A couple of weeks ago I was on a whale watching tour in Kaikoura, we were observing a humpback whale when a huge pod of dusky dolphins surrounded the boat and put up quite a show for us. One of them was swimming very fast along the side of the boat, it looked at me very briefly and then intentionally leapt out of the water right in front of me and splashed me.
It’s a long way from Europe to NZ and out in the Ocean to have a dusky dolphin splash you with icy cold Ocean water out of fun. It really is. I don’t mean it only in terms of geography. It’s a long way from the a dolphinarium and there’s no coming back, it makes an alien of you.
People who buy a ticket to a dolphin show don’t know where the dolphins come from exactly. Ask them. They don’t know. I asked. They were brought to a dolphinarium as kids by their parents, sometimes they even went with school teachers, they were invited to draw about it, they were exposed to reassuring advertsing, so they assumed everything was perfectly ok. The vast majority of people don’t know, and if they want to know they have to make their own way to first hand information and it’s not pretty. It’s shoking and disgusting and it also puts them in the condition of absolutely having to tell the others and sometimes not knowing how to do that.
It’s been an horrific couple of days in Taiji, even worse than average, because it’s a huge nursery pod this time. Knowing makes it unbearable. It’s a paradox. It’s happening because people don’t know and by not knowing they actively pay for it to happen. And if you tell them, you’re not believable because you’re an alien, or it’s too shoking for them to take and you have to respect this.
I hate all of this. It feels damn lonely.
During my trip in NZ I also visited a few surf beaches of the North Island, particularly Raglan, Muriwai and Piha. They’re huge stretches of black volcanic sand on the west coast, receiving the waves of the Tasman sea. They’re misty, mistical and a bit scary for a timid boadyboarder like me (Piha even hosts a reality show called Piha Rescue). Everywhere I went, I saw handmade banners reading “no sand mining”, because of course I can’t find myself a place to go to holiday to where there is not some kind of impending devastation.
While I was in the water worrying myself about conservation and wondering about how the heck you can surf those angry waves, professional surfer Dave Rastovich was paddling solo the very same stretch of sea to raise awareness about seabed mining.
It’s not everyday that your surfing hero emerges from the swell to tell you you’re not alone.
Rastovich, who I have upgraded to superhero now, paddled 350 km from Taranaki to Piha and was joined by a pod of rare Maui dolphins along the way, the very animals that would suffer most from seabed mining.
Here you can find some more media coverage and the link to Minds in the Water, Rastovich’s documentary about Ocean conservation, as well as the KASM webpage (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining).
I used to think sea kayaking was not my thing, but NZ completely changed this. Going out in the Pacific and meeting a fur seal, paddling peacefully the Marlborough Sounds, a seakayak is an amazing vessel indeed. Next time I’m trying a paddleboard I guess.