A Wonderful, Glorious Opening Day for the Newfoundland Seal Slaughter
Storm Cuts a Path of Chaos Through the Sealing Fleet
Report from the Farley Mowat
1100 Hours ADT
Position: 51 Degrees and 16 Minutes North
54 Degrees and 04 Minutes West.
Off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland and the Strait of Belle Isle
The crew of the Farley Mowat are in a joyful mood this morning. This is the official opening day of the seal slaughter on the Labrador Front, the day that 285,000 seals were sentenced to b executed by government order at the hands of the hakapik-swinging madmen who call themselves sealers. Right now, the sounds of rifle fire should be thundering across the floes, and streams of blood should be radiating like spokes to each of the over 300 sealing vessels that have gathered in this area for the purpose of slaughter and carnage.
But none of this is happening. Instead, the sea is being whipped into angry froth by shrieking winds and the surface is a frigid, bubbling caldron of ice being tossed about like a giant snowcone salad.
"I love this storm," said Captain Paul Watson this morning. "Damn but I love this, look at it. None of these sadistic bastards can kill a seal in this maelstrom of bergy bits and rotten pans heaving and rolling in chaotic loveliness. I hope it gets worse, much worse. If ever we needed the perfect storm it is today and the rest of this week."
Of the 300 sealing vessels at the Front, 200 of them are in harbour, mainly in St. Anthony where they have fled for shelter from the storm. Another 100 or so are riding it out at sea. The ones that went into harbour have a problem because the wind is pressuring the ice against the land and they will be locked in as if Neptune slammed the frozen gates of hell shut behind them. They will have a hard time returning. And the ones out here with the Farley Mowat have their own share of problems.
"It's a world of wind and cold and jagged, tumbling chunks of ice out here," said 2nd Mate Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden. "Our decks are awash and we are rolling and bucking like urban cowboys on a Texas mechanical bronco."
"I can't believe that I don't have to pay for this ride," added deckhand Matt Schwartz.
Needless to say, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has officially postponed the start of the hunt.
The Canadian weather report is looking very promising. The present low pressure system is stalled and a second low pressure system is moving northwards across the Grand Banks towards Newfoundland and will arrive on Wednesday. This low is expected to intensify as it moves to the north of Newfoundland on Wednesday and Thursday.
A strong ice pressure warning has been issued for the Northeast coast of Newfoundland. Higher than normal water levels are forecast for the high water marks. Added to this is a mixture of snow, rain, hail, and mist.
It is like a replay of the fortunate weather that plagued the sealers in the Gulf on the second day of the seal kill there. The Gulf sealers did not make their quota there and with luck the Front sealers won't either.
The sealing vessels on the outside are complaining to each other over the VHF radio channels and cursing the Farley Mowat as a Jonah noting that the weather was fine when the seal defending ship arrived yesterday evening and how rapidly it has deteriorated since. One vessel reported that they were going home.
"I certainly don't mind being their Jonah, if that is what they want to think," said Captain Watson. "I'm just happy that Mother Nature is throwing the works at us and them, and I hope her arm does not get tired for a few more days."
The crew of the Farley Mowat all agree that the relative discomfort of living on a rolling, heaving ship on an extremely cold sea is preferable to hearing the screams of the baby seals and seeing their tiny bodies convulse with pain on the ice floes.
"The seals can be seen in the water and riding small pans of ice. They look at home and content in this environment and if they are happy, we are happy," said Allison Lance Watson, the wife of Captain Watson who joined her husband and the ship on the French island of St. Pierre the day before departure.
The Farley Mowat continues to be tailed by the Coast Guard vessel Henry Larsen. "It's kind of nice having our own Coast Guard escort," said Jonny Vasic, a volunteer onboard the Farley Mowat. "If this storm sinks us, it will be easy to call for assistance. It is very thoughtful of Canada to be looking after us so carefully."
"I don't know," answered Captain Watson. "If we do get in trouble, we'll probably be looking at their ass end disappearing into the mist. As far as the government of Canada is concerned, we are the trouble. But then again it would be bad public relations to ignore us, so I don't think they will have much choice but to assist us."
One sealing ship calling the Coast Guard was told they were busy elsewhere. They neglected to say they were busy tailing the Farley Mowat.
The wonderful news of the day is that no seals will be killed and the sealing boats are having a thoroughly miserable day. It promises to be more of the same tomorrow and with luck this storm will last out the week.