Paris in Antarctica – When Worlds Collide.
Here’s an email from my friend Nic, aboard the Sea Shepherd. Straight before and after THIS happened.
Nicola Paris is a WA local; long time environmental and social justice activist, with a history of working on a range of many campaigns. This is her second Antarctic campaign with Sea Shepherd and she has been volunteering full time on board for the last year – currently serving as the Second Cook and sometime deckhand. She is somewhat cranky with the Japanese whaling fleet and would like them to change the tunes on their LRAD sonic weapon so she doesn’t feel like she is in a bad 80’s disco.
I am more inclined to believe her than Cap’n Watson — if only because I know that Nic believes everything she says. She has also asked that the following be posted wherever appropriate. Given my previous post, I thought this was fair.
South of 70 degrees. Where there is no god. If that’s your thing.
Its 1.40am on the 5th of February and I can’t sleep. I am looking out the porthole at a muted grey sea scape, in a state of constant twilight.
Yesterday morning I was woken up at 5am by someone letting me know that two of the whaling fleets harpoon ships were suddenly flanking us as we were pacing with the Nisshin Maru – the whaling fleets factory processing ship. We had a long running battle the day beforehand and everyone was catching up on sleep. By the time I got my wet weather gear on and up on deck, all three harpoon boats were looming out of the mist – twisting and turning at sharp angles to try and distract us from the factory processing ship, and our main target, the Nisshin Maru.
There are a broad spectrum of people on this ship, three from West Australia this time – myself, still in the galley – and on board for the last year, Stephen, a veteran of several campaigns in the engine room and our brand new doctor David. All different walks of life. We have hard core vegan animal rights activists through to ex police and military.
I guess I fall somewhere in between. I don’t identify as an animal rights activist, although definitely an activist of sorts. I guess it’s more as a global citizen that I am here. I am not here because of a strong emotional bond with whales I have had since childhood, like some people; it’s not because I hear the screams of animals in my nightmares – I am here because if we can’t do something as simple as stopping the killing of one of the most endangered, complex, gentle creatures on the planet, then what hope is there of changing; and then doing what needs to be done? So much to do, so much damage to be undone and yet we are fighting a battle at the edges of the earth because we can’t even get this one thing right.
I am also here because I strongly believe in grassroots direct action. I believe radical action is required and I believe in speaking up. Although one of the central tenants of Sea Shepherd’s argument as a law enforcement organisation refers to the UN World Charter for Nature and the reference to individuals having the right and responsibility to uphold international law in the absence of government, that is not why I am here. I don’t need a mandate from the UN to take action. As an active participant in and on the planet and with a vested interest in mine and everyone else’s future I choose to act because it is an aberration to me to do otherwise.
I don’t need permission to speak up against war, to call for action on climate change, to pledge to do whatever I can to keep uranium in the ground in WA, to call out to refugees through wire fences of detention centres, to march for my right to a safe abortion, to call myself a feminist, to peacefully occupy forest that should be saved as an international treasure… to speak up about what I believe is right. Whatever that may be.
I am not an insane violent militant. I have trained in peaceful direct action. I have friends in politics, media, teachers, nurses, unions, tradies, hospitality, IT, students. My family and friends are proud of me and support the action I am taking.
And myself and the forty other people on board this ship are taking this action only because no one else will. Despite a raft of proposals and well researched legal arguments from non government organisations as to legal avenues, and international law analysis arguing for avenues to shut down so called ‘scientific’ whaling the Australian government is sitting on its hands.
As I complete this nearly 24 hours later, on Thursday 6th February we have had another day of action. We launched our small boats to try and harass the fleet, armed with rotten butter. In return we were surrounded by three harpoon ships; as well as the factory ship steering dangerously close to us; our helicopter pilot had an acoustic weapon directed at him whilst in mid air and they also deployed the acoustic device whilst we were trying to bring the boats back in, all the while pelting our activists with high powered water canons strong enough to knock you off your feet. Two more of our activists were injured today. Luckily no whales were. Because we are here.
We shouldn’t have to be here. We need people to speak up to remind the Australian and other countries Government’s of that. Before the whaling fleet seriously injures or kills another person taking a stand. Then it won’t only be the Japanese government with blood on their hands.
