How Things Come ‘Round in Life

by Guest Blogger

November 28, 2005

Hello all –

Well, we’re at sea, a little more than two days out of Cape Town. While stuff is being posted on the website and the campaign has no-doubt updated you, I thought I’d give y’all a note from my perspective.

In the biggest picture, it’s funny how things come ’round in life: in 1988 I was pretty much a wayward punk: 18 years old, unfocused, a bit of a troublemaker with a generalized destructive and cynical attitude about living. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wasn’t ready for college yet. My father knew all this as well. He had moved to the bay area in San Francisco that year while I was still in New Mexico, and while wandering around the waterfront area he’d stumbled across a Greenpeace store (we had a few retail stores back then). Growing up in central Kansas and then Santa Fe, none of us had heard of GP before; he picked up a few leaflets and did some reading…

When I came to visit him that summer, he brought me to the store; I guess he was thinking that Greenpeace could turn me into a focused troublemaker with a generalized constructive attitude. I toured around the store, checking out the t-shirts with the rainbows and doves and dolphins, the whale pendants and earrings, the bright colored posters of stylized ships and whatnot and I thought: what a bunch of fluffy crap!

But my pa seemed into it, and I didn’t want to bum him out with my attitude, so I wandered the store while he and my stepmother oohed and ahhhed over things. In a corner, I found a monitor playing a loop tape of the most amazing thing I could remember seeing – the footage was roughly shot, the camera unsteady, but you could clearly see a whale slowly rolling in the water in front a large boat with a harpoon gun on its bow. A small inflatable with two guys in it charges for the space between the hunter and his prey. As they near the whale, a cloud of smoke erupts from the cannon and the harpoon flies over their heads, landing solidly in the side of the whale. The cable from the harpoon sharply snaps the water just before the boat. They were just short of stopping the harpooner and his work, but they were damned close. I watched it over and over, transfixed.

As a younger teenager, I was really into whales, especially sperm whales and bowheads. I read a lot about them and kept posters and diagrams of them on the wall of my room. Being from Kansas, they seemed about as alien and magical as creatures get. I never imagined that the first footage I would actually see of an actual live whale would be of one getting taken down by an explosive-tipped spear…

I asked one of the gals in the store what the footage was about; who the guys in the boat were. She said: "that’s us. Those guys are from Greenpeace". I looked at my father and pointed at the screen and said: "That’s it. THAT’s what I want to do. I want to be that guy in the boat".

Two months later I had moved to Seattle and started canvassing for the Seattle Regional Office.

Seventeen years later I’m going to sea for Greenpeace for the first time on the Esperanza, and here we are, on our way to confront the whalers, deep in the southern ocean, near the pack ice of Antarctica. Should we find them, my job is to drive an inflatable boat into the way and stop them from killing whales in the International Whale Sanctuary. I have never seen a whale in my life. I hope like hell that somehow I can keep that harpoon from firing, or at least make the gunner miss his target.

It’s funny how things come around in life.

 – Nathan


(photo ©Greenpeace/Sutton-Hibbert)

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