WE GOT'EM! After two and a half months and over seven thousand miles of sailing, we have found the whaling fleet. Where did we find them? In the international whale sanctuary. What were they doing? Killing whales.
After going the gauntlet of the roaring forties and furious fifties we finally reached the ice fields of Antarctica. We began our search of an area that covers more than one million square miles and within just ten days we had located the poachers, without the helicopter mind you, and it was not easy. With all hands on deck, we busted through sheets of ice so thick they made the entire ship shudder.
The arctic winds were relentless as they buried the ship in snow and ice on the daily. In every window and port hole you could find someone with a pair of binoculars scanning the horizon. During a crew briefing, Capt. Frank put a hefty bounty out for the first person to spot the fleet,
This ESPY is equipped with radar of course, but in ice fields where icebergs the size of cities are in perpetual motion, and pack ice oozes like a lava lamp, a radar screen looks more like a kaleidescope than anything. A cup of coffee and a pair of binoculars proved just as effective as any of our high tech tools. Plus, in looking for the whalers you would almost certainly find a whale or twelve. I actually got to kiss a humpback whale in the wild last Monday.
You have to watch this video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0gwI_BI29c
It was around midnight when there came a knock on my cabin door followed by a whisper that said, "There is something on the radar, we think it is the fleet, you and your bear should come to the bridge and check it out." We did and sure enough, there was a ship coming through on the radar and it was only two miles off the bow. However, the visibility was horrible and a dense snow storm prevented us from seeing more than a hundred yards in any direction. Then almost instantly the red curtain was drawn to reveal a Japanese whaling ship, and the show began. By the time we could establish a visual, we were so close I could see into the bridge of the whaling ship with binoculars. We quickly identified her as one of two spotting ships. Bitter sweet was this discovery. It was great that we found the fleet but this was the worst ship for us to find. The spotter ships travel well ahead of the rest of the fleet to scout clear passages through the ice and to plot the most direct routes to pods of whales. As long as we could see them, they could see us, and as long as they knew where we were, they would make certain the rest of the fleet would steer a course that we would not intercept. So we "Kicked the tires and lit the fires!" We fired up the two main engines and high tailed it in the exact opposite direction of the one we had been traveling. We ran fast and we ran far, so far, many times I wondered if we could find our way back. After they had finally fallen off our radar screen and hopefully us off their's, we stopped. We pulled the best u-turn ever and doubled back on a course that we hoped would bring us right behind the rest of the fleet. A complete game of ocean chess. I felt like Sean Connery was going to walk into the bridge any second and start screaming orders like, "right full rudder, steer course two seven zero, flood the tubes, man your battle stations", but of course he did not. I did watch Hunt for Red October that night though ;) So, for two days we back tracked. We had fled on our two main engines but were now running on our electric efficiency engine so covering the same distance took twice as long. Lots of time for chewing on finger nails and pacing around in small circles. Then again, I was awoke by a knock on my cabin door, this time it was more like pounding than a knock and it was no gentle whisper, only frantic screaming. "We got them! We got them!" When I got to the bridge I found almost the entire crew crowded around the radar. The captain had already identified three ships in close proximity and it didn't appear as if any of them had noticed us. Then at 0230 we all stood in awe, drowning in elation and adrenaline, as one by one, the ships of the fleet rudely awoke to find they had company. It was like a barking dog had disturbed the neighborhood as each ship turned on their lights to see what the commotion was. I would have given anything to be onboard as the loud speakers ordered the Japanese sailors out of their bunks and to their positions, the gig is up.
Then came a futile attempt at the trickery they are so infamous for. The fleet scattered in all directions at full speed, but in doing so they allowed us to locate our target, the Nissa Maru (a.k.a. mother ship, factory ship, death star.) Over the past eight expeditions, the Capt. had determined each ships range and speed capabilities. So, when the ships fled the scene he was able to deduce by their speed which vessel was which. We set a course to intercept the factory ship and put the petal to the metal. In an attempt to create a diversion, one of the hunting ships turned and headed straight at us. This is the same tactic they used two months ago as they were leaving Japan. They thought we would take the bait and follow them while the Nissa Maru escaped. Wrong! In moments we were passing port to port with the decoy. This was the sweetest moment for me of the entire trip thus far. I stood on the bridge wing and with the biggest smile you could imagine I casually waved to the whalers, thinking to myself, "GOTCHA SUCKERS, GAME ON!!!" As soon as they realized we weren't falling for it, they turned and took up a position just off our stern. But their bag of tricks was not empty just yet. Another hunting ship came along side the Nissa Maru so close that their radar trails merged as one making them appear to be only one ship on the screen. Then at the last second they spit in opposite directions forcing us to choose one. This is exactly what they pulled when sneaking out of port in Japan, and the Capt. laughed as said, "That won't work twice gentlemen."
