A moonless summer night, sitting out on the deck on Great Barrier Island in New Zealand. We looked up and what did we see?
Thousands and thousands of vivid stars glittering and gleaming overhead against a black velvety background, along with a few shooting stars and circling satellites. A dazzling display and awesome sight!
Medlands’ Night Magic
by Carol Comer Photography
DID YOU KNOW?
-that Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand is now one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world and the night skies are simply magic.
WHAT IS A DARK SKY SANCTUARY?
The IDA ( International Dark Sky Association) defines a Dark Sky Sanctuary as “land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.”
Good Heavens team at Pah Point by Carmen Bird Photography
HOW DID GREAT BARRIER ISLAND QUALIFY TO BECOME A DARK SKY SANCTUARY?
It has three key elements that help achieve pristine night skies-
Great Barrier Island is relatively isolated from large areas of the population. Auckland City (population of about one and a half million) is the nearest city to Great Barrier Island and is about 100 km away. Its light dome does not affect the Great Barrier Sky.
2. LOW POPULATION
It has a low population of about 900 people distributed over an area of 285 square miles and 60% of the island is under the control of the Department of Conservation or Auckland City Parks as a nature reserve.
3. NO MAINS POWER
Another of the key factors in achieving Dark Sky status is that Great Barrier Island has no reticulated electricity. It is ‘off the grid.’ The locals depend mainly on solar power, windmills or generators to produce self-generated electricity. There are no street lights, advertising signs, traffic lights, etc. As a result, there is very low, or almost non-existent, light pollution.
To become officially accredited, scientific night light readings had to be measured all over the island for a sustained period of time by an IDA approved collection method. The results were excellent. They showed that one can see ten times more stars on Great Barrier Island than in Auckland.
A Dark Sky Sanctuary also needs to prove that it can preserve and protect the night sky through responsible lighting practices and public education and so preserving the clarity of the night sky for future generations. Great Barrier Island has appointed several Dark Sky Ambassadors who assist with this aspect.The “Good Heavens” team offer an interesting variety of stargazing experiences. Check these out at www.goodheavens.co.nz
Winter Night Sky by Mark Russell Photography
OTHER DARK SKY SANCTUARIES
The latest place to achieve Dark Sky Sanctuary status is Stewart Island, also in New Zealand. Other Dark Sky sanctuaries are The Rainbow Bridge National Monument (USA), Cosmic Campground (USA) and Gabriela Mistral (Chile).
Getting to Great Barrier Island.
BY SEA: Sealink Ferry which departs from Auckland CBD Wynyard Wharf to Tryphena and Port Fitzroy. Four and a half hour trip which takes vehicles and foot passengers. Ph 09 300 5900
$377 return per standard vehicle. $111 return per adult.
BY AIR: Flights-6-10 seater planes- half-hour trip- departing Auckland Domestic Airport.
Fly My Sky, (Ph 0800 222 123) about $180- $200 return)
Barrier Air (0800 900 600) about $180- $200 return Some flights depart from North Shore.
Auckland Seaplanes- 40 minutes
Helicopters. Heletranz (09 4153550) Oceania Helicopters (09 238 8676)
Setting up for a night sky watch
By Hilde Hoven- director- Good Heavens
There is no public transport on the island. A regular private bus service operates between Tryphena and Port Fitzroy once a day during the peak summer season. Take your own vehicle or there are 10 car rental businesses operating on the island.
ACCOMMODATION is mainly lodges, backpackers, homestays, or self-contained units. There are no major hotels or motels on the island. The Information Centre can assist. (0800 997 222) Bookabach.co.nz and Airbnb have listings.
Consider booking in for a Dark Sky Experience provided by the Dark Sky Ambassadors at the Good Heavens team. (www.goodheavens.co.nz)
Thanks to ‘Good Heavens’ and the photographers for providing the amazing photos!
TRAVEL GREAT BARRIER ISLAND NEW ZEALAND