March 2016 update

Million Dollar Mouse - Target LogoMarch update from Stephen Horn; Project Manager for the Antipodes Island mouse eradication.

The time is really flying by as we get closer to our departure to Antipodes Island this winter. Here is an update on what has been happening.

Operation Endurance

The Navy was due to depart to Antipodes Island on “Operation Endurance” on the 25th of February to help set up infrastructure for the eradication including personnel shelters, a helicopter hangar and the bait loading site. Operation Endurance was cancelled just prior to departure due to the Navy being called to aid in cyclone ravaged Fiji. It was uncertain when the HMNZS Canterbury was going to return from the posting so Operation Endurance was put on hold. No other vessel was secured at such short notice to take the forward team down to carry out the planned work so these preparation activities have now been combined with the main baiting operation. The operational team will depart a week earlier (24th of May) to give some additional time for this work with an aim to be ready for baiting by the 15th of June at the latest.

Operational Team

A team of 19 people will now be going to the island in late May, comprising a six person bait loading team, two pilots, a helicopter engineer, a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping specialist, an eradication expert, a medic and six builders. The builders were originally part of Operation Endurance but will now spend approximately two weeks on Antipodes to help construct the temporary helicopter hangar and then return to New Zealand mainland.

Helicopter Services

A contract has been finalised with Island Aerial Solutions to provide helicopter services. Two helicopters will be supplied for the baiting operation. One from Amuri Helicopters based in Hanmer and one from Southern Lakes Helicopters based in Te Anau. Tony Michelle from Amuri Helicopters/ Island Aerial Solutions will be the Chief Pilot and has been a vital part of the planning process. Darron McCully will pilot the second helicopter and we very much look forward to working with this team.

Tony Michelle, South Georgia Island 2013. Photo by R.Gockel

Tony Michelle, South Georgia Island 2013. Photo by R.Gockel


Shipping Services

The Norfolk Guardian, operated by Quadrant Shipping will be shipping the helicopters, cereal bait in wooden bait boxes, 30 tonne of Jet-Fuel in 200 litre drums and some of the team to Antipodes Island – departing Timaru on the 24th of May. The ship will stay on site for up to two weeks until the cargo including helicopters is successfully offloaded onto Antipodes Island. The most delicate part of the operation will be lifting the helicopters out of storage in the ship’s hold and onto the hatch covers where the engineer will re-fit the rotor blades. Calm seas will be needed for this process. The pilot will then take off and position the helicopter onto Antipodes Island where they will stay until the baiting operation is complete. The yacht Evohe will depart Dunedin on the 23rd of May for the Antipodes with its experienced crew who will deliver the rest of the team (12 passengers) to the island, as there is not enough passenger space on the Norfolk Guardian.

The Evohe (Photo by Steve Kafka)

The Evohe (Photo by Steve Kafka)


Vessel and Helicopter Trial

A practice of the helicopter and ship operations will take place outside of PrimePort in Timaru in March to practice and prove the movements of helicopters aboard. The ship has recently had markings painted on its deck to provide guidance to the pilots for takeoff and landings. The system of craning the helicopters in and out of the hold will also be practiced. As well as the shipping operations, the bait buckets will be calibrated using a non-toxic version of the cereal bait to measure the distance bait is thrown from the spinner mechanism on the bucket and work out what “apertures” are needed to achieve the desired application rate (kg/ha). Flat metal discs with a different sized hole through the middle “apertures” can be interchanged in the bucket to adjust the rate of bait flow and therefore the application rate. The spread of bait for each bucket during a helicopter pass can be determined and flight lines optimised so bait is not wasted and no gaps exist in coverage.

This trial and calibration work will run over 3 days and will test:

  • Loading and unloading helicopters into the hold of the ship
  • Attaching and removing helicopter rotor blades with helicopter secured on the deck of the ship
  • Launching, loading, embarking and disembarking an inflatable boat from the ship
  • GIS testing of buckets and the systems that control and record bait spread
  • Communications and Health and Safety Procedures for the operations
  • Bait bucket flow and swath calibration


45° South will provide accurate weather forecasts daily throughout the operational period. Request for quotes are about to be sent out to food wholesalers to supply stores items for the expedition.

The key events over the upcoming weeks are:

March             Helicopter and vessel trial at Timaru, calibration of buckets, staff  familiarisation with vessel and helicopter interactions

May 19           Majority of team arrives in Invercargill

May 20           Staff training – fire extinguisher use, heavy lifting, allocation of gear

May 21            Staff Training – JSA(Job Safety Analysis), Health and Safety

May 22           Biosecurity of Evohe team, Evohe team travels to Dunedin

May 23           Loading of Evohe and departure for the Antipodes. Biosecurity and travel of Norfolk Guardian team to Timaru

May 24           Loading of the Norfolk Guardian and departure for the Antipodes


Thanks for the support and keep following our progress at:

deptOfConservation                MDM_Landscape