The Esperanza's top speed is just slightly more than that of the Nisshan Maru, so it took several hours for us to close the gap between us. It was about six a.m. when she came into sight on the horizon and we could confirm that she was indeed the ship we had traveled so far to find. There was cheering and I think I even caught a high five or two, but the celebration was short lived as it was now time to get down to business.
That was three days ago. Since then, we have been chasing the Nissa Maru at top speed. A caravan of the Nissa Maru followed by the Esperanza followed by the hunting ship.
The so called research vessel is fleeing the scene of the crime as fast as it can. The whaling fleet is burning hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel daily at the expense of the Japanese tax payers in order to not be exposed for commercial whaling yet again. The bottom line is very simple and it is this, they are on the run, and as long as they are running they are not whaling. For the last three days, zero whales have been murdered in the Southern Ocean International Whale Sanctuary. No whales were harpooned and I did not have to get hosed with icy sea water or drive an inflatable in front of a gun. My focus now turns to my job in the engine room. The Espy is running flat out and she is gulping down the fuel as well. Lots of moving parts and right now they are moving real fast.
Since I began writing this a few minutes ago, the hunter ship on our tail has stopped and turned around in the direction we were steaming. Now it is just us and the "research ship" full of already packaged whale meat fresh out of the sanctuary. It is clear by the way, that she sits in the water that the holds are flooded with dead whales. We are not sure what they are up to, but it is certainly no good. In the meantime, they are putting more and more distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet. The hunting ships cannot hunt without the factory ship. Every hour they are apart is another hour no whales are dying. I have no doubt that they will indeed resume their hunting and when they do we will be there and we will use non-violent direct action to stop them. But for the time being, we have managed to run them completely out of the whale sanctuary. This is more than we could have ever hoped for.
It is in many ways a surreal feeling to be in world’s slowest high-speed-chase. Two huge ships running full bore through fields of icebergs. But the best part of all, is that I just watched three whales surface right off the bow of the ship sent to kill them. That ship had to sail right past them and those whales lived to tell all their friends about it. They are on the run, but for how long? It is off to a good start but it is far from over.
p.s. every high speed chase needs spectators, here are a few of the locals cheering us on as they make sure they are well out of the way.
"The frontiers are not east or west, north or south, but wherever a man "fronts" a fact", says Thoreau. Well since Thanksgiving we have sailed this ship in all of those directions and been blown around in a few more. Moreover, we have successfully fronted a few very unwelcomed facts.
It has been three weeks since we last spoke. The Esperanza did manage to trump three typhoons but in doing so, Neptune took the liberty of making a very important decision for our expedition. Prior to the storms developing we were amidst formulating a strategy-which course to steer for the southern ocean. Bearing in mind the hunting grounds are the equivalent of twice the land mass of the United States.
We were directly south of the Japanese islands and the whalers stalk as far west as Cape Town, South Africa and as far east as New Zealand. The bridge and campaign team were well into playing out all the scenarios and possible routes the hunters might choose. Would they go west of Australia and pass through the Lok Box Straights of Indonesia or would they pass Papa New Guinea and around the islands of New Zealand to the east? At the time it was the dilemma of the day, but it soon became a moot point. We had to change our course from directly south to directly east in order to penetrate the storms.
These two shots were taken at the moment when we realized that there was no way to run from the first typhoon.They do not do the ensuing storm justice but I didn’t have a free hand to take a picture with while we were in the thick of it. None the less we all made out relatively well and it was good practice for what the roaring forties and furious fifties have waiting for us.
This image was one that I saw many times in my head over those two weeks. What you see is a survival suit and abandon ship drill we did prior to setting sail.
