August 23, 2012: I have spent nearly 4 years with Greenpeace at sea. These years have brought many interesting encounters and experiences, but nothing's been quite like yesterday. Off the Eastern coast of South Africa, the coast line is called the wild coast. And from the sea, you can clearly tell why the name sticks.
Green pastures coming down to meet the sea, with a jagged coast line are completely free from human development. No factories, no houses, no people. Just pure, unadulterated nature. And in the little bays scattered around the coast line, lie the breeding grounds of humpback whales. Traversing the coast we have had at least 20 whale sightings, but yesterday the whales decided to pay us a close and personal call.
Around noon, a little pod of 4-5 curious humpbacks came around the boat and stayed for hours. Sometimes, coming so close that we could have reached out and touched them. I am not a highly emotional person, but it's impossible to have an experience like that and not be moved.
In strange and unfathomable ways, I have indeed changed. And I think I can say the same for most of the crew. They were running from one side to the other with their cameras, squealing in delight like little children. They are not the hippies of the bygone era. These are hardened professional seafarers who have spent decades at sea. And to see them transform into little children, helps you understand the magnitude of the situation.
Greenpeace histories are littered with images and stories of people putting their lives between the whale and the harpoons. And for the first time I understand why a rational person would put himself/herself in that dangerous place. To save one whale. I know I would.
As I write this little blog, there are still whales around the ship. We can hear them in the accommodation in the Rainbow Warrior sometimes and see them belly flip and splash in the distance. And I think of the dangerous game politicians are playing across the Indian Ocean.
Selling our beautiful forests piece by piece. And I remember the words of Grandmother Eyes of Fire, "When the last tree is gone and the last fish is dead, then they will realise, that we can't eat money."
I can't help but sigh and hope.
Hope that maybe, just maybe, we will wake up a little before that, and show our children, whales and dolphins and tigers and forests. And not just lost and forgotten images of what they were.
Images: © Amrit Bakshi
Amrit Bakshi has been a Greenpeace activist for the past 7 years. He works on Greenpeace ships as a deckhand and is presently onboard the Rainbow Warrior.