Cairns and the Elusive Starfish of Monkey Island

“Monkey Island?” WHAT is Monkey Island?!

monkey-islandThere’s a beach way down on the west coast of Southland – almost to the end of the South Island of New Zealand.  Just beyond the southern reach of Fiordland.  And at low tide you can walk out to a little bump, reaching maybe 30 feet above sea level and a bit more than that around.
The island is surrounded by rocks: big rocks, little rocks, medium size rocks, egg shaped rocks, flat rocks, rocks in transition, in shades and textures of green, mustard, brilliant yellow, brown, black and any number of striation patterns (speckled my favorite, and the Tide-pools-monkey-islandgreen ones with a fine yellow line running through) –  tossed by tides and glaciers, forming tide pools teaming with the life of the seashore. The bigger rocks, I guess the ones that don’t move around much,  sport patchy coats of seaweeds, from short soft curly bits to long rubbery strands of wide flat opalescent green.

My young friend, a budding marine biologist readying Starfish-Hunter, Monkey Islandherself for “uni” (kiwi slang for university), walks barefoot and confident through the boulders, nimbly squatting to peer at the lower edges of the largest rocks, the ones still wet, their bases submerged in swirls of sea water that gently wash the area.  She has found any number of starfish on past visits to Monkey Island. But alas, today we come up empty handed, spotting “merely” a small sea cucumber, a few orange anemones, and heeps of snails and hermit crabs.

I am more tentative. Unfamiliar with balancing myself from one rock to the next, with their uneven pitches and the wind blowing mightily, trying to knock me to my tender knees.  The water is cold but not too cold to step into it, ankle deep, to walk on soft sand and smooth rocks to explore the collections of smaller rocks that shine with color when wet but grow dull as they dry. My pockets grow heavy and pull at my pants, threatening to pull them down so that I have to stop and hitch them up every few steps. I know I can’t take all these rocks, especially the larger ones, home in my bags. What to do? Build a few cairns of course!

Here’s a cool blogpost I found about Monkey Island.