The driver had driven off at high speed and collided with a telegraph pole or some such thing, which was ripping the plates off the port side of the bus, with sparks showering in through the open back door. I looked across at Willy Houtmann, 2nd engineer of Sea Shepherd, survivor of wild Antarctic campaigns up against the Japanese whaling fleet and noted his expertise at adjusting to a moving tilting floor. We were two tillerless helmsman on the lurging aft deck of an old schooner caught in a tropical maelstrom as the bus went into a big fishtail across the street clearing a path through 3am Bangkok traffic. Then she took a big wave of malevolent momentum on her starboard side and started to keel over. My glasses flew off my startled face and out through the back door into the ocean of concrete never to be seen again...but no doubt to see again. For a moment the wind backed off at the top of the wave and the bus fell back to earth. The driver immediately ran away, his Thai passengers right behind him. Willy had two cracked ribs and i was a bit blind for the moment but we were pretty stoked to be in two pieces so to speak.
So we split, he to the North to be with the Elephants, Laura and Seamonster, fellow Sheps, and me to the South to the Gulf in search of a blue dolphin and an angel somewhere in a remote bay of Koh Pha Ngan. I had found them 20 years ago and had said goodbye promising to return and now i was on the ferry among the seekers of Full Moon party bliss, secure in the knowledge that they were the Chosen Ones graced with privileges of the First World. One of those privileges being that they could smoke cigarettes wherever they liked and then glibly toss them into the sea as they soaked up the sun and the sea breezes so smug to be away from that dreadful pollution of Bangkok or Saigon or wherever they had already used as an ashtray.
The bay opened up through coconut trees and a path showed me the way to a funky wooden restaurant beside the creek-sometimes-river. It was all coming back to me. Sweet memories, and there was the angel with her blue dolphin, shark, turtle, fish, bird, lizard, butterfly, dog, moon, star and tiki companions. All those years ago i had carved this lump of wood washed in from the ocean and she had brought me back to the royal waterfall cascading through granite boulders and jungle into the sea.
The endlessly flat sea where nothing seemed to stir and where birds never circled in peeling dives to feast on showers of shimmering fish, no arching fins of dolphins or clouds of whale breath. The water's edge as quiet as a whisper.Men came one day and set a net in an arc across the bay to retrieve half a bucket of two inch silvery little fish, nothing returned.
I found myself thinking about the whale shrine i had visited in Vietnam where i had held the crumbling bones of what was probably a false killer whale and wondered how much food is left for whales and dolphins in places like this shallow Gulf where fish stocks are now so low. Sea people moving away from ancestral homes in search of a better life.
I went back to my little shack amongst the rocks, a privileged wanderer and painted a whale onto a weathered plank. She swims suspended between Heaven and Ocean in a blaze of sparks, swirling plankton promising oxygen, stars of other times and other lives cloaking her in fire and holy water as she streams eternal phosphorescent compassion from her divine heart and mind out across the Universe.
Thunder and lightning from storm clouds building up on the mountain.snapped me out of my reverie. It was definitely time to paint a dove on sister Joan's door and one more whale mural in the City of Angels and get the hell out of SEAsia and into TransparentSEA.
In order to show Surfers for Cetaceans support for the Ocean Voices focus on South Pacific Humpback whale recovery, management and protection, Howie Cooke hung the Whaletipi as a backdrop to a gathering in Auckland NZ, of numerous whale researchers, IFAW and Whales Alive crew celebrating the 10th anniversary of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. The acknowledgement speeches were often quite emotional as well as humourous reflecting the close bonding of the researchers spending time in the company of whales.
On the following Saturday night (17/4/10) at the Auckland Museum , the Ocean Voices event saw whale researchers, lobbyists, government ministers and HRH Princess Pilolevu Tuita of Tonga gather to celebrate the South Pacific Humpback whales and acknowledge how close they and other species were driven towards extinction.
Speeches given by SPWRC members Prof. Scott Baker (USA), Nan Hauser (Cook Islands), Sue Miller Taei (Samoa) and Mike Donoghue (NZ) along with those of Yuriy Mikhalev a previous Soviet whaling biologist, Lui Bell from SPREP in Samoa, Princess Pilolevu, Fiafia Richmond-Rex of Oma-Tafua,Nuie and actor Rawiri Paratene affirmed the importance of regional solidarity and vigilance to ensure sanctuary and safety for Whales and their Ocean.
