Laura and Olly’s World – Observations from Ōtata Island, The Noises

By . Image credit Laura Neureuter. 2020 edition

It’s day 25 of the lockdown and there are definitely some differences out here at the Noises. The seasons have certainly changed since we have been here but it’s much more than that.

The most obvious change is the lack of boats. I don’t ever remember a calm day here without that multi pitched whine and the quiet is gorgeous. Now the most invasive sound is the distant thrum of a container ship or the regular sound which we now associate with the Waiheke ferry – it took a couple of days to identify that one.

Even though it’s only Olly and me in our bubble it feels as if every day we get additions as nature moves in. Is that really happening or is it because we have the time to really notice and appreciate the changes?

Penguins are coming ashore and partying under the bach. It’s comforting to know these smelly, bad tempered, gorgeous little guys can concentrate on catching fish instead of avoiding boats. The same goes for the petrels, shearwaters, terns and shags –  we’ve been watching them chase balls of pilchards. Perhaps it’s the season but there seem to be more bait fish, along with Kahawai and kingfish. All the beautiful birds which come with them are making our bubble feel very alive. 

I have always had a fear of stepping on a ray as I get in the water – so I notice rays. They are normally quite common here but right now, there are heaps of them just hovering around in the shallows. Normally they gather like this when orca come around but we can’t see any orca. We’re wondering whether it’s because either there’s no boat noise to scare them – or perhaps because there is no boat noise, the rays can hear orca from further away?

Speaking of orca, we were blown away to be out rowing three weeks ago (before realising we shouldn’t be), and a pod of six adult orca and one baby turned up. We hung out with them for a few hours they were so chill – but we were just buzzing! I wonder if they too, were loving the quiet?

The Noises are on a flight path for Auckland airport but planes are few. The odd one can be seen or heard, and the usual night-time flashing lights have been replaced by shooting stars and an increased brightness of the milky way. I never knew the sky could be so clear and until now, I never realised it wasn’t. I can see hills on Auckland’s North Shore which I didn’t even know were there.

The world seems far away and not quite real. We feel sort of suspended in time, wrapped in a bubble in our own separate little world. What will it be like when our little bubble bursts? We’re aware of how fortunate we are, to be able to watch nature catch her breath and experience the positives coming from these times will be something Olly and me will remember all our lives.

Laura Neureuter and Olly De Silva have been on The Noises for the period of the Alert Level 4 lock down.