Of course the image of a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream also occupies many moments in my mind so maybe I am being a bit dramatic.
So now we emerge from the holes we rode out the storms in to a bright beautiful ocean with water so clear you would swear you could see the bottom, but you know what? You can't. We were sailing over the Mariana's Trench. 6.8 miles to the bottom, it is the deepest place in the ocean on earth. It is here the ship had to stop, and I had to dive to the bottom.
No, just kidding I obviously didn’t do that. But I did get to go diving to repair the ship. Gavin, the videographer is also a diver and so we were tasked with diving on the hull of the ship to inspect intake tunnels where the ship brings in raw water to cool the engines. We were running the engines hard in order to make up lost time and the already hot equatorial sea water was providing little comfort to the massive machines. Also raining on the parade were about six million black mussels that had hitched a ride from South Korea in these tunnels. Apparently, they really liked the place because they proliferated like the plague and quickly carpeted the walls of the sea chest, starving the engines of what little cooling water they had to work on. First dive Gavin and I plopped over the side with his camera to survey the hull. Second dive we took along hand scrapping tools in a foolish attempt to exterminate these stow-a-ways.The sea was relatively flat, the boat was a drift and people were quite jealous that we were getting to enjoy such magnificent conditions, but privilege quickly turned to a very challenging responsibility.
As you can see the intake is about fifteen feet beneath the surface. However, what you do not see is that the roll of the ship is creating a huge undertow as it list from side to side. So, if you are clinging to the side of the hull, which you must in order to clean it, then one second you will be at 15ft and the next at 25ft. The vacuum created by the sheer girth of the hull pried both Gavin and myself of the grates more than once leaving us twenty feet deeper than we were a blink before, and with two ear drums that felt like they have blown twice over. A third cleaning dive finally did the trick thanks to one of many ingenious solutions by Gavin. He constructed an underwater vacuum by welding a valve onto a long metal pipe using air delivered from the ships air compressor. MacGyver would have been well proud and by the time we were done cleaning that sea chest, you could eat in there but mussels were not on the menu.
It had always been planned to bunker (take on fuel and food) just before heading into the ice fields. Equally as crucial, we needed to repair the helicopter that had been grounded since our departure from South Korea. I cannot express how valuable the helicopter is to two of the main aspects of this expedition, finding the whalers and bearing witness to the murders. Not to mention the role it plays in our direct actions and scope it brings to the science conducted onboard. We aimed to sort these things in Auckland, New Zealand in the most efficient and expeditious manner possible. Seeing as Greenpeace has a national office in Auckland we were able to coordinate seamless ground logistics prior to arriving. We knew we could get the fuel and food onboard within 48 hours but the helicopter was an uncontrollable variable.
When we came to rest along side at Princess Wharf in the heart of the city, there was a small gathering of around a dozen folks to greet us. It was bitter sweet. First, it was nice to see land and I could already taste the two banana splits I was planning on. However, the welcome party all had luggage, because they were replacements for several crew members whose three or four month tour had come to an end. I had grown quite fond of several of my colleagues in the engineering dept. They had been patient and gracious over the last two months and I was truly sad to see them go.
Crew change done, food loaded, fuel pumped and we are ready to go! Except the helicopter is not ready. Three days go by and no still no heli. Five turns to seven and now the natives are growing restless. In the process of fixing the original break in the chopper the technicians discovered yet another repair that needed to be made to the rear rotor. The parts had to be ordered from the UK and the helicopter service company was having their holiday party on Friday before they called it quits until after new year. We immediately began damage control and executed an exhaustive search for anything that could fly and land on the back of a ship. All the while the gap between us and the whalers becoming greater. Finally, the captain set a departure date of wed the 19th with or without the chopper. That meant three more days of purgatory. So, many crew members took advantage of unexpected shore leave and stretched their legs one last time.
I too was very anxious to get the show on the road. I could not sit still. So, I went and fulfilled a childhood dream.
