Christmas on the Steve Irwin
Report from Captain Paul Watson
It is Christmas day and I am not where I wish us to be.
Where I wish to be is two thousand kilometers to the Southwest where the outlaw whaling fleet from Japan is savagely massacring endangered whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
Unfortunately my ship is riding anchor just offshore of Williamstown, Victoria in Australia. We have picked up the spare parts that we ordered from Scotland and they are being installed in our damaged Port engine. By Boxing Day the ship will be restored to 100% efficiency.
On the morning of December 27 we will at berth for a few hours in Melbourne to take on another load of fuel to extend our range.
It is a frustrating delay but over the years I have come to expect the unexpected and I have learned to deal with disappointments and emergencies.
It is fitting that we are presently anchored near Williamstown.
Back in 1865, another ship arrived in Williamstown for emergency repairs to her rudder. It was the Confederate raider Shenandoah and her voyage to destroy the Yankee whaling fleet was disrupted by the need for these repairs.
The American Embassy tried every means possible to persuade the Australians to prevent the Confederate raider from sailing. Just as the Japanese government is doing with us with their demands to prevent the Steve Irwin from leaving.
In 1865, Australians rallied to the defense of Captain James I. Waddell and held a ball for him and his crew in Williamstown. One Hundred and forty two years later Australians have rallied to my crew, my ship and myself in welcoming us to their shores and supporting our cause and rejecting the Japanese demands to stop us.
The Shenandoah completed her repairs and departed for the Bering Sea where she captured and destroyed 37 Yankee whalers. In doing so she bought time for the endangered Grays and Bowheads and the American whalers never recovered.
We also will be leaving Melbourne to return to the Southern Oceans with the objective of stopping the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
The endangered Humpbacks have been saved, at least for this year, but 935 Piked whales and 50 highly endangered Fin whales remain on the Japanese death list.
Every day delayed is a day that whales are dying and thus my crew and I are desperately anxious to return to sea in search of the whaling fleet. On the 27th, we set forth again and this time we will hunt the killers down, we will find them, and we will stop them.
The Greenpeace ship the Esperanza will be a few days behind us having just departed from New Zealand. If we find the whalers first we will inform Greenpeace of the coordinates. If they find them first, we will have to keep looking on our own because Greenpeace has made it perfectly clear to us that they will accept our help but will not help us in return.
But as one of the original founders of Greenpeace I am content in knowing that I am consistent in proposing cooperation with the people who run Greenpeace today because if we can't work in peace with each other, how can we expect nations to peacefully cooperate with each other.
There will be another ship will be down there this year. The Australian Customs vessel Ocean Viking will be on a mission to monitor Japanese whaling activities for the Australian government.
The Steve Irwin crew have done a magnificent job in responding to the repairs to the ship. Once we determined that we could not have parts flown down to an Antarctic base, Chris Aultman coordinated the search for and purchase of the parts from Polaris in Scotland. It was not cheap. The parts cost 27,000 British pounds plus shipping. Peter Hammarstedt coordinated our return with the Port of Melbourne, the pilotage authority and with Customs and Immigration. Chris Aultman tackled the bureaucracy of clearing the parts through Customs. He also arranged the refueling and that also is a major expense with fuel at an all time high of nearly $1,000 Australian a ton and we need some 70 tons.
We lost five crewmembers with the return so far. Four Australians and an American. We may lose a couple more before we depart. Two of the crew left from chronic sea-sickness, one from homesickness and one needed to leave for a scheduled knee operation in February and cannot risk returning late. The fifth had to leave because his mother took sick and is presently in a coma.
We have gained one crewmember with Sea Shepherd Executive Director Kim McCoy joining us. So at this point it looks like we will return to sea with a crew of 37, although there is a chance we may take on two Australian park rangers.
It was a lonely Christmas Eve for me. I wish I could be with my daughter today but this damnable Japanese whale hunt has taken away any holiday celebration from me for the last three years.
I was in Melbourne last night and walked all the way to Williamstown to catch the 0100 shuttle to the ship but the swells were to high and a few of the crew including myself were forced to wait on the shore because it was impossible for the Steve Irwin to launch the tender in such heavy winds and waves.
The long walk was good for me because I was able to reflect on our situation and came to the conclusion that I have to focus with a determined and stubborn concentration on hunting down that whaling fleet wherever it may be and that this year we must stop the killing. We need to end this barbarous murder of the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and we need to undertake whatever risks are required to do so.
As the year ends I am also reflecting on the fact that it has been thirty years since I founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Thirty years and over 250 ocean voyages and I've lost count of the campaigns and I can't possibly recall the names and faces of the over 4,000 volunteers who have crewed under me during those three decades.
I still hopefully have another thirty years to continue this work. The number of marine animals that we have saved over this time is something that gives me a great feeling of satisfaction, of having accomplished something great, of having saved so many lives, and of having inflicted so much economic damage on the ruthless criminal exploiters of our oceans.
