After some final editing and a final trip to Melbourne to meet with production company executives during the Screen Forever conference, we have finally achieved a major milestone – the release of Episode 1 – The Wettest Place On Earth. It was our goal to release this episode prior to Christmas and with slightly less than a week to spare and with a huge post editing push we managed to get the final cut release yesterday.
In this episode I traveled to Fjordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island. The main theme for the trip was meant to be a survival holiday beginning with my arrival by charter plane at Martins Bay – a very isolated location which is 70kms from the nearest road. Things began to change immediately after arrival however as during our arrival check in satellite telephone call (a safety precaution to let home now we were departing on foot), we learnt that my camera man’s son had taken ill and been taken to hospital. The most sensible decision was for him to board the aircraft before it left and fly back out which unfortunately left me without a camera man for the entire duration of the trip.
This resulted in the entire episode being self-filmed. A very difficult process in which the filming quickly absorbed more time than the adventure / survival purpose of the trip, however I am very happy with the result and that the final episode shows the adventure from start to finish. Unfortunately when self-filming, the best parts of the adventure (the risky parts) cannot be filmed due to not being able to do two things at once. Unfortunately this meant that there is no footage of my crossing of a raging flooded river shown in the title, no real detail of the magnitude of the storm that hit and caused people to be stranded in country, and little B Roll footage to be able to use through the editing process. (B Roll is the minor footage taken on an adventure used to fill the short pieces of the film.) The key learning has been to never self-film again, however I’m glad I took on this challenge and produced a great outcome.
The storm was so significant that a lot of people were stranded. Most walk the 70kms into Martins Bay and then fly out, but the storm flooded the airstrip which meant that the air operator had to delay the return flight by two days. Some people had also been delayed by the weather and had held up in huts for several days and those unprepared were facing up to 4 days without food supply. Perhaps not life threatening, however certainly an uncomfortable experience.
I provided assistance to a German tourist that had become dehydrated (hard to imagine with so much water around) and a Swedish backpacker who had actually managed the entire loop around Alabaster despite the conditions, however she was looking quite the worse for wear. I also provided assistance via sat phone communication to a search and rescue team who were searching for another German tourist that had been missing for 3 days (and was later found). The Search and Rescue team’s satellite phone had become waterlogged and so they were able to re-centre the search operation using my phone.
Reflecting on this trip afterwards, the importance of being prepared for a variety of conditions and environments was highlighted. So many of the people I came across were ill prepared or not fit enough to handle the situation they found themselves in. I am all for getting outside and exploring the world on your own terms, but taking a blasé approach to your readiness in an environment that is known to be as changeable as Fjordland will quickly place you in peril. Being the wettest place on earth with over 6 metres of rainfall per year, it should be expected that you will face torrential conditions which may occur quickly. This can quickly turn uncomfortable if you have the wrong clothing and lets face it, water proof anything will not keep you completely dry for 15 days straight in those conditions. This said, I came across a few well-seasoned trekkers that carried light, high quality gear and were well prepared and coping well with the fitness requirements.
As we head into Christmas for this year I am currently beginning the planning for Episode 2 – The Jurassic Jewel. In this episode I will make an epic journey across the open ocean from Sydney NSW to Lord Howe island, stopping at the Jurassic Jewel – Elizabeth Reef for fishing and spearfishing adventures, then travel on to Lord Howe Island, and conduct various adventures on the island including Mount Gower walk (Grade 10 walk and hardest in Australia), Ned’s Beach (swimming with King fish) and restaurant / café life. Lots of interaction with island locals and retelling of Lord Howe famous stories including air crashes and famous wrecks. I am currently seeking Expressions of Interest for sponsorship for this episode particularly relating to the supply of an appropriate vessel and to fund a professional film crew. At this point in time we are preferring a minimum 38 foot power cruiser with twin diesel props. Please contact us if you can provide support in any way. I have also just taken delivery of two Shimano Stella’s, a 10,000 and a 20,000 which we will be using comprehensively on the trip. We will be posting a review of these reels and the matched T-Curve Bluewater series rods in due course.
Thanks again. Get Outdoors and be safe.
The forecast was for spectacular conditions between 6am and 9am with WSW winds less than 7 knotts and an ESE swell less than 1m, with conditions expected to change to significantly worse after 9am. Due to this being the first and best chance to get into the water and try out my two new guns I had recently purchased a Riffe Euro 130 and a Pathos Roller carbon 82, I managed to convince my trusty sidekick to get out of bed for a 6am start (we both had to travel over an hour to get to our spot). After meeting up at a local supermarket and leaving his (city boy) car, we boarded the Landcruiser to travel to our final location. Our first challenge it seemed came from several road closures – the recent bushfires had rendered some of the roadside trees dangerous and so the local council had maintained road closures. After determining a suitable detour that added about 20 minutes to our trip, we were travelling the last 6kms by forest trail (4wd only road) when we came across a French tourist walking up the trail (630am) alone. He explained that he had spent the night in his bogged juicy van further down the track and needed assistance. Riding on the side steps of the Landcruiser until we came across his vehicle, the juicy van was completely perpendicular to the trail, and completely blocking passage either side due to the thick foilage. We were met by our French tourists seemingly only comrade as we proceeded to let down tyres and hook up a snatch strap in a very not ideal orientation – we were puling the vehicle from behind (the only available tow point) and needed to pull it perpendicular to its direction of travel. After explaining to the tourist the procedure of 1. Engine running, 2. Reverse Gear, 3. No acceleration under any circumstances, using the power of the Landcruiser I hit the snatch strap at a reasonable pace which was enough to pull the juicy van free. The only problem was the tourist panicked, hit the accelerator and shot backward travelling a distance of about 20 metres and subsequently re-bogged the van after smashing into a tree large enough to damage three of the panels of the van. After this incident, I was completely surprised to see 4 other people climb out of the van and roof top tent (3 girls and one guy) obviously shaken by the little accident. Fairly astonished by the fact that they hadn’t bothered to tell us that there were others in the tent and the van, we re-oriented again for a - direction of travel snatch and subsequently un-bogged the vehicle for the second time. As you might expect, I had sacked the French tourist from the driving position and replaced this responsibility with that of my spearfishing mate. 2 up for the Aussies, the Frenchies made up for it by explaining some interesting breath holding techniques for free diving. Apparently they were experienced free divers and after showing us an App that assists with breath training (will review this later once we’ve used it fully) we carried on to our destination, arriving about an hour late and hitting the water at 7am.
