In September 2018 a fur seal was caught on camera hurling an octopus into the face of Kyle Mulinder, kayaking off the coast of Kaikōura.
A seal hits the GoPro ambassador with an octopus, and the video captured by Taiyo Masuda goes viral. The story was picked up by entertainment publisher LADbible and British daily newspaper The Guardian, with various scientists, ecologists and scientific research websites each attempting to theorise the reasons behind the encounter, with one website even claiming the encounter was staged.
Kaikōura Kayaks guide Conner Stapley was guiding the content creators for GoPro on their South Island Journeys campaign and is no stranger to a bit of octopus flinging, capturing his own seal versus octopus encounter in 2017.
The media coverage of the incident bought global attention to the Kaikōura tour operator who welcomed the spotlight on the region, still in recovery after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the area on November 14, 2016.
The earthquake has been described as the most complex ever studied with ruptures occurring on multiple fault lines and landslides completely cutting off visitors from accessing the area, and the Kaikōura community from the rest of New Zealand.
Around the Kaikōura Peninsula the seabed and coastline had risen up to 2 metres preventing kayaking around the inshore paddle routes as these had now became exposed reef. In areas North of Kaikōura, the coastline had risen up to 6 metres.
Tourism was hit hard at the start of a promising season, with visitors unable to travel to the area and a new set of risks for the business to manage.
“Rules on how to operate along the Kaikōura coast had always been in place but had climbed the ‘risk register’ since the earthquake”, says Kaikōura Kayaks owner Matt Foy.
“We felt as soon as we had a plan in place to mitigate the new risks that had emerged, it was important to start a tourism movement as quickly as possible. We've set some new rules about operating on the coastline here and how to behave, now that we've had a few quakes, so those plans are in place” Foy said.
Kaikōura Kayaks was the first operator back out on the water guiding tourists and discovering the new coastline. Qualmark Tourism Business Advisor, Peter Clinton-Baker says that this is exemplary behaviour of a business with a well-managed action plan for the sustainability their operation, that also benefited other tourism businesses, return to normality.
“In what has been a difficult time for tourism in Kaikōura Matt has continued to develop and improve systems and help get tourism in Kaikōura back, and in the media with the message that ‘we’re open and ready to operate’, and was back up and paddling 4 days later” says Clinton-Baker.
“It’s the adventurous spirit of our team that helped get us back out on the water and the safety management systems we had in place meant we were ready to embrace change” says Foy.
Days later on a reconnaissance paddle around South Point into Whalers Bay, Matt and Conner discovered the Hope Springs, in the shallow waters of the Kaikōura Peninsula. Around 50 metres from the shoreline Conner saw bubbling on the water surface that "looked like someone had turned on a spa pool from underneath with a very strong smell of sulphur.”
Scientist and lecturer in geohazard risk and resilience from the University of Canterbury Dr Matthew Hughes, flew to Kaikōura to look at the 100m stretch of bubbles in Whaler's Bay that started after the 2016 earthquake, as something of extreme scientific value.
"His mouth just dropped open when I explained it," Stapley said.
Hughes said the spring is the result of the earthquake opening up new fractures in the bedrock that had freed water and gas. Just like opening a can of fizzy drink the new cracks in the sea floor are venting dissolved gases, which are bubbling to the surface.
"It was a perfect explanation and squashed any concerns of any dangers,” said Stapley.
A natural phenomenon, the name 'Hope Springs' was coined by Conner and Matt to acknowledge the Hope Fault that lays underneath South Point thought to be contributing to the bubbles. It is also the name of Conner's daughter, with the undersea spring seen by many in the community as a 'New Hope' for Kaikōura to help bring visitors back to the region.
Hughes said this was an important find which needed to be managed and protected, potentially as a scientific heritage site. “It’s great that kayakers found it first. It is quite a magical, precious thing to see," he said.
"I believe it's going to be a special attraction for tourists in Kaikōura,” says Matt. “It’s just a little magical silver lining to the event that's occurred, and you can rest assured we’ll be taking good care of it for our community and for future generations, it’s in good hands”.