Drawing by 6-year-old Galuh of Jakharta of the Rainbow Warrior and gifted to the ship in 2006. It now hangs in the crew lounge.
Last night I slept aboard the Rainbow Warrior. I’m up early, 4 am, to ponder the almost impossible job of explaining the magic of this ship to the folks whose donations made it possible, of bringing them on a journey with Pablo, Helene, Harmony, and the other New Hands on Deck as they discover their way around the ship, meet the crew, and learn the mythology and lore and storytelling that are this ship’s richest cargo.
This ship — and by this ship I mean the current Rainbow Warrior and her two predecessors– has been home to some of the most amazing characters that anyone is likely to meet in a lifetime. David McTaggart and Chris Robinson wander these decks, ghosts that never stop haunting the bridge and the mess, materializing every now and then in stories. I mention Chris to our captain Joel Stewart, and he remembers a didgeridoo that Chris carved aboard the RW — on the voyage that they first put the new sail rig to a real test in a 24 knot wind. The didgeridoo didn’t stay on board, and Joel has been looking for it, reckoning that’s one memory that ought to have its story locked into the soul of an object here on board.
Maiti is the curator of those objects and stories, and we shot video of her yesterday until every battery was flat as she unpacked picture after picture, masks, posters, buttons, banners, binoculars, a guitar, woven mats and watercolors, pencil drawings and carvings, telling their stories as she carefully cleaned them, moved them into new homes, hung them on the bare walls of the lounge and corridors, gently waking the new steel and wood of this modern ship to the memories of its ancient stories and its former lives.
There’s John Castle, steering the ship steadily toward the nuclear weapons testing ground of Moruroa from his secret perch in the crow’s nest, wired into the steering system, while the French military, having seized the ship, try to figure out why she is still underway after they’ve locked the empty wheelhouse, rounded up the crew, and arrested a fellow who had said he was the captain.
Here is the carved wooden statue of the Hindu Elephant God, Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, gifted to the ship in 2003 by Shailendra Yashwant as the Rainbow Warrior headed for India to demand compensation for the victims of Bhopal and to document the horrors of the shipbreaking yards where on average a worker a day dies removing asbestos and cutting up the scrap wrecks. Ganesh has the goofy grin of a God who knows he failed us utterly. The Indian government revoked visas and clearance papers and in what can only be described as a monumental effort of bureaucracy, managed to put enough small obstacles in place to keep the ship away — that time, anyway.
And here’s a picture of Dave the Dolphin, a meter-high wood carving that graced the bow of the second Warrior. I remember watching flying fish in the dawn light over the Bay of Bengal with Dave, and hearing Pete Wilcox tell the story about how Dave once was a real dolphin who loved playing in the bow wave of the ship and wanted desperately to join the crew. Alas, as he was a dolphin, he was turned down, so he went to Neptune, the God of the Sea, to ask for help. Neptune asked if he had heard the story of Pinnochio, and Dave eagerly accepted the proposal that they turn that story on its head, and turn the real dolphin into a wooden one, so he could join the Rainbow Warrior.
The mystery about Dave is his name. Some say he’s named for the Bible story of David and Goliath — a fitting fable for Greenpeace’s slingshot battles with corporate, military, and government giants since our founding.
Others say he was named for my former boss, David McTaggart, who wrangled the early organisation from a disjointed collective of scattered offices linked only by name, into a globally coördinated force.
I like to think the latter.
Both Dave the Dolphin and David McTaggart are only with this ship in spirit now, David having died some time ago and Dave finding a new home at the Greenpeace International headquarters where he’s been given a desk job. Alas, there’s no room for him aboard the new ship with its tight quarters and a deck that’s rigged for five sails as big as four tennis courts.
But as I hear the watch working through the cabins this morning to wake the crew, I like to think that McTaggart himself is making those rounds, rousing us from slumber in his hyperactive, don’t-waste-a-minute way to say there’s some people out there who need some sense bashed into them, a storm ahead, and an elusive dream of a green and peaceful planet that may not yet be visible on the charts, but which might be just beyond that western horizon, and which we need to head for at full sail.
I’m documenting the maiden voyage via Twitter and Flickr, as are the New Hands on Deck. Follow @brianfit @pablobullrich, check out the photo set here: http://act.gp/mQp5ar, and be sure to visit The New Hands on Deck Facebook page
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