Commentary by Jeff Hansen - Operation Jeedara - Expedition Leader
8th August 2016
Today the Steve Irwin crew under the command of Captain Wyanda Lublink, were very privileged to visit the Peason Island Group.
Pearson Isles (also called the Pearson Islands, Pearson Group and Pearson Archipelago) is an island group located in South Australia about 65 kilometres west south-west off Cape FInniss on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula within the larger island group, the Investigator Group. The whole are is a marine reserve, thanks to the tireless previous campaigning of Peter Owen and the Wilderness Society, among other groups as part of the marine parks campaign. Sea Shepherd gratefully gained permits to visit Pearson in working through an extensive permit process (thanks to Natalie Banks) with the South Australian Government, who were very helpful.
We arrived today via small boat from the Steve Irwin to our permitted beach and were greeted by a welcoming committee consisting of endangered Australian sea lions and long nosed fur seals. As we made our way up the beach and over the granite rocks, smoothed over by thousands of years of storms and winds, we encountered more seals, with one particular small cove where dozens of seals frolicked and played in safety, no doubt being mindful of great white sharks patrolling the perimeter.
Walking up to a lookout to gain a greater view of the islands, we were further welcomed by a peninsula dragon and some very inquisitive black footed rock wallabies, which are endemic to Pearson. Words can not do this place justice, and pictures can only try to capture what it feels like to be smacked in the face with a wild and natural place like Pearson.
I have been lucky enough to visit places like the world heritage listed Galapagos Islands, and I must say that what I saw and witnessed today was equally on par if not better, and I feel very privileged and honoured to have been immersed in such a natural wonderland. This is the true spirit of Australia, this is what overseas people think of, when they think of Australia and why they come to visit. Our rugged coasts and our rich diversity of life, inhabitants that have been here for thousands of years.
I stood on a high rocky outcrop over looking the pearson island group to the north and south of me, seeing the Steve Irwin down below with a crew of caring and passionate people representing the Netherlands, Australia, Indigenous Australia, France, Britain, USA, New Zealand and Germany, their love for the Great Australian Bight is only growing stronger and with that their resolve to defend it. I looked out to the west to a beautiful ocean sunset, with light dancing on the waves and a rainbow of colours in the clouds. I stood there with Peter Owen, who has worked so hard to defend these places and Mirning elder and whale song man Bunna Lawrie, whose people have lived in peace and harmony with nature for over 50,000 years, and even Bunna was taken a back by Pearson. I stood there and closed my eyes and felt the roar of the ocean wind come across the ocean, up the cliff face and through my body and I felt alive. Nature was putting on a grand show and I was front and centre and in awe.
Most people have not even heard of Pearson Island and those that have, its just a couple of dots on a map or a chart. However to these seals, rock wallabies, peninsula dragons and numerous bird species, its their home, and has been for thousands of years.
BP wants to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight in waters deeper, rougher and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. With the continued spills in the Gulf, its clear that If BP is given the go ahead to put the Bight at risk, that its not a question of if there is a spill in the Bight, but when. The spill modelling shows that Island groups like Pearson would be smashed by an oil spill and would devastate all life residing on the Pearson Island group. After all, oil spills are indiscriminate in their paths of destruction, through open ocean, marine parks and marine sanctuaries, they are boundless in their impact. Looking at the landscape, its remoteness, the rock pools, caves, crevices and craters where the seals hide and play, it would be covered in oil and it would be impossible to cleanup.
As a storm was on its way, with seas up to 8 metres, we made tracks to leave Pearson onto our next destination. As we walked back to the sandy beach amongst our initial welcomers of Australian sea lions and long nosed fur seals, we had a white bellied sea eagle circle over head. Mother nature was just making sure we had that little bit more inspiration and motivation, to keep that fire in the belly going against BP.
As much as I could not think of no place I would rather be today, I still wish that we did not even need to be doing this expedition in the first place, to showcase what we would all lose if BP are allowed to bring their monster oil rig into the bight. I wish that we lived in peace and harmony with nature, after all, natures survival and ours are the same, for what we do to the oceans and do to nature, we do to ourselves. I wish that I was still home with my wife and two young children, however the alternative is to do nothing and that could mean another deep water horizon disaster in the Great Australian Bight and that is something that is utterly unacceptable. We must stand up with everything we have against BP, we must continue on our campaign with Operation Jeedara as part of the Great Australian Bight Alliance, to fight for the bight.
For if there is one thing worth fighting for on this planet, we call home, its life.
For the Oceans and future generations,
Sea Shepherd Australia
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