Despite the tabling of the horrific scale of relentless slaughter endured by Humpbacks, Southern Rights and Sperm whales over the early tall ship and later factory ship eras, the continuing threats to cetaceans and Japan's flagrant disregard for the South Pacfic Whale Sanctuary iniatives and SOWS, the night ended on a high note with traditional Pasifika dance, whale song and the formal declaration by Hon. Aliki Faipule Foua Tolua that Tokelau seas will now be a whale sanctuary. This means at least 10 South Pacific nations have created a significant cross regional Whale Sanctuary by interlinking their territorial EEZ waters.
Surfers for Cetaceans congratulates the SPWR Consortium for their invaluable cetacean research in the South Pacific on the occasion of their 10th birthday.
Equally S4C congratuales the efforts of IFAW and Whales Alive, along with the people of the South Pacific region for their unifying will to protect and safeguard the whales into the future.
As Alana Fiafia, a young woman with vision from Nuie said in her address and in referring to 'amu-amu tafua' - the intrinsic indigenous link with cetaceans - " it is our cultural responsibilty to not deny the whales of their own future"
We are sure surfers, who know full well the wonder of the waves and the whales right across the South Pacific share this sentiment and stand in solidarity with the South Pacific people and the whales.
Images coming soon...
After settling into a cheap hotel in Agadir and catching up on some sleep i teamed up with Laurens, Arne and Christine of Sea Shepherd on Monday morning to get the banners and our flags up outside the convention centre housing the IWC meeting.
We were surprised that the police and security staff in attendance were so chill in letting us occupy an area near the entrance to the building including tolerating for some time us tying off banners on flagpoles that lined the street. It was great to find three women from Broome there with banners about the Kimberley issue of the Humpback whale nursery under threat from ore shipping expansion, and to also get a helping hand from one Cordelia from UK researching people’s cetacean stories for her new project, Oceans of Love.
We got to do a good deal of interviews with the various media crew who took a real interest in why were there. Once again the pro whaling lobby was confronted with the world’s opposition to their dirty business and at one point a large group of Japanese suits felt the heat when we vocalised that opposition. Equally the colourful and steadfast stand by Surfers for Cetaceans and Sea Shepherd was noted and appreciated by the various NGOs and likeminded government ministers arriving to lock horns with the enemy of the Whale. The Australian delegates received a cheer of approval for Australia’s staunch opposition to “The Deal” which would see a collapse of the Moratorium and a return to commercial whaling if voted in.
No sooner had the IWC’s final week gotten underway than it came to a grinding halt by midday with a behind closed doors reshuffle of the deck on the issue of “the future of the IWC”. In a kind of irony not lost on the NGO’s who were suddenly “released” from the conference centre until Wednesday morning to contemplate among many issues the continuing allegations of incipient corruption and vote buying of the whaling lobby that crippled the IWC process and created relentless dysfunction.
So as S4C prepares for tomorrow morning’s re-emergenge of IWC from its own imposed time warp, a massive agenda is now squeezed into a mere few days once again paying lip service to the notion of genuine efforts being made for the welfare of the world’s whales. It is a cruel irony that so many informed and dedicated people gather each year at the IWC to fight against the cruelty of whaling and are rebuffed and sidelined by a commission that is unable to deal with the recalcitrant attitude of three whaling countries - Japan, Norway and Iceland - and step up to real conservation measures and the long overdue freedom that cetaceans deserve into the new millennium.
June 3rd 2010 Provence
Philippe Lopez, our man in the south of France, spreading the word for S4C.
Philippe, the dude who made the original S4C whale tail pendants, is a sculptor who makes whale tail seat installations around the Mediterranean; check out www.whalecraft.com.
Recently on his way out of Morocco after IWC62 in Agadir, Howie caught up with Monsieur Lopez and his family in a beautiful forest region of Provence and had the chance to finish off a painting for an upcoming Chicks with Sticks fundraiser for S4C in Cornwall ( chickswithsticks.org.uk ) and paint a whale's eye onto a bonza surfboard made by the man himself.
Surfers For Cetaceans wants to thank Philippe and Chicks with Sticks for empowering and supporting our vision of surfers around the world protecting the waves and the whales. Stand up and be counted.