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Short, Sweet and Powerful: The Otago Flotilla

The drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas, also know as the Noble Dirty Bob, seemed to arrive right on schedule. You could see the drill rig sticking out over the horizon 20 miles away and it only took a few hours for them to arrive at the drill site that we had been occupying for most of the day with the two protests yachts.

One of the Noble Bob’s escort offshore supply vessels was sent out ahead to try to intimidate us and chase us off the drilling spot. They did this by coming slowly closer and closer until they were about 100 meters away and in the end I bluntly asked the skipper if he was planning to just ram us? He came back saying “no, no” – he was only wanting to park a bit further down! Why he had to get so close to us to do this I still don’t understand!

We then had a long VHF conversation with the Master of the Noble Bob Douglas where all of our five speakers had a good go at putting their argument forward. We let the crew of the Noble Bob understand that NO they were not welcome here and could they please turn back?

For me the speech that cut right to the heart was from 17 year old Toria Fyfe, from Quarantine Island. She spoke so well as she explained that it was her generation that will have to deal with the worst of climate change if we keep this run away oil driven economic model going.

The Reverend Peter Mathewson also had a few choice words to say, including expressing the hope that the bottom may fall out of their boat (without anybody getting hurt of course!) – my thoughts exactly Reverend.

The last speaker was Brendan Flack, who lives on the coast directly in front of the drill rig and will probably be able to see it from his front door when he gets home. He told them that the local Iwi was never asked if it was OK to drill in their waters, and that he did not want them there. He pointed out the extremely unusual sight of a very large flock of albatross sitting on the water right there, blocking the way of the NBD in its approach to the drilling site which they should take that as a strong sign and leave the area.

Lots of good words were being said by everybody but all we got in response from the Master of the Noble Bob was the standard replies of “no comment” and “please contact the Anadarko representative Mr Alan Seay or head office in Texas for more information” followed by “we are proceeding to drill, please do not interfere” – we all would have loved to interfere and possibly stop their actual operation if we only could.

There is a sense of helplessness in all of thi, but we have to persevere and make the break from our terrible oil addiction. I reckon if petrol cost $20 or $30 at the pump (as it really should if we factored in some of the cost of climate change) then we would quickly find new ways of getting around and doing business. Humans are a resourceful lot but maybe not resourceful enough to deal with climate change in the way that it is starting to shape up, that is if we don’t make some drastic changes quick.

We got back into port to a warm welcome on the wharf at 8am the morning after confronting Anadarko and there were even some hardcore supporters waving from the shore banners at 07am as we sailed up the harbour! I’m looking forward to seeing many more banners this Saturday down at St Clair beach and all over the South Island – you can find out more about Banners on the Beach here:https://www.facebook.com/events/183243645218500/

Let’s keep the pressure on.
Cheers
Henk

Otago community leaders Torea Scott Fyffe, Waiariki Parata-Taiapa, Niamh O'Flynn, Peter Matheson, Bob Lloyd and Brendan Flack stand aboard the sailing vessell Tiama in front of the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas.

Otago community leaders Torea Scott Fyffe, Waiariki Parata-Taiapa, Niamh O’Flynn, Peter Matheson, Bob Lloyd and Brendan Flack stand aboard the sailing vessell Tiama in front of the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas.

The sailing vessel Tiama in front of the drill support vessel the Hart Tide.

The sailing vessel Tiama in front of the drill support vessel the Hart Tide.

Infinity: On the rolly road again!

Infinity is a fully equipped 36-meter sailing expedition vessel and was involved in the east cape flotilla which successfully confronted Petrobras in 2011. Currently on her way to Antarctica, Infinity is travelling via the east coast of the South Island to bear witness to the exploratory actions of Texan oil giant Anadarko which threaten our oil free seas.

Late Tuesday evening Infinity’s anchor slipped so we picked up and sailed off into the strong winds. The wind was howling, waves spraying the helmsman but we were all glad to be out at sea again!

The drama never ceases, at 2am Wednesday morning our headsail quite literally exploded! With the clue being ripped clean off by the strong winds, the sail was an old one but its always a bit sad to loose one. The crew successfully managed to wrestle the flapping sail down in the dead of night and we carried on sailing through the night.

Upon waking in the morning we had beautiful blue skies and light winds enabling us to sail in style. At 1300 we saw a large ship turn towards us and then thundering at high speeds it closed in on us. Radio silence on channel 16 as the crew looked out at the vessel.
MV Wellington, a New Zealand warship is an imposing sight!

