Posts Tagged ‘jonny lewis’

The Phantom Returns

July 2, 2010

The Phantom, Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, has emerged from the jungle.

As chronicled in The Last Whale, The Phantom took a leading role in the original Save the Whales campaign which eventually saw the end of ‘commercial’ whaling and the creation of the South Ocean Sanctuary.

The Phantom was spotted in Morocco in June 2010 where the International Whaling Commission was meeting. He told friends he was again taking an active role to stop whaling. He’d withdrawn from the world stage in the 1980s because he felt the whales were safe. This had dramatically changed with proposals which may allow commercial whaling again.

See the photograph taken by Australian Jonny Lewis. Jonny and Jean-Paul formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition in 1977 to take action against Australia’s last whaling station in Albany, Western Australia.  They both piloted Zodiac inflatable boats to run interference against the three vessel Australian fleet.

It was Jonny Lewis who coined the nickname The Phantom after Jean-Paul’s ability to appear out of nowhere to fight evil.

Jonny Lewis and Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin reunited in Morocco. The Phantom was particularly concered at Japan’s plans to take Cachalot (sperm whales) which have the largest and most complex brains on the planet. He regards these whales as his personal totem.


Whaling Foes Unite

March 12, 2010

Activist Jonny lewis and whaler Kase Van Der Gaag meet for the first time in 2007

2007 protest at Albany, Western Australia, against Japan's plans to harpoon humpback whales


See the original post Sunday, November 4, 2007

Writer Tim Winton, 1977 anti-whaling activist Jonny Lewis and former whaling ship Captain Kase Van der Gaag at the site of Australia's last whaling station (closed in 1978). They joined forces to speak out against the Japanese plans to harpoon 50 humpback whales in 2007.Activist Jonny lewis and whaler Kase Van Der Gaag meet for the first time in 2007

No Humane Way to Kill a Whale: Tim Winton

February 19, 2010

(FIRST POSTED Monday, November 5, 2007)

Photo by Chris Pash

Novelist and ocean activist Tim Winton credits his school days in Albany during the last days of whaling as deeply influential to both his work as a writer and environmentalist. His second novel, Shallows (1984) winner of the Miles Franklin Award, deals with the confrontation between whalers and conservationists on the high seas.

Tim Winton penned the following when he heard of an historic meeting between two of the main protagonists in the last days of Australian whaling. In 1977 Jonny Lewis and Kase Van Der Gaag duelled on the southern ocean, Jonny a protester in a tiny inflatable, Kase the skipper of a whale chaser. Both meet in Albany on November 3, 2007, in opposition to the resumption of whaling and the coming hunt by the Japanese fleet of humpback whales.



By Tim Winton
© Copyright 2007 Tim Winton
When I went to school in Albany in the 1970s whale-killing was a brutal fact of life. The sight of whales being butchered onshore was a bizarre tourist attraction. In the almost thirty years since the industry’s demise, Australians’ attitude toward the marine environment has changed enormously and nowhere else is this social evolution more marked than in our appreciation of cetaceans.

Nowadays whales and dolphins retain a commercial value as live tourist attractions. They grace almost every tourism poster and pamphlet and website, becoming an alternate coat of arms to WA in particular, along with the whaleshark. They are the basis of a sustainable industry — eco-tourism — whose contribution to our economy is considerable. They help keep small coastal communities alive — even towns like Albany, that once thrived on their slaughter.

Beyond economics, though, whales have accrued an even greater worth, something less tangible than a dollar figure. Their cultural value might be much harder to quantify, but anyone who under-estimates its does so at their own peril. In thirty years whales have become emblematic. Ordinary Western Australians are passionate about whales.

For many coastal Western Australians the annual migration of humpbacks and southern right whales helps define the passing of seasons. The glimpses we snatch of them spouting and leaping and resting in bays and coves have become a kind of reassurance, for the more urbanised we become the more we treasure enduring instances of wildness. And the more educated we become about ecology (even if our learning reveals how little we really know) the more seriously we take our mega-fauna. You might say that whales in particular have taught us a little humility in this regard.

When so many marine species and habitats are in serious trouble, the slow recovery of the humpback from the very brink of extinction has given us hope. The fact that they still exist has come to stand as a signal of our own cultural evolution, because we know that if we had not changed our attitudes to whaling a generation ago, and if the majority of nations had not changed alongside us, then there would be as little to see out there on the water as there was when I was a boy, when the only whales you’d glimpse were being sawn up and boiled. If we hadn’t progressed in our thinking since the 1970s, there’d likely be no passing whales at all. No whaling industry. No whale-watching. No whales, full stop.

On a recent trip to the Albany region I saw more live whales in a week than I ever saw in all my high school years living, diving and surfing there. This time I wasn’t even looking for them; they were visually and ambiently unavoidable, and I can’t tell you how good it felt. At a grim time in history it renewed my awe of these great creatures’ resilience, but it also restored my faith in the nobler side of human nature.

