|Sunday, December 27, 2009|
Laurens De Groot
Thick fog embraces us, making the Ady Gil disappear in the Antarctic water world. Our view narrows to about 50 meters and all that is left is staring out of the tiny windows waiting for growlers to pass by. Occasionally one of those massive ice cubes pops up in front of our fragile ship. So far we have managed to avoid them. And we need to because more then ever before on my Antarctic campaigns, I realize the danger of ice. Hitting ice is end of story for our campaign. Period.
It's my third year coming down to the Antarctic waters to help saving the great whales. Last year, I worked as a deckhand and part of the small boat crew. This year I get a chance to stop the whalers in Sea Shepherd's new vessel Ady Gil, an incredibly fast powerboat with a look that makes batman shiver. Finally, a ship faster than the harpoon ships! Now we can find the fleet, keep up with those kill ships and silence their spears of death. It’s a great asset to Sea Shepherd and I feel honored to be part of the crew. But it sure isn't an easy ride. All but actually. So far it has been one of the most challenging things I have done in my life: taking a carbon fiber ship through the roaring forties and furious fifties into the merciless waters of Antarctica. Hmmm... The more I think about it: it might also be the craziest expedition I have ever done. However, I believe fully in the difference this vessel can make in the battle against whaling. A conservation war in which volunteers from all over the world put their life on the life to protect endangered mammals. A war that doesn't need to be fought if the governments of this world would stick to their agreements and start upholding conservation laws. But until then...we'll do whatever it takes.
Back to the journey: The waves of the 40ies were a battle on themselves. Its was like being in a big black spinning washing machine which was in a washing machine inside a washing machine inside...I think you get the point.
And once we reached Antarctica our crew went straight into a struggle with the Shonan Maru No. 2. A new experience for my 4 other crew mates who are all new to Sea Shepherd campaigns. Apart from skipper Pete Bethune, we have 3 other kiwis on board: fireman Mike, ex-cop Jason, and ex-navy Jimmy.
Not all things went well while taking on the Shonan Maru No. 2 and unfortunately we couldn’t hold up the harpoon vessel long enough for the Steve Irwin to loose them. However, it was great practice and we are now confident to take on the killing ships surrounding the evil mother ship Nisshin Maru.
It's interesting to see how after an intense experience like that (yes, hanging 10 meter in front of a pissed off harpoon ship is intense) everything turns back into normal. Well normal, maybe not quite. To survive and stay sane on a small ship, with 5 other people in a very confined space for a long period of time you need to find a new way of living. Creating a Zen-like existence works for me. You create routines that you try to perform better and better each day. Whether it’s cleaning, cooking or a little bit of exercise: you do it with as much attention as possible creating a meditative state in which the time flies by. It's my way of staying focused on our mission. Cause it isn’t all “glory times” while being down here. On the contrary, being on campaign means a lot of waiting. Like the tiger patiently crawling closer to his prey, each day we crawl patiently closer to the barbaric fleet waiting for perhaps that one chance we get to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. And when that opportunity arises you want to make sure you are a hundred percent mentally prepared to help write the final chapter of illegal Japanese whaling in the Antarctic: creating a true whale sanctuary once and for all.