Working with Greenpeace often means long hours, meeting people from all over Europe, and usually lots of action. As their work usually involves large corporations getting pissed and calling the police, everything is kept very secret with much attention to security and staying low profile up until it´s time for the protest action, whatever that might be. Sometimes it´s very elegant, like in Copenhagen in December when two welldressed and well spoken Greenpeace employees lured a whole bunch of oilpeople from their meeting about drilling for oil in the Arctic to a Greenpeace presentation on the same subject. The GP people went on for half an hour, talking about the risks involved in Arctic exploration, no objections heard from the crowd, not even when the GP-logo was shown at the end! Other times the GP protests are a lot more hands on so to speak, like this time when GP activists intercepted and boarded finnish icebreaker Nordica several times, far from land in the middle of the night. The Nordica is on its way to help Shell find oil. Where? In the Arctic of course!
This time I was part of documenting the GP protests outside Gedser in Denmark. Secret as always, I didn´t know what anything was about, when I got on the train in Halmstad. I was just to meet a shorthaired guy with a big brown backpack accompanied by a tall, eldery rather eccentric looking male. Well, I found them quickly, even though the latter one didn´t look quite as much as santa claus as I´d expected. Then on to basecamp a couple of hours away, where everyone were in standby mode, waiting for the Nordica that I was finally briefed about. Activists had managed to board it outside Öland in the middle of the night. Then the Nordica went into port in Karlskrona where the activists were apprehended by police. The ship´s movements was easy to follow via internet, and once it left port again it would reach the waters outside Gedser about twelve hours later.
At three in the morning it was raise and shine and after some well needed coffee we entered two small rubber boats and started the bumpy 1,5 hour drive at full speed straight out into the darkness. As the boat I rode in was a twoseater, I had to stand in the back, half ways down in a split position, holding on for dear life as my polish boat driver drove the thing like a…. polish boat driver. It was pretty much like riding one of those mechanical rodeo bulls you´d find at amusement parks and elsewhere, but for 90 minutes instead of the standard 30 seconds…
Finally the Nordica appeared out the mist, and all of a sudden several more GP boats showed up too. The other ones had attacked the icebreaker a few hours earlier in pitch darkness. Being able to rotate on its own axis, the Nordica hit one of the GP boats, resulting in a woman falling overboard. I know a lot of people think activists are idiots, but to me they are extremely brave guys who risk their own lives for the sake of our common planet.
Anyhow, then all the GP boats just followed the Nordica for several hours, accompanied by a danish coast guard vessel. I was beginning to feel a bit bored to be honest when another interception suddenly was ordered. Boats with activists raced close to the Nordica on both sides of her, starting to paint ”Stop Shell” on the hull. Immediately Nordica started revolving on her own axis again, almost turning one of the surprised GP boats upside down. It actually kind of looked like a gigant dinosaur trying to shake off a bunch of wasps attacking it. Pretty soon the sailors started spraying water on the GP boats with fire hoses, and also throwing things like bolts and nuts. Then all of a sudden a large helicopter appeared and begun hovering over the Nordica. Now what? Well, if it reminded of Jurassic park two minutes ago, now it was James Bond instead. From the heli a dozen or so of swat team cops (or whatever they call them in Denmark) was rappelled down onto deck!
I was trying my best to capture the action from the boat all photographers had assembled on, but had a hard time keeping lenses and cameras free of water which was spraying all over. One of my 5dMkII:s, kept in a waterproof bag, was dead when I picked it up. Very weird as it hadn´t seen any action at all, just the inside of a dry and comfortable bag. Luckily I as always had two cameras with me, and the other one didn´t fail, surviving both numerous gushes of saltwater and getting dropped hard on the boat deck, without lens and exposed sensor! Finally though, the much water on the lenses made shooting impossible, but by then the action was over. Eight hours in a small rubber boat, plus a pretty bad cold, took its toll and i was pretty worn out by the time we got ashore again. My very talented collegue Christian (www.christian.se) was probably even more exhausted. He didn´t get any sleep at all that night, as he went out to shoot the night raid. Like I said before: those GP people are rock hard….
As Greenpeace has exclusive right to my images for three months, I can´t show you much action pics, just a little sneak peak. So, come back in three months and you´ll see some more…