I'm writing this in my bunk onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which is currently involved in action against Cairn energy's reckless attempts to drill for oil in the pristine Arctic waters around Greenland's breathtaking coastline.
Before setting off on our voyage to the Arctic I was co-coordinating the Islington Greenpeace local volunteers network and was also volunteering in the office, the weeks prior to our departure were a real eye opener into all the hard work and dedication of all the Greenpeace people involved in getting a campaign like this one ready to go.
The cabin I'm sharing with three other volunteers is affectionately know onboard as "The smelly boy's room" but I can assure you our personal hygiene is exemplarily and the cabin's name was in place long before we took residency, as such we have renamed it the washing machine suite because, as our cabin is located in the bow of the ship (the front) during rough weather and especially during the force 10 gale we went through, our porthole becomes completely submerged as Esperanza rides the waves and the view very much resembles an extremely vigorous rinse cycle in a washing machine, sadly we have yet to see any fish swim by but we remain hopeful, however we have been lucky enough to see several pods of Pilot wales cross our path from the decks and we were even escorted by dolphins a couple of times, it was an amazing experience watching them riding our wake, they were clearly enjoying themselves as much as we were enjoying watching them.
Day to day life onboard begins at around 7.30 when we get a wake up call and make our way to the mess hall for breakfast, I have to say the food onboard is very good indeed, and it can sometimes be a real battle of wills not to go for second helpings but we get plenty of opportunity to burn it off during the days work, after breakfast it's time to do the cleaning and the ship then becomes a blur of mops, sweeping brushes and biodegradable cleaning products, we also take turns helping out in the kitchen and I picked up a very nice recipe for banana smoothie, my cooking skills aren't up to taking on any of the other wonderful dishes our cook serves us yet but his enthusiasm is rubbing off on me and I may yet become a bit more adventurous....
The main part of our time is spent working for the campaign, doing everything from painting banners to launching or crewing the ribs we use for our actions as well as helping the ships crew in any way we can, you pick up a lot of new skills very quickly during your time onboard, it could be helping the boat mechanics maintain the ribs one day to standing watch for icebergs the next, which entails keeping your eyes absolutely peeled for submerged ice that could cause us very real problems if it struck the ship, and of course there are also lots of the more traditional ship activities to be done like mopping the decks, chipping rust, coiling rope lines to keep the decks clear and painting.
There are times during actions when you do feel a bit tired and worn out but we all know we are here to do the right thing, protect the environment and make a positive change through action, everyone onboard is really supportive and friendly and utterly dedicated to the work Greenpeace does and it is an absolute privilege to serve as a volunteer onboard the Esperanza.