This Fight Is Making Us Sick by Lucy Lawless

By Lucy Lawless
21 July 2017

Image636362561989346000The boat is rocking and rolling inexorably towards its destination high in the Arctic Circle.

I wake from deepest slumber at 7.01am, exactly the same time as yesterday.

Breakfast is meager on a GP boat, which is exactly right, judging by some of the green faces. I am feeling annoyingly perky, glad to not be in hell with them. I was seasick once and pray it stays away.

After muesli I go up to the bridge where Nacho points out where a whale spouted a minute ago. I sit and wait but it is a full five minutes later that we catch it happening again. I am hoping the pod is heading in the same direction as us. I'd love to see them up close. I was on a dolphin watch experience in Whakatane once and a pod of pilot whales swam right underneath us. It was a mystical experience.

I am aware that I'm close to shirking cleanup duty so I sneak off and have a quick shower.

As I exit I see someone in rubber gloves cleaning the lav nextdoor. Wait, he's on his knees retching. Could that be my friend, Andrew from the Auckland office? He was wearing a blue T-shirt before and now he's wearing a red one. Andrew works comms and is communicating nicely with that toilet -roaring, he is. Poor devil. I wonder if when he signed up for bathroom duty, he knew how convenient it would be.

Unlike on land, the coolest chicks on boats are invariably the dirtiest. Miriam is a deckhand who is also in charge of garbage and recycling. Like all of them, she's wiry, fit and able. Her pants look like they've weathered many, many campaigns.

I help her carry the trash to the poop deck which is (naturally) located in the rear. Most of the sorting has already been done by the crew who deposit paper/organics/cans in the proper bins. Not to be shipshape would offend the hive.

When I come out, Andrew has moved on to the downstairs loos, toilet brush in hand. He tries to look chipper but he's green about the gills. There's a splatter of cack on his shoulder like the father of a newborn. Hey, Andrew, you missed a spot! It's a three-tshirt kind of morning.

At 10am we are getting fitted for drysuits which are designed to handle full immersion in Arctic waters. We are going out on the inflatables. The drysuits are heavy duty neoprene and devilish hard to get into. I put mine on and immediately regret it because suddenly I want to go to the loo "just in case".
But the briefing has begun in the bowels of the ship. As Nacho (Argentina) instructs us about safety protocols, Desiree (campaigner, Philippines) emits a wee splash of puke on the floor between the attendees. "Sorry!" She mutters preemptively and then showers them in a magnificent arc of breakfast. It was quite something.

Waiting for the inflatables to be launched, I'm staring down into the Arctic waters thinking how would one describe that colour? I imagine the paint swatch. Blueblack? Igneus rock? It's a scary color. It might roll over on its side and regard you with one whale eye. And it occurs to you that there's so much more below it that above and how you would not like to die inside of it.

Training goes on all day. It's all about transferring boats in different conditions. I want to protest that I'm just an actress, just here for the photo ops, but it's too late. Our little boat is momentarily deep in a trough and the massive Arctic Sunrise is high on the swell, just metres away. Beneath the waterline, the bottom of the hull is rose-coloured and for an instant, she is thrust so high out in front of the wave, you can see a gash of red like a ferocious smile. Then she chomps down hard on the Barents Sea. And we are drenched by spray.


For more about Lucy's role as an eco-warrior go to AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Eco-Warrior Subsite