2019 World Whale Conference ‘Journeys that Inspire Change’

Ocean spirit humpback - Copy7 – 12th October 2019, Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia.

Hosted by Fraser Coast Tourism and Events and the World Cetacean Alliance

We’re very excited to have been invited to be present at this conference next month!

Glenn is speaking on Tuesday 8th under the title:

Diving Deeper into our Relationship with Whales and their Ocean Home

and we will have a stand for the duration of the conference.

Earlier this century we were fortunate to spend several months of the year with the humpback whales of Tonga around the Ha’apai Islands. From our whale watching base on Foa Island, we took people out on our Wharram sailing catamaran and swam with these incredibly majestic beings. As a result of our experiences with the whales, we went on to establish Ocean Spirit Ltd which subsequently gave birth to Te Wairua O Te Moananui-Ocean Spirit Charitable Trust in January this year.

Glenn’s abstract for the conference is as follows:

Ko tãtou te moana, Ko te moana ko tãtou
We are the Ocean, The Ocean is us – Maori proverb

In the Biosphere, water cannot be separated from life and life cannot be separated from water.”  Vladimir Vernadsky (19th century Russian scientist and pioneer of the biospheric sciences).
We modern humans have been living under the delusion of separation: separation of our species from the rest of the life community, and the arbitrary separation of life and the ‘non-living’ environment. But for cetaceans, and indeed, all marine life there has never been any separation between themselves and the Ocean.

The whales (especially the migrating species) need us to understand that the Ocean is one living system, and as such, we must address our personal and collective relationship with this living presence. We need to comprehend and experience ourselves as a part of, rather than apart from our Ocean planet as we explore what actions we can take to secure a positive future for the Ocean, the whales and ourselves.
These are the themes of my book “The Ocean Is Alive: Re-visioning our relationship with the living Ocean”, which was inspired by my twenty year relationship with humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga (the subjects of my earlier book “Humpback Whales of the South West Pacific”). 

Transitioning from an anthropocentric world-view to an eco-centric perspective is fundamental to developing a more harmonious and respectful relationship with the Ocean and our cetacean kin. We believe that community based initiatives can play a key role in re-defining these relationships.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to showcase our Hauora Moana (Healthy Ocean) Community Monitoring Initiative whose purpose is to encourage local communities to ‘take ownership’ of the health and well being of their coastal marine ecosystems.


The Tutukaka Marina SeaBin

Plastics, like diamonds, are forever! Every piece of plastic ever produced still exists.


The Tutukaka Marina SeaBin was officially launched on 29th April 2019 and has been busily collecting floating debris and surface fuel oil ever since.


The bin is regularly emptied by volunteers who sort the debris, collate the results and send the data to SeaBin International.

The sorting process involves removing the net bag from the SeaBin, emptying it onto one of Mitre 10’s sponsored tarpaulins and separating the organic from the inorganic debris. Any marine creatures who’ve been drawn into the bag, are carefully placed in one of the seven Mitre 10 orange buckets with sea water in it, and returned to the marina together with any marine biomass. Any terrestrial biomass is composted on land.

Tutukaka Marina SeaBin 3A small

All human generated rubbish is sorted into categories as outlined by the SeaBin Project. Micro-plastics are regularly captured in the bin and range from flakes of toxic paint to plastic nurdles and unidentified blobs. A micro-plastic is any piece measuring less than 5mm. The SeaBin Project https://seabinproject.com/  is building an important data base from debris collected in its 719 SeaBins around the world.


The process is very fiddly and requiries a certain amount of concentration! Some of the micro-plastics are really tiny and in this case small is definitely not beautiful. Micro-plastics are entering the oceanic food chain at an alarming rate and because of their size, removing them from the ocean is an impossible task. Large pieces of plastic photo-degrade in sunlight eventually becoming plastic dust that contaminates all ocean dwellers from zoo plankton to whales.

Thank you Mitre 10 Whangarei for contributing to plastic removal from the ocean.

In Celebration of Sharks

NZAEE Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana 2019

Saturday 2nd to Sunday 10th March 2019.

“Tiakina o Tatou Moana – Care for our Seas”. http://www.seaweek.org.nz/

Seaweek is New Zealand’s annual national week about the sea and is hosted by the NZ Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE). Focused on learning from the sea, it’s designed to inspire all New Zealanders to renew their connection with the sea! Not just for children or those involved with formal education, but for all of us to get to know the ocean around our islands, her habitats and inhabitants better.

Te Wairua O Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit are giving a free talk on sharks in our local library in Whangarei. All are welcome!

