Archive for on the ship

Tsunami kids get the VIP treatment

Dmitri © Greenpeace/Novis

Dmitri on the bridge of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Novis

While we were docked in Jakarta last week, hundreds of people came to see the Esperanza and take a tour around the bridge. These included Greenpeace supporters, journalists and the general public, but there was one group that was particularly special.

When he’s not being second mate on various Greenpeace ships, Dmitri runs a charity called Orphans Trust Fund in his adopted home of New Zealand to help kids who lost their parents in the 2004 tsunami. He was on board the Rainbow Warrior when she delivered aid to Aceh in Sumatra following the disaster and stayed behind to help when the ship departed.

The money Dmitri raises helps to pay for the kids’ education at a school called Fajar Hidayah which has faculties in both Aceh and Jakarta. As we were in town, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give them an exclusive tour of the ship.

Here Dmitri explains how he came to set up his charity and why he believes helping just a few children is very important. Listen to the interview, and there’s a transcript below.

The first time I went to Aceh was in 2004 when the tsunami occurred. The Rainbow Warrior was in Singapore, and seven or 10 days after the tsunami we were already in Aceh assisting the people. We were delivering humanitarian help along the west coast of Sumatra, and after one month the situation became better. The Rainbow Warrior left for another campaign and I stayed in Aceh for another two months with different aid organisations.

Then one day I heard about the orphanage and I became very interested because there were like 50,000 kids who lost one or two parents. I went to this place and this is how I met these people for the first time.

Before I left Aceh, I have friends in Alaska who are fishermen and my idea was to open individual bank accounts for 90 children in the orphanage school. I asked my friends in Alaska and they sent me around US$800 straight away so there were no questions, and it took about three days to take all the children to the bank and we opened 90 individual bank accounts.

Dmitri with some of the children he met in Aceh in 2005 © Shamarov

Dmitri with some of the children he met in Aceh in 2005 © Shamarov

After this I went back to New Zealand and I tried to find help from the big aid organisations, but they were too busy with other projects and some of them told me there are not going to give anything, not even $1. And finally one organisation, Tearfund, they start helping me and they gave me the right directions.

I still had to look for the sponsorship for these kids so I talk to my friends and we did some picture exhibitions regarding the tsunami and children. We set up maybe four or five picture exhibitions around Auckland, and at the exhibitions I talked to the visitors, I showed them video and pictures, and some people became interested to help these children. And finally this is how we started Orphans Trust Fund.

For two days, around 80 or 90 children visited the Esperanza. Because I keep in touch with the kids, they knew the Esperanza was coming to Jakarta so they were waiting for me and for the ship, and to meet me again and I was looking forward as well. So it was a very special tour, it was like a privilege for these kids.

We tried to show them as much as possible and we even took them to the engine room. The engineers, Mannes and Sabine, were showing them around and the kids asked many questions and some of them become very interested. They asked questions about Greenpeace and that’s good because some of them, they grow up now. Some of them are 18 years old and these are people who after five years will get jobs and will do hopefully the right things. To keep in touch with Greenpeace, I think it’s important, for the future as well.

Today, we have still 13 children supported by New Zealand. It’s not much but it’s something and I think every kid is important. Even if we support one kid, that’s a lot.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Messing around in boats

Sabine and Neils take the African Queen for a spin

Sabine and Neils take the African Queen for a spin

We used the time spent getting to Jakarta constructively and many of us in the crew spent two days doing boat training with both the large and small launches on board. Learning how to handle the boats is essential for the smooth running of the ship, and when the Esperanza is anchored out in a harbour or at sea, they’re often used to ferry people to shore and without them we’d be rather cut off when we’re not docked.

I was a bit naïve to think that boat training just involved driving them; of course, we have to get them in the water first and under the watchful eye of Sabrine the boat engineer, we spent several hours practising that before we even got close to getting wet. The larger boats have all been christened with names like the African Queen and Susie Q.

They have to be attached to the crane which will lift them over the railings and down into the water; the tag lines – which stop the boats twirling on the crane – have to be secured and held tight; and the painter line is attached to the bow of each boat to keep it attached to the ship after the crane hook is released so the crew can get the engine started. The range of ropes, hooks and winch blocks was bewildering at first to a novice like myself, but the principles are pretty straight forward – keep the tag lines tight, and keep your fingers out of the crane hook or risk losing them. I defaulted on any knot tying though as the few knots I learnt in the Scouts have long since been forgotten.

