How Things Come 'Round in Life

How Things Come 'Round in Life

Posted by nicole on 11/28/2005 2:52 pm

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)

Comments (66)

  • Permalink David on November 29, 2005
    go get them brother for all us who are at home cheering in the back ground
  • Permalink joseph on November 30, 2005
    Wow, you are a lucky man. To have a dream and be out there. Glad you're on our side.

    Give em hell!!!
  • Permalink Matt Parfitt on November 30, 2005
    Help those who cannot protect themselves. Best wishes, continued success, safe return.
  • Permalink Bridgette on November 30, 2005
    You're a brave and noble man. I wish you all the best.
  • Permalink Shayna Bach on November 30, 2005
    Rock da boat Nathan! Thank you for protecting our most beautiful creatures. My prayers for your safety...
  • Permalink anni labansat on November 30, 2005
    it's people like you who shape the future of this planet! What an awesome way to spend your life,fighting for these magical creatures. All the best, my friend, you are a hero!!!!
  • Permalink April Idlett on November 30, 2005
    Be safe out there. It's a brave thing you're doing and I wish you and the whales much success!
  • Permalink Jeffrey Hoge on November 30, 2005
    Keep it up! Take care of yourself. How did this Whale Sanctuary get established and when?

  • Permalink Jan on December 01, 2005
    Thank you for having and doing this site.
    I need this information because I strongly support the effort to control our ability to stupidly destroy a part of the food chain.
    I will not buy GORTON for now, and I will make a real effort to know more about the fish I eat.
    The only meat I eat is fish.
  • Permalink Karne on December 01, 2005
    This past summer I had the awesome experience of swimming with Humpback whales in Tonga. They are intelligent, curious and magnificant. The experience was amazing and I will do it again. I can't imagine anyone wanting to harm one. Keep up the good work, wish I was there with you.
  • Hi all,

    If you'd like to read more about our work down here in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, check out the...

    Esperana crew weblog .
  • Permalink Clemencia Herrera on December 01, 2005
    It makes me so angry that in the year we live the only way to stop whaling is by literally standing between the hunter and the helpless whale. I wish you the best in this beautiful project and you know we will all be thinking of you. That was an inspiring story you told, keep the dream alive!!!
  • Permalink Laura on December 01, 2005
    Thank you. And I'm sure the whales would thank you too if they could. We need more people like you in this world. :) Best wishes for a safe and successful journey.
  • Permalink Colin Jones on December 01, 2005
    To claim the killing of whales is done in the name of "scientific research" is an insult to my intelligence. It can be done through tissue samples obtained through darts. Of course it has nothing to do with profiteering!!If I were twenty years younger I would be out there with you Nathan.
  • Permalink Martha on December 01, 2005
    Thank you so much for doing this. We surely need more people like you in this planet. Take care!!! My best wishes for you from Venezuela.
  • Permalink Kent Savage on December 01, 2005
    See if they understand this: SHOOT BACK!!!!
  • Permalink Pat on December 01, 2005
    I often cry with sheer frustration at all the bad things that are done in the world in the name of PROFIT.I can't understand why people who hunt whales,for instance, can't see that what they are doing is WRONG. Thank you for having the courage that many of us are unable to summom to do this work
  • Permalink Shelley Frampton on December 01, 2005
    Go get 'em Nathan! Hundreds of thousands of people stand behind you.
  • Permalink Patricia S on December 01, 2005
    Thanks for all you guys do. I always hated to hear about whale hunting and I am disgusted, that it is STILL going on. Especially now where they are so threatened. Hats off to you for being on the frontline. Let's hope you can save them all!
  • Permalink april stacey on December 01, 2005
    nathan, you are a true hero and i wish there were LOTS more in the world like you. Greenpeace always inspires hope within me! Best of luck!!!
  • Permalink Ang on December 01, 2005
    You Rock Nathan!
  • Permalink surrussellism on December 01, 2005
    We sat and talked of Revolution
    just like two liberals in the sun
    We talked of Oceanic Liberation
    and how the hell we could get things done
    OH WHALE.......
    (with a vast and shattered love from Long Island,new york..........
  • Permalink GORDANA KELLY on December 01, 2005