I traveled to the Northlands with Remon’ (Fitter) and Paul (Electrician) to the Bay of Islands. It is there, that the original Rainbow Warrior ship was sunk after being bombed by the French military in 1985. The ship was actually tied up on the dock just next to where the Esperanza was currently moored when the French commandos detonated their explosives. The cowardly attack cost a man his life and sank the Warrior. She was towed north off the coast of Paihia Island and scuttled to serve out her retirement as an artificial reef, and what a magnificent reef she has become. The ship is both a garden and a grave. The wreck was the source of much internal dialogue as I made parallels between her mission and the one we were on, and how over twenty years later nations like Japan are still using their militaries to harbor acts of environmental destruction.
This is a picture of the monument that sits on the cliffs overlooking the ship it remembers. I left feeling very proud and very privileged and to say more wouldn’t do the experience justice. A nice four hour trip back south to the Esperanza gave me good time to digest the whole day. I woke up the next morning to a pleasant surprise, a letter from Robin Davey. Robin is the mother of Billy Greene for whom the boat I will drive in the Southern Ocean is named after. She reached out to me in a simple note saying that she was behind us all the way and how pleased she was to see that the Billy G was returning to help stop whaling. I was once again reminded of how many people are part of this expedition that aren’t onboard; Robin Davey, Billy Greene, the 13 year old boy who wrote me last week telling me he wanted to sail on the Esperanza and save whales when he grows up, people who are giving not only dollars but days of their lives. This is what we call “all hands on deck." So Wed. the 19th arrived, it arrived yesterday in fact. It arrived without the needed helicopter parts and thus we left without a helicopter. But believe you me; this ship has no shortage of tricks up her sleeves. A helicopter would have been very helpful but as the captain very matter of factly stated-we have found them before without the helicopter and we will find them again-and friends, at the end of any day, that is good enough for me. Not only have we compensated for the lack of a chopper but we have improved on certain things that were previously restricted by the use of a heli. I cannot say more in the unlikely event that some lonely sailor on the Japanese whaling ship is perusing my Greenpeace blog before he retires for the evening. And we are off! For me this marks the beginning of our expedition. We will find the whaling fleet, we will find them soon and we will do exactly what we came here to do. Of this I have no doubt, but I must go and sleep now for I need my rest I have a big day tomorrow! I have a date with a lady in red. Her name is Miss Piggy.
One of the camera crew asked me if it was an artifact I found diving. Five minutes later she stopped working. So I gave her a Texas tune up and tomorrow I will take her down to the nice romantic spot you see here:
and together over twelve breathtaking hours we will pump 10 tons of sludge from holding tank 9 to tank 20. This is the kind of romance you can only find on ships!
I was just set to say goodbye here and I heard ear piercing screams coming from the center of the ship. I walked into a crowd of smiles and learned that the Japanese government had announced it will not hunt humpback whales this season. They left port with a quota to kill 50 threatened humpback whales in the sanctuary. Japan had done so at the request of the US government who will chair the next International Whaling Commission meeting this June in Chile. This is great news. However, they must stop all commercial whaling, not just one species for one season. They still plan to murder 985 Minke and Fin whales. This change by the Japanese Gov. is a very clear example of how nations like the US and Australia have the power to convince Japan to stop killing whales. Now they must do it.
The temperature outside is dropping quickly. We are sailing faster.
The time to put this killing to an end is near at hand.
I will write once we reach the ice. Fingers crossed.
This is my first blog for this expedition to the Southern Ocean aboard the MY Esperanza, actually it is my first blog ever. I plan on writing many more over the course of the next several months. I will just say upfront that I am not very good with the flowery rainbows and majestic sunset stories so I am just gonna tell it how it is. Let me also add this disclaimer. This is a really long blog (two pages) but many things have happened over the last month and I was unable to share them with you as they happened, as to not announce the ship’s intentions or position to the Japanese. In the future I will write more frequently and more concisely now that we the expedition has gone public.
I joined the ship in South Korea where we were tied alongside at an industrial ship yard.
The ship had been there for a few weeks before I arrived and the crew had already begun tackling a long lists of repairs and maintenance that had been delayed for lack of parts and moreover, time.
When the ship is sailing everyone has more than their share of responsibilities and little repairs here and there fall to the wayside out of necessity.
