Today, in the words of Roderigo our captain, we are leaving the wilderness behind.  On the back of 24 hours of wild winds, an early morning change propelled us into flat seas.  Summer arrived – the shorts immediately came out and the shoes came off.  In the smooth doldrum-esque calm, we  entered what seems like a lethargic, peaceful world.  Jonathan Hyde, artist on board, as he stands at the wheel and gazes forward in frustration, says “I have embraced the feeling of this being a voyage for voyage’s sake, rather than a continual search for whales.  But I am anticipating wind in our sails, as much for a prompt arrival in Sweden as for a break in this calm, which though pleasant, induces fatigue and prolonged thoughts.”

We could be the last people on earth, if it weren’t for the fact that we are passing through the oil fields of the North Sea, and strange alien like constructions breach the horizon where a few days ago we hoped to see whales. The first rig I saw was named ‘Heather’. Orbited by the lights of protective supply ships, fire spurted from her innards, like dragons nesting.  We haven’t had a confirmed whale sighting in a few days, and it does feel like we have passed over – out of the place where the whales live and into some other world entirely.  I know this isn’t true, and we have as much chance of spotting whales here as we did before, but it feels different somehow.

I find the oil fields unsettling, unpleasant and disorientating.  But, seeing them – far out at sea – I know this is just as important an experience as seeing the pilot whales.  More perhaps. Without the oil rigs, I wouldn’t be on this boat in the first place. Jesse, the first mate and an experienced conservationist, says as we stare out at the sudden proliferation of lights and ships on the horizon: “Being out here is something most people never experience.  It’s a reflection on our society as a whole.  Right now on Sea Dragon, we are powering through the ocean because of those oil fields, and our quality of life is amazing because of it.  But there’s a balance.  Its like a pendulum, and at some point – if we’re not there yet, we’ll reach it soon enough – its going to start swinging the other way.  It’s easy to say stop drilling, but I’ve never had to worry about my next meal.  As ugly as the oil fields are, they’re a part of our world.  We hide them away, and don’t witness the multitude of steps it takes to achieve the lives that we live today.”

– Laura Coleman, director of ONCA Trust, July 14, 2014

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