  • Permalink gd on December 01, 2005
    even though its legal for them to hunt wales, for now,I feel like they are no better than poachers the owner of that company should be treated as a criminal.there are no bad soldiers only bad generals.
    be safe--youre doing a great thing
  • Permalink Tammy Carrier on December 01, 2005
    Thank you All, for looking out for God's creatures. My thoughts and prayers are with you and the whales you seek to protect. God Bless

    Tammy Carrier
    Katy, Texas
  • Permalink Georgie Dietman on December 01, 2005
    My lifelong dream of living on 'the coast', came true a few years ago. I
    get that 'lump in the throat thing' everytime I am fortunate enough to
    see the migrating whales off MY side of this Mighty Pacific Ocean.
    My Prayer Chants are with you & I 'm
    passing on info to all who will listen.(Blessings to your Dad. I have a feelin' he's an old 'hippie dude'& as an old 'hippie chick'-I got it!) Georgie
  • Permalink Diane D. on December 01, 2005
    What a wonderful example of Divine guidance in your life. I wish and pray for your safety and success as you enter dangerous waters. Thank you for your service.
  • Permalink monica on December 01, 2005
    My prayers for you and for the work you do to protect these magnificent wonders of God. Thank you for what you are doing.
  • Permalink melissa on December 01, 2005
    god bless your heart.
  • Permalink katie on December 01, 2005
    what your doing is awesome and must feel great.
    go get em...
  • Permalink Jillian Saxty on December 01, 2005
    I've seen humpbacks in Antarctica and the thought of them being slaughtered breaks my heart. They are amazing creatures. Thanks for being there to protect them for us!
  • Permalink Leopoldo Maler on December 01, 2005
    The cowardice of those predators' greed is proven by the fact that a tiny inflatable boat can stop them. How strong the cause of preservation can become if just ten men like you get together!
  • Permalink MJ on December 01, 2005
    Thank you, nathan, for being so brave and going out there to fight for the whales. You are inspiring!
  • Permalink khaos on December 01, 2005
    thank you nathan. what a great story, it moved me. i know you will do all you can to help the whales and i hope to join you some day. say hello to odin from me and his new friends in olympia, and be safe!!!
  • Permalink Lisa on December 01, 2005
    There are solidiers of war, and there are soldiers of love. You are a true soldier of love. If the whales could speak, they would say thank you for your love and protection.

    Bless you and others at Greenpeace for having the courage to fight and win against seemingly insurmountable odds.

    I look forward to hearing more about your courageous story.
  • Permalink Linda Leatherwood on December 01, 2005
    If you see the Farley Mowat out there, say hi from me.
  • Permalink Chelsea on December 01, 2005
    You're doing a wonderful thing, man. We need more people like you. Keep up the good work!
  • Permalink Hader Celis on December 01, 2005
    dear Nathan. Thank you the people is you.
  • Permalink lorrie smearcheck on December 01, 2005
    You are a daring knight in shining armor! A true hero to the whales. May God strengthen, guide and protect you as you go about doing the bravest work we mere mortals can only dream of having the courage to do! With our admiration, we wish you a peaceful and successful journey as you serve as champion, and protector. of those magnificent sea creatures who cannot speak for and defend themselves. God Bless and God Speed Nathan!!! Lorrie, Tom & Alexis Smearcheck
  • Permalink Brian Latta on December 01, 2005
    Thank you so much for walking this noble path. I hope the Japanese completely fail in their efforts to kill whales and they give up. Good luck!!! Be strong!
  • Permalink Annette on December 01, 2005
    I can only fully agry with all thoth ather comentors :you r a hero and the best of luck to you.My preyers willbe with you.If we can protect the top of the food chain we can protect the habitat,if not much more than one species will be lost again. Ihope we can find a way to facinate many Japaneese and chineese people so that they can influence theire own government & society with this and other urgent environmental isues which are still just not an issu for most in these upcomingcountries.
    I can't understand at al how so many vegie's still eat fish.It's selfish when you consider the state of the ocians.
  • Permalink Miss Lisa on December 01, 2005
    Bless you Nathan for being so brave.I will be there with you and the whales in prayer and thought. Take care, and be safe.