Silas and Marta get to grips with one of the inflatables

Silas and Marta get to grips with one of the inflatables

Eventually, we did get to scoot off around the ship and even though unhooking the crane looks easy when other people are doing it, it’s a different matter in a boat which is moving in the swell and the ropes never seem to go exactly where you want them to.

I also got the chance to take the tiller a couple of times and Locky tutored me in the art of drawing alongside the ship. To get the inflatables in the right spot to be picked up by the crane (another big objective of the training), you have to match the speed of the ship and approach it at the right angle which, even in the mild swells I was working with, was tricky. Sea currents are constantly pulling on the boat and, unlike steering a car or a bike, you point the tiller in the opposite direction to the one you want to go.

After nearly colliding with the ship a few times and getting very wet from the splashbacks, I felt I was starting to get the hang of it and, like anything, it just takes practice. Although for the time being I think I’ll leave the boat driving to those with a bit more experience.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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‘It’s more powerful than just wearing a t-shirt’

Madeleine on the bridge of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

Madeleine on the bridge of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

It’s slightly weird being docked after ten days at sea. I woke this morning to find Jakarta hovering on the horizon with container ships lining the route into Tanjung Priok port, and sadly the glistening blue seas and dense white clouds have been replaced by grimy harbour water and a blanket of brown smog. But the energy of the place is infectious and I’m itching to get some shore leave and explore.

Before we launch into the next phase of our tour and really get to see the damage that palm oil is doing to Indonesia’s environment, there’s one last interview to present. Madeleine is the ship’s captain and, although this is her first time as captain of a Greenpeace ship, she has a long involvement with both this organisation and others involved in environmental and social campaign work.

Here she is describing her first experiences with the Rainbow Warrior in the Pacific and why she loves direct action. There’s a transcript below.

“I remember when I first joined the Rainbow Warrior, I’d been sailing on a ship that was a copy of the Warrior but it was a private yacht – it was very well maintained, had a very big budget and was always in very good shape. When I joined the Warrior in Auckland, I found my own way to the ship – I didn’t expect anyone to pick me up at the airport although someone was there waiting for me and I walked straight past them.

“So I was sitting on the dock, just looking at the ship before I got on board, and I thought, “They look like such a bunch of freaks!” Really, that’s what I thought. “Am I really going to sea with them? They look like such a bunch of hippies.” And I’ve grown to love them.

“I understood that we were going to be doing a tour in New Zealand but when I joined the ship I was told we were going to Moruroa atoll to protest nuclear testing. So it was a big honour to be able to be on the ship, to be going on this very important, historic, significant campaign.

“It was completely a dream come true. My first action was to drive an inflatable into a nuclear test site in the middle of the Pacific. It was exactly what I’d dreamed Greenpeace was all about, and it just seemed so impossible.

“We were surrounded by the French navy, a really powerful military force, and they were just going to put me in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night, 20 miles from the nearest land and the nearest land is a nuclear test site. I’ve got to drive a boat off into the darkness, find my way across a reef and then climb up on a drilling rig where they’re going to do a nuclear test. It was completely my childhood fantasy, it was great.

“We did it and it was a successful action, and although we didn’t stop every nuclear test, I think it certainly brought the issue to the front page of the world news.

I’ve always felt really passionate about direct actions and I’ve been involved in them since university days when I was involved in social and environmental direct action. I think it is a really effective tool and it’s a really good release for people who are working in the environment or for a campaign that they believe in – instead of all the writing and reporting and talking, you can do something. You can physically present yourself and say this is what I believe in. It’s more powerful than just wearing a t-shirt.”

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Our man in the sky

Shaun in flight © Greenpeace/Rante

Shaun in flight © Greenpeace/Rante

Someone who has taken part in all the research flights our helicopter Tweety has carried out is, of course, the pilot. Shaun (or Dingo as he’s known about the ship) has flown every mission in both Indonesia and during the previous leg in Papua New Guinea.

