Deckhand, Steve Irwin
The year was 1983, and as a seven year old, I had decided to become a very strict vegetarian and most frequently verbalised my ethical reasoning to whomever I encountered. These were the days when my fellow youngsters proudly emblazoned stickers of Madonna, Kylie Minogue and My Little Pony across their lunchboxes. Across the plastic lunchbox lid of my bundle of vegetarian delights however, was a sticker that showed a harp seal. The harp seal was innocent, just a pup, lazing in a pristine environment of frozen polar caps. But the seal pup was dead. A hunter had violently beaten it to death with a club, spiling out a menacing flow of dark red blood to stain the white ice.
The poster which hung in my bedroom however, was of a harp seal which had been saved from this fate by Captain Paul Watson. Its soft black eyes looked down upon me each night as I slept, pleading for my help and compassion. This image was my first introduction to the plight of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
My life since has felt the weight of our human responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless, on a daily basis. I have actioned this deep seeded philosophy in varied ways, most recently for the last four years as a volunteer wildlife rescuer and 24-hour rehabilitation shelter operator for Wildlife Victoria in Australia. Securing a full-time paid position at Wildlife Victoria two years ago, I saw the direct consequences of human existence and destructive actions on our wildlife and environment. As the Manager of a state-wide 24-hour emergency phone service for sick injured and orphaned wildlife, my 15 staff were taking around 500 calls per day.
In August last year, I was offered the chance to move onto the Bob Barker which was docked in Hobart, Tasmania, in order to assist in preparing the vessel for the Operation No Compromise campaign. I could finally participate in attempting to proactively prevent suffering and slaughter with direct action. After nearly four months of some of the hardest work I have ever endured, rust chipping, angle grinding, painting, and furious cleaning, I was honored to be part of the team which could state that the Bob was finally ready to return to the Southern Ocean. But there was no space on the Bob Barker for me to join the battle for the first leg of the campaign, and as I watched my big black home sail away from me, I cried with fear for the safety of my newfound family.
It is still surreal for me to accept that a bunk became available at the last minute on the Steve Irwin for the second leg of the campaign, as a lifelong dream is now my reality. Now on day four of my journey to Antarctica as a deckhand, my overwhelming excitement has left no room for fear of what lies ahead. As each passing day brings icier winds and towering waves smashing over the bow, there is still nowhere in the world that I would rather be at this moment, and there’s nothing else that I can imagine doing other than being one of the Sea Shepherd’s 88 crewmembers fighting on behalf of each whale in this inhospitable expanse of ocean.