    It was sweet to read your story...thank you for taking time to share it :-)

    Miss Lisa
  • Permalink Gary Johnson on December 01, 2005
    I applaud you and all the other members of Greenpeace.
    The first film I ever watched by Greenpeace was on the slaughter of baby seals for the rich bastards that "just had to have" their seal skin coat.
    It made me so sad and angry at the same time, I had wanted to skin the people that wore the coats. Why people can't live and let live, I'll never understand, but I support all Greenpeace actions and the Humane Society, for standing up for those that can't speak for themselves.
  • Permalink PAT KELLIM on December 01, 2005
    you're an angel. God bless and keep you.
  • Permalink Kiantha Shadduck on December 01, 2005
    Thank you, Nathan, for keeping this blog and your empowering, steadfast motivation to save the lives of the mystic, intelligent whales in the deep blue oceans. Applause to Greenpeace for the decades of incredible strides in changing the way people think about the beautiful creatures we share this Earth with and the ecosystems we need to preserve.

    Make more than waves out there Nathan and crew! May this be another victorious journey!

    ~Peace for all,
    Kiantha Shadduck
    Coeur d'Alene ID
  • Permalink Alando on December 02, 2005
    nathan way to follow your dreams. I was wondering if you might have any information to help me to potentially follow mine (i'd like to be on 'the boat'). i'm only a junior in high school, how is it possible for me to one day ride the boat. do you take interns?
  • Permalink Amber on December 02, 2005
    Thank you, Nathan. You are an inspiration to all. Good luck and be safe.
  • Permalink Cynthia Anderson on December 02, 2005
    As you live your dream....may the force be with you because you may just need it. I am flying the skies of Alaska...seeing whales and polar bears wishing I was on the ship with you to help with the good fight...need a pilot?? You rock the boat Nathan!
  • Permalink David on December 02, 2005
    OKAY EVERYBODY. Time for some facts and reality:

    Fact: Greenpeace USA rakes in more than 100 million USD a year in donations, where as proceeds from the research whaling programmes amount to only 50 million, which is used to offset the cost of the research programmes. It's clear who is running the commercial operation here -> Greenpeace (and other similar "environmental" groups). Don't let Greenpeace fool you into dishing out more of your hard earned money to them - how do they spend it? Giving Nathan and his mates a luxury cruise in the Southern Ocean during the southern hemispherean summer.

    Fact: Japan's whaling activities are legal under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The USA is a signatory to this international agreement - the US has the right to withdraw from this convention at any time it sees fit - but chooses not to. So why are you whinging at Gorton's? It's George Bush who is supporting whaling - he's got whale blood all over his hands - as do all the other governments of the world who are also signatory to the ICRW, which expressly encourages whaling industry and permits lethal research whaling.

    Why doesn't Greenpeace campaign against the US government for their assent to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling? Greenpeace doesn't want to regulate whaling, they want to BAN it, right?

    Maybe it is becoming clear by now - Greenpeace doesn't want to stop whaling - it wants to continue to milk the ignorant for all they are worth - every year they dish out more money. What would happen if there was no whaling? That's right - no more anti-whaling donations either.

    So come on Greenpeace - get your act together - show us you have honour - campaign against the US government (and the New Zealand, Australian and British governments too) for their continued signatory status to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

    How will you stop whaling while all these government's have their signatures on the document that legitimises it?

    Fact: The Humpback populations in the Southern Ocean are "booming" at rates of around 10% p.a. Australian scientists have said this:

    The Japanese are planning to take a very small number. Do the maths - ask yourself, if Japan takes 50 humpbacks each year, but the population is growing at a rate of 10% p.a., how long will it take for the whales to exhausted?

    Well, how does it look?

    That's right, it looks good for the whales - they won't be exhausted, because the number of whales Japan takes will be well and truly compensated for due to the 10% annual growth in numbers. Furthermore, there will still be plenty of whales for the whale watchers, and Japan will also be able to carry out it's research - everyone is a winner!

    Except you, that is - because Greenpeace is conning you into giving your money to them. The loser here shouldn't be you - it should be Greenpeace. Make it so.

    Fact: Cows are gentle and innocent animals as well. Why do you treat them with such contempt, whereas you want to put whales on a pedestal? Why not treat all animals equally?