I was a bit anxious upon my arrival. I am a first mate on a fairly large vessel at home in Florida, but this was my first expedition on a Greenpeace ship and something told me it was going to be a little different from what I was accustom to. I was right! For starters I quickly realized that I am the only American in a crew of now 34, soon to be 45. As I am sure you can imagine our countryś reputation for social irresponsibility and environmental negligence forged a skeptical (at best) reputation that well proceeded me. In addition to that I am the youngest member of the crew at ripe ole 27. However, I am far from a greenhorn when it comes to the sea and knew I just needed an opportunity to prove my metal. Well, I got it almost immediately. On my first day a quiet and pensive lad, shorter in stature but well salty and wearing the countanence of a man who had stared into a crystal ball (compass) for more days than I had been alive, approached me on the poop deck. He had only to say a few words and I realized he was the captain. We spoke briefly about my experience and skills and he immediately offered me an opportunity to be a member of the engineering department. I accepted and was introduced to a team of seven very talented individuals from all over, Germany, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland, and now the US. Each engineer has their own niche be it, fitter, electrician, mechanic. Mine would be to assist with overall operations of the engines and to focus on repairing and maintaining the small fleet of rigid hulled inflatable boats on board. It could not have worked out better. Now I could spend time working on my baby, Billy G,
the workhorse of the fleet and the boat I will drive in front of the hunting ships in the Southern Ocean.
One of my first challenges was to go ashore and find two items. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! The first part was three yards of 1mm metal screen to be used to fashion homemade filters for various raw water pumps. The second, was a nutt, just one little metric nutt. But this one little nutt was the missing piece to a hydrolic pump that was keeping one of the jet boats from running. I was handed a a huge roll of cash (the exchange rate from US dollars to Korean currency is 1 to 900). I didn´t have to walk far before I found myself amidst a maze of narrow alleys and passages lined with openair machine shops and scrap metal piles. As soon as I left the ship I was without a doubt the only non-Korean person for several miles. I was wearing sunglasses, hair in pony tail, oil stained carhart pants and work boots. Hydrolic pump in hand I began approaching stalls that looked like they might have the nutt I needed. However, I could not get within ten feet of a shop before the owner would run out in the street waving their hands frantically infront of my face and shaking their head saying, ¨NONONO.¨ I was really confused. I lived in Thailand for over a year and considered myself fluent in the traditional customs and curticies of Eastern cultures. I was humble, polite, and passive. I bowed at the waist always taking care to position myself beneath whomever I was greeting, no small feet for a six footer. Still, with palms up and kind smile I was chased all the way down the street.
Then it all became clear. I stopped at a busy intersection to gain my bearings and happened to see my reflection in a shop window. My t-shirt! I was wearing an old favorite raggedy shirt. It is blue and has an American flag in the center and beneath the flag reads, ¨BUSH - SATAN 2004¨
I am fairly confident that the people that were shunning me did not find the humor in the slogan but were capable of recognizing the flag accompanied by the notorious BUSH. I dipped into an alley and turned the shirt inside out. Again, I set out down a gauntlet of sparks and welding smoke but this time my reception was much much warmer. I found an old man asleep on a pile of rolled up steel mesh. After making sure his bed consisted of the screen I needed I gently woke him and began the usual game of sherades to communicate to him the type and quantity of what I needed. He whipped out this enormous pair of metal sheers and began to cut me off what he thought I asked for. In doing so the roll of steel slipped from under his knee and coiled up like a yo-yo causing him to slice the palm of his hand wide open with the sheers. He scream loud and began bleeding all over the place. He ran off through a maze of metal racks and I followed after him. When he got to his stash of bandages he was startled to see that I was right behind him. He motioned that he was ok and for me to go back outside. I was not convinced and took a few steps back to see the severity of his injury. He fumbled with his good hand to open packages of gauze and tape. I wanted to help but was not willing to risk offending him. Finally, I could not watch this old man continue to bleed all over himself and his shop. I sat him down and gave him a look that said, ¨don´t be ridiculous, let me help you, you stubborn old coot.¨ He conceded and we got him all sorted out. We walked back out to the street and I finished cutting the screen. I then pulled out my bank roll and motioned for the bill he had scratched on a box top. He smiled, bowed, and tore the box top inhalf, motioning for me to go on my way this one was on the house. One item off my list. I was just hoping the nutt I was seeking would not result in so much blood shed.
