Posts Tagged ‘greenpeace’
The ABC TV program Can we Help? ran a segment (Friday, April 24, 2009), Moment in Time, about the end of whaling in Australia.
On the program Chris Pash, the author of The Last Whale, says: ‘Every boy at school wanted to be a whaler because they were big tough guys and they earned big money and it was a wonderful adventure. In town, they were regarded very well, they were paid well and contributed to the economy.’
The program runs some very good archival footage of protests in 1977 against the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia. You can download the clip (24/04/2009) Episode 11 Can We Help?
Chris Pash: ‘I quite enjoyed going out on the whaling ships and I like the people themselves, good Aussie blokes enjoying themselves, bit of mateship, bit of fun but the killing bit, I don’t think even they liked that, there was a hint of sadness every time they landed a whale.’
Australia harpooned its last whale, a female sperm whale, in November 1978.
FIRST POSTED Sunday, December 14, 2008
Paddy Hart, the master and harpoon gunner of the Cheynes II whale chaser ship when Australia’s last whaling station closed thirty years ago, was in Tokyo last week (December 2008) to protest whaling by Japan.
During the lead up to the closure, Paddy was a whale chaser skipper out of Albany, Western Australia, during Greenpeace’s first direct action in Australia. Activisits took to Zodiac inflatable boats to place themselves between harpoons and whales.
As recorded in The Last Whale, Paddy played a leading role on the side of Australia’s last whalers during the first Save the Whale Campaign in the 1970s. Now he’s on the side of the whales.
“Greenpeace asked me to come along and tell Japanese people that there’s life after whaling, and I am honoured to be there,” Paddy said in Tokyo. Paddy met Steve Shallhorn, the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, at the launch of The Last Whale, the book by Chris Pash about the final days of whaling in Australia.
He called on the Japanese people to ask their government to find alternative ventures for whalers.
“They’re spending money and losing money on food people don’t even like anymore. Also, there’s no humane way to kill a whale, speaking from experience as a whale gunner.”
Paddy is living proof that there is a life after whaling. “I have sympathy for the whalers in one sense because I’ve been in that situation. But, if whaling stops, like us, they can get on with it and find something else to do.”
“If they want to start killing humpback whales, they should know that they’re the backbone of a $300 million industry in Australia,” Paddy said.
“It’s taken 40 years for the whales to come to trust us and let the boats come close to see them. As soon as these fellows start shooting them, we’ve lost that trust and that industry, and our grandchildren will never see a whale.”
(First Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007)
Tom Barber had close calls with explosive head harpoons twice during the campaign against the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia, August/September 1977.
Tom, fellow Australians Jonny Lewis and Allan Simmons, Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and Bob Hunter, a Canadian and co-founder of Greenpeace, went up to 30 nautical miles into the Southern Ocean to run interference against the three whale chasing ships.
Tom and Jean-Paul made official complaints to the police about one incident.
In a written statement to Police, Tom Barber said: ” “We were about to cross behind the whale when we heard the thump of the harpoon discharge. The harpoon struck the whale near the centre of its back. The whale then put its tail in the air and then dived. The rope from the harpoon struck the water about four feet from our boat. Our boat was under power and drifting towards the area between the whale and the whale chaser. Our boat then crossed the rope between the chaser and the whale and our propeller became entangled in the rope. The rope lifted the motor on our boat and I had to release the pivot pin. The whale chaser was also bearing down on us.”
Jean-Paul said the harpoon “shot across our bow and the harpoon cable slapped the water a couple of yards (two metres) ahead of us”.
Jonny Lewis was drowning in the raw beauty and power of the Southern Ocean. Initially, he couldn’t speak as he looked out across King George Sound, Western Australia, to the horizon. The immensity of that body of water overwhelmed him.
“We went out there?” Jonny said eventually. He couldn’t believe that thirty years ago he and his friends took an open boat south to the end of the world.
This was the first look he’d had since 1977 when he launched an outboard powered inflatable from Middleton Beach, Albany, at the start a 17 hour duel with a whale ship.
He turned to me and said: “We were mad.” The sea looked like it could swallow a 16 ft Zodiac inflatable in a moment and leave no trace.
I see this view every year when visiting Albany for Christmas and often think of Jonny and his friends in 1977. I expressed what I’d always thought. “It’s not something I would ever have done,” I said. “You guys were out there, on the edge, mad and magical at the same time.”