    The conservation movement has totally lost it's way in Greenpeace's hands.
    Conservation doesn't mean to "not utilise" (that's protectionism). Conservation means to "utilise sustainably". How does one go about making decisions about how to utilise a resource sustainably? First, you need to do research :-) You can't make correct decisions without accurate scientific information. Only with information can you make wise decisions about how to manage your activities to achieve the optimal outcome for your environment and human needs. That's what Japanese and Icelandic research whaling is all about.
    I think the majority of people reading this site are probably not cetacean scientists. You easily come to the conclusion that "scientific whaling" is a sham, not because you have read the Japanese research for yourself and concluded as such - but only because Greenpeace said so, and you have been led to believe that they are the "good guys". Well, sorry - but it's Greenpeace who is in this for the money.
    See my blog for more reality such as this

    Oh, and have a great cruise Nathan mate!
  • Permalink Marty on December 02, 2005
    Dear Nathan,
    It is so cool that you saw, knew what you wanted right then and there, and then pursued your dream! That that dream is to help such majestic creatures as Whales, is very noble indeed! Wish I was there with you!
    God bless you!
  • Permalink Anthony on December 02, 2005

    I wish Greenpeace USA raked in $100 million a year in donations. If that was the case maybe I could get a raise. ;-) Or maybe we would turn the heat a little higher in the building.

    Want the facts? Download our 990s and see that we really need your donations now more than ever.

    As for the $50 million that the Japanese whaling brings in, I'd suspect that this number is just as dubious. Next time you want to cite "facts" remember that Greenpeace is a non-profit and is legally required to publicly share income and expenses. And what does any of this have to do with the ethics of slaughtering whales?


  • Permalink David on December 02, 2005
    Anthony - it's important people know about Greenpeace's motives and finances because it wouldn't be ethical for Greenpeace to take money off people who it had misled.

    Now, as it happens, I understated Greenpeace's figures - it was actually 135 million US, and I overstated the value of whale meat proceeds - it's only 36 million

    >Macnow notes that while it is true
    >Japan might make $36 million a year
    >from whale meat, that's nothing compared
    >with the $135 million a year US
    >Greenpeace earns from their anti-whaling
    >campaign alone. "These anti-whaling
    >campaigns are probably the most
    >profitable of all the animal funds," he

    That's just Greenpeace as well. What about all those other groups?
    Readers: Would you donate money to an organization that has financial power of these proportions? Greenpeace started out as grass roots, but that it is no more. Nor are the whales in an danger of extinction due to human hunting activities. Industrial whaling is long gone.

    Also from the article, a real scientist gets a word in:

    >Martin Cawthorn is a scientist, writer
    >and member of the IWC scientific
    >committee in Plimmerton, a seaside
    >village just outside New Zealand's
    >capital city. While some New Zealanders
    >argue that the Japanese can do their
    >scientific research from genetic
    >sampling, he says, they "would change of
    >modify their opinion" if they had any
    >idea how difficult it is to gather such
    >information in the Antarctic region.

    So anyway Anthony, I'm guessing that you can't argue against whaling on the grounds that it is unsustainable - as I pointed out, even Australian scientists consider the "endangered" Humpback stock to be "booming" at growth rate of 10% per annum. No problems from sustainability perspective, I'm sure you agree.

    What is unethical about the human race utilising nature's surplus to provide food for our people? And why does Greenpeace make this only about the Japanese? Why doesn't Greenpeace attack the US government for not banning Makah whaling and the Bowhead hunts in Alaska? The Bowhead species IS endangered, unlike those Japan is targeting. It's also worth noting that Japan has been taking a sustainable quota of whales for the past 18 years without any of the terrible consequences for the Minke stocks that Greenpeace proclaims.
  • Permalink Tresa Black on December 02, 2005
    You're Amazing and you don't even know it! Have a safe and successful trip!
  • Permalink Anthony on December 02, 2005
    $135 million?!?!?! Wow, now I really should get that raise. And a balloon on top of it.

    For the members of the reality based community, again, here is a link to Greenpeace USA's 990s.

  • Permalink Nathan on December 02, 2005

    Hey y'all. THANKS so much for all the comments - it's truly amazing to hear so much support from so many of you! It's just simply humbling. I wish you all were here as well.

    A few replies to some of your queries: In the photo, I'm scrubbing the floor of the alleyways in the ship. I'm planning to find some time soon to do a bit of a write-up about life aboard as a deckhand, but certainly daily chores are a big part of it... If you're interested in getting involved in GP, I'd suggest just ringing up one of our offices and start chatting it up. The USA office info is posted here. My updates will be posted on this site, as well as a blog that contains stuff from many of the other folks on-board, with more pictures and all that, at . Our sister ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is also posting stuff there. I can lean out the port side window and see her just astern of us on the horizon now...