It came close and passed our stern obviously checking us out before making radio contact. According to them they were conducting a “routine check”, which we are highly dubious of, since our involvement in the Anadarko protest is now widely known and with the experience of Navy participation in our last campaign against Petrobas around 3 years ago. They asked us a few questions about the crew and our next port of call, we complied fully and were left unimpeded and carried on our merry way with this beautiful weather. There is no such thing as a boring day on Infinity!

A new update on the Duke revealed that yet again they delayed their departure from Wellington, signifying that they lost a highly important piece of gear in the storm some 3 days ago. We are currently coasting along at a calm pace awaiting the Duke to head out of port so we can meet up with them again.
Moral is high on this lovely summers day in the Pegasus Basin…

Infinity: Back in Wellington with the Duke

Infinity is a fully equipped 36-meter sailing expedition vessel and was involved in the east cape flotilla which successfully confronted Petrobras in 2011. Currently on her way to Antarctica, Infinity is travelling via the east coast of the South Island to bear witness to the exploratory actions of Texan oil giant Anadarko which threaten our oil free seas.

Infinity is currently anchored just outside Wellington after having to run from a storm on the 9th. Since the last blog entry we have been following the Duke (the vessel currently partaking in the seismographic research) day and night. The crew has been amazing, tacking and gybing endlessly to stay within sight of the vessel whilst also staying outside her 500m exclusion zone. It hasn’t been easy, especially when the wind picked up and the seas increased.

On the night of the 8th the weather started to turn bad, we had a forecast saying the wind was meant to pick up to around 30 knots. The Duke must have had a more up to date forecast though as on the morning of the 9th we saw them steaming away to the west towards Wellington at a speed that we could not match. We started following but the wind picked up still and made life on board a bit tricky as we were rolling violently, crew members trying to rest after their long night shifts were startled to find themselves in midair flying out of their bunks! The captain made a decision to head west as well to seek the shelter of the South Island until the storm passed. The Duke with its up to date weather forecast was prepared for this storm but we were not aware that we where in for up to 50 knots sustained wind, it would have been nice of them to give fellow mariners a heads up, we guess we must have ruffled their feathers!

We sailed for the rest of the day in the rough conditions with just the mizzen double reefed and the staysail up and this carried us through the choppy seas at around 7 knots till we reached anchorage just before nightfall. All crew were glad to be out of the storm and also to hear some more news about the Duke that had arrived in Wellington.

We learnt that in this storm the Duke had lost some of its gear essential to their research. It is still unclear as to what they lost but the most likely would be the device that is trailed behind them. Yet another example of how ill prepared oil companies are for the heavy weather that can occur in the oceans off New Zealand… If a 40-50 knot storm can make a large vessel loose its gear and have to run for shelter then its hard to believe that in a storm that can be twice as strong that any vessel could be out their operating safely, both for its crew and for the New Zealand waters.

Infinity is currently getting ready to depart and head back into the research area in order to find the Duke and to await the rest of the flotilla to come out and show the support of NZ’s communities against Anadarko and deep sea oil drilling off its coast. While at anchor we have made a few changes to the ship to make it more comfortable in heavy weather whilst at sea.

The whole crew is excited to be out sailing again and cannot wait for the flotilla to come and show its support against the survey going on.

Oil Free Seas Flotilla – part two

Henk Haazen is the skipper of Tiama and was part of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla which confronted Anadarko off Raglan in 2013.

Here we are 35 miles of the Otago Peninsula yet again welcoming (not!) the Anardako Drill shop Bob Douglas. They obviously did not get the message we gave them in November last year off the Raglan coast – ‘WE DO NOT WANT YOU HERE’.

Luckily  nothing serious happened at the Raglan drill site, apparently they only found water, several thousand meters under the sea bed but now Bob is on it’s way to Otago to repeat the whole process.

So in response to Anadarko, another flotilla of people who care about our beautiful oceans is heading out to confront them. We had yet another fantastic flotilla send off from the Dunedin wharfs, lots of colorful banners and wonderful people,  and 3 boats sailing out of the harbour together: Erewhon a 38 foot yacht from Dunedin, Evohe an 83 foot yacht also from Dunedin and Tiama the 50 foot yacht from Bluff which I’m skippering.

From downtown Dunedin wharfs to the entrance of the harbour is about 12 Nautical miles and we had a lovely southerly breeze, managing to sail all the way out (using no oil).