The simple little nutt became a needle in a haystack almost instantly. As I approached people sitting atop mounds of scrap and random pieces, I held out my pump and pointed to the bolt protruding from the top. Each time they would disappear and return with a five gallon bucket filled to the rim with fasteners of every size and shape you could imagine, and each time i sat on my knees and pillaged through millions of bits, but to no avail. It was getting dark and I was not totally confident I knew the way back to the ship, but I was not going back without this nutt. By this time I had become the equivalent of a traveling side show scavenging up and down alleys. I also had acquired a fan. A little guy probably eleven or twelve i would say. Every time I turned around he would dip behind a pile of old engines in a good ole fashion game of peak-a-boo. By this time he had disappeared, but as I was staring aimlessly at makeshift street signs that had no meaning to me, I spotted him again standing on the hood of a junker car. The car sat in front of a auto-body shop, so I thought, ẅhat the heck it is worth a shot. I crossed the street and entered an open garage bay. Turns out the kids dad was the owner and as he saw me enter the kid ran over and whispered something in his ear. They both had a good laugh, at my expense I am sure, but by this time I did not care I just wanted my nutt. The dad pulled out yet another huge bucket of bits. This time he took the initiative to begin the digging and pretty quickly came up with the closest match yet. It was the right diameter, but was too thick. He spun around, pulled down his welding helmet, and fired up a saw that looked like it could slice through a tank with no problem. Bare handed he held the nutt right up to the blade and from a shower of sparks came a perfect fit. Again, I graciously bowed and he instantly saw the look of relief on my face. I reached for my pocket and he waved his hands and bowed, again insinuating that it was on the house. I gave the little guy a high five up high, one in the middle, but of course he was too slow for the one way down low J
On my walk back to the ship I marinated on the last five or six hours, amazed by how different it had ended from how it began, humbled, embarrassed, almost ashamed at the impact of the t-shirt.
Upon returning to the ship everyone had called it quits for the day and were relaxing on the helicopter deck. When I produced the nutt and the metal screen there was silence. It turned out that several of them had set out on this exact same mission days before and all had returned empty handed. It wasn't until I returned the wad of cash just as thick as it was when it was given to me that a round of applause broke the silence. Everyone, demanded the story but I was exhausted and knew that I could not have done the day justice with words, and I really needed a cold beer!
The next day we cast off the lines and set sail for ¨Jakarta.¨ I put in quotes because we never really intended to arrive in Jakarta we were using that as our heading to try and fool the Japanese fleet into thinking we were not there for them. A few days at sea and I began to really feel at home on the ship. Working from eight to five in the engine room
and draped over diesel engines on inflatables, preparing them for the extreme conditions they would have to perform in in the Southern Ocean. In my down time in the evenings I tried to make my cabin as homey as possible by pinning up pictures of my family and my girlfriend and two cats.
I share a cabin with a really cool guy from New Zealand. He is the Bosun on the ship. He is in charge of the deckhands, general maintenance, crane operator, etc. His name is Grant and he is 34.
His trade at home is that of an arborist for a conservation society that tends to national parks. Very smart man and we got along from the get go which was good because we were about to share a small and miserable space. Being a Floridian I was pretty anxious about going to Antarctica. Having not worn a pair of close-toed shoes in four years I packed every warm thing generous friends could dig out of the tops of their closets. My dad spent 30 years in the air force so he was the big contributed of cold weather gear. Little does the US military know but they sponsored me on this expedition, thanks Uncle Sam. But the joke was soon to be on me. I was so myopic in my wardrobe planning I failed to realize that sailing from South Korea to Antarctica required at least two months of sailing through tropical climates and crossing the equator. It was around eighty degrees out and getting warmer. The ship has air conditioning but in the name of fuel conservation the chief engineer elected not to use it. Each cabin has at least one port hole, but as you can imagine they are small and when the seas are rough, as they have been, you cannot keep them open for the water coming in. So imagine a steel can with 35 people sweating profusely all the while being shaken about in fifteen to twenty foot seas. It was miserable. People began sleeping on deck until it rained for several days in a row. Sticky sleepless nights resulted in cranky crew. But levity was soon brought to the irritable group, at my expense of course. Each night I began trying to sleep in my bunk but would retreat to a hallway or common area in seek of air circulation. One night I got up and climbed down from my sauna. The port hole was open so I decided to lay down on our vinyl couch that was next to it. I managed to dose off for a bit, but soon awoke for some odd reason. I opened my eyes and in the pitch black I could make out two bright white circles coming towards my face. Thankfully, at the last second my eyes came into focus and I realized those weren't circles at all, THOSE WERE BARE BUTT CHEEKS! Grant had awoke in a pile of sweat himself and had the same idea I did. He had stumbled over and was going to plop down on the couch aka my face. I screamed like a little girl and luckily scared him so bad he aborted his landing and jumped into the air. We were both definitely awake now and had quickly relocated to opposite sides of the nine by six cabin. We stood in silence for a minute and then at the same time began rambling about how hot it was and how we should go for fresh air. Laughing our ¨butts¨ off we made our way up to the bridge to see what was on the radar screen besides a full moon. I knew that I planned on working to erase the incident from my memory asap, but the next morning at breakfast I was greeted with uproarious laughter and applause. Grant had thought the whole thing to be so funny he shared it with the rest of the crew and again the Yankee provided the laughs.
