled a knight in armor laid to rest on his back on the sea surface.  This took, shall we say, quite a bit of imagination—at least from the perspective of our line of approach.  According to another story, they reminded him of his jam-covered Poor Knights Pudding.  They are uninhabited; in fact, severe fines are levied on any unauthorized person who as much as rests on a coastal rock while swimming (the crew of the launches are duty-bound to report any such transgressors).

Poor Knights 8103The water within 800 meters of their coastlines is a strictly-regulated marine reserve.
We anchored a few dozen meters off the lee shore and suited up.  The water was cool, not at all uncomfortably cold (but I was happy to have the wet suit), and surprisingly clear, considering the constant motion of the waves against the rocky shore, which resulted in some slight, inevitable turbidity from the stirring-up of the sand and other materials on the sea floor and in the rock crevices.  I had my little, waterproof Pentax WG-2, and using it during my two snorkeling adventures gained me—in addition to a few printable photos—a healthy respect for underwater photographers who work from and close to the surface.  It is a tremendous challenge to try to keep a camera still enough for that split-second necessary to get any appreciable detail while being rocked and rolled about in the waves approaching and rebounding back from the shorelines, even in the wind-protected lee side.  But it sure was fun trying!

Poor Knights 847Poor Knights 841Poor Knights 788(The little blue fish in the first underwater shot are Demoiselle, and the larger one in the second photo is a male Sandager’s wrasse.)  Between my swims, warmed by a couple of cups of hot soup, I tried to capture the flight of several Australasian gannets that were soaring along the rugged cliffs and diving into the beautiful, azure water.

Poor Knights 8008Gannet 8074

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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18 Responses to Rich Days and Poor Knights

  1. Mike Powell says:

    Wonderful storytelling and beautiful photos. It sounds like it was quite an adventure, though personally I prefer to remain above water.

  2. victoriaaphotography says:

    Sounds like a wonderful experience and I’m glad you got to swim underwater & take some photos.

  3. krikitarts says:

    So am I–I love having been able to experience such a world-class destination!

  4. What a wonderful experience and a special time with your family. I’m so happy for you :). Love the underwater photos by the way!

  5. krikitarts says:

    Yeah, Cindy, what a totally different world it is! The family time was nothing short of fantastic, and I’m always grateful for any chance to expand my photography world–what an eye-opener this was. One part of me would like to try scuba diving, to see up close some of the deeper wonders, but I think I’ll resign myself to exploring what I can find by paddling around on the surface, where the real air is just a few inches–rather than a few fathoms–away. I’ve always loved tide pools, and I plan to explore them in much greater detail in the future. Thanks so much!

  6. Worth the wait…..what a great experience and now lots of memories for those darker days. Your little Pentax has done the business but I can imagine trying to hold the camera still, probably at arms length and whilst trying to remain floating in position is an skill in itself. Some great shots. Thank you for taking us with you.

    • krikitarts says:

      You imagine quite correctly, David–the worst part is that, in the constantly-moving water, the tendency is to be swept slowly but helplessly forward, and if you don’t get a moment of relative calm for what you want to shoot on the first pass, it’s nearly impossible to swim backwards even a few inches with those big fins on your feet while holding the camera in one hand. It can be reeeeeeally frustrating!

  7. emilycd says:

    Yay! So glad to finally see some of your underwater shots! Beautiful.

  8. Meanderer says:

    What a wonderful experience and how fantastic to get those shots underwater. Well done for holding the camera so steady!

    Also love your title for the post! Rich days, indeed.

    • krikitarts says:

      There was certainly more than a modicum of luck. The percentage of good ones sure does go down when there’s nothing at all to hold onto or lean against or even stand on. The experience was really intriguing, though, and I’m eager to try it again–but next time hopefully in calmer and shallower water!

  9. seekraz says:

    Yes, very nice story-telling, Gary…and wonderful photos. I love the last one of the bird…incredible….

    • krikitarts says:

      The gannets are just so elegant in flight–I never get tired of watching them soar the winds looking for fish and then diving like arrows when they spot them. Thrilling!

  10. settleandchase says:

    What a great present! Looks like a wonderful experience!

  11. krikitarts says:

    One of the best presents anyone can give is that of sharing one’s own quality time. In our family, we are all blessed with this quality, and it means the world to us!

  12. Pingback: Poor Knights | IDK

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