Odyssey of Compassion through the Great Southern Ocean
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin
It's difficult to describe the incredible vastness and the sheer immensity of the great Southern Ocean.
My crew and I have been chasing the seven ships of the eco-imperialistic Japanese whaling fleet over the frozen seas for thousands of miles, threading our way through a maze of assorted icebergs ranging from staggering tabletop frozen behemoths hundreds of feet high and miles across, to a multitude of ice sculptures of every imaginable shape and size. And the colours! It is hard to describe the myriad shades of blue embedded in such a wide range of whiteness. Fissures that open into cobalt and indigo interiors, lime green and turquoise, set against and within flat, glossy, alabaster, ivory and base whites sparkling with crystalline ice dust.
This is one of the most profoundly beautiful places on the planet - wild, remote, harsh, rugged, bitingly cold and vast.
The seas morph from a flat ripple free mirror surface to a tempestuous angry caldron of froth and spray within moments. Squalls break upon ships like a bomb, throwing crew around like rag dolls as dishes smash, the bulkheads groan and the ship's steel bow bites deep into the white capped swells seeking a grip to move forward, humbled by the awesome titanic power of the ocean's strength.
Winds that carry the albatross around us like angelic hosts, coming so close that I have actually touched their feathers as they passed by. Seraphs that glide upon winds that lash out with needling fury, whipping salt spray about like a hysterical harpy with a cat o' nine tails merrily flogging us silly, leaving us shivering, sniveling and muttering into our scarves.
And the cold, it grips like a massive vice, slowing squeezing the blood, erasing sensation and chilling the soul.
The great southern ocean does not tolerate any foolishness. A mistake down here can be fatal and salvation is a thousand miles away and life can be siphoned away within minutes as deathly penetrating cold robs every vestige of warmth from the frail human form.
This alone is enough to stir admiration in our hearts at the sight of great whales and tiny comical penguins frolicking in this world of frigid mind numbing ice like children on a tropical beach.
And the skies changing from baby blue scattered with downy clouds to dark pendulous charging regimental misty wraiths that spit rain, hail and snow onto us with venomous delight.
Every year for four years I have sailed these waters in pursuit of Japanese whalers and I never tire of the fascination of this world so far removed from the everyday life of the average person.
I adore this place. I revere the wildness, the remoteness and I especially love its unique citizenry. The penguins - the sullen Emperors, the haughty Kings, the comical Adelie's and freaky Rockhoppers. The whales - the acrobatic Humpbacks, majestic Blues and life loving Pikes. Their haunting songs echo off the deep crystal bottoms of icebergs in an orchestrated symphony that provides the sub-maritime realm of the Southern Oceans with a never-ending cacophony for the unfolding drama of life and death of living eco-systems at the bottom of this wondrous planet.
To experience true humility is to experience a voyage through the great Southern Ocean. Life below the latitude of sixty south is perceived in its rawest most primal form, and with that comes appreciation for just how fragile and utterly beautiful life really is.
We move forward each day, closing the gap on our foes, the whale poachers from Japan, attempting to turn the attention of the world above us to the plight of the magnificent whales who die in shameful ignoble agony in these remote waters as cruel blunt headed harpoons thrust explosives deep into their vulnerable bowels, shredding their internal organs, as they thrash and die in the most unimaginable pain, their hot red blood oozing out to stain the blue of the sea with a sickly scarlet and pinkish stain until their eyes close under the shroud of the sea forever.
The silence and the ecological harmony of this isolated sea is daily shattered and disrupted by acts of perversely gross violence and the willful infliction of savage suffering. It is a horrific blasphemy that compels us to intervene and begs for our intervention.
And so we return, year after year in an odyssey to further our quest to conserve harmony in these seas, to shepherd the whales so we can end the horror of the Cetacean serial killers who visit these waters to spit death and vomit blood into these sacred waters.