Your web browser (Internet Explorer) is out of date. Some things will not look right and things might not work properly. Please download an up-to-date and free browser from here.

Exclusive: Working out on New Zealand’s wild seas during a storm (+3 Photos)

New Zealand is no stranger to storms – some of the largest on the planet frequently brush past us in the Southern Ocean while significant tropical storms develop to our north and sometimes drop south and hit us. 

When a storm hits we often discuss travel conditions – will flights be impacted, will roads be flooded and sometimes we discuss how the seas will affect ferry travel across Cook Strait.

However what we rarely talk about are the people working out at sea – catching fish, working for oil and gas, or perhaps government research vessels.

During last weeks stormy blast there was a lot of news attention on Auckland and Dunedin – but some dramatic photos on the WeatherWatch Facebook page caught our eye – giant swells from Taranaki, captured by people who were working on a boat…while most of us were on land complaining about the wind and rain.

The photos were sent in by Ben Carey.  

“I work in the offshore oil and gas industry at present. In a previous life I used to commercially fish down in the Southern ocean and the Ross Sea for tooth-fish and also deep water trawling for hoki” says Ben.

“For the past couple of years I have been working on a supply boat out of New Plymouth. I work four weeks on and four weeks off. Which means I spend four weeks at sea and then I have a four week break at home. Basically we are the ship/ supply vessel which takes drill-pipe and other equipment out to the offshore drilling rigs/ offshore platforms off the Taranaki coast”

“I’m working the deck on this job so i really do get to experience mother nature at work out there”

Ben says he is no stranger to working on New Zealand’s rough seas – and working off Taranaki, while extreme, is nothing compared to the regular storms of the Southern Ocean. 

“The weather systems that frequent the Southern ocean have to be seen to be believed. 960 HP Lows and 100 knots plus wind is not for the fainthearted that’s for sure. One trip I did in May 2012 we were trying to steam away from a big low around the Auckland islands and our wind gauge was a constant 100 knots. It couldn’t go any further. Considering our wind gauge only stops at 100 knots it was a hell of lot more, and on that night two fridge doors flew right off their hinges, laptops were broken, and we had we had saltwater from the top deck make its way through the accommodation right down to the galley. Very scary stuff”.

“A lot of us guys who work at sea follow your team at WeatherWatch”.

So next time you see big waves at the beach – spare a thought for the few people out at sea working amongst the swells to catch the fish we eat or to help keep industry ticking over. 

Huge swells off the coast of Taranaki last Tuesday. Ben says winds were 70knots (130km/h)

Even when it wasn’t blowing a gale – you look straight into huge walls of sea

“I’m at sea steaming through this out wide off New Plymouth” – Thunder & Lightning out at sea during last Tuesday’s stormy weather, images sent via internet streaming directly to




Derek on 8/06/2015 4:36am

Excellent article and shows just how bad those at sea get it. Not for me at all, very frightening looking waves.

I commend him for working in these conditions.

Related Articles