Sea Shepherd's ship the Steve Irwin departed from Wellington after a very short but wonderful four-day visit to the capital of New Zealand. Although she only had a few days notice to plan for our arrival, New Zealand Sea Shepherd Coordinator Lisa Baines did an incredible job of organizing everything for the visit including public ship tours and an official po-whiri welcome ceremony by the Maori Te Ati Awa tribe along with a ship blessing. We also received supporting visits from the Dutch Ambassador, Wellington's Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Gareth Hughes, a New Zealand Parliament Green Party member.
A po-whiri signifies two groups coming together, negotiating the terms of their engagement and finishing with guests joining their hosts as one. It is a spiritual or religious journey where gods, heaven and earth are acknowledged, ancestors remembered and kinship ties reinforced. It is also when intentions are ascertained, issues debated and lobbying carried out. A po-whiri is often reserved for special visitors.
The po-whiri was followed by a hongi, the traditional M?ori greeting in Aotearoa. It is done by pressing one's nose to another person at an encounter. In the hongi the ha, or breath of life, is exchanged and intermingled. Through the exchange of this physical greeting, one is no longer considered manuhiri (visitor) but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land. The ship was also given a traditional Maori blessing.
On Tuesday morning, the Steve Irwin took on a maximum load of fuel to allow for the maximum possible time to remain in the Sothern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. A full load of fuel for the helicopter was taken on, as well as a ton of donated produce and supplies.
The ship departed from Wellington harbor at noon on Tuesday, December 14th.
A very special thank-you to all the Wellington and Christchurch shore volunteers, the Monsoon Poon restaurant for the dinner they gave our crew, the Holden family, Barnaby Weir of the Black Seed and Sam Manzanza for performing at the benefit, Grant Muir for the banners, Wellington's Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, and the Te Ati Awa people.
This was a wonderfully warm reception; the crew now heads to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary much encouraged by the showing of Kiwi support.