Isolde rang us up from New Zealand the other morning. Her husband, Gabor, would be arriving in Hobart soon as a crew member aboard the Sam Simon and she was flying here to meet him for Christmas. We'd known the crew of "Kestrel" for several years now in the way that cruisers get to know each other...well and quickly. We met them first in French Polynesia, saw them on and off across the South Pacific, spent Christmas with them in New Zealand, had Thanksgiving with them last year in Australia, and now here they were in Hobart on a Sea Shepherd vessel.
The acquisition of the Sam Simon, named after one of the original producers of The Simpsons who donated the $2M for the ship's purchase, was quite the coup for the Sea Shepherd orginization. They purchased the ship from the Japanese government rather covertly under a pseudonym and under the guise that the ship would be refitted and converted into a private yacht. The real goal, however, was to use this Japanese ship against their own in a "direct action" against whaling still practiced by the Japanese fleet in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd is a get-in-their-face kind of group.
The Washington-state based Sea Shepherd organization's mission is "to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to protect ecosystems and species." Founder, Paul Watson, was also a co-founder of Greenpeace, but parted ways over philosophical differences - he wanted more direct action in the protection of marine life...less words, more deeds. According to Sea Shepherd's website, "since those early days (1970's), Sea Shepherd has embarked on over 200 voyages covering many of the world's oceans and defending and saving defenseless marine life all along the way." Marine life includes seals, sharks, whales, tuna and the fragile, unique marine ecosystem of the Galapagos.
Gabor had joined the Sam Simon in November in Cairns, Australia. A Canadia/German, he'd been a merchant marine as a young man. He was putting his old skills to the test as a second engineer aboard the Sam Simon. Sea Shepherd is an all-volunteer effort. Gabor paid his own airfare to Cairns to join the ship and has spent hundreds of hours getting the ship ready for the upcoming Antarctic whaling season. One huge challenge he noted was that every sign, operator's manual and decal in the engine room, was in Japanese. Sorting out the systems and machinery operation had taken a month.
The 24-person crew is a United Nations of nationalities and personalities. Everybody pitches in...everyone does their part whether it be selling t-shirts and giving tours while in port or painting the decks and cleaning out the insides of tanks. They get things done. Everyone works towards the common goal of heading to Antarctica this season and preventing the slaughter of whales.
It's a vegan ship and it's dry. No honey, no eggs, no meat, no milk, no butter...NO alcohol aboard. Some of the non-vegans among the crew readily admit they head to the nearest pub for a pint and a steak when they reach port.
We got an email from Karen, an old friend from our Burdick days in Janesville, Wisconsin. She'd just read that the Sam Simon was in Hobart and was wondering if we'd see it. Could we send a photo or two? She supports the Sea Shepherd organization with her donations and the "Sam Simon was HER ship" she said, "HER crew...HER heroes." Click to learn more about volunteering or donating.
Isolde, by the way, isn't going back to New Zealand after Christmas. She's decided to stay aboard and join Gabor as part of the crew of the Sam Simon. What an adventure!