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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Recipe for Action

Wietse van der Werf
Ship's Carpenter - M/Y Steve Irwin

Wietse van der WerfAway from the high seas action and media spotlight, the Steve Irwin is quite a different ship from when I left her in the middle of our last Antarctic Campaign, Operation Musashi. Paint chipping, varnishing, grinding, and cleaning is what fills most of our days. Although not the most glamorous of times, preparing the ship for our 6th Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, it is definitely one of the most rewarding. We are working to get our 35-year-old vessel in top shape to face not only the hostile waters of the Southern Ocean, but a potentially risky stand-off with a 7-ship strong whaling fleet. Setting sail to the South with the most fully equipped and well-maintained ship, within our resources, is essential in ensuring our campaign, to silence the pirate harpoons in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary once and for all, will be a success.

As ship's carpenter I take care of much of the ship's interior. Repairing, altering or building-benches, bunks, desks, shelves and cabinets fills most of my to-do list. Last year we refitted the galley, we build desks and bunks to accommodate any additional media crew and worked on the oilskin locker, so our survival suits and all-weather gear can dry and be stored away properly. This year we are busy getting our crew mess in good shape and a new fully-equipped medical locker will ensure we have the capacity to deal with any unfortunate situations, might they arise.

One of the most inspiring things about working with Sea Shepherd is knowing that you are making the difference. Knowing that every day you get up and start the day's labor, you are ensuring that our work, to protect the oceans and the wildlife within it from the atrocities facing them, can be carried out in the most professional and effective way possible. Two of the main ingredients in the recipe for effective conservation action are dedication and commitment. Add to that a large portion of passion and a spoonful of hard work and putting a halt to those terrorizing the oceans goes from being a dream to becoming reality.

I am under no illusion that the task that lies ahead is enormous, difficult, and potentially dangerous. Many obstacles will be thrown before us, like many have been in the past. However, five years ago, the idea that a bunch of good-hearted pirates could stop the killing in the Southern Ocean, more so than all the international diplomacy and political wizardry has in the last 25 years, would have been laughed off as ridiculous. Then it was a dream. Now, with the support of many people around the world, we can make it reality. We will sail into the whaling grounds and be taken seriously. And we want to be taken seriously, because if anything is to be taken seriously, it is the plight for the whales. For if we can't save these beautiful, magnificent and intelligent creatures, that enjoy the most protection under laws, international agreements and treaties that any other species, then what can we save?

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