31 May 2006

Trouble in Tasmania - the Pirates of the Weld

My alarm goes off and I stumble bleary eyed out of my cabin onto the deck, it must be time for my watch. A possum strolls across the moonlit bow...... eh???

I'm on a whole different kind of ship, a life size pirate ship built in the forest. I'm living at a blockade in the middle of the Tasmanian forests. The camp is on the end of a forestry road blocking access to 2000 threatened hectares of ancient tall trees forest bordering the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, a protected areas of wildernes that stops as soon as the tall tress begin.. funny that.

Forests that have been growing here undisturbed, for longer than we've been on this planet are now being logged by Gunns, who own 4 wood-chip mills in Tassie, their contractors and under the mismanagement of Foretsry Tasmania. Most of the trees end up as woodchip. Paper.... Nice report your printing out? and is that loo roll good and soft for you? There was a whole family of spotted quolls living under that tree.

The pirate ship is built on the road and has a sit up it mast, and around there are many more lock-ons, fort style barricades, tripods, mono-poles and tree sits up huge threatened eucalyptus trees.

The forest is breathtaking, I still cant believe I've been lucky enough to call it home, eucalyptus trees have always been my favourite and here are whole forests of them! Along with my fave from New Zealand, the Ponga tree-ferns, called man ferns here. See My forest pictures on Flickr

Mad Marsupials
Kookaburras cackle like gangs of monkeys in the forest as flocks of black cockatoos circle the camp. Night falls and the little marsupials come out to play.. Possums fight over our compost scraps and knock pans over in the kitchen. Creatures with acient linage that have been wiped out on the mainland still roam these forests. Walking about in the bush and driving the forest roads at night you can spot stripy bum bandicoots, wallabies and spotted quoll. I didn't get a glimpse of a Tassie Devil though, there is a mystery blood transferred catchable cancer wiping out their population, no one knows what started it, but the chemicals used in the forestry plantations are high up on in the possibilities....

There is a Platipus living in the in the creek that runs through the camp, where we get our water from. Catching a glimpse of this crazy shy duckbilled marsupial is rare, but one night on the way to the fabulous camp firebath secluded out in the bush I heard an unmistakable splosh so sat down on the bankand I watched it swimming about for ages.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning

The clear-fells. Ouch. What can I say... look at the pics. There is a clear-fell just out the front of camp, and its what forestry plan to do with the forest in my photos. They chop everything down and take out what they want. Then they then drop this stuff, extremely similar to Napalm, and burn.. burn.. burn.. My forest destruction pictures on Flickr

Reminicant of the Stockon mine overshadowing Happy Valley, while living in the beautiful rainforest every now and then in the distance you can hear the sounds of chain-saws, the beep of macherery then the slow chilling crash of falling trees. Suddenly the atmosphere at camp changes, you can see the pain and anger in people faces. And the passion. "I can't sit around and listen to this.. lets go out tonight and *******"

The local rednecks and forestry workers aren't keen on the camp, they totalled one of the camp's cars and they sometimes drive up near the camp at night the weekends and let of gunshots in the darkness.. but nothing more serious than failed attempts at intimidation so far..

Doing it backwoods style
Anyway....back to that first night on the deck of the pirate ship.... I'd just arrived in Tassie and when I first met up with the crew for a lift earlier in the day everyone was really flaked out and vague.. I started to wonder if this was all a bad plan.. Then I found out they had just all got out o the cop shop after getting up at 3 am to lock on to a bunch of machinery.. their 3rd action that week. Wicked, my kinda crew! Recent Tassie forest actions

My alarm has gone off at midnight for a reason. Logging is currently happening up in a nearby coup around the nests of the endangered wedge tailed eagle, and there are only 117 breeding pairs left. The tripods and lock-ons have stopped work for most of the week.

Get in the the the back of the van! - Tonight is no different... a few hours later I'm pegging it down a dirt road after the van after we see headlights approaching, leaping in the door and being grabbed by many arms as I roll inside and we speed of into the night...

The next night the road was successfully blocked by a another tripod and 'Wedgie Wilderness or Wasteland' banner ready to block the contractors arriving in the morning.. See my pics from the action and pics of the camp here>> Resistance Pictures on Flickr

Across the forest is another area being logged, the Styx. There has been a tree sit, continusly occupied for 51 days by another of the Tassie crew in the cold wind and even deep snow.. after many failed attempts we was finally removed James Bond style with cops rappelling down to his sit from a chopper.

land of giants
The big trees really are big.. there are tree sits SO high up. At seeing some pics I took up a UK tree sit someone exclaimed "Its so close to the ground!". In Tasmania only Trees over 83 meters tall are protected, whatever the species, so many of the many 'smaller' giants (oh, only 50-80 meaters high!) are, up for the chop and have been felled.