But nearly three decades on from the cessation of whaling in our waters, it’s a shock to realize that humpbacks are not secure in our southern or western waters. Most of us have assumed that this is a battle that has been fought and won. But the price of victory, it seems, is indeed, eternal vigilance. While most nations have moved on, a few have not. Some have been steadily regrouping and retooling for commercial slaughter.

Australian governments and NGOs have been at the forefront of this necessary vigilance. Many diplomatic efforts have been made to bring recalcitrant whalers into the fold. Politicians, public servants and activists have done a lot of good work in good faith. But with limited results. Despite a welter of procedure and process and protocol, whaling activity has increased.

In the effort to curtail this renewed slaughter it seems that two crucial avenues have not been fully investigated. Legal action, and direct action. Given the political and cultural sensitivities involved, neither of these is anybody’s idea of the first and best way to solve the problem, but after the failure of all diplomatic and procedural efforts, there seems to be no alternative left.

There is still no humane way to kill a whale.

There is still no sustainable model for a humane whaling industry.

Whaling belongs to an era when issues of sustainability and humane methods had no meaning. That era has passed and it will not be mourned.

This week’s (November 3, 2007) meeting of two old foes, Jonny Lewis and Kase Van der Gaag, symbolises just how far we’ve travelled as a community. It also says a lot about the town of Albany and how it has moved on. Jonny and Kase were both players in an end-game that helped define our contemporary view of marine stewardship and our sense of interdependence with nature. Their reunion is something to celebrate because, despite all odds, it marks a kind of social progress and cultural unity that none of us could have predicted a generation ago. No doubt these two blokes will have stories to tell and a few old scores to settle. The rest of us can only watch on with some pride and a little amusement and take the opportunity to renew our determination to see whaling ended in our waters for all time.

I am happy to add my voice to the throng of ordinary Australians demanding that our Government take all steps necessary to secure the safety of whales in our waters. I applaud IFAW‘s efforts in bringing this before the public, and urge coastal communities to support their initiatives. AMCS (Australian Marine Conservation Society), whose logo is the humpback, wishes IFAW every success in this endeavour.

I also extend my thanks and support to those who undertake peaceful direct action to thwart whaling in our territorial waters in the absence of Government initiative.

© Copyright 2007 Tim Winton

Tim Winton is Patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society

Jonny Lewis, Tim Winton, Chris Pash

Chasing Whaling SHips from Sea Level

February 19, 2010
(First Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007)

King George Sound, Albany, Western Australia. Copyright 2007 Jonny lewis

By Chris Pash
The Last Whale

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.

Dangerous ideas

January 22, 2010

(First posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007)

It’s the 1970s. Drugs, sex and rock and roll. And dangerous ideas. One of them is the concept that man may not have a free hand to do what he wants with the world’s resources.

Australia’s last whaling station at Albany, Western Australia, is hunting sperm whales in the Southern Ocean. Whaling has been going on since before European settlement. The local crews of the whale chaser ships have standing in the community. They’re the good guys. They go out each day and take a crop from the ocean. They bring money into the town. More than 100 people work in whaling, one of the biggest industries in town.

In other parts of the world, opposition to whaling grows. The industry has a history of overexploitation, hunting whales, such as the blue whale, to the point of extinction.

A bunch of activists decide to take the fight to the point of the harpoons. They are led Australian Jonny Lewis, Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and by Canadia Bob Hunter, co-founder of Greenpeace. Bob and his wife Bobbi arrive in Sydney in mid 1977 to be met by Australian Jonny Lewis, a photographer, who has formed a group called the Whale and Dolphin Coalition. The Australians want whaling stopped now. They don’t want to wait for the political agenda to be changed.

The catalyst for the direct action planned is a Frenchman called Jean Paul Fortom Gouin. He’s got money and he wants to save the whales. Jean Paul puts up the money to bring the two Canadians, veterans of the Greenpeace campaign in the Northern Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet, to Australia. Jean Paul’s strategy is hit Australia hard. Get them to stop whaling and use Australia as a launch point to stop whaling in the rest of the world, a domino effect.

Bob Hunter pioneered the tactic of using rubber Zodiac boats to place people between the harpoon guns and the whales — human shields. This is what’s planned for the three whale chaser ships of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia. The key difference between the Soviet fleet and the Australian operation is that the Albany whaling is shore based; they return their catch to land each day. This means that the activists won’t have to scour the ocean to find the whalers.

The Hunters, Jonny Lewis and his architect friend Tom Barber, start gathering equipment and plan the campaign. First they have to get everyone and the gear, including Zodiacs and outboard engines, across to the other side of Australia.