Merry Christmas from the Southern Ocean
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It is Christmas Day down here in the Southern Ocean, Christmas Eve in North America and Europe. This is the seventh holiday season that I have spent here at the bottom of our beautiful planet in the Southern Ocean. Christmas for me is becoming more and more associated with icebergs and penguins rather than reindeer and Christmas trees.
We have three ships scattered across this blue grey vastness called the Southern Ocean and they are now actively searching for the arrival of the Japanese fleet, anticipated within the next few days. It is an ocean of immense size, our search area is profoundly expansive, and the whaling fleet is not operating in their usually predictable pattern. They could easily be to the east of us, or they could be to the west. The job of finding them is never easy and especially this year when they have compromised their so-called scientific survey area by announcing they may kill whales anywhere in the Southern Ocean instead of their designated survey zones.
What we certainly do know is that this Christmas no whales were killed and that is a very encouraging start to our search. Gauging their speed and their departure time, we estimate it will be another four to five days before they are in any position to kill whales.
It is also very encouraging that we have 88 crew from 22 nations that have chosen to be on a ship in rough, cold waters, in a remote and at times deadly sea, searching for whalers instead of enjoying a Christmas dinner with friends and family, warm and secure on land. It is these passionate volunteers that make Sea Shepherd an effective organization. We are what we are and we do what we do because of their passion, their dedication, and their commitment.
Our ship crews, our onshore support team, and our supporters, are an inspiring trilogy of passion for the whales, and it is inspiring to see and benefit from all of their efforts by people coming from all over the world joining together for this noble endeavor.
The Japanese whalers are a stubborn bunch and although massively in debt, the Japanese government continues to subsidize their illegal operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. It is always amusing to see so-called capitalist countries practice corporate communism by granting welfare to losing enterprises.
Will this be their last year? I certainly hope so but if it is not, we must be prepared to return again next year and the year after that if necessary. Our resolve to defend the whales must endure over their resolve to kill them.
Today, the ship is rolling and bucking violently under assault by heavy winds from the west. The air is bitingly cold and the salt spray has been whipping our faces mercilessly. As unpleasant as that can be, it is also exhilarating to be down in these harsh but awesomely immense seas with the swells rolling the ship beneath our feet. The skies are a bleak grey but the accompanying albatrosses with their impressive wingspans glide back and forth before us, as if to herald our progress southward.
The crews of the three ships represent a diversity of concerned people from around the world.
On board the Gojira we have a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Nathan Murphy, a sitting member for the state’s Labor Party. The Gojira crew also includes electrician Kevin McQuinty who is the brother of former Western Australia’s Attorney General Jim McQuinty. The rest of the Gojira’s crew, commanded by Locky MacLean from France, are nine men and two women from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, and Great Britain.
There are forty crewmembers on the Steve Irwin and the balance of the “Crazy 88” are onboard the Bob Barker under the command of Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands. Alex is also Sea Shepherd’s Galapagos Director.
All three ships have incredible crews combining experience, skills, abilities, and most importantly, a deep passion for defending the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We have crewmembers from North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. All six continents are represented as we work to defend the ecological integrity of the seventh continent of Antarctica.
I’m proud of every single one of my crewmembers and I am also proud of the fact that these 88 passionate people are backed by hundreds of equally passionate onshore volunteers and thousands of supporting members. The ships cannot operate without crew, the crew cannot operate without onshore support, and the onshore supporters cannot operate without a solid support base. It is this trilogy of our combined ship crew, onshore crew, and supporters that makes what we do possible.
Now on Christmas Day of 2010, we are in the Southern Ocean once again, stronger and better organized than ever before and with a single goal - to stop the slaughter of the whales.
I can’t think of a better place to be on Christmas Day than where we are right now. I also can’t think of a greater gift to thank all of our supporters with than the lives of the whales that we have already saved and those that are to come. I am confident that this will be a very dramatic but very successful season for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
On behalf of my crews on the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Gojira – Merry Christmas and thank you for supporting your ships at sea!