The tree sits are at anything from about 30-60 meters up these giants.. It takes a long, long time to prussic up, and I have total respect for these guys that have at times, for months on end, been heading up these trees every night. I still have calluses on my hands from my few prussicing and absailing excursions into the canopy.

Link to video clip of me in a tree sit

My Big Tree Pictures and tree climbing pics can by viewed here on Flickr

Tree Fishing

So how to you climb such big trees? Well you can try Larching (I think its called that) when you loop 2 bits of rope around the tree and hang prussics of them and slide them up.. and basically friction stops you falling.. But its lots of slipping about and I'm not sure my nerves will take that at height! Another way it the art of tree fishing.. Take one bow & arrow.. add weight the front end of the arrow and attach fishing line to the back end. Get ready with fishing reel and shoot away. The art it to get the arrow over the branch then stop the real as soon as possible to stop the arrow heading off to get tangled in other trees!

It was great do an ideas swap and to learn heaps new skills (some of which I wont be mentioning on a public blog!)

But oh! it was so cold! There was snow on the mountain some days and I had 2 sleeping bags, a big blanket and a hot water bottle every night brrrrrr.

Oh no, its the pigs!

One night we were driving back from a stomping bush dance, with out one sober driver and about ten of us ferals rolling about drunk in the back of the van and we were pulled over by the local cops, initially for a dodgy exhaust.

A cop came over.. shining his torch in the van windows looking at each person in turn, then stuck his heads through the window to ask.. "OK, it there anyone in this van I haven't arrested this week?" *muffled giggles* "oh, Who are you? your next week right?" *less muffled giggles* "Jane? is Jane here" *sweeps his torch around* "Oh hi Jane, were done with your rucksack now, you can pick it up from the custody desk.."

Driver's breadth test was passed so we drove of howling with laughter into the night... wow the cops here are nice!

It was hard to leave the forest, its is so unbelievable wrong that they are clear-felling this ancient woodland to make paper. Also it was hard to leave the amazing folks living out here, doing such great work.

And what of my friend the platypus, sloshing around in his little creek - our life-source? We bush pirates can move on to other places, but where would he go if the area was chopped and burned? Would he make it out?

Check out all my Tasmainia photos on flickr

08 May 2006

Carbon crimes: Sydney airport to Anvil Hill

I wake up.. where am I? I was on a plane.. then got a lift in the back of a van..then I crashed out. Now there is no one here. Well I know a kinda where, I'm at the greenpeace warehouse, and I'm in Sydney. .. but WHERE am I?

I can hear planes taking off, so I'm not far from the airport. I find a map. Right somewhere in 'this radius'. Hmm, I could go for a walk down the street till I find a sign, no.. no... there is an easier way.. Mail. I find some, ahh an address.. now we are getting somewhere. Right, find and ethernet cable..plug in the laptop in.. Sweet, I have net access.. find an Australian street-finder online.. chuck in the postcode.. great. Location pinpointed. That's where I am. Sweet.

So to step 2. Need sustanance. First acquire local Currency. Then locate shops.... Why is my life always like this??

So I've caught up with myself blogging my climate destroying tour.. whoops I mean tour of climate destroying projects of the world.. In the last 12 months I've been to:. Mayo, Gas, (IE), Happy Valley, Coal(NZ), , The Paradise forest, Rainforest (PNG & West Paua).. And last weekend: Anvill Hill Coal (OZ).

Anvil Hill is another proposed coal mine, in yet another amazing rare ecological area, very like Happy Valley - but a little more accessible, and has people living close-by, mostly resisting the mine..

Read more about the campaign from Newcastle Rising Tide's web site here, and the Anvil Hill web site here.

It really is another stunning forest wilderness - and again so different, there are even wild kangaroos hopping about everywhere! I was totally excited to see kangaroos! boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boingboing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing!

Sadly the first few 'roos I saw were roadkill, somehow harder to see when they were so big, like they had just laid down to sleep by the side of the road. Very disturbing.

I facilitated some of the workshops I adapted from the those created by the fab Trapese It's amazing what a difference half an hour sat with some of the project reports can do to make your workshops tailor made to a campaign you don't really know much about! PopEd is really great for that as its about drawing on the experience and knowledge of the group, with some help along the way.

