LIVE from the Pacific #1: Departure! 3 months at sea to protect the ocean
by Kelly Huang
May 7, 2021
In 2021, I took on a different challenge. I joined the Global Protect the Oceans team to fight for the planet in the campaign frontline, and will be creating and telling stories from the Rainbow Warrior at sea.
Right after the Lunar New Year, I returned from a four-day backpacking trip in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan. As soon as I had internet access, I received an email from Greenpeace Protect the Oceans team that I had been recruited to go onboard the Rainbow Warrior as an Onboard Digital Campaigner with colleagues from all around the world. Soon, I was embarking on the journey to bear witness in the Pacific Ocean.
Who am I? Who’s on my team?
My name is Yu-Chi Huang, and I go by Kelly. Originally from Taiwan, I have worked in Greenpeace East Asia for nearly 6 years, across offices in Taipei, Hong Kong, and Seoul. I led a team of 4 in digital fundraising in Hong Kong and Taipei before I got recruited to join this mission to protect the oceans. As part of the Digital Engagement & Fundraising team, I’ve always worked as a bridge between the public and the campaign, telling stories of Greenpeace’s work and inspiring support from the public, so we could continue the fight for a greener and more peaceful future.
In 2021, I took on a different challenge. I joined the Global Protect the Oceans team to fight for the planet in the campaign frontline, and will be creating and telling stories from the Rainbow Warrior at sea. I hope to exchange perspectives with colleagues from around the world. Due to the remoteness of our target destination, the voyage is more challenging due to the prolonged time we need to spend at sea. We had to stock up the provision and get ready to stay out at sea for almost 3 months without stopping at ports.
For the Global Protect the Ocean Campaign, Greenpeace had launched a voyage in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This time, we are in the Pacific, where my current home is. I can’t wait to bear witness with my own eyes!
The project team in this voyage contains mostly colleagues from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, and Taiwan, including 2 Campaigners, Action Coordinator, Communications Officer, Photographer, Videographer, Activist, and Digital Campaigner—which is me. In addition, the crew includes a Captain, a Cook, a Radio Operator, Deckhands, and Mates from Chile, Colombia, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Panama, Russia, Spain, and UK. Everyone eats, cleans, and works together every day. We all share the same passion to fight for the environment. After only a week of living together, there’s almost no cultural barrier as we are literally in the same boat!
Why is it important to embark on this voyage now?
Greenpeace never stopped our work to protect the environment despite the pandemic. There are many restrictions to the ships’ operation, but we try our best to ensure the health of all crew and make sure that we are carrying out crucial work to push forward a strong Oceans Treaty at the United Nations in the upcoming IGC4 meeting. We seize every opportunity to expose the destruction of the ocean, from illegal fishing and plastic pollution to oil spill and deep sea mining. Our ships sail across the world, so we can gather first-hand information back to the land, expose evidence of destruction to the media, use it to lobby policy makers, and conduct non-violent direct actions to stop the destruction.
In 2020, in the first months of the pandemic, we canceled all active, public campaign work with our ships. The ships traveled to port and crews were safely returned home, with the ships remaining in port for much of the past few months. We now have developed protocols to be able to operate our ships safely considering the new reality we are all facing.
Before ship departure, all crew and project team members had at least 2-4 negative results from COVID-19 PCR tests. In addition, we all need to have a Seafarer Medical Certificate. Personally, I had to get out of town to a harbour city in Northern Taiwan for a last-minute Seafarer medical test, and did the first COVID-19 PCR test of the trip. I also had to minimize contact with people and conduct self-isolation a few days prior to my flight. As I arrived at the airport for departure, I did another COVID test before my flight. After arriving at the destination, Curacao, I was quarantined for 10 days, and then tested again. Finally, I could board the ship and sail with all my colleagues who also received negative results for the PCR tests they had done throughout their trips.
Gone with the wind!
This will be the first time I’ve left the land for so long, and this was the same situation for almost everyone onboard. It’s a big challenge for both the body and mind. The distinguishing feature of the Rainbow Warrior are her sails. As a sail ship, she can sail on wind alone for as long as there’s wind and comes from the right direction! Through changing the direction that the sails face, the crew are able to ride on the wind to maneuver the ship. In the past few days, we had been sailing at a speed of 7-10 knots (nautical miles per hour, equivalent to 12-18 kilometers per hour). Every time the ship sails, everyone is full of joy. We are deeply proud to work on this environmentally friendly and relatively low-carbon ship.
“I’m so proud of sailing!” said Juliette, the young French Mate onboard.
Tell President Biden: I’m counting on you to fight for a strong international agreement to protect the world’s oceans.
protect the oceans
This blog is a part of an ongoing series, “LIVE from the Pacific.”