"We have heard the whales sing. And we want – we very desperately want – to hear them sing again." Jacques-Yves Cousteau
It`s after midnight on the Antarctic Southern Ocean and the ship`s fire alarm is ringing. I break out of light sleep and jump into my gear. Then I`m headed for the ship`s bow and hoping it`s a simulation. In a moment I`m standing on the deck of our ship the "Steve Irwin". Seas are up and a frozen wind is blowing.
A Japanese Whaling Harpoon Ship is headed toward us and the captain has set the alarm to brace the crew for a ramming. What the hell is going on? We`re just here to observe illegal Whaling activity by Japanese Harpoon boats but now we`re under attack. A crewmate scream to "brace yourselves". The larger, faster Whaling Ship clips our bow and we`re in big trouble!
Then I really wake up and realize that I`m dreaming in living colour! But this really is a consequential danger for the crews of ships used by the "Seashepherd Conservation Society" to prevent the illegal slaughter of Whales on the high seas. This kind of threat appears imminent as Paul Watson and Seashepherd put themselves at significant risk to "do the right thing". They are the activist heros that inspire my latest travel dreams.
My travel life was affected profoundly by my first trip to Hawaii with it`s everpresent and always inspiring "call of the wild" moments highlighted by the awesome sights and sounds of the Humpback Whale. Whether it`s a seashore hike, a measured beach moment, a catamirand whale tour, helicoptor sighting or just snorkeling somewhere in the "Humpback Universe", there are breach sightings or Whale songs that forever change the possibility that you can accept butchering any life form this special. They think, they sing, they play with a freedom we would die for, they are no threat to sensible human beings and they highlight a moment in this planet`s history that cries for "Ocean Conservation". They provoke a "Seashepherd Moment" in affected travelers! That, for me, represents an activist passion to live by a planetary fairness that recognizes the right to an Ocean life and freedom for these cetacean mammals.
Commercial Whaling has been illegal since an International Whaling Commission moratorium in 1986, but Iceland, Norway and Japan have slaughtered 25,000 whales since then? The last line of defence for the Whale, since there are no police on the high seas, is the Seashepherd Conservation Society who actively drive the Japanese Whale murderers crazy in their attempted seasonal Whaling slaughters. Seashepherd is a group on non-profit conservationists who, since 1977, have used direct action tactics to expose and confront the illegal activities of whale butchers on the high seas. The stuff of my dreams.
Friends on a "whale tour" off Kauai have their moment as a Humpack surfaces (within a few feet) next to their catamirand and rises silently to eye level. Eye contact with Mobi Dick. Intelligent, sensitive and enormous. They`ve made the kind of contact that commercial Seaworld perverts. They discover a force of nature and freedom. Contact with something seemingly alien, but probably as special as ourselves?
At that moment I`m busy diving (near Poipu) with Giant Seaturtles and dolphins that inspire another significant "moment". These life forms are adding a peaceful balance to nature that we seem determined to corrupt. This traveler wonders if these creatures are probably as important to conserve as human beings? A crazy notion, but I don`t think we have proved ourselves especially worthy in recent history and maybe in the "Seashepherd Moment" I can help change that? Traveling with these animals is my karmic opportunity to understand possibilities! My dream to save the Ocean and ourselves.
So next I`m in Maui off Kaanapali Beach, snorkeling around the "Black Rock". This is always special with Turtles and the usual fish frenzy close by but now I see something on the sea bottom? Maybe an Eel? I dive to ten feet and whatever was there is now gone, but now I`m hearing the music. Whale songs of the Humpback Whale. Apparently it`s only the males that sing and scientists still don`t understand what it means, but this is some serious Ocean Melody. I go up for air and then back down for more. This performance goes on for 15 minutes and they seem so close. I swim about and look and look? No sign of the elusive humpback that might be close or could be miles away. But listening to this music brings me into his space.
Again I`m further drawn into the vortex of a lost freedom and the passion for Whale survival. I have seen and heard this beast and now I think I understand how important their freedom is. This kind of travel has made me aware and that is some of the best possibility and reason for travel. It`s what I search for in Nature and different cultures. This is the "art of travel", as inspired in a "Seashepherd Moment"! Something that I guess Cousteau might have appreciated!
To understand Seashepherd and it`s challenge try Whale Wars on the Animal Planet Channel.