We’ve left Samoa

We spent about three days off the coast of Samoa, but are now back on the high seas and returning to our campaign to defend our oceans.

We actually were not asked to do a whole hell of a lot in Samoa. In fact, Samoan authorities were taken by surprise when we arrived so quickly. We were there a little more than 24 hours after the earthquake and tsunami hit. The Samoans were not at all prepared for the disaster — in fact, the minister in charge of the relief efforts had only been sworn in two days prior. That meant that they weren’t quite prepared to make use of what we had to offer. But in the end I think we still managed to do a lot of good.

Mostly, they needed our helicopter. Our logistical coordinator, an Aussie named Matt, and our helicopter pilot, a Kiwi named Donal, spent nearly the entire three days on the island. Matt was in their emergency response operations center helping coordinate relief efforts, while Donal was flying all over the place delivering supplies and checking on small villages with no other means of contacting the outside world. For the first couple days, ours was the only helicopter on the island.

Here on the ship, we pumped well over 1,000 liters of fresh water into collapsible jugs and sent them to shore. Donal spent a lot of his time delivering this water to various villages, as most of the fresh water delivery system was swept away by the tsunami. Samoan authorities said that this very likely helped keep several people alive while they were waiting for a steady stream of relief supplies to come in from elsewhere.

Each of these jugs holds 10 liters, and this was just one of 3 loads we sent to shore.

Loading the jugs into one of our inflatables. And yes, I put the camera down after this and helped with the loading.

The boat heads to shore, loaded down with water.

After a couple days of drifting offshore and boating water in, we came alongside the port in the capital city of Apia and gave several barrels of diesel to the Samoans. They’ll use the diesel for chainsaws, to cut open houses where people might be trapped, and to remove felled trees, to open roadways and clear debris. They’ll also use the disel in vehicles delivering supplies around the island.

The Esperanza at the port of Apia. I took this pic from the port itself, obviously — the only time I set foot whatsoever on Samoan ground. (But hey, I can say I’ve been there.)

The crane lifts a barrel of diesel off the deck of the Esperanza.

The crane operator, Flavio, a Brazilian, is our bosun (head of the deck crew).

First mate, Oli, and Ron, a deckhand and my bunk-mate, load the barrels onto a Samoan truck.

Australian and New Zealand military forces arrived to help with the recovery, so we put in calls to American Samoa and Tonga, but both said they were okay and did not require our assistance. So we’re back out on the high seas now.

I have to say, though I wish we could have gone ashore and helped, I’m still pretty proud of what we did. No one on this ship hesitated for a second to help out — in fact, we were all really eager to go ashore and help, if they’d have let us.

And Greenpeace as a whole did not hesitate either. We immediately broke off our campaign and headed straight for Samoa even before we were officially asked to come help, and various Grenpeace offices made several thousand Euros available to us to do whatever we could. And unlike many other organizations that came to deliver supplies or offer aid, we didn’t send a single photographer or videographer to shore to film ourselves doing it. We’re environmentalists, but when disaster struck we dropped everything and acted first and foremost like human beings looking out for our fellow man. That made me damn proud.

So I guess I’ll close with this shot I took, which I quite like:

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2 Responses to We’ve left Samoa

  1. GGB says:

    Where did you guys get the fresh water you brought ashore? By which I mean, how is it that you have so much water that you could provide 1000 liters?

  2. Mike G. says:

    that’s an excellent question, thank you!

    we have water filters onboard and make all our own water. our fresh water filtration system was pretty well taxed by this effort, but it was no biggie. we had to ration showers, no laundry was allowed to be done, etc. but really there was not much effect on ship-life despite how much water we sent ashore.

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