New Year Brings New Life for Whales

Feature story - January 4, 2006

For two weeks, we've been in a stand-off against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. The situation has been intense, dangerous, and often heart-breaking for our crews aboard the Esperanza and the Arctic Sunrise. But the tides are turning, and for the last 8 days, we've been able to prevent the whalers from slaughtering any whales. In an unprecedented chain of events, we have the whalers on the run, and our ship, the Esperanza, is keeping pace with the Japanese flagship and bringing a halt to whaling activities.

Get a first-hand update from our crew member Nathan, aboard the Esperanza:

December 24, 2005

Today, for me personally, was one of the greatest days I've ever had.

In my first blog post I wrote about how, 17 years ago, seeing footage from the first anti-whaling campaign led me into Greenpeace and, ultimately, to my involvement in this current campaign. I vividly remember pointing to the monitor with the tape running of an inflatable trying to thwart the harpooner, turning to my father and saying, "I want to do THAT". At the time, it was a dream.

Today, that dream was finally realized.

Over the past month, the Billy G (the boat I'm driving) has been fitted with a high-powered fire-fighting pump that sprays sea water either straight up or out like a peacock tail. Working with the wind, I can position the Billy G to send a wall of misty water up in front of the whaling boat's bow.

So today, we fired it up. The whaling boat was not pleased.

We positioned ourselves upwind and created a screen of water blocking the view of the whales from their ships' harpoons. After taking a good twenty minutes of bridge soaking, courtesy of the Billy Greene Custom Whaling Boat Rinsing Service, the captain changed course for an ice field.

This went on for four unrelenting hours. Into the pack ice, out of it, into drift ice, then into a little open water, then into more, new pack ice. Ice everywhere. Constant course changes. Having to turn around in dead-end leads to quickly retreat and fall back to their stern wake to follow their ice breaking. Skirting through gaps with inches on each side. Once we actually struck a shelf underwater and came to a full stop. Phil came to us and with his crew helped us to just barely get out in full reverse. Once, frighteningly, we hit a desk-sized piece straight on at good speed, jumping up and over it. But for all the ice, we came out unscathed.

The harpooner did come out to his perch. But he didn't stay there too long. He looked quite annoyed. And very wet.

We passed icebergs the size of mountains, basking in full, cold sunlight, just breathtaking. In my experience, it was an epic contest set in the most stunning natural amphitheater, beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It was, even less than a day after just experiencing it in reality, simply unbelievable. It was a dream, a real dream.

But the real dream-come-true part was that this hunter boat did not find or shoot a whale with us beside him. Everything he tried, we foiled. Eventually, we turned back only because we needed to take on fuel for our boat and pump. We had gone almost 25 miles from the mothership with him, much farther than they will normally go from the factory ship to hunt. And he was empty-handed.

For one day at least, I can say we faced off with a whaling captain, and thwarted him. It takes a massive effort to get a small boat like the Billy G to Antarctica to do this: it's a huge task to simply operate a ship like the Esperanza and all of its support infrastructure. There's a complex web of communication and coordination woven between offices around the world. There is a direct link that goes all the way from the individual who eagerly sends us a donation all the way to us down here, using the equipment they bought us, eating the food they paid for, putting on the survival gear they donated.

Because of the efforts of the entire crew on this ship and all of the folks involved in Greenpeace worldwide who put this effort together and, most importantly, the supporters who give us what we need to make the effort, I was the very lucky soul to actually get behind the wheel and get a chance to protect these whales - 17 years after a dream was born. That truly moves me. It's such an honor to be given that chance, I find it hard to talk about without tearing up.

For me, that's what Greenpeace is about.

And we'll try to do it again tomorrow.

Happy Holidays to all. Thinkin' of ya.


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Read More >> Read the latest updates from Nathan and the rest of our crew on the high seas.

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