It is Christmas Eve down here off the coast of Antarctica and I can absolutely assure you that we are all having a very white Christmas. And it is a happy Christmas because there is no place else we would choose to be.
Not only is it a white Christmas with towering massive alabaster icebergs and heaving floes of cobalt blue ice, it is a magical Christmas as orcas, humpbacks, fins, blues and piked whales escort us through these seas, as albatross, petrels, and skua gulls fly along beside us. And on the floes, the penguins, primarily Adelie and kings comically “salute” us as we pass by.
Being in these waters is like being on another planet or in another dimension of time and reality where humans are a scarce species and the oceans teem with the diversity of life. The air is pure and smells alive and the waters even purer and moving with life.
I have spent five Christmas days since 2002 in this wondrous place and I love it here, love it perhaps more than any other place on Earth despite, or perhaps because of its isolation, its wildness, and its unpredictability.
To love something is to defend it – to be willing to fight and to die for it. And such is the love that I feel for the magnificent citizens of this vast frozen region that I have no hesitation in acting in their defence, whatever the consequences might be.
Ahead of us at this moment is a fleet of killers. Led by the ship I call the Cetacean Death Star, (formally known as the Nisshin Maru), and accompanied by three vicious harpoon vessels, they have only one purpose in these waters and that is to deliver an agonizingly cruel death to the intelligent and gentle giants that grace these waters.
We are here to save life and they are here to kill. Our purposes are clearly defined.
I do not hate these whalers. I do pity them that they can take life away so thoughtlessly and so casually without pause for remorse or reflection.
As Marc Anthony said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of Earth that I am so gentle and mild with these butchers.”
For gentle and mild we are indeed. Every fibre of my being wants to sink that obscene floating death factory, yet I must by necessity employ gentler tactics and a more complex strategy.
But every whale that dies pains me to the core of my being. I feel every harpoon and hear every scream. I smell the blood and the fear and I see the smirks of chauvinistic humanity as they pull the triggers of their harpoon cannons and mutilate the corpses with their lances.
Restrained by our own compassion and ideals of the sacredness of life, we intercept, harass, block and pursue, driven by the guilt we must endure as whales suffer and die because of our decision of practical restraint. We seek year after year to silence the harpoons and to silence the haunting screams of the whales through tactics that although somewhat effective require time to be truly effective and time is a commodity that the whales are running short of.
And as we willingly choose to abhor a violent solution we must suffer accusations that we are violent by these same mad killers who answer our non-harmful tactics with bullets and grenades. They accuse us of being violent as they spill thousands of steaming gallons of the hottest blood on Earth into the frigid waters of Antarctica and fill the polar air with the pitiful screams of whales dying in horrific agony.
Nothing is simple in this world where commerce is absolved for passing death sentences on intelligent socially complex gentle sentient beings and where diplomacy is used as an excuse to ignore the consequences of the slaughter of the gentle and the innocent.
On this day, the eve of Christmas, the day of love and respect, we find ourselves in the most welcome position of pursuing killers with the purpose of defending their intended victims. We have them on the run and once they stop and attempt to whale we will be on them and we will stop them, as we have stopped them before and we will continue to stop them, halving their quota and costing them their bloody profits.
What better way to spend Christmas Day than saving the lives of such beautiful and uniquely marvellous beings as the whales.
And to add joy to this Christmas for all forty of us on this ship is in knowing that we have the support of so many people around the world who have made it possible for us to be here to be doing what we are doing.
Every whale we save is a whale that you save. Every blow we strike against the illegal profits of the whalers is a strike that you also have struck. In this great venture we are a team and it is a partnership that can change the way things are done on this planet – where we can challenge the arrogance and the ignorance of those who reap life and sow death for profit and culture.
If we can save just one whale from the harpoons it would be victory. However, like we did for the last two years, we intend to defend, protect, and save hundreds of these endangered and threatened giants.
As we enter a new year, we do so knowing that we are not down here alone. You are with us and for that we are deeply grateful. You give us the strength to be strong and the passion to be compassionate and the encouragement to be courageous.
Thank-you sincerely from my crew and I.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the forty of us at the bottom of the world to all of you around this most beautiful blue and white sphere of life and diversity.
Captain Paul Watson is director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.