Laughter soon came to a halt upon receiving word that the fresh water maker had a broken pump and there would be no more laundry washing and showers were limited to three minutes or less. Not what you want to hear when you have been sweating 24/7 for two weeks. In addition to that the helicopter mechanic had discovered a crack in the control box that could not be repaired on board. This meant that we would have to detour to a port and try and get a new pump and parts for the heli. The most logical choice was Taiwan. Two-thirds of the things made this planet come from this little island so we figured if we can´t find it there we probably aren´t going to find it. We spent three days alongside in Keelund, Taiwan. We managed to get what we needed and then were on our way again. We sailed for a week and then under the cover of darkness, we turned off our locating and tracking devices, becoming invisible and altered our course for the waters just south of Japan. There we would wait for the whaling fleet to leave and there we would begin to shadow them on their mission to murder whales in the international whale sanctuary of the Southern Ocean. As we sailed we conducted daily trainings on the inflatables. Practicing, launching and recovering, pacing, navigation, transferring passengers while underway.
These boats are high performance machines but they are no better than the person who is behind the wheel and the water where we are heading are unforgiving and mistakes result in serious injury or death.
One morning I came out to the poop deck to have my morning tea and I saw the captain and several crew standing on the side of the ship and pointing astern. They had spotted a Japanese navy cargo vessel, and if we had spotted them, they had surely seen us. There went our cover. The Japanese government and their whaling fleet now knew we were there and most certainly knew why. We continued on and just yesterday came withing 36 miles of the coast of Japan. Territorial waters of any nation end 12 miles out but Japan has decided that they have the right to extend that boundary by another 24 miles. So, in order to avoid the chance of being boarded and taken in to port and held until they whaling fleet could leave and get away we lingered on the cusp of their self proclaimed territory, and that is where I am writing from right now. We are ready, more than ready. There is no doubt that every person on this ship from the newest deckhand to the captain are determined to do whatever it takes to stop this senseless slaughter of these beautiful creatures. Whales face a endless threats, including being caught in nets, ship-strikes, and climate change. The Japanese government should not be adding research whaling to these threats, especially when significant research can be accomplished without harpooning whales. 300,000 whales and dolphins die caught in nets each year, that is one every 90 seconds - and countless more through other man-made impacts. To allow the Japanese government to hunt them for fake science is just madness and we won´t have it! Everything we need to know about whales can be learned without shooting them with grenade tipped explosive harpoons. The hunters are set to leave any moment know and I only hope that they are aware of the passion and resolve that drives this ship and its crew wherever we must go.
Washington, DC USA
born in hawaii, raised in arkansas. went to gw. by the end of this trip i will have traveled to every continent on the planet. love scuba diving, cooking, the ocean, bob seger, tattos, and the arkansas razorbacks. grew up wanting to be president, woke up realizing i wanted to do something good with my life. am very proud to call myself a jack of all trades and a master of some. value loyalty and selflessness. strive to be optimistic, creative, and sharing. once met a man who had two tattoos on the inside of either wrist. on one hand he had d.i.y. and the other d.i.n. "do it yourself" and "do it now" that is why i am going to antarctica and willing to drive a rubber boat in front of a grenade tipped harpoon, because if i don't, who will?
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