Arrival – The Student Perspective

While booking a bus for 7.50am seems like a good idea a month ahead of time, it was not looked upon favourably once the first alarms were set to organise waking in time for it. Departing from Sky city bus station for Whitianga on Sunday was the first chance a small cluster of students, myself included, had to marvel at how this Field School had ‘snuck up’ on us.

The talks and warnings about ‘definitely bringing raincoats’ were well placed for those of us who did not know what to expect in regards to our first Field School experience. Rain was spoken of but pushed to the back of minds as something to be pleased that it wasn’t happening. Famous last words.

I cannot recall exactly when the drizzle began in Whitianga but definitely before we arrived at our backpacker accommodation. There was nothing to fear, however, as we had been well warned, as soon there were raincoats aplenty. After our respective dinners, and a few chance encounters with Alex (our tutor), at various stages of our night, we settled in for cards and a beer –in true Archaeology style!

We awoke to rain, which seemed to get worse each time we announced, “It couldn’t possibly get worse than this”, but we wrapped our clothes in plastic bags and made our way to the marina where we were to meet for the morning. Loading the boat was definitely made faster by an ample supply of eager students ready to follow the ‘if we are working, you are working’ to a tee. The men and staff were sent off to unload on the other side for the first trip, something that was not fretted over for too long, as there were café’s aplenty to keep us entertained for the 3 hours we had to kill.

The weather took a turn for the better, and we were lucky enough to sit on the drying grass in the sun –as evident by the few lobsters amongst us as found later in the day –before the boat came back to get us. We all piled on and were to off to Great Mercury Island by 2pm that same afternoon.

The water was absolutely stunning, one of the better boat rides I have been on, and definitely made the day that much better. There was a top deck to the boat were five of us could sit and admire the passing stratigraphy exposed by wind erosion making beautiful reds and arches. Watching the GMI loom into sight was a great chance to put a mental picture to all the photos and gestures we had received earlier at the briefing.

As we weren’t on the earlier boat, we didn’t have much of chance to see the island, including the Pa site; however I am hoping we get a chance to do that with later walks around the island, which has been promised. I will admit I was exceptionally pleased to not be assigned to the first group cooking –Go Orange! –and the bunk rooms, while slightly cosier than normal, were also a pleasant surprise with plenty of room and small wardrobes for stashing multiple bags. After a quick walk up the sand dune the beautiful Oneroa/Whites Beach was revealed, with its intact shells that begged to be taken but were to be kept where they were found.

Food was excellent, with a lovely Pavlova and cream with strawberries to finish, so it delayed dipping into the chocolate stash for another night. Early morning tomorrow and the generator is about to be turned off, so time is of the essence and the tone of the shed is “You should be working” but until another day passes we are yet to be given something that will satisfy that urge.


– Sophie

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