Later we all sat in the dark, dark night under the stars around the fire.. and in the usual strange juxtaposition of ancient and new I got my laptop out.. I showed the Anvil Hill folks, and the Greenpeace fronties I was there with, some photos from Happy Valley and gave them on overview of what's happening there. Its so great to be able to link up these projects and bring the most important message to those resisting: you are not alone.

After a night sleeping out under the overwhelming, mesmerising bright stars watching thunder storms flicker in the distance we took a walk around the site and see aboriginal artefacts, beautiful forest and of course those roos! See the pics on my flicker 'Anvil Hill' set

Next stop: The Tasmanian ancient forest,where trees are being dynamited and forests practically napalmed.. Oh and its almost winter. Its already colder than the UK right now, at Equinox. Welcome to exrteme protest camping.. Can it beat the madness of the Rossport Camp Mayo, Ireland in a force 9 gale?

*flashback to fin clinging onto a marquee pole in the gale with the wind howling around us and the turbine making the scariest I'm about to come off and chop your head off noise, ankle deep in cold wet peat bog" and Fin shouts over the cacophony "Feck em!, feck em and their Newbery fecking Bypass...we were at MAYO!") *

05 May 2006

Bracing the mainsail - Logging in West Papua

The sun sets over the tropical seas, voices in many languages drift about the ship, an the alarm is going off the engine room and someone is sat on the stern playing Bowies's space oddity.. or is this a scene from "The Life Aquatic"'? We watched the movie one night it in the mess and laughter got more and more intense and pointed. Finally someone says it: "This really, really is like being on a greenpeace ship.." "Except we don't have shiny skin-tight wet-suits". "Or guns". We do however have pirates out here... more on them later.

During the tour I met a man from a village who told me the harrowing story of their area, as he spoke I saw he had no front teeth, from where the police had kicked them, out he told me. I then met a whole group of people from his area and interviewed them. I heard of children poisoned and killed by chemicals used to treat the newly logged wood, and when this was protested the retaliation was; beatings, rapes, humiliation, burning of villages, destruction of crops and food in the wild.

The interviews might be used soon.. so I can't post them right now. There were reasons we couldn't at the time, so I'll link to them - as I want to get the stories of therese warm, friendly welcoming, hopeful people out. And pass on information on the scale of the oppression and human rights abused these people face, as total as the devastated forests around them.

All our lives from TV, newspapers, the internet.. we hear harrowing tales, so much you become numb to it. But here for the first time I heard stories first hand, from more people with missing teeth, and deeper less visible scars. And what overwhelmed me was their drive, hope and joy in life - after receiving, and still suffering from, so much violent oppression.

One nice observation: watching group dynamics I noticed the group always sit in circles, and if someone else joins there is a big awareness of that the shuffling so they are made part of the circle.. I had a chat about it and we ended up having a long, (if slow, to deal with language differences) discussion about inclusiveness. These guys dig circles as much as I do - respect!

Spending thst much time in the the wilderness of the sea and seeing seemingly endless forest onshore has changed me and my perspective/scale of wild. I might have a litte trouble when I get back the the UK, as more often I look at hills and see the missing forest. morning the loss of the forest there that were gone long ago.

To read more on the forests, the campagin and some adventures.. check out the out the blogs on: weblog.greenpeace.org/paradiseforests

I reckon my best/most interesting blogs, in order of goodlyness are:
Bearing witness
Stay away from the drop off
Shore leave
Jayapura Nights
Arrival in Jayapura
Oh Bouy

I totally loved it on the ship, and I love being a sea. Previously I've always been slightly unearved by the sea. Its so big, and salty, and full of large things.. and it goes down and down and down.. I have now fallen inlove with the vast expanses of water. I I've now swum in the ocean where you can't see land in any direction, and below keeps going further than I can imagine.. and did Jaws come and get me? did I inexplicably sink forever.. no.. is was pretty darn nice actually.

The light on thre sea never looks the same twice (although we never got fog!), Its like looking at stars, you can gaze out forever and never get bored.. Many nights I'd sleep out on 'Monkey Island" (the area above the bridge) under the stars and watch thunderstoms flah in the distance. I'm really starting to have trouble sleeping indoors.

There were so many best (and worst) moments.. I couldn't pick one. Realising I was one of the drunken sailors in the corner of a dingy bar in downtown Jakarta was pretty cool though! Or riding at night on the back of moped for the first time ever scarily winding its way thought the traffic Manokwari, or hiking through the rain-forest, or maybe just every single sunset and starry night at sea.