PS – the saying is: south of 50 degrees latitude there is no hope, south of 60 degrees there is no law and south of 70 degrees, there is no god. Well we know that; where does that leave us?
Friday 6th February
Everything changed today. I was woken up around 5am by the sound of the LRAD sonic weapon intruding into my dreams. I opened my porthole to see what was happening only to see the Nisshin Maru’s high powered water cannon blasting our ship from a range of only 10-15 metres.
I later found out that one of the kill ships had approached the Nisshin at a very fast rate and unloaded a whale they had caught. It’s the first time that a whale has been killed with Sea Shepherd in the vicinity; and it shows that the whaling fleet are upping the ante. We moved closer to the Nisshin in order to try and blockade a second transfer when they turned their cannons and acoustic weapons on our ship. We turned out to be in for a very long day.
With two crew members down I was asked to be ready to join the boat team if the need arose; so had to gather the necessary thermal waterproof gear to suit up. With the last confrontation lasting over five hours in the sub zero conditions it is very important not to expose yourself to the possibility of hypothermia thus endangering the action; and necessitating return to the ship. In the end, although we considered launching the inflatable boats we would have lost speed which meant our ship would have lost pace with the Nisshin and would have enabled the further processing of whales.
With four of the fleet making dangerous manoeuvres near us; causing several very near misses during the day, which saw all of us bracing ourselves on deck, preparing ourselves for collision – the inevitable finally occurred. We had a large scale collision. I was on the forward deck; but moved towards the aft deck as I saw the crew of both whaling ships turning their high powered cannons on our crew on the bow who were attempting to film the transfer. The Nisshin Maru was to our port side, and the harpoon ship attempting to transfer the whale carcass was on our starboard side. We were very close to the other ships and were then boxed in by another harpoon ship. It seems they are prepared to continue their killing at any cost.
As I ran down towards the back deck to avoid being swept off my feet by a water cannon I was nearly hit by the metal shrapnel their crew were hurling at us. Later I picked up several pieces of metal; large nuts and bolts which could have blinded us; or even knocked someone out. Then a terrible crunch and our ship turned at an angle of nearly 30 degrees and the two ships seemed to be locked together – a surreal moment in time when I wondered what could happen next… could we entirely tip over, had we ripped a massive hole in our hull? We all braced ourselves…. as our ship seemed to hang in mid air for a long time… and then the ships came apart; and it was over. Our crew stood together; quite relieved for just a couple of moments until senses kicked in and we ran down to check the damage and make sure we weren’t taking on water. Luckily we came away with relatively minor damage – two holes in the hull above the waterline which are now being patched.
It was a lucky day for us. And a devastating one. Several whales were killed today where previously our mere presence had prevented this from happening. It was good to be reminded why we are here. Although I cried tears of frustration; and felt sick to my stomach when I heard of another whale being killed and brought on board to be packed and processed within hours into small cardboard boxes for the Japanese meat market; I am also glad. People will be reminded what a horrific slaughter these animals endure when the footage is released of a whale taking one harpoon; seven shotgun blasts and twenty minutes of thrashing agony to die. Perhaps the Australian government could go out on a limb and take some damned action so we don’t have to put our lives on the line to do their job. And maybe it might help if a few people reminded them of that.
Saturday 7th February
It’s quieter on the ship today. While many people rest up a few of us get back to the normal routine. There are still three meals a day to cook, an engine room to run, chores to do. We continue on as normal with our cooking whilst some other crew peruse the international headlines yesterday’s action made. We have two birthdays on board today so we are making cakes early in case we have to suit up for action later in the day. The galley is constantly hard work; with myself and Laura both involved in roles on deck, and Kaori very busy with translation we are all stretched to the limit to manage the juggling act of fuelling the crew, and being involved at the front line.
We are still chasing the Nisshin Maru and the harpoon ships are keeping their distance. It feels a little like the calm after a big storm.
I feel absolutely exhausted; emotionally and physically drained. It was a gut wrenching experience to see the dead whales being hauled alongside the harpoon vessels yesterday. I never want to see that again. And I am glad to be on board a ship with a bunch of wonderful, strong, funny, passionate, brave, determined people willing to do their best to stop that as well.
CLICK HERE TO READ A BLURB FROM NICOLA’S BROTHER, THE-PARIS-SITE.