Wednesday, 17 March 2010
“A SIGNIFICANT report thanks Jacques. Drift-net fishing unfortunately is still a continuing problem. Looks like you’ll have to make some major decisions soon.” Mark Stafford, executive director of Greenpeace International, smiled briefly towards Jacques Philippe, international coordinator—marine.
Turning right to the executive secretary, Jill Evans, he asked, “Have you got all that down?”
Her reply was not distinguishable. But Graham Williams, sitting at the end of the left-hand arm of the U-shaped board table, carefully noted the nod of her head. Leaning back, he reflected on his first weekly meeting of the executive committee of the International Environmental Protection Organization. The fine old five-story building beside the Western Kerk at 176 Keizersgracht had impressed him. Held under a preservation order to protect its special features, the rambling office was an example of their aims.
His gaze once again took in the atmosphere of the room. The full-length windows opening three stories above the canal. The walls covered with photographs of Greenpeace in action. He felt his pulse quicken at the sight of a giant sunfish caught in drift-nets, Greenpeace staff releasing weather balloons, dramatic pictures of capsized inflatables being hit by barrels of toxic wastes dumped into the sea. And many more. The room was a montage of Greenpeace’s history.
A late morning burst of sunlight silhouetted the four International Campaign coordinators sitting opposite.. Their features, soft in their own shadows, were still new to him.
“How is it going?”
Graham turned to the speaker opposite. Slim, attractive and fair, Petra van de Roer, from the Netherlands, was the youngest International Campaign coordinator. Perhaps, Graham thought, she was too aware of her youth and over-compensated by being very professional in her manner. Responsible for ocean ecology and recognized as a leader in her field, she had a very confident manner. Almost to the point of arrogance.
“Fine thank you Petra. Just fine.” Graham’s reply was non-committal as he smiled across at her.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” The firm voice of the chairman, Mark Stafford, drew the meeting’s attention. “The next item on the agenda is a report on international treaties and conventions from Graham Williams. You all will have met Graham and I would just like to take this opportunity to welcome him to his first meeting of the executive committee of Greenpeace International. Graham, as you know, is an Australian . . .”
“Bravo,” interrupted Raul Gonzalez, coordinator for energy and atmosphere. Born in Argentina, his appointment reflected the growing strength of Greenpeace in Latin America. Smiling broadly, he continued. “It is good to have another from the Southern Hemisphere to help me keep these Northerners at bay.”
His mocking eyes swept around the other members to meet Graham’s, as he waved in a gesture of companionship.
“Thank you Raul, I didn’t think lack of numbers was ever a problem for you!” Mark Stafford, also grinning, continued. “As I was saying, Graham is an Australian lawyer who has had considerable experience in environmental issues at state and government levels in his own country . . .”
Graham smiled wryly to himself. It was no picnic working in foreign affairs representing Australia in the formation of the Antarctic Treaties System three years ago, or as a Southern Hemisphere member of the Rishworth Committee that set the standards and practices of the last up-date of the London Dumping Convention. “. . . like many of us, he has seen both sides of these major issues and has decided, wisely I’m sure, to support environmental projects from outside his government through Greenpeace. Graham, we welcome you as the international coordinator for treaties and conventions and look forward to your contribution and support.” Mark finished with a nod.
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Southern Ocean Early March
SUCKING in a final breath, the whale dived. Reflexes snapped shut the sphincter muscle around his nostrils, blocking out the probing tendrils of the searching sea. A rainbow of droplets swept skywards as his great tail lifted high into the air. A continuous motion of grace and power rolled forward. Cutting into the gray flecked wave, his great weight plunged him down away from the latent power of the high swells. Away from the white wave tops, flicking and curling. Away from the heaving and rolling rhythm of the great mass of water known as the Southern Ocean.
He felt safe now.
Six meters below the surface, it was quiet. The movement of the swell had dissipated to stillness. The sunlight’s intensity deteriorated rapidly as the whale pressed on downwards. Deeper and deeper through the twilight zone at thirty meters. Down and down into the blackness at four hundred meters. No sound. No movement. No swell. Nothing could be seen.
Descending further and further he ignored the schools of fish. Sensing the slight decrease in temperature, he felt the incredible increase in pressure. It would become a crushing one hundred and thirty seven times greater on the bottom, twelve hundred meters below.
He sensed the activity on the sea floor. Shellfish, crustaceans, sea lice, fish, eels, squid and octopus working at great depths. Unique, special, remarkable adaptations allowed each to survive the incredible conditions. Some used phosphorescence to provide light, others had sensitive feelers to feel and select, while others withdrew into protective shells to hide. The whale’s favorite food, the squid, and its near cousin, the octopus, had, over the aeons, evolved to not only survive but also to use the conditions to their benefit. Soft, pliant and flexible, the squid’s boneless body of eight sucker-soled tentacles attached to a central bulbous head allowed it to cross the ocean floor quickly and silently. Growing to more than sixteen meters in length, it was the monster of the deep. In their domain they had no peers. Their only fear, was their sole enemy, the sperm whale.
Driving relentlessly down, the whale felt an involuntary twinge of anticipation quiver through his body.