Seaweek Library Talk poster

Waitangi Day clean up

Wednesday 6th February is Waitangi Day here in New Zealand. I was once again fortunate enough to volunteer with Eco Solutions to help keep the Treaty Grounds rubbish free!
There was much less rubbish this year due to the support of Waipapa Landscape Supplies who will be industrially composting the majority of the compostable food and drink containers which are plant based in origin.
During my 3 hour shift on this rubbish station down by the wakas, the recycling and compost bins were emptied twice, but the rubbish bin didn’t need emptying…
As the stall holders packed up, our team walked the grounds picking up the last vestiges of plastic to leave the place looking pretty much spotless!
Congratulations once again to Anouk and her team of volunteers for making this such a clean event!… and fun! 😃

Mermaid Pools in Crisis

The Mermaid Pools at Matapouri have become a huge hit with visitors to the Tutukaka Coast. Over the summer 1000s of people have visited the pools to swim and take in the scenery. But can the pools cope with this amount of “loving”? We investigate the current state of the pools and talk about how they have changed over the past few years.

Click here to watch videoP1080043

Birth of an exquisite beauty.

Watch a monarch butterfly emerging from her chrysalis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfyq4EGbtzk&t=5s


This exquisite monarch butterfly transformed herself from a caterpillar in just 2 weeks!!

Silently she slid from her chrysalis, wings crumpled and folded. Her fat abdomen pumped fluid into her wings which imperceptibly unfolded and expanded. Feeling her way into the world as a transformed being she stayed adjusting to her new life for a couple of hours before her maiden flight.

Up over my head she flew and I imagined her reveling in her new found freedom – wow!! What a thrill – bouncing on the gentle air currents she circled, floating back past me in a gesture that I felt was full of gratitude!

Having watched over her from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly – I was thrilled!

Garden Jewellery – hanging by a gossamer thread.

The wisdom of Gaia emerges from billions of years of Life – we are a part of this Life, but our behaviour does not appear to reflect this reality!

This post is one example of the beauty and complexity and that we are surrounded by and I feel it is a salient reminder to us to start managing ourselves and stop trying to manage Gaia.

“The birds keep taking ‘my’ monarch caterpillars.” I lamented to a visiting friend and showed her the empty swan plant.

“One minute they’re all fat and juicy looking and the next minute they’ve vanished! I’m going to cover the plant to stop the wretched birds taking them!”


That was the moment when I learnt that my intention would have been interfering in one of Nature’s incredible acts of transformation. The caterpillars purposefully leave their swan plant home that has sustained them from miniscule pearly white egg, to two inch yellow and black striped caterpillar, to find the perfect spot for their extraordinary metamorphosis into the beautiful monarch butterfly.

Enlightened, I got down on my hands and knees and started scouring the vegie patch beside the swan plants. Carefully turning over leaves, peering through the rambling tomatoes and beans I was disappointed to find nothing and couldn’t shake my initial bad feelings towards the bird population!

A day passed. It was lunch time. I headed out to the vegie patch. Bending down to cut some garlic chives I stopped in amazement …. dangling from one of the long, thin leaves was a chrysalis!

“I’ve found one! I’ve found one!”


I became obsessed. I wanted to see how this transformation had taken place. Googling monarch butterflies I became gripped. I was David Attenborough. I was also the cameraman. I had to see it happening for myself. With three fat and juicy caterpillars looking likely candidates my obsession played out.

Caterpillars are surprisingly fast movers. If I left them for more than a few minutes it was challenging to find them again. They were obsessed with finding the perfect pupating place. I was obsessed with seeing them pupate! I decided to interfer with Mother Nature – just a little bit – to make it easier for them and me! Selecting one who had rejected the vegie patch and set off across the grass I strategically placed an old wire basked in front of her. Climbing aboard, she examined it thoroughly and initially decided against its suitability. Bother… but I can be persistent and with another strategic positioning, the basket got the ‘thumbs up’. Now I could relax and thrill to the utterly extraordinary process of a caterpillar transforming herself firstly into a pupa/chrysalis and eventually a monarch butterfly. And what an effort it is!

The site had to be thoroughly examined and experienced before she wove a solid white knob of silk and clung to it with her last set of claspers. Motionless for about 24hrs, during which I think she was preparing herself for the massive process she was about to go through. Her next move was to curl head down into a J shape.


Once settled like this it was roughly 24 hours before I could see any outward signs of change. Firstly her long antenae started to crumple and the bend of the J turned an imperceptible shade of pale green.

