Westward Ho: With the Anadarko Flotilla – day one


I’m really pleased to welcome Jeanette Fitzsimons to Hot Topic as a guest blogger. The environmentalist and former co-leader of the NZ Greens is on board the yacht Tiama, sailing out into the Tasman to protest against deep water oil exploration. She will be providing us with regular updates on the flotilla’s progress.

What a fabulous send off. A dozen kayakers, wearing penguin suits, lined up and waved us on our way as we left the harbour. Several small boats sailed with us. About 100 well wishers gathered on the wharf; speeches in support from Green and independent MPs, oil free Wellington, Ora Taiao (climate and health council); two sails spread out on the ground covered with signatures and messages in support of our mission; and home baked cookies and chocolate cake delivered to the wharf by old friends.

I’m on the Tiama, a 50 ft cutter-rigged steel sloop built by skipper Henk, veteran of many campaigns. With us is Bunny from Greenpeace, Barclay who will make a sailor of me by the end of the voyage, and Pascale from France with the camera and the laptop. Later tonight we will pick up two more before heading out to the site 120 miles west of Raglan where Texas oil giant Anadarko has been invited, nay begged, even subsidised, by our government to try a repeat exercise of what went wrong in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Baltazar is sailing with us, skippered by Andy Whittaker, and we plan to rendezvous on Saturday on site with four other boats which left from Auckland, Bay of Islands and Bluff.

Anadarko says that coming out to their drilling site is dangerous. Yeah, right. Who’s causing the danger, drilling under 1500 m of water, knowing the very similar Macondo Prospect they part-owned in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, spewing 650,000 tonnes of oil?

If that happened here, it would take weeks for emergency clean up equipment to arrive from overseas. While we waited the oil would spread, contaminating our coast from Taranaki to the Hokianga and poisoning the whole marine web of life: including our fisheries, seabirds, whales, the Maui dolphin and coastal communities.

We really are sailing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who would like to deliver a message to Anadarko that they are not welcome to drill under our ocean. They can’t go themselves because of jobs, children and other commitments but we have the privilege of representing them.

We also sail on behalf of all our grandchildren – the generations already born and still to come who will have to live with extreme weather events, food and water shortages, constantly rising sea level and new pests and diseases if we go on burning the fossil fuels that are changing our climate.

Wellington has turned on one of its special days – sunshine and a light wind and a following sea, so we’ve had a delightful afternoon powering along under renewable energy. It’s such a cruisey sail they’ve even let me take the tiller.

Now we are just passing the Makara wind farm – the best view I’ve ever had of it. How could any one not think they were beautiful?

New Zealand is so blessed with renewable energy alternatives, it is just daft to explore for more fossil fuels when we know burning them will wreck the future for everyone.

See also: Oil Free Seas Flotilla,on Twitter at @OilFreeSeas, and Facebook.

21 thoughts on “Westward Ho: With the Anadarko Flotilla – day one”

  1. Sail safe out there Jeanette, let’s hope nobody is put in danger from this protest.

    [Ill-informed rant removed. Murray, take that sort of fact-challenged stuff to Kiwiblog. GR]

    1. Here is a quote from the article Murray linked to:

      “The marshes that I saw actually looked very good,” he added. “And I was taken to the worst by officials who wanted to impress us that the damage was really significant, and that you could still find oil in the marshes. And you can still find oil in the marshes, but the greatest damage to the place where they took us was from the trampling by the reporters, scientists, and agency people tromping around out there looking for damage.”

      Does that sound like unbiased reporting to anyone, it certainly doesn’t to me? He takes a quick look around, can’t smell rotting flesh, can’t see any oil since it is now buried, doesn’t do any analysis on organisms to see their body load of chemicals from the spill etc.

      What a load of nonsense.

      Here is what other people are finding:

      Dr Jim Cowan, from Louisiana State University’s Dept of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, told Al Jazeera that fishermen are finding shocking numbers of fish with sores and lesions, as well as other deformed sea life. In Al Jazeera’s words, “Horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp.”

      From a commercial fisherman:

      At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of [eyeless shrimp]. Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf. They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their normal spikes.

      These findings and more can be found at:


  2. Your link was not a very in depth report. If the effect on the ecology is the problem then at least mention it. Please read my link and explain which parts you disagree with.

  3. But we will need oil.
    In 2036, New Zealand will look very different.
    While there will still be hoards of sheep and a handful of kiwis – Auckland will be bigger, the New Zealand population would have significantly increased, there’ll be a soar in the Asian population and every region in the country will be more multi-cultural.

    Anti-immigration feeling has no place in the Green party Immigration and Population policies released today, Green MP Keith Locke says.

    you can’t have your cake and eat it.

  4. To clarify my position I am not pro oil spill. If there was a spill on my local beach I would be just as angry as everyone else. I am just pointing to the fact nature overcomes these events with remarkable speed, could anyone visiting the Bay of Plenty know there was a massive oil spill there a few short years ago? Crude oil is from nature and nature has organisms that can utilise it. Oil spills are a disaster but history shows them to be a short term one. I think the massive economic benefits and jobs are worth the tiny risk of a spill. My view.

  5. My position, which I assert, told to a couple of Greenpeace campaigners a few days back:

    Harmful as a spill may be, and as certain as oil spills are where drilling takes place, I abhor the fact of the drilling for, or extraction of fossil fuels in every case. We already have enough of this available to screw our biosphere completely and have to find every way of ending our addiction rather than finding every way of increasing it.

    Determining to do it enables us to do it.

  6. If it was your children that had to leave NZ permanently to find work, you might be more open to a bit of oil drilling. It’s easy for the well off to deny the poor a chance to earn a living,

        1. Well, we’ve got Abbott. We don’t have a Science Minister. Our Environment Minister prefers Wikipedia to actual scientists. So we’re gutting the CSIRO.

          GetUp!, the Greens, AYCC, and a few others are coordinating a National Day of Action on Climate this Sunday; I hope it goes as well as the Climate Commission / Climate Council ‘public float’ did. We’ll see…

  7. I am not surprised you would laugh at the plight of the poor and unemployed. How many jobs are going on wind farms? They blot the landscape will providing very few job opportunities. The story of shale gas and oil in Taranaki is an excellent example of what can be achieved. Their economy is thriving so why deny other regions the same chance? Every one of you uses products from oil daily, so it’s a bit rich to fight its extraction. What is Jeannette’s striking red jacket made out of anyway? Wool?

Leave a Reply