Amazingly we encountered half a dozen small groups of people who had placed themselves along the harbour front spaced out over those 12 miles. They were on small jetties and rock outcrops,  holding banners saying ‘Stop Deep Sea Oil Drilling’ and various other good slogans, waving flags and wishing us well. This was very unexpected and warmed the cockles of my heart.

We left the harbour at first light this morning and arrived here at the drilling site around noon today. So far there has been no sign of the Bob Douglas but she is expected some time this  afternoon or if they want to be sneaky maybe tonight in the dark.

The weather conditions are nice, it is amazing how close we are to the mainland – so close that we even have cellphone coverage. Of course though, this also means that If the unthinkable would ever happen and these Texan cowboys would cause an  oil spill like they did in the Gulf of Mexico then we  also be facing coastal crude oil coverage – lets hope we can stop this madness in its tracks. That’s why I’m once again out here with Tiama, taking on the Anadarko and the Noble Bob.

Cheers
Henk Haazen
Skipper  Tiama

Tiama heads out as part of the Otago Flotilla

Tiama heads out as part of the Otago Flotilla

Infinity has arrived in the Pegasus Basin

Infinity is a fully equipped 36-meter sailing expedition vessel and was involved in the east cape flotilla which successfully confronted Petrobras in 2011. Currently on her way to Antarctica, Infinity is travelling via the east coast of the South Island to bear witness to the exploratory actions of Texan oil giant Anadarko which threaten our oil free seas.

This blog post is from the captain of Infinity, Clemens Oestreich and written on behalf of the whole crew.

Infinity has sailed for 8 days from Auckland and has just arrived 60 miles off the coast of Wellington to intercept the MV Duke, which is currently conducting seismographic research for the Texan company Anadarko. Our international crew of 16 passionate sailors spanning 10 nationalities is here to oppose the actions of the Duke and of the oil companies.

New Zealanders have been kept in the dark about the possibility of deep-sea oil drilling so close to their coast. We are here to raise awareness and to help bring an end to this risky practice.

Seismographic research entails setting off large underwater explosions in order to give a 3D map of the ocean floor and possible oil wells. The shock waves produced are known to harm marine mammals, which rely on sonar and sound to navigate, find food and communicate. The waters around this area are full of life; recently we have seen whales, a large group of seals and many birds, including albatrosses. The research is taking place in a known whale migratory area; the risk to these creatures cannot and will not be ignored.

The research required for the oil drilling is just the tip of the iceberg however, after setting off many explosions the oil companies will then prepare to drill to depths of up to 3000m in order to get to the oil. It is known and admitted by the NZ government that the country is ill equipped to deal with a major oil spill, as if any country can be fully equipped to deal with one…

The coastlines around New Zealand are full of life and pristine, the results of an oil spill would be devastating. We all know that oil companies state they are safe, but we have all seen how “safe” deep sea oil drilling is, of course referring to the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Infinity is here to represent our own views and the voices of others who rely on the seas for their way of life.

– Clemens

Infinity Crew in Auckland

The crew of the Infinity in Auckland

Otago protest announced to meet Anadarko drillship once again

After drilling a high risk deep sea well off Raglan, Anadarko’s drill-ship the Noble Bob Douglas is headed for Otago to begin exploratory deep sea oil drilling in the coming days.

Local group Oil Free Otago is heading out to show them that the people of the South Island are opposed to deep sea drilling and I’m taking Tiama down to join Oil Free Otago and set sail once again to protest against  the dangers that this deep sea drilling brings to our oceans and coastlines.

I took action against Petrobras when they wanted to drill off the east cape, I was a part of the Oil Free Seas flotilla that formed off Raglan in November to protest Anadarko’s first drilling in New Zealand waters and I am proud to again be able to show support for communities who are demanding a clean energy future and an end to deep sea drilling.

I’ll keep you updated here with news as the protest develops.

Here’s the full press release that’s just been put out by Oil Free Otago:
http://oilfreeotago.com/2014/01/30/sea-borne-protest-against-otago-drilling-announced/

– Henk Haazen

 

Video Blog Twenty-Five

Jeanette Fitzsimons talks about her motivations for joining the Oil Free Seas Flotilla in a video shot for the Eco Conference 2013. Jeanette discusses her time at sea and how we’re all taking the fight forward on land.
http://www.eco.org.nz/what-we-do/eco-conference-2013.html

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