The fires and road blocks must have been deterring spearos from this fairly well known spot for 2 weeks or so, because despite the conditions being considerably rougher than anticipated, there were fish everywhere right from entry. Very keen to try my new Riffe however, I saw no end of problems with the shooting line tangling after every shot (and in between every shot). Despite following my well-practiced pre entry procedure reloading and running the shooting line, it seemed that under the water with the added tension of the powerbands, there was just too much slack in the shooting line to stay put in the rigged position. About 200 metres from shore and after spending about 10 minutes on a tangle that wouldn’t budge, I decided to head in to shore to once and for all sort out the problem. On shore and after going through my, ‘’don’t blame the tools’’ mantra, I realized that in this case, it was actually a case of the tool requiring adjustment. The shooting line was simply too long by about an inch, and when rigging the line as per manufacturer instructions, there was no stretch at all in the shooting line bungy, so no tension forming on the line. This was the situation out of the water with no power band attached, so I resolved to fix this later, and reverted to my backup gun, a Pathos Carbon Roller 82. The Pathos, also a new gun for this occasion was an ‘’oh my god this thing is awesome’’ kind of experience. Nailing the first shot of the day being a Red Morwong I loved the handling, speed, comfort and power of this little baby. Originally purchased as my ‘’backup’’gun, I think that I had such a good experience on this day with the Pathos that for midsized hunting, this might be my preferred gun. I am even considering a step up to the 110, since on the same day I managed to sell my Beuchat Carbone Marlin to my mate who fell in love with it.
Having no problems with the Pathos, I ventured further out however was soon fighting the largest undertow I have ever seen. After a missed shot, the few minutes I spent reloading the Pathos saw me towed about 200 metres from my starting position. By the time I was heads up I felt a little disorientated and taking a moment to work out where I was suddenly realized the strength of the current I was in. Thankfully, my DiveR fins kept me entirely confident as I pushed against the current and made progress into a slight cove sheltered from the current.
After a look around the cove for lobsters and not finding any, I realized that it was 1030 and I needed to be out of the water by 11. The weather forecast hadn’t been close with conditions actually calming past 9am instead of turning bad. I wished I could have stayed all day. But I called the day a success with a beautiful Red Morwong and a lot of fun, and good bit of practice with the two guns that I’ll be taking to New Caledonia in March next year. I also enjoyed the ‘’instruction time’’ with my mate who is only just getting started. The 18mm powerbands on my Beuchat proved a bit of a struggle so we will be moving to a 14 mm band set shortly, but it is always nice to help another tailor gear to their experience level and start to enjoy the sport. He walked away with some serious spearo chest marks that tell me he was definitely trying hard enough.
Red Morwong is wonderful table fair and I find that gutting and de-gilling them as soon as possible helps to preserve their freshness. To de-gill, I usually sever the base of the gill plate and then using a gloved hand (the gills are very sharp – never do this without gloves) reach in and pull out the gills. Afterwards place the fish into an esky or similar with ice to preserve. The day after catching I prepared the fish with a buk choy and oyster sauce mix. Finely dice the buk choy and place in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of water. Put some oyster sauce over the top (only a small amount) then cover, and cook in the microwave for only 90 seconds. On this occasion I cooked the Red Morwong in the deep fryer for a different finish. Red Morwong is a beautiful taste – almost like Barramundi but less fleshy, none of the black lines throughout and without the sometimes muddy taste that Barramundi can have. 4 minutes in the deep fryer was enough. Served with a fresh Tahitian lime of my backyard tree and a small amount of white rice, this was a true Asian style delicacy which my family thoroughly enjoyed. Better yet, they subsequently put in an order for more Red Morwong… in my experience there is no better excuse than that to get back in the water!
Over the next couple of days I will adjust the shooting line length on my Riffe Euro 130. Such a beautiful gun it was disappointing to have this ‘’out of the box’’ experience, however that is how the cookie crumbles. It’s experiences like these that advertise more than any other the need to test your gear before doing anything too serious. I have purchase that gun for my trip to New Caledonia next year. It would be a terrible experience to travel internationally like this and find your gear lets you down simply because you haven’t tested it, or aren’t familiar with it. I am looking forward to sorting out this underwater cannon and giving it another try. Overall this was a great day despite quite rough conditions and a late start.
Until next time…