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Life in lockdown on the Chatham Islands


Professor David Johnston, Kelvin Tapuke, Jennifer Lillo, and Brandy Alger (from University of Canterbury/QuakeCore)

On Monday 16 August, Jennifer Lillo, Kelvin Tapuke and Professor David Johnston from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR) set out to the Chatham Islands for an exciting week of science inspired events at the Festival of Science.

However, not long after the team arrived and got settled in, the festival was cut short as the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country would be moving into Alert Level 4 lockdown on the Tuesday evening.

“We were able to do the first day of the school’s programme and the small-group tour on Tuesday the 17th, then in the evening we received the COVID-19 announcement which put a halt on the festival activities,” Jennifer says.

The big events of the festival were scheduled for later in the week at the Open Day at the Hub where David and Kelvin were giving presentations.

The JCDR’s Director and Professor David Johnston was scheduled to give a talk on The history of earthquake and tsunami monitoring on the Chatham Island from 1932 until now. Research Officer Kelvin Tapuke was also set to give a presentation on Preparing for the newest public holiday - Matariki.

Fellow Massey associate Julian Thomson from Out There Learning was also scheduled to give a presentation at the festival on Telling Earth Science Stories.

Due to the quick change in alert levels, Jennifer, Kelvin and David, could not get back to the mainland and spent their lockdown at the Chatham Islands at Te One Science House.

“Our small group became part of a bubble of five with others from the Department of Conservation and the University of Canterbury. Apart from having slow internet and no cell phone reception, we were well supported by the local community. Local kindness has kept us fed and a nearby beach provided plenty of space for daily walks,” David says.

As the country south of Auckland moved to level 3, the team were able to book flights to Wellington and return home by Thursday.

Massey University is involved in several research projects on the islands around school and community-based environment monitoring – this includes the installation of seismometers and weather stations at the three schools on the islands, as well as in the development of the new Chatham Islands Museum.



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