Voluntary Sector: 'We have internet access and have just done live video feeds'

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is drawing media attention to Japan's whale hunt. Dave Walsh gives a first-hand account.

I am writing this from on board the Esperanza, a Greenpeace ship on a voyage to defend whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Close by is the infamous Japanese factory whaler, the Nisshin Maru.

Since we found the whaler on 12 January, it has been on the run, desperate to avoid media scrutiny of its annual whale hunt.

There are not many other PROs in Antarctica. Thousands of miles away, dozens of journalists are banging away on keyboards, trying to fathom the story that is unfolding here in the Antarctic.

At any hour of the day, one of the Esperanza's satellite phone lines light up with a call from Sydney, Tokyo, New York, or London. 'What is happening? Have they started whaling yet? What happens if they do?'

That is where people like me come in. Greenpeace's campaigns are won not only by brave activists in brightly coloured inflatable boats. Our goals are also achieved through grassroots activism, improving public awareness, political lobbying, and through careful media work.

Greenpeace offices around the world normally have press officers, but we also have professional comms teams on our ships, including videographers, photographers and bloggers.

This level of media awareness and tech-saviness might come as a surprise to some, but we have full internet access on the Esperanza and have just done live video feeds to CNN, Sky, BBC, GMTV, ITN, and Al Jazeera.

However, whaling needs to be stopped from within Japan. This means reaching out to the Japanese people, 69 per cent of whom do not know that there is a whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.

On Friday, Japan's popular Asahi Shimbun newspaper published an article questioning the government's whaling programme, as well as the conduct of the people involved.

In the past month, the Japanese cabinet secretary has become spokesman for the whalers, instead of the usual fisheries ministry, suggesting that the whaling issue is fast becoming internationally embarrassing for Japan.

But life on the Esperanza is not just about belting away at a keyboard with a phone stuck to your head. There is the serene beauty of Antarctica; the icebergs, the whales, the penguins, the matchless skies, and the amazing camaraderie. I do not miss my desk on land at all.

Dave Walsh is a communications officer for Greenpeace.

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