Sea Shepherd. We know who they are and have a pretty good idea of what they’re about but how often does one get an up close and personal account of the organisation and meet and some of the amazing people who work behind the scenes dedicating their efforts to marine life conservation. Today I was lucky enough to get that opportunity and I took it with pleasure. Not only did I get the chance for a private tour of on one of their ships, I also dined on board with the Sea Shepherd crew for Sunday brunch.
For those who need a quick snapshot, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an international not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preserving marine wildlife and actively takes measures to stop the slaughter of marine life, including whales, seals and dolphins to name a few. They are most well known for their activism against illegal Japanese whaling in the southern waters of Antarctica. Fact: There have been zero fatalities or injuries in the history of Sea Shepherd’s marine life crusading campaigns.
Three of Sea Shepherd’s ships are currently docked at Seaworks in Williamstown, Melbourne. Their names are Bob Barker, Steven Irwin and Sam Simon. It’s pretty rare to have the three together and may I say what a spectacular sight they are. Andrea Gordon was my host this morning. She skilfully manages Bob Barker. Following Sea Shepherd’s campaign in February this year (Operation Zero Tolerance), when they saved 932 whales in the southern seas of Antarctica, the three vessels have returned to Australian waters and are preparing for their next anti-whaling campaign at the end of 2013 (determined by when the whales will migrate to Antarctica for feeding).
Bob Barker is a majestic grand vessel, with is grey and blue combat paintwork, razor sharp teeth and visible sturdy construction. Bob Barker is the strongest of the three ships at the harbour and according to Andrea, he is the one who usually goes out in waters “combat-style” and fronts the whalers. There is more here than meets the eye.
Ironically, Bob Barker was once a Norwegian whaling ship discretely acquired in 2009 in Ghana due to a generous $5 million donation from a well known American television game show host and personality, Bob Barker. There were a few modifications made to the exterior, including the addition of a helipad, adding another level to the ship, it’s iconic (and very cool) paint job complete with shark teeth, as well as a few interior changes as well, like converting the once whale-meat storage locker to the now diver locker, and modifying the slaughter deck into the foc’sle (ships workshop).
It’s hard to believe this was once a whaling ship. I expected to feel a sense of death on board Bob Barker but it was quite the contrary. As Andrea guided me from the deck to the interior I began to get a real sense of the vessel and it’s people. The place had alot of soul. The lounge room reminded me of a London sharehouse I once lived in during my post-graduate travels. DVD’s, manuscripts, books and magazines adorned the shelves, comfy couches, cushions and artefacts from Bob Barkers adventures decorated the walls. There was even a guitar stashed in the corner for a late night medley.
The mess hall was a cross between a 1970’s American vintage diner and my grandmas kitchen area. Lime green vinyl floors, tangerine laminate table tops, sauces, seasonings and cutlery on the corner of every table and yummy kitchen snacks. I spotted some organic vegan shortbread… don’t mind if I do! Delicious!
We made our way to the kitchen which was particularly quaint. It was a real cooks-kitchen with knives, pots, pans and colanders hanging about the open. I spotted a hand-written cookbook on the bench-top being used for today’s meal. Carly Darlington, one of Bob Barkers resident chefs was cooking up a storm, mixing batter and flipping pancakes, just in time for brunch. I was starving, perfect timing.
Back to the mess. Sunday brunch was on and what a delight to hear that today (of all days) the ship was trialing its menu for an event Sea Shepherd are having on 19th May “Brunch with the Sea Shepherd Crew” to raise funds for the organisation and their next campaign. Lucky me. I get to be part of this. Freshly baked bread, roast buttered potatoes, zucchini and eggplant cannelloni, pancakes, fresh hummus, fruit salad with linseed, banana smoothies, steamy hot almond muffins and much more. Scrumptious home cooked food and… wait for it… all vegan! All foods consumed by the Sea Shepherd crew are vegan which collaborates well with their work. I love this.
The mess hall was alight with crew from the three ships. It felt a bit surreal or was it dejavu? Actually, it was like something I’d seen before. Scenes from Jaws (before the bad stuff) or A Perfect Storm perhaps. Dining, laughter, banter and good tucker. When they’re out trawling the oceans during campaigns food is one of the main things the crew look forward to during their day-to-day trek in freezing conditions, according to Andrea. “It has a special way of bringing people together” and don’t we all know it. I was surrounded by a well adjusted crew and among the banter and cheer it was very clear they’re all united and committed to a greater purpose.
I had a look through the resting quarters, very minimalistic. Each person gets a little shelf 80 x 40 x 40 cm and part of a tiny lockup cupboard to store all their personal items during a three month voyage. It’s basic, but hey, what do you really need when you’re out there in Antarctica? Warm gear, toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, oh and food of course. When you’re operating in a similar head space to these guys you realise what the important thing in life is… it’s life. It’s humbling being here, in this space, with these people. What with our woes of the world there is the big picture like sustaining the existence of life, stop the killing of wildlife for financial profit and hopefully trying to undo some of the damage we humans have done on planet earth.
Carly, I give you the thumbs up for today’s menu plan and I look forward to seeing all the crew once again and you (my readers) on 19th May 2013 for Brunch with the Sea Shepherd crew at Pirates Tavern, Seaworks, Williamstown.
In the meantime Sea Shepherd are hosting public ship tours and if you have the chance Melbourne, you should make your way down there, not only to get your own personal encounter with these majestic ships and learn about some of the work these guys do, but also to become aware of how you can support and be part of marine life protection. Free Ship Tours will run till 26th May on weekends 12:00pm – 4:30pm. Details are below.
Address: Seaworks, 82 Nelson Place, Williamstown (entry via Ann Street)
If you are going to see a particular ship please take note:
Steve Irwin: Saturday and Sunday
Bob Barker: Saturday only
Sam Simon: Sunday only
SEA SHEPHERD: OPERATION ZERO PHOTO GALLERY
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is run entirely by volunteers and donations. If you would like to offer your support and donate to Sea Shepherds next anti-whaling campaign in December this year please click on the URL below. Thank you.