Hamish tasked himself with inspiring others into learning about the intricate relationship each and every one of us of us have with the natural world around us.
The second eldest of three brothers, Hamish was born in Hamilton, New Zealand on the 7th of June 1976. He grew up in a small village called Matangi just south of Hamilton where he first started school.
He also attended Tamahere Primary, Berkley Intermediate and Hillcrest High schools where he was a popular and academically accomplished student. Hamish showed himself to be passionate and talented participant in team sports and outside of school got to Grade six in piano. After finishing High School he completed a Masters of Science Degree receiving first class honours for his thesis on wave erosion processes at Ohope Beach.
After completing his University studies, Hamish had the opportunity to travel, extended his scientific, computational and analytical skills. He soon gained a passion for international travel and a desire to explore some of the worlds last remote places.
As an explorer, Hamish achieved in his 26 years much of which most only dream. From Antarctica to the Galapagos, Central America, South America, South-East Asia, Europe and Australia, he combined his passion for the natural world and conservation with that of an interest in local cultures and people. Not only did he travel to these places, but he also took a great interest in the people around him. He touched many lives. Hamish was a remarkable and talented young man. The passion and enthusiasm he engendered in those whom he met and the gentle leadership he embodied is his legacy.
Tasmania and Pedra Branca
In March 2003, Hamish was selected as part of a highly qualified team of scientists to undertake a fauna survey of Pedra Branca Island. The island lies 28 kilometres off the south coast of Tasmania and is 270 metres long and 100 metres wide.
It reaches a maximum height of only sixty metres above sea level and is the only known habitat of the Pedra Branca skink and is an important seabird rookery. Classified as a National Park the island has quarantine status and as such, visits to the island are infrequent and highly regulated. The expedition party were delivered to Pedra Branca by a Tasmania Police boat on the 10th of April. The seas at this time were calm with a one to two metre swell. A campsite was established on the eastern ledge of the island which was 15 metres above sea level. The ledge the best camp site in predominant southerly or westerly weather conditions.
The following evening sometime after dark, the wind changed direction and intensity causing sea spray to wash into the campsite. On one occasion a large amount of spray was hit one of the tents causing a tent pole to break. As a result the team decided to relocate the campsite to an area of the island known as the helipad to make the rest of the night more comfortable.
On 12th April the campsite was again relocated, to an area known as the Western cave, as the name suggests, the overhanging rock at this location afforded the team of four greater shelter from the chilly easterly winds.
Swells rising to five to seven metres was forecast for the following two days. As a consequence the proposed departure date of the 13th was postponed, as extraction by either boat or by helicopter in large swells is potentially risky.
Lost to the Sea
By the afternoon of the 15th, conditions had deteriorated significantly. At the campsite the expeditioners discussed the situation in relation to the swell and whilst this took place, water began to wash onto the ledge from both the south and north. Collectively it was decided to climb to higher ground and reassess the situation.
As the team relocated to the the northern prow of the island, a large wave hit the rock, resulting in heavy spray coming up to and over the 45 metre level. They were hit with a large volume of water and had to hang on to the rock surface. At this moment Hamish was on the western side of the prow and was exposed to the wave, more than his companions. After being stuck by the water one colleague immediately looked in the direction in which he had last seen Hamish but was unable to see him. He was not seen again.
The first call for emergency help was made at 3.46pm on 15th April. A rescue helicopter arrived at 4.50pm airlifting the three survivors to safety.
Despite extensive air and sea searches over the following hours and days, Hamish was never found.
Hamish's family wished to see his passion for science and the natural world continued and in 2005 the first HSMT annual volunteer survey was conducted on Tasman Island.
Hamish's memory and legacy lies not only with his family and friends who loved him, but is perpetuated in the knowledge, experiences and potential of the survey volunteers. It is hoped, that the Survey trips inspire each of them them to continue pursuing goals and aspirations similar to Hamish's and that they in turn, will in the future make a significant contribution to environmental science.
The comprehensive reports published subsequent to each survey provide unique data to government, community groups and scientists. Their value will continue to be realised for generations to come.
This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.
- Chief Seattle, 1854
Why be at all, if not the one to seize the moon and carry off the sun?
- James Louis Carcioppolo
The human brain now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space, a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.