Operation Jeedara Update by Jeff Hansen – campaign lead
Friday the 19th of August at 0700 we took the pilot onboard the Steve Irwin, in preparation for coming into Port Adelaide. The Flinders Ports pilots were a nice couple of gents who were thrilled to know that Bob Brown was onboard and loved meeting Bob. Their enthusiasm for their job was great to see, or perhaps it was just the fact that they were bringing in the Steve Irwin, and that it was the first time that a Sea Shepherd vessel had come into a South Australian port.
On arrival into Port Adelaide we were pleasantly surprised by a number of supporters based at the ASCO site, which will be the supply support base for BP’s monster oilrig that plans to put the Great Australian Bight at risk. Once the bridge was up, we were then able to come alongside where we were greeted with many supporters including Peter Owen’s family who he was very eager to see along with Sea Shepherd, Wilderness Society and Bob Brown Foundation representatives.
On a sad note, due to family duties, it was time for Sea Shepherd ambassador and actor David Field to depart. David joined the Irwin in Fowlers Bay and was such a great fit onboard on so many level and in no time at all felt like part of the Sea Shepherd family, however David left as determined as the rest of us to fight for the bight.
Over the weekend a gigantic effort was put in by our onshore volunteers and crew in the selling of merchandise and conducting tours to the public, which was in excess of 2,000 people for the weekend. Some people travelling from hundreds of kilometres away to see the Irwin and see the footage of the beauty and wonder of the Great Australian Bight and the insanity of what BP wants to do.
On the Saturday night was the fight for the bight concert, headlined by John Butler. It was a massive night with a welcome to country and opening dance ceremony lead by Karl Telfer, who is a Kaurna man from the Adelaide plains regions with strong family ties to Nharrunga country, Yorke’s Peninsula in South Australia.
Many bands and artists generously donated their time in the fight for the bight including Loren Kate, Tapir Kingdom, Babylon Burning and Captain Hellfire and the wretched brethren. Sea Shepherd and the Great Australian Bight Alliance cannot thank you enough for your willingness to help in the fight.
Prior to the screening of the film, Captain Wyanda Lublink spoke highlighting the importance and rarity of the Bight given the oceans she has travelled, before getting the Steve Irwin crew up on stage to thank them publically, which was met with a roaring applause.
A 10-minute clip of the footage we have captured was played to the 850 strong crowd. At the end, for a number of seconds, it was met with silence, then around two minutes of applause. You could tell that the audience was really blown away by the footage, the beauty and wonder of the Great Australian Bight that BP wants to put at risk. I spoke after the footage played and I must say, it was hard to compose myself, pushing that lump down in my throat and settling down the hairs on the back of my neck. The audience felt connected to the Great Australian Bight, connected to the sea and to country as Uncle Bunna and Karl try to teach us and with that their resolve to defend it from BP.
Jeff Hansen then spoke, and then introduced Peter Owen who delivered a wonderful, intelligent and passionate speech. With Peter’s and my speech out the way, the crowd was warmed up for the arrival of Bob Brown. Bob came onto the stage, grabbed the microphone and almost tore the roof off as though he was standing at the edge of the Bunda cliffs in defence of the whales and the crowds loved it. I have always admired the way Bob speaks straight from the heart and you can tell by the way the crowd responds, its straight into their hearts.
As if that wasn’t enough, Coloured Stone came back on where there was a set with John Butler and Bunna Lawrie, with Bunna’s new song he wrote on Operation Jeedara. Then it was over to Mr. John Butler, who well and truly went all out, putting in 200% in defence of the bight. John is such an incredible live artist, really something else to see. He then finished with his wonderful instrumental piece called Oceans.
After that, the place well and truly needed a new roof!
John has been a long time defender of our planet and always an articulate and passionate speaker reaching hundreds of thousands of people through his music and his activism. It was such a treat having John and his son staying onboard the Irwin with us as there is such great synergy on many levels. John also joined us on the Irwin in defence of the Kimberley back in 2012 and he has always felt like part of the family.
While in Port Adelaide we also were able to arrange a number of high profile media stories including a double page spread in the Sunday Mail, with the headline “THE FIGHT FOR THE BIGHT – Australia’s Galapagos – too precious to risk: Sea Shepherd”.
Meeting with the mayor
While in Port Adelaide, the mayor Gary Johhanson invited Sea Shepherd down to the local magpies football game, where at half time I was able to give a presentation to the public and Port Adelaide councilors about Operation Jeedara, which was very well received.
After a powerful smoking ceremony performed by Karl Telfer and Mirning Elder, Bunna Lawrie, we headed out on the Port River and along the Adelaide and Fleurieu Peninsula coast to Kangaroo Island. On board the journey were many VIP guests including John Butler, Sea Shepherd and Wilderness Society on shore volunteers, Xenophon Party members, Greens Senators Richard Di Natale and Sarah Hanson-Young, team Ecodownunder, Kangaroo Island mayor Peter Clements and Tony and Gill Smith. All guests were given a very detailed presentation on what BP is putting at risk in the Great Australian Bight and the state of the Gulf of Mexico six years on.
It was a glorious day, with blue sky, glassy water and dolphins leading the way. On arrival into Kingscote, pelicans, Australian sea lion and a spectacular rainbow greeted us.
It was then off to the Kingscote Town Hall for a public meeting hosted by Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements. The Alliance gave a presentation on the Great Australian Bight and what's at stake if BP is given permission to carry out risky deep-sea exploration drilling in the coming months.
This community has courage; they were one of the first to stand up and say NO to what BP is pushing to do in southern Australia. By pushing to expand the fossil fuel industry, BP is also risking a liveable climate for our children.
After spending a couple of days on Kangaroo Island, its no surprise why the residents are so proud of their piece of paradise and why they are so concerned given it’s a place they love but also an area that is heavily reliant on tourism.
Places like Seal Bay where you can see endangered seal lions going about their day as though your not even there. Mums nursing their pups and bull males challenging each other for the right to mate, while others surf the waves back to shore. There are paths everywhere through the dunes and vegetation, but not be humans, but seals. There are very few places left on the planet like this, its really as good as it gets. Not to mention, Remarkable Rocks and the Admirals Arch, iconic spectacular areas along the stunning Kangaroo Island rugged coast where white bellied sea eagles soar and hunt, with long nosed fur seals running a daily gauntlet past the great white sharks in search of food.
Sea Shepherd was very humbled by the support we received on Kangaroo Island, from the towns people, local businesses like Raptor Domain and the Irwin’s, and of course mayor Peter Clements. With special thanks to our amazing guide in Roanna Horbelt, her knowledge and passion for nature is inspiring. What was also evident was the pressure and stress many people have felt in their battle against BP, they are deeply concerned and its taking a big toll on many of the residents that are suffered immense stress and strain mentally and physically from what BP is threatening the Bight and Kangaroo Island with.
As we made our way back to the ships base in Williamstown, we leave obtaining more spectacular footage and memories to further fuel our bellies in defence of the Great Australian Bight.
Sea Shepherd’s Operation Jeedara is part of the Great Australian Bight Alliance, whose mission is to stop BP from drilling for oil in the Bight in waters deeper, rougher and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico.
Photos by Tim Watters
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