We passed through some dodgy waters, some of the most notorious in the world for pirate attacks.. and these are no cutlass toting 'oooh-arr'ing guys in Jolly Roger hats.. they are pretty scary men with weapons.. and as I said before, this is a greenpeace ship - we don't carry guns. We battened down the hatches, literally! Never thought I get to say that without it being a figure of speech,and doubled the watch at night. There were a few ships out there running black, which we could see on the radar, but nothing came to close. Then just after I left the ship I received this from a friend still on board "Last night two ships in our vicinity were approached by pirates, they attempted to board them but they used fire hoses and averted or detered the pirates. Needless to say we're now doubling our watches incase the worst happens." Come to think of it that was the last mail I received form the ship..

And tales from the high seas? We did have a few 'interesting' moments.. one with much worse than pirates.. we were in very remote seas sailing around a particually troubled area - but I'm not going to ruin my best stories by putting them here.. you'll just have to coax them out of this old sea-wench with a whisky or two!

I've put four photo sets on flicker from the warrior, as I'm trying to keep my sets small:

- port - images from welcomes and excursions around port
- ship - life at sea..
- land - forest pics
- sunsets - does what it says on the tin.. pretty dammed amazing!

I only put pics on flicker that I took.. so you get lots of me here on the blog this time! I realise that most of the pics are of mucking about in the water.. it totaly looks like a big holiday. Really there was a lot of work involved. Whenever I was not blogging I'd join the deck-hands in keeping teh ship ship-shape.. which meant heaps of primer and painting.. but then you look up from your work and ohh what a view!

Hey can anyone name that fruit? I found it floating miles out to sea..

Only take rides in Jags.. hitching for posh girls

I don't know if you've heard of my legendary hitch last summer when hitching all the from the ef! gathering in the midlands to the Rossport protest camp in Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland? Stood at a lay-by near Stoke with a sign saying purely 'M6' and this car pulls up with Dublin plates.. he takes us all the way to Dublin, including getting us on the ferry for a fiver, then drops right at my mate's house just in time for a few beers.. we even stopped on the way for chips at Conway castle in Wales.... and... all in a Jag!

So.. its six months on and I've been in the Valley for two weeks. Julia & I are stood beside the road jusat outside Westport. Its coast to coast and at least a five hour drive so potentially a full days hitch to Cristchurch, through remote mountian passes, last time I did it I got stuck for 4 1/2 hours in a little redneck town called Reefton.

We'd walked out of the valley that morning and somehow, and I'm not entirely sure how (although I'm pretty sure there were vegan pies involved), its was 4pm and we are just setting out. We had no tent and just one sleeping bag between us... 'neah' It'll be fine. We watched the intemmittant cars go past ignoring us. Hmm so we sleeping cosy in ditch tonight?

Then.. out of nowhere a 1966 Jag XJS 3.4 L Walnut interior pulls up, going all the way to Christchurch! For a while I couldn't stop laughing, the first this I did was take this pic:

And.. if that wasen't sweet enough it was driven by a couple of 'Icies'. Dudes fresh for 6 months working in Antarctica, one driving from Ross to the pole and the other working at the pole. I'm totally into Antarctica.. one of them had even read my fave fiction on the place.. and said it was true to life.. he even knew some of the people the character were based on!

However, after living in the bush for 2 months, well we were not exactly exiting in the same world as clean society! I had only one pair of only trousers which had dried mud to the knees from the walk out. We'd not showered for weeks, my hair was half dreaded and we spent most of the journey trying to work out how bad we smelt...

Would you pick me up?

In a jag?

03 May 2006

Happy Valley - The price of coal

Accompanying pics can be found on my flicker sets happy valley & into the valley

There was this moment driving up into the mountains, on the way into a remote part of the New Zealand wilderness, on our way to occupy the site of a proposed coal mine. I was surrounded by dammed fine looking mountains sweeping straight down into the ocean, baking hot sunshine, in a van full of dammed fine looking kiwis listening to some dammed fine kiwi tunes on the stereo... I thought: somewhere along the line I did something right.

We were on our way into Happy Valley to start an occupation of a unique wetland under threat of destruction for the high grade coal beneath, mainly to export for aluminium smelting. Drinks cans, cars, bikes, ladders, foil, office blocks..and much more. It's a Kiwi habit, the endangered NZ Icon, and home to many other species, including a snail unique to the area. And then there's all that carbon in the coal... There is already a huge mine close by, and they want to wreck more of the area. You can read more about the campaign here, I'll tell you more about life in the valley.

