Saturday, 29 May 2010

Chapter Two - Secene 1

Amsterdam                                                                                                 Monday 8th March, 12.42 p.m.

“AN urgent report has been received that requires this committee’s immediate attention. I would like to raise it now. Any objections?” Mark Stafford’s quiet voice made the question a command at the resumption of the executive committee. He paused briefly, “That being the case, I will ask Petra to carry on. Petra?”

“Thank you Mr Chairman.” There was excitement in her voice.

Graham Williams felt the level of interest of the other eight members’ rise in expectation. ‘What can this special report be about?’ he wondered as Margrethe Rasmussen, International Campaign co-ordinator, nuclear, sitting on his right, leant forward.

“We have received a special report from the Whale Division of our Research Center in San Francisco,” Petra announced, her manner intense and determined. “Briefly, it explains that this month’s regular STROW, which you’ll recall is an abbreviation of Satellite Transmission Report on Whales, reveals the grave possibility that some.nine or more bull sperm whales have been slaughtered.”

“Mon dieu!” Jacques Phillippe’s exclamation exploded across the room, “NINE bull sperm whales. NINE. How can that be?”

Graham felt the tension of pent-up anticipation become anger as the committee members expressed their shock at the announcement. Before it could develop into a general outcry, Mark Stafford intervened.

“I realize this is a great blow to you all, especially since the killing of sperm whales was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1976. However, please hear Petra out.”

“Most of you will recall that over the past six months our Whale Division has carried out a test identification program on two hundred bull sperm whales. Each of them has been fitted with their own small transmitter-receiver identification monitor. Fired in behind its head under the blubber, each dart contains a microchip that has a unique number for each whale by which we can identify it. The transmitter-receiver can be tracked by GPS, sector by sector or all at once, right around the world. The individual numbers are received back at our Research Center where they are plotted on charts.” Pausing to catch her breath, Petra continued, her gaze passing from member to member.

“There are two major uses of this system. One is to register the various contacts between the bull whales and the other cows and calves in the pods. This procedure is carried out at mating and allows us to assess the total population when they are all together. The other use is to track bull whales as they journey to and from their feeding grounds in the Arctic and Antarctic. This later check is carried out monthly and we refer to it as STROW.”

The anger of the committee, first aroused by the announcement, had turned into steely professional interest as she continued. “The February STROW showed that in the southern sector two bull whales did not report. This is within the allowable deviation. However, the March report completed yesterday showed a further seven bulls did not report. This decrease in numbers is greater than what we expect from natural causes.”

“HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?” shouted Jacques, his eyes blazing in concern.

“Well,” continued Petra, her voice lowered with intensity, “there are three possible causes. First lack of food. We have ruled that out. Second, an oil spill of substantial magnitude that suffocates the whales. As no such spill has been reported, we have ruled that out also. The third alternative is that they were hunted and killed.”

“Hunted? Killed?” Jacques in his excitement reached over the table and thumped it with his closed fist.

Petra paused.

Graham could see she had control of herself. Her concern showed but she was objective and dispassionate. An admirable foil to the excitable Frenchman. She looked down at her notes, glanced up at the chairman and took a deep breath.

“The Japanese whaling fleet is in that sector for its annual catch of minke whales for their scientific research.” She let out her breath, bracing herself for the response.

“Japs, the bloody self-indulgent Japs! I should have guessed!” Jacques exploded, throwing himself back into his chair, clenched hands in the air.

“Hold on a minute Jacques.” The calming voice of Mark Stafford broke through the histrionics. Graham could only admire the extent of Mark’s control in restraining Jacques.

“We are surmising at this moment aren’t we Petra? Have we any evidence that the Japanese are actually involved?” Mark asked.

“No, Mr Chairman. At this moment we are not sure.”

“Well then Petra.” The situation had been diffused so Mark continued. “What are your recommendations?”

“This issue needs to be investigated immediately. The Japanese whaling fleet is now probably on its way back home and if we want to catch them with the evidence, we have to act now.” Petra’s voice was firm with resolve.

“Who, Petra?”

“I’ve contacted the author of the report, Carrie Ardley. She heads up the Whale Division of our Research Center in San Francisco. It was her attention to detail and prompt reporting that is allowing us to act now. I suggest she goes to our branch nearest the area concerned, which is Auckland, New Zealand.”

“Fair enough, I agree we need an immediate investigation.” Then with a small frown, Mark asked, “Do you think she has sufficient experience?”

Petra did not reply immediately and Graham, looking on at this interchange, felt the tingle of excitement as the adrenaline pumped through his body. ‘So this is how Greenpeace acts. Decisive and controlled.’ He waited for Petra’s reply.

“Carrie has been with us for several years, most of which have been spent in the assembling and assessing of reports. While her field experience is limited, she is the most knowledgeable person we have on whales.”

“Thank you Petra.” Mark gave a slight smile as he addressed the committee. “In my opinion a mix of enthusiasm, specialized knowledge, youth and experience are best. Normally, they are not all present in one person. I think we need someone else to be there as well. But,” he paused, “before we go any further I would like to put Petra’s recommendation forward as a motion. Do I take it you have seconded it Jacques?”

Graham looked across to see Jacques nodding his head rapidly, glad to be brought back into the limelight.

“Right, are there any comments before we put the motion?”

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