At this point I made a ‘fatal’ mistake! I decided to nip inside for breakfast….. oh no! how ignorant I was of their timings. When I came back out about 45 mins later half the chrysalis was formed… Darn it! I so wanted to see the beginnings of the process.

Ah well – I watched as she twisted and turned, a miniature green ‘sleeping bag’ suspended by a gossamer thread writhing and wriggling to sluff off her caterpillar skin. It eventually fell to the ground – tiny black crumpled remains of a life lived as a caterpillar. The wriggling slowed and I watched in awe of the delicate jade chrysalis decorated with gold dots and attached to the white silk knob by a 2mm jet black thread.


I was determined to experience the final marvel – a monarch butterfly emerge from this exquisitely beautiful jewel. I left her to settle in for a couple of days before carefully carrying the wire basket into our porch and placing it gently on a table out of harms way, where I could keep an eye on her progress.

She’s subsequently been joined by another jewel hanging from a different basket.


Reflecting on what I’ve done I recognised our insatiable desire to manage. I would appear that our species has decided that it’s OK for us to manage the planet. But … she’s been around for billions of years happily and extremely effectively managing herself; we are so young and as yet haven’t even learnt to manage ourselves in a manner that is acceptable to planetary health…

“Nearer and nearer draws the time……” The time when we experience for real the emergence of a monarch butterfly from her chrysalis in our garden! The jade green chrysalis is now rapidly getting darker and darker!!


I noticed the change in colour first thing this morning ….. and have been checking her frequently all day. Apparently this darkening happens about 24 hrs prior to her emergence!!! And even more exciting is that the chrysalis becomes transparent so you can see her wings! Oh my goodness!


As they favour first thing in the morning to emerge I’ll be up at ‘crack of sparrows’ tomorrow (Monday 21st Jan), camera in hand. Full moon tonight – how appropriate for this final dramatic act to be played out. It hasn’t even been two weeks ….


What I ignorantly thought was a crack appearing turned out to be the chrysalis expanding to accommodate the ready to emerge butterfly!

And next I made my second stupid mistake!! I went inside for 20 mins to charge my phone and post updates, thinking everyone would like to experience the miracle in real time…. raced back out…..

MISSED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a joke!!! Sucked in by our addiction to social media.

Humbled by Gaia and her lesson to stay present with real life!


Regardless, the monarch butterfly was absolutely exquisite – her markings are divinely beautiful – and only 10 days ago she was a black and yellow striped caterpillar. I stared transfixed by her delicate markings – azure blue legs, velvety black body with brilliant white markings, powdery orange wing patches bordered with black and speckled with white dots.

Distracted by a movement out of the corner of my eye … I looked left and … oh my goodness what do I see but another monarch!!! Barely 20cm away another one had emerged and was making her way up an eggplant leaf… the irony of it!! How I laughed!! So focused on the one, I was oblivious to what was going on around me.


So – the magic moment of emergence will have to wait. But the good news is that we have two more chrysalis in the garden and two hanging in the porch from the wire baskets… so if I can stay focused there is still a chance to catch that private moment of emergence.

Gaia’s wisdom and magic remains a mystery. And that’s fine. We are privileged to be a part of her and to live within her embrace.

Hauora Moana Monitoring with Ngunguru School

In the last week of November we had our last in-water session with yr 6 at Ngunguru School. We feel privileged to have had this year group who have enthusiastically embraced the Hauora Moana monitoring of the Ngunguru Estuary outside their school.

Again it was surprisingly warm and we got carried along by the incoming tide, snorkeling over the Te Maika reef area and cockle beds.

cockle-triplefin crop

Triplefin and feeding cockle

cockles feeding sm

Feeding cockles

neptunes necklace sm

Neptune’s Necklace – Hormosira banksii

The kids are very used to the consensus process now and agreement between the 4 groups averaged out at a very accurate assessment of the health of the area.
We are very grateful to the school, RIck Sayer, Quinton Rahui and Eden Ford for their support and enthusiasm enabling Ocean Spirit to continue working with Yr 6 into the future.

Ocean Spirit presents at the RNZYS

We traveled down to Auckland on Friday in Moana-iti, our electric Nissan Leaf (with 3 charging stops) to give a presentation on the SeaBin Project to Island Cruising NZ at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. There was a lot of interest in the plastic issue with many possible solutions being discussed…. we feel there are many approaches to be made at every level to tackle this momentous issue and almost all are fueled by grassroots movements. Absolutely everyone is responsible, which means that absolutely everyone can make a difference.