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..

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