As a result, he’s seen a considerable amount of New Guinea and is able to draw comparisons between the two sides of the border.

Listen to the interview below to hear about Shaun’s experiences flying over New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.

Who have you been taking out on the flights and what have they been going to see?
Partly it’s been Bustar, the forest campaigner. He’s been coming out along with journalists to basically assure himself of what they’ve been told about certain areas, whether logging is being carried out or whether it is actually pristine forest, and basically documenting that. And also I’ve been taking out the cameraman and the videographer for documentation purposes.

You also flew over the forests of Papua New Guinea when the Esperanza was there a few weeks ago. Are there any differences you’ve noticed between the two sides of the island?
The main differences I’ve noticed between Papua New Guinea and Papua is the huge difference in the population. In Papua New Guinea, there are a lot more indigenous villages scattered throughout the forest and along the river ways. Whereas here in Papua, they seem to be more moved into settlement areas and into more modern housing – tin roofs, straight lines in streets. It was quite unusual, really.

What has been the most memorable aspect of your flights so far?
Most memorable thing has to be scenery – it’s incredible. Of course, Papua New Guinea has mountains and everything, and in Papua you have the same mountains and the same forest, but there’s a lot less logging activity on this Papuan side. But also the coastline on the Papuan side has been very beautiful – pristine beaches, coral reefs, and islands.

How different is it to land the helicopter on the ship compared to dry land?
There’s a big difference. Wind always plays a huge importance, but generally it’s a solo act on the ground – you know where your wind is coming from and you land accordingly. But with a ship, it’s also a moving object and it has to be positioned properly for the helicopter. And then hopefully the ground doesn’t move around too much underneath you with the swell.

So far on this trip it’s been quite easy because it’s flat seas here but I have landed on the ship when it’s been pitching and rolling quite badly. And the most daunting thing isn’t putting the helicopter on the deck, it’s when you’re down and then still be moving madly around, it’s just totally unnatural. Sometimes even now I’ll land and the helicopter will sway from side to side and it makes you think, “Woah, what’s going on?” It certainly is a different situation.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Feet on both sides of the border

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

Dorothy on the deck of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

We’ve been sailing past and through some of the most wonderfully named parts of the world – Flores, Butu, Ceram, Halmahera and their associated seas – which for me conjure up images of trading ships at full sail, laden down with cargoes of nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

It’s a very Eurocentric view, of course, and the spice trade was often at the expense of the local population, but I can’t help finding the associations with exploration and uncharted waters bewitching. (And for a very readable account of that period in history, you could do worse than track down a copy of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton.)

But while these exotic locations drift by, we’re preparing for our arrival in Jakarta next week, and the long journey is also giving me a chance to catch up on some of the interviews I conducted between Jayapura and Manokwari.

One of the more interesting and colourful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this expedition is Dorothy. She’s a Greenpeace forest campaigner from Papua New Guinea and joined the Esperanza in Port Moresby in August. Dorothy left the ship last weekend in Manokwari but before she disembarked, I wanted to find out why it was important that she stay on the ship over the border into the Indonesian half of New Guinea.

Listen to the audio clip below and hear about Dorothy’s links to both Papua and Papua New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.

You’ve been on the Esperanza for both the Papua New Guina leg and some of the Indonesian leg. Why was it important to you to be on both sides of the border?
It’s been very important for many reasons. The first one being, as a campaigner, it’s good to understand that this island is rich in biodiversity and it’s one ecological system. The island has similar problems on both sides of the border and as a campaigner it’s important for me to understand what is happening here as well as in Papua New Guinea.

Also, as we go to international conferences, we tend to talk about the island as one, the island of New Guinea. It’s the world’s third largest rainforest and it’s important to think of it as a whole rather than as in parts. It has also enriched me personally to see the struggle of my colleagues on this side of the border, and the issues that they have here.

And you have quite strong personal ties to Papua, as well.
Personally, this visit has been a little bit emotional for me. Partly because I see the beauty of my island, being a descendent of people from the Papuan side. I’m actually from Papua New Guinea but my grandmother is from this side of the border, and it has been emotional for me to see the connections of my people in Papua to the environment, and to the forest especially because most of them are still dependent on it for their livelihood.

