What do you need most on an anchor chain in the middle of the Atlantic, when you’ve been there for over 24 hours, and it’s pouring with rain? Muffins.
Freshly baked by our chef, Walter, and put into waterproof tins ready for loading into speedboats. Speedmuffins. Pronto pastries. Two young Brazilians - Leonor and Elissama - are waiting across the water having been up most of the night and little things like this make all the difference. Fruit is great, but nothing beats that fresh-from-the-oven comfort of spongey goodness.
Occupying an anchor chain for over a day is a pretty challenging operation. Just getting off the Rainbow Warrior onto the inflatables is difficult, as the waves make stepping off the ship onto the moving boat like playing Super Mario Brothers for real. Then it’s a ten minute boat ride across the water with salty spray drenching everything in sight – camera gear, sunglasses and baked goods.
Once Leonor arrives on scene she receives the signal from the boat driver and gets onto a tiny stepladder (Supermario again) before scrambling up towards the platform. Well, I say platform – it’s more of a small plank with Greenpeace written underneath it. It’s all done safely and carefully, but that doesn’t stop the heart racing when you see how high up she is.
And then... well, not much really. Hours of sitting there, making sure she is safe, and waiting. No crowds of supporters cheering her on, just a safety boat with a driver giving her the thumbs up once in a while. It’s a bit like David Blane without the ego. When I was out there with I tried to give her my best winning smile and to think positive thoughts, but I’m not sure that was helping very much.
What really keep these girls going are the messages of support we’re receiving not just here in Brazil but around the world. This isn’t a ‘grey area’ environmental protest, where there are two valid points of view – we’re exposing things like slave labor and the illegal destruction of forest that is home to uncontacted tribes like the Awa. These are things that Brazilians – as well as people all over the world – have decided are unacceptable in our society.
It’s pretty hard to explain the link with ships like this one in words, but I’ll try. If Elissama and Leonor hadn’t stopped it, the Clipper Hope would be loading pig iron and taking that to the USA. Pig iron is used to make steel for cars, but here in Brazil it is leading to huge deforestation and is sometimes produced using slave labor. The Brazilian President and companies like Ford, GM and BMW - have a big role to play in stopping this from happening, but at the moment they’re turning a blind eye to the problem.
See? Much easier to close your eyes, think of the young Brazilians and imagine the smell of freshly baked muffins.
Update: in this post, I referred to Elissama and Leonor as "girls". I appreciate that this could appear patronizing, and that they are of course both young women, and well respected activists. I didn't mean to cause offence and I apologize if this did.
Photo copyright Marizilda Cruppe / Greenpeace