    I will reply to more of your comments soon. As for David in Tokyo, well, his "facts" sound pretty wacky to me. He cites "facts" but doesn't cite sources, and his "math" about Greenpeace USA's money and whatnot is just plain wrong. Greenpeace went up against the Icelandic fleet while they were whaling, and we went after other whaling nations earlier in our history, before they finally stopped the hunt. That the whalers are Japanese now doesn't much matter to us, and if you follow the weblog during this campaign we'll be explaining a lot of the facets and dynamics of this issue and many broader ocean health issues as well.

    For folks in the USA, I was amazed to find out that one of our own companies has direct linkage to the whaling fleet: that Gorton's of Gloucester is a subsidiary of a company that's directly involved in the hunt. I guess the Gorton's fisherman isn't the guy we thought he was! Personally, I'd say find the number to their corporate offices and give 'em an ear full if you also find it alarming that a U.S. company is involved in whaling. Or take action online. David, you can keep posting your version of the "facts" here I 'spose; but you've posted your own url so I reckon folks can go there if they wanna hear more about what you've got to say.

    For everyone else, if you're not sure who to believe, I'd suggest you call around to other folks, sniff around, do your own research and make your own decision. Greenpeace IS a non-profit and is required to post it's books like Anthony said, but we also cite our sources, the folks we work in partnership with, etc, so seek other viewpoints if you're in doubt... But for me, in the end, I think the industrial slaughter of the great, wild whales to the tune of ~1000 per year is just plain WRONG and should be stopped. The fact that they're adding finbacks this year is really mind blowing, and humpbacks are planned for next year. I don't care how much money GP makes or doesn't make, or if the humpbacks are birthing at 10% or 12% or 200%, or if the hunters are Japanese, Lebanese, the New York Yankees or little green Martians: it's just plain WRONG, whoever's doing it... Thanks again for all the sweet thoughts. Right back at ya! I'll try to write more soon. nathan

  • Permalink Anthony on December 02, 2005
    You're my hero and the Yankees should not be allowed anywhere near the whales. Those bums would probably hit with bats and steroids. ;-)
  • Permalink Lynne Tuite on December 02, 2005
    My heart is with you. Take care, be strong and win.
  • Permalink Anne Reardon on December 03, 2005

    You are so lucky you found your calling. Go with your heart. I would like to get involved but I am not sure how.
  • Permalink Tom Ross on December 03, 2005
    Be sure to look at the Form 990's that are linked in previous posts. They are proof that the writer from Japan is quoting false figures about GP's income.
  • Permalink Cara Kidwell on December 03, 2005
    Nathan, like someone posted before, you are a soldier of love. How true. May God keep you safe as you protect the whales. You have so much support.
  • Permalink Aju Mukhopadhyay on December 04, 2005

    Let there be campaign for vegetarianism; non-veg one may take are eggs, small fishes and such things which grow aplenty- may be taken- that is practical vegetarianism. Killing big animals, specially those endangered, is like practicing cannibalism and cruelty at that is like perpetrating barrbarism. My love for all living beings and we cannot kill them unless essential for living or essential to protect ourselves, like pastes. Bravo to all who try to save them like Greenpeace and its representative Mr. Nathan. We should officially bring to light the fraud they do- killing them in the name of research and then use commercially.
    All good wishes,
    Aju Mukhopadhyay
  • Permalink Jessica Mease on December 05, 2005
    Its stories like this that give me hope to keep going and faith that one day maybe i'll get to be that person in the boat too.I wish you the best and cheer you on keep it up for me until i can follow in your footsteps.
  • Permalink jim beam on December 05, 2005
    regarding the pic of you; shouldn't you have on a coat or at least some long johns? I mean you are in a sea full of icebergs for Goddess sake! And how about a life jacket or at least a little inflatable floatie with whales on it. did you eat that biscuit I sent you? love your work..BM
  • Permalink Daren on December 07, 2005
    I support all that your about and doing. There is so much to do and far far to few doing it. This is SO so important, some people just don't see it & can i Emphasize it only some we need to stop but educating the many i feel is still needed

    go get em

    all the best

  • Permalink Bob Avino on December 07, 2005
    Do the right thing because its the right thing to do! You kick ass Nathan!!!!!!!
  • Permalink Sean Doyle on December 08, 2005
    Right on man! Floatillaed the GP Warrior 2 in Homer AK. Been Green ever since.. Thank you for having the zest and Kahoona's to put your life on the line. Peace

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