Over the years I have recruited both supporters and enemies. Without those who support Sea Shepherd, we would accomplish very little. And our enemies, well, their cruelty and their ignorant arrogance serve to keep me highly motivated by keeping me angry.
When I remember the awful images over the last forty years of doing this work, I feel a raging fire in the pit of my stomach that spins my blood into a furious storm of outrage.
It takes all of my strength to harness that outrage and to direct it towards constructive strategies to protect life and habitats. But I have done so and I will continue to do so as long as there is breath in my body. There is no retirement in this work that I do. Victories are always temporary and defeats most often permanent. It is a life of constant travel, conflict, betrayals, frustrations, dangerous risks, disappointments, and high adventure but it is the feeling of accomplishment that makes it worthwhile, to know that there are whales and dolphins swimming in the sea right now that would not be there if not for our interventions.
I don't despair for humanity. We are what we are. If we destroy ourselves in pursuit of material trivialities than that is our fate, determined by our collective actions and philosophies. What I wish to do is to buy time and space for the non-human citizens of this planet and to do what I can, in the time I have to protect the diversity of life.
Perhaps we can't save ourselves from ourselves but we may be able to salvage a bio-diverse foundation for the future to allow the planet to recover from what Richard Leakey has described as the Sixth Extinction Event, an ecological tragedy of our own making that is happening now.
I've just returned from one of the most spectacular regions of the Earth - Antarctica. Within a day, I will turn our bow southward again to return to that last unconquered frontier, the only place of relative freedom on the planet left to non-human Earthlings.
I am fully aware that we are on the eve of a frightening era of massive resource exploitation of the Southern polar region. I can already envision the military conflicts on the ice as nations bicker for the mineral, water and fishing rights and the process of Antarctic despoliation begins, just as it has for all the other virgin continents that have fallen to the dictates of our massive conceit.
In Sea Shepherd we are holding fast on regions where there can be no retreat - in the Galapagos as we oppose an invading army of fishermen, tourist operators, military and other ecological carpet baggers. In Antarctica as we oppose the awesome spectre of mechanized industrial whale killers who reap Cetacean death without remorse or thought. On the beaches of Japan where conscience is tossed aside and knifes and spears mutilate the bodies of thousands of innocent dolphins. On the ice floes of Eastern Canada where even the innocent purity of birth is sullied by barbarous thugs with clubs and knives as they kick new born seal pups in the face and skin them alive before the eyes of their mother. On the high seas where long lines of hooked death viciously ensnare and kill sharks, turtles, fish and seabirds. And now even the tiny plankton, the foundation of life itself on this planet is being looked upon as an exploitable resource to be "harvested" and converted to a protein paste to feed to factory farmed chickens, salmon, cows and pigs.
In light of all this, what choice do I have but to continue in this quest to fight the endless war against my own species where the only possible solution is impossible to secure.
But sometimes, even the impossible can become possible. We cannot focus on the results, only on the quest and we must address it with all the passion we can summon up within ourselves, to make the stand and hold the ground and never retreat, never falter and never surrender to the forces of greed and ecological destruction.
This last year I have managed to survive and overcome some of my own emotional weaknesses. It has been a year of personal disappointment and stress. One of the reasons for that is that I allowed myself to slide back into feeling that I should indulge myself in seeking my own personal happiness.
I realize now that happiness cannot be found in simply wanting it. It can only be found in the process of pursuing that which we are passionate about. I committed myself to undertaking responsibilities many years ago to dedicate myself to fighting for life in our oceans. It has been that dedication that has allowed me to achieve as much as I have but I can never forget that the guidance and protection that the ocean gives is lost when I fall from grace with the sea.
And for that reason we set forth again to return to the icebergs and the cold remote chaost of Antarctica, to the world of the penguins and the whales, to seek out and to throw ourselves into battle with the most ruthless and heartless killers on this planet - the outlaw Japanese whalers presently murdering whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
We must find them and we must stop them and we must do so with 100% resolve without hesitation and without fear.
And thus we will usher in the year 2008 - doing what we are here to do - fighting for life, fighting for the oceans and ultimately fighting for our own survival, and for our collective ecological sanity.
To all of you who have supported us - Thank-you for giving us the resources to carry on this fight. My appreciation is more than I can express. Without you we could do nothing.
To all of you who hate us and seek our destruction: Thank-you for keeping us angry and motivated.
And to the whales, the dolphins, sharks, turtles, birds, fish and plankton - Thank-you for being, for the inspiration you provide, and for the privilege of serving you.
Onwards and forward we go.
Captain Paul Watson
Onboard the Steve Irwin
Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (1977-
Co-Founder - The Greenpeace Foundation (1972)
Co-Founder - Greenpeace International (1979)
Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)
Director of the Farley Mowat Institute
Working Partner with the Ecuadorian National Environmental Police and the Galapagos National Park
Master of the M/Y Robert Hunter
Master of the M/Y Farley Mowat
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we risk the ship, ourselves and all" - Walt Whitman
Address: P.O. Box 2616
Friday Harbor, Wa 98250
MySpace Address: myspace.com/captainpaulwatson