At the conclusion of Operation Ferocious Isles Pilot Whale Defense Campaign, Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel the Steve Irwin stopped over in the Scottish Orkney islands to visit our very own island known as “Little Green Holm.”
The story of “Little Green Holm,” as recalled by Captain Paul Watson dates back to 1985, when the seals living on one of the Orkney Islands were threatened by sealers, so Paul took matters into his own hands (as usual) and raised 5000 pounds to buy this little island in order to protect the seals and create a safe haven for them.
The Steve Irwin anchored near the island around midday on September 1. The miniature island is about as big as an American football field, but covered with nesting birds and seals atop its rich soil and grassy meadows. We immediately noticed a strong current ripping past the island and its neighbor. It looked like white water rapids and apparently moving at seven knots!
Sea Shepherd crewmember Chad Halsted had just finished welding a sign that we could use as a marker on the island, it read: SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY SEAL SANCTUARY.
A Delta boat was launched with our crewmembers onboard landing between jagged rocks in a somewhat treacherous location. Thankfully, we all made it safely ashore as we waded in the cold water up to our armpits to keep the boat from being smashed onto the rocks. Paul and the crew formed an assembly line to transfer stones from the beach to form a cairn to hold a bottle containing a note signed by the Captain and our crew.
After the ceremony, a couple of crewmembers went snorkeling in dry suits with the local seals that Sea Shepherd helped save. This was an awesome experience as the seals flanked on the side of each diver to watch them from behind, a classic hunting behavior. They locked eyes with the divers underwater and then surfaced at the same time as we did. It’s a fun game to surface together and then dive together almost as though we are one species.
With the current increasing, the crew piled into our inflatable boat and headed back to the ship to proceed to London, our next destination. With the island officially marked as a seal sanctuary, hopefully all visitors will respect this territory and allow the seals and birds to thrive in their secluded home.
The Steve Irwin is currently en route to London on a fundraising campaign for Operation Divine Wind – Sea Shepherd’s return to the Southern Ocean to permanently end Japan’s illegal whaling operations.
all photos: Carolina A. Castro