The west coast is place of extremes.. when its hot, its hot hot hot. When we first arrived in the valley the west coast was 'experiencing a period of unusually dry weather' (that phrase is getting far to familiar). But oh the swimming holes! There are few things more fantastic after getting baked all day than being in a remote wilderness plunging into icy water.. then warning up in the sun on the rocks. I've been learning to jump of big rocks. Well I'm not sure learning is the right word for it, as it doesn't take much skill.. just a bit of nerve. I'd never jumped of anything this high before.

Then finally the rains came.. and we all retreated to our tents. The dry cracked mud for the wetland finally came into its own. It got cold and damp. There isn't a really dry communal space at the camp, and in the rain no one wants to take their sleeping bags out of their tents.. so we mainly end up curled up on our tents dozing an reading all day, venturing out when we get to hungry. Sometimes going out on missions and getting very wet!
The tarp over my tent made a perfect water catcher and I could just lean out of the fly and fill up! The kitchen and shelter tarps made even better ones so we'd fill up every pot and pan we can find with the clear, pure lovely rainwater. mmm so fresh!


The different pace of life is so good. There is so much peace, so much time not thinking of anything except concentrating on the rough terrain and putting one foot in front of the other without re-twisting my ankle. New things become important, using your senses, learning to track, checking for footprints, broken twigs, being really aware or your surroundings.

Everyone started having really viviid dreams, really amazing ones that often sorted things out in your head where you wake up feeling better about things you haven't consciously thought about for months. It made me realise how good for you having some good rest, physical effort and concentration can do to your head-space. You can feel how repressive and damaging our lifestyles in the city are away from the nature, space and beauty needed our psyches as well as our bodies. We're not evolved to be shut in boxes and it ain't good for us! Ok enough ranting... back to the the valley..

The world turns

Sunsets in the valley are glorious, there no other word for it. The red tussock of the valley floor lights up aflame in the setting sun.. and then the stars! Hours and hours and hours were spent laid out staring up at the night sky, I've never seen clearer. Real night, without the orange glow deadening everything.

A couple of years ago I didn't know moonbows exsisted. I heard the word and thought it was some hippy invention after to much acid.. wooh, like moonbows man. However, one wet moonlit night after a long wet windy day we were all clustered around the kitchen bender around cups of tea. We were enjoying the break from the relentless rain while watching huge cloulds blowing down the valley below us and catching glimpses of the moon and stars in breaks between the clouds. We were all staring at the moon and then someone glances in the opposite direction and gasps.. we all turn and there arching across the sky in a huge rainbow, but appearing monochrome in the night sky. The area under the moon-bow glowing slightly brighter then the rest of the sky. Now that was quite a thing! Moonbows man!

Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi
After taking part in the kiwi listening, and the serious lack of Kiwis in the Nina Valley, it was an amazing surprise to find such an active kiwi population in HV. Most nights I'd wake up to the kiwis calling. At first I was an expert (all that tape listening!) and was asked to shout 'Kiwi', whatever time of night it was, usually 5 am! But soon everyone started to recognise their calls and soon the familiar conversation struck up.. "Male?" "nah female.."
However I never got tired of waking up to it , so many nights in those quiet hours before dawn laying in my tent on the edge of camp listening to the calls before drifting back to sleep. It hasn't taking me that long to become familiar with exotic soundscape; Bell birds, Weka, Kiwi, Frogs (Ozzie import) Fernbirds, Morepork, Tui and those darn possums.

The bell bird has such a distinctive call, the ones in the valley sang a repeated - DCDAG - and as we went about our days you'd hear people absent mindedly whistling the bell birds tune...

One night we had a morepork flying through camp and land on the kitchen tent as we all watched open mouthed. A shy Morepork come to visit! (check out the pic of the little morepork chicks down on the right - we didn't see any but these are totally cute).

However, that wasn't all we could hear. It could be all to easy to get absorbed in the valley and forget what was so close by, and our long walks in which stayed well away from any signs of human encroachment made this more so. But day and night there'd be huge explosions from blasting, and the sounds of the machinery. Boom, Beep, Crunch, and a reminder of what danger hangs over this remote wilderness. The camp can be seen on the bottom left here and just a sectiojn of the huge Stockton mine looms above. You can click on any of my pics for a larger version.

We wont let it happen here!

More pics of the Valley & camp can be found on my flicker sets happy valley & into the valley
(big ups to the talented Jen - Pics 5, 6 8 & 9 posted here are hers..)