“I don’t think we even considered that,” Jonny said pointing to the ocean. “We were on a roll, bouncing off and egging on one another … we didn’t think.”
In 1977 Jonny Lewis and his crew formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition (later to morph into Greenpeace Australia) in Sydney to take direct action against Australia’s last whaling station run by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company.
A key figure was Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, nicknamed the Phantom, who bankrolled the campaign and brought Canadian Bob Hunter, Greenpeace founder, to Australia to lend his expertise honed in the North Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet.
They opened the campaign in Albany on August 28, 1977. A few days later Jonny and Jean-Paul trailed one of three whale chasers, the Cheynes II, captained by Kase Van Der Gaag, across the Southern Ocean.
“That was an historic day,” Jonny said. “It was the first time anyone had kept one-third of the Australian whaling fleet from its work.”
The campaign ran for several weeks with Jonny, Jean-Paul, Bob Hunter and others taking the Zodiacs out up to 30 nautical miles to act as human shields for the sperm whales. There were two close calls with harpoons but no injuries.
“It’s incredible that we consistently went out so far to sea,” Jonny said later. “It felt, looking over the Sound and beyond, overwhelmingly beautiful and dangerous.”
Jonny returned to Albany in November 2007 to attend an event at Middleton Beach. Jonny stood with Kase Van Der Gaag and Paddy Hart, Australia’s remaining former whaling ship captains, to protest Japan’s plans to take 50 humpback whales.
For Jonny the return to Albany was about meeting Kase. “Kase is deep and feels deeply. I also sense his sadness. It’s everyone’s sadness, a kind of ‘life’ sadness about what we’ve done to the planet, the whales and one another.”
Kase left whaling soon after Jonny and his friends ended their direct action campaign in 1977. He worked in the north west of Western Australia on tug boats. Today Kase speaks against whaling. “I owe it to the whales, the whales I killed.”
Today Kase feels like he’s in the presence of God when he sees a whale.
Jonny: “If only the Japanese whalers had similar feelings.”
For Kase the argument against whaling isn’t about numbers. It doesn’t matter that there may or may not be thousands of whales in the ocean. It’s the inhumanity. Kase: “There’s no such thing as a clean kill. They die hard.”
Jonny was taken with Albany and its current day green outlook. I took him to the old whaling station, now called Whale World, which closed in November 1978, where we met writer Tim Winton for a photographic session with The Australian newspaper. On the way back to town we stopped at the wind farm and then the headland to take in King George Sound.
“The town has this ‘brasserie’ feel, sophisticated eating and drinking,” Jonny said. “I felt proud of our accomplishments all those years ago. Thirty years ago I remember slinking along through Albany. Not so to-day.”
Jonny loved the wind farm built in 2001 to supply 75% of the city’s power. Jonny’s friend, Tom Barber, who had two close calls with harpoons in 1977, went on to build the world’s first commercial wind farm in California. I took a photo of Jonny to send to Two Harpoon Tom in the USA.
Steve Pontin, local writer and marketing guru for the city council, later sent Jonny photographs of dolphins at play at Sand Patch near Albany. Jonny: “They are my greatest souvenir. Dolphins are the reason I became interested in whales before we went to Albany in 1977.”
© Copyright 2007 Chris Pash. All Rights Reserved.
Some members of the original team who were a part of the first Greenpeace direct action in Australia gathered in Sydney in September, 2007, 30 years after the campaign against Australia’s last whaling station at Albany, Western Australia.
At a function to honour the Greenpeace Australia co-founders, Jonny Lewis (www.jonnylewis.org) dedicated the night to the memory of Fernando Pereira, the photographer who was killed in the 1985 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.
Also remembered was the late Bob Hunter (http://www.bobhunter.org/), a Greenpeace founder, who came from Canada to Australia in 1977 to lend his expertise honed in the North Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet.