I have family on this side who live under a different political system, who live under different land and forest use laws. While it’s emotional, it’s also interesting to learn about their rights and it makes me more determined to see things in a way that unite us as indigenous people of this island rather than as people from two different countries with different legal and political systems.

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Lending a helping hand with a little first aid

Valeriy treats an infected leg in the Esperanza's sick bay © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Valeriy treats an infected leg in the Esperanza's sick bay © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Even though we’re here to tackle big, global issues of deforestation and climate change, there’s still time to help out with smaller problems as well. The Esperanza has a sick bay and a qualified medic on board, and in a country like Indonesia there are plenty of opportunities to dish out a little TLC.

Valeriy, our Ukranian doctor, has been keen to help some of the people we’ve met with diagnosis and, where possible, treatment of various ailments. He held an impromptu first aid clinic for one village in Papua New Guinea a few weeks ago and wanted to do something similar on this side of the border.

He was able to treat one of the dancers from the welcome ceremony in Manokwari who had an infected leg and then, while we were anchored in the harbour, he spotted Biryosi, a collection of ramshackle wooden houses perched on stilts over the water a few miles from the main town. The perfect place to help with some first aid.

Examining a man with tuberculosis © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Examining a man with tuberculosis
© Greenpeace/Sharomov

Together with Kelly, Yoyon and Reza (our Indonesian crew members to help with translation) and Dmitri the second mate, Valeriy took a boat over on Sunday morning. The village chief allowed the use of his veranda as a makeshift clinic and the long queue meant Valeriy worked for four hours, examining and treating various ailments. So many people turned up, the house started shaking and the chief became concerned it might collapse into the bay.

Many people had respiratory infections such as tuberculosis, bronchitis and other breathing problems. There were also tropical skin diseases and stomach infections, including a peptic ulcer Valeriy was able to provide treatment for. But although there were several cases of malaria, mostly in children, he was only able to diagnose and advise those infected. Malaria is so common that most people were able to diagnose themselves, but for whatever reason hadn’t been to the hospital in Manokwari for treatment. Money was offered for Valeriy’s services which he politely turned down, but he couldn’t refuse a gift of several coconuts.

Word clearly got around about the freelance doctor from the ship because the following morning, not long before we were due to set sail, a mother and father pulled up alongside in a canoe with their flu-ridden son. The canoe had to be rescued by a passing fishing boat when it drifted away from the ship, but more coconuts were delivered to the ship to say thanks. And very tasty they were too.

posted by Jamie, on board the Esperanza

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Follow the Esperanza in Google Earth

Follow the Esperanza in Google Earth

Follow the Esperanza in Google Earth

If you’re still trying to picture the destinations we’ve been to so far and the route we’re taking through Indonesia, you can now follow the Esperanza in Google Earth. Just download this Google Earth layer and you can see when and where the highlights on the tour have occurred. (You’ll need to have Google Earth installed as well, of course.)

New placemarks will appear automatically as we update the journey, so check back often to see what we’ve been up to and how the campaign is progressing. If you don’t want to install Google Earth, you can also see where we are in your web browser.

The mysterious whale, answers on a postcard © Greenpeace/Sharomov

© Greenpeace/Sharomov

Meanwhile, we left Manokwari on Monday and are sailing west towards Jakarta where we’ll arrive in the middle of next week. We’ve passed through a narrow passage called Selat Sagewin, less than 2 miles between the forested slopes of two islands, and we’re now cruising through the Ceram Sea.

The crew have been taking advantage of the journey to Jakarta and the paint pots have come out to give some parts of the ship a touch-up. I also been taking a break from my web duties to help out and yesterday a gang of us were giving the forward bulkhead of the boat deck a new coat of paint.

While we were working, Locky the bosun and Silas spotted a commotion in the water a couple of hundred metres away. Areas of the sea were foaming, and every so often a plume of water would shoot skywards which could only mean one thing – whales. Several of them appeared to be herding schools of fish into bait balls and occasionally a set of massive jaws breached the water as a whale scooped up its prey.

Dimitri, our second mate, took a few photos and although we were some distance away, you can clearly see a whale gorging itself. It’s seven years since he’s seen a whale at sea – a lucky day, indeed.

posted by Jamie, on board the Esperanza

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