Links to the past

Messrs. Roy and King Bell.

Tom Iredale wrote of the 1908 Raoul scientific expedition’s indebtedness to the Bell family in his 1910 paper in particular the sons: “who whole-heartedly put themselves at our service, and it is due to their knowledge of avifauna of their native isle that so much fresh information has been received.

Roy Bell must have been given a camera by the expedition team because in 1912 he was able to publish a paper on the White Terns of Raoul Island in the Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand, complete with photos that he took himself.

After the Bell family left Raoul Island for good he would later move to Norfolk Island and made something of a name for himself as a photographer and botanist as well as maintaining his interest in birds.

Raoul is a place where you really sense its history, though not in any spooky way despite some turbulent times. There are Polynesian midden sites in the seaward escarpment of Low Flat, the orange groves and other fruit trees that the Bells planted now deep in the forest, the Meteorological Station (a tradition that continues to the present with DOC staff taking daily readings), and the faces that crowd the lounge area of the hostel (each years’ team creating their own signature of framed photos).

In asking Mark to take up one of the two seabird positions on this expedition that Rochelle had offered me, I did so for his skills of working with seabirds, in particular his PhD subjects (Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Masked Boobies) which are shared between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands and the Kermadecs. I had not realised an almost uncanny resemblance between him and the Bell sons.

Mark Miller is researching Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Masked Boobies - both bird species breed at the Kermadecs.

Of course the 21st century kicks in. This morning Mark was keen to catch up with the England-Australia RWC match via a live feed at the Met Station – something the Bell brothers would never have dreamed of.

By Chris Gaskin

PS. Mark (from England) took the big loss very well, very amusing to watch during the course of the game!

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