Pictured left to right:
Jodi Adams, the first coordinator of Greenpeace in Australia;
Richard Jones, animal rights campaigner who registered Greenpeace in Australia;
Steven Jones, a member of the 1977 direct action team;
Tom ‘two harpoon’ Barber who piloted a Zodiac during the first direct action;
Chris Pash (hogging the microphone) who reported on the direct action in 1977 and who has written a book, The Last Whale, about the campaign;
Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin who financed, planned and piloted a Zodiac at the first campaign;
Jonny Lewis who planned the direct action, piloted a Zodiac and who formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition which morphed into Greenpeace Australia;
American Pat Rose Farrington who was a key figure in the 1977 protest at the gates of Australia’s last whaling station;
Canadian Bobbi Hunter, Greenpeace’s first treasurer and the first woman to place herself in front of a harpoon, and who played a key role in the 1977 direct action in Australia;
Aline Charney Barber, a member of the 1977 anti-whaling direct action team.
– Chris Pash
(First Posted Monday, October 15, 2007)
Fiona Capp in The Age newspaper today (Saturday, 25th October, 2008) reviews The Last Whale by noting that few issues raise such emotion as whaling.
However, the author, Chris Pash, doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the anti-whaling case.
‘By telling the story of the final years of the industry in Australia from both the whalers’ and the protesters’ perspectives, he (Chris Pash) captures the shift in public mood that made whaling morally unacceptable,’ Capp writes.
She says the book includes intriguing characters, both whalers and anti-whaling protesters, who carry the emotional freight of the story. One such character is Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, a Frenchman known among anti-whaling activists as The Phantom. He financed the direct action against Australia’s last whaling station in 1977.
The Last Whale follows the lives of the whalers who operated the last whaling station in the English-speaking world and the activisits who tried to stop them. Chris Pash was a young reporter at the local newspaper, the Albany Advertiser, during the direct action against the whalers, the first campaign by Greenpeace in Australia.
The last whale harpooned by Australians was a female sperm whale off Albany, Western Australia on November 20, 1978. The whaling station closed the next day. The 30 year anniversary of the closure will be marked on November 21, 2008, at the whaling station, now a musem called Whale World.
The Last Whale by Chris Pash was published October 2008 by Fremantle Press and is available in all good book stores in Australia.
An interview with Chris Pash (author of The Last Whale published this month by Fremantle Press) about the final days of whaling in Australia. A short extract follows. The full 20 minute interview can be listened to here
(Note: describing August/September 1977 when anti-whaling activists arrived at Albany, Western Australia, to take direct action against Australia’s last whaling station. Chris Pash was a reporter for the local newspaper, The Albany Advertiser)
Chris Pash: The action was actually quite spectacular. In my view, the activists were completely crazy… but magical if you like. They took these open boats, Zodiacs, inflatable rubber boats that the whalers liked to call Rubber Duckies — a nice little put-down — and they attached outboard engines to them and they didn’t have a mother ship or anything, they followed the chasers, the three last whaling ships, out to the continental shelf, about thirty nautical miles. That’s over the horizon, so you can’t see land. And I watched this and couldn’t believe it. I mean, I can still give you thirty good reasons in about ten seconds why I shouldn’t go into an open boat in the Southern Ocean over the horizon and throw myself in front of an explosive head harpoon.
Chris Pash: I was struck by the absolute pure belief of the activists that what they were doing was right. And they did something dangerous and crazy, but it was magical as well.
I think within us all we want to tilt at windmills. We see something, we know it’s wrong, and we know all the risks involved, but we still go ahead and do something about it. And personally, as I say, it makes me look inward and realise there are a lot of reasons I wouldn’t do that, but I admired these people who did.
(First Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008)
STM, the magazine of the Sunday Times newspaper in Perth, WA, on October 19, 2008, devoted five pages to the story of the last whaling station in the English-speaking world and the 30th anniversary next month of Australia harpooning its last whale.
Chris Pash, author of the book The Last Whale , was quoted as saying: ‘It’s a universal story about change. It’s a story about a town that was a lagging and slow to move. It was stuck at the bottom of the world, and whaling should have ended, but it went unnoticed. The protests were a very confronting way for that change. I don’t think Albany has come to terms with the idea of being the last whaling station in Australia and the birthplace of Greenpeace in Australia.’
The Last Whale, a narrative nonfiction book which tells the story of the last whaling station through the eyes of both the whalers and a group of anti-whaling protesters, was released this month by Fremantle Press.
The whaling station at Albany, Western Australia, closed on November 21, 1978. The last whale, a female sperm whale, was harpooned on November 20, 1978.