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I had to come home…

Life, reality, and change. These three matters are the unavoidable and the uncontrollable road blocks that are sometimes thrown into the center of our paths… and manage to completely shatter our plans, and our chances to achieve our goals.

Unfortunately I have had to return home from campaign (Operation Zero Tolerance). I guess you could say that I am one of those people who never grew out of motion sickness. I”m not sure why I thought I could live on a ship at sea, seeing how I get extremely car sick (always have) and have problems scuba diving because of my ears.

Let me start at the beginning…

We left port in Melbourne with a small, but sweet, sendoff. I remember there being a few kids running around with stuffed whale toys. I want whales to be around when they are my age and older. I don’t want cetaceans to be something that future generations read about in a history textbook. They can’t be another animal driven to extinction by greed driven human interests.
That was pretty much all I was thinking about while we slowly pulled away from port.

That night, I got off my watch at midnight and tried to fall asleep. But I woke up at 4am feeling woozy and decided to take a walk, hoping it would distract me. It didn’t.
Later I managed to fall back asleep, but when I got up… all I wanted was ginger ale and crackers. I was on a seasickness medication as well (but this stuff wasn’t very good).

I remember going to the mess and eating two apple muffins while laying on the floor. The mess is where there is usually the least amount of movement. So it helps to lay in there while you’re feeling sick.

We saw a pod of dolphins swimming off of the bow that morning, though. It was amazing. I’ve been close enough to touch them before, but never like this. They were dancing between each other and jumping, twisting, spinning etc. Just surfing the waves off our bow. They stuck around for several minutes just watching us watch them… and then like a ballet they all turned off quickly and disappeared. Pretty incredible.

Over the next few days I started to feel worse, not better. At first the seasickness was different from the transit I did from Sydney to Melbourne… instead of being nauseous all the time, I felt like all my energy was resting in my shoulders and that nothing I ate was settling. It was uncomfortable… but I could live with uncomfortable. Sad to say it got exhausting, painful, and torturous.

Every time I walked into a companionway I thought I was going to projectile vomit all over the floor. I cannot even remember what I did some days… outside of my watches… because I was either so sick I A. did nothing, or B. so drugged up when I was off my watch that I couldn’t stay awake. I slept almost every night on the floor in the mess… because every time my cabin moved I looked for the waste basket. I can pretty much count on one hand the amount of days I was able to hold down food…

But honestly I will spare you the details of my two week spew fest, and just explain to you why I chose to leave the campaign.

I really don’t think I could describe to you all how sick I was, and how horrible I felt every day without completely grossing you out. I didn’t even let anyone on the ship know how sick I was until week 2 at sea… but I was getting exhausted pretending to fell better than I was.

I think for those of you who have been following my blog for a long time, you know that I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of this cause and that comfort is not my priority. However, sometimes you have to think about your limitations.

If you know horrible seasickness, you know that at your best, you think you’re going to die. And that at your worst, you think you are going to have to live in that state for the rest of time because you don’t see yourself ever being able to escape the misery.
It is exhausting feeling like you need to spew almost every hour of every day. And those seasickness pills are not okay to be on every day, either. I changed medications part way through the two weeks I was at sea, and those pills were great! I didn’t feel woozy at all while I was on them. But they make you VERY tired. I mean I couldn’t barely keep my eyes open sometimes. That’s not a safe state to be in while working on a ship and learning safety drills etc.

The ship was going to dock to bring on more crew. And I came to the realization about 4 days before we reached port that I needed to seriously think about whether or not I was going to get over that motion sickness.

It was extremely frustrating. I didn’t have the patches to try, and it wasn’t like we had been at sea for a month or so and I KNEW for certain that I probably wasn’t getting over the seasickness. I had two weeks… and while some days I was okay, the others made it hard to justify attempting to do it for three months.

Especially considering the fact that the weather was only going to get worse. The Antarctic seas are not calm… they are some of the roughest waters in the world. I didn’t see myself being able to function in them.

Honestly I think there was a 50% chance I would get over it and a 50% chance I would never. I didn’t like those odds. Especially when negative meant my having to be drugged up to even function (and again that is not a safe way to be working on a ship everyday).

It wouldn’t have been fair to the crew if I either so sick I was taking watches off to rest (which my watch officer had me do a few times) or if I was drugged up and sleepy and couldn’t do my job to my 100% ability.

Also my health. I know of past crew who have lost up to 20lbs at sea because of the motion sickness. I lost a few pounds myself. I weigh about 113lbs. I don’t have 20 to spare. Also I was getting pretty weak. I was afraid with my not being able to hold down much of anything that my immune system wouldn’t protect me like it should.

I was not once myself during those two weeks. And after two days of emailing with my family and getting advice from my fellow crew… and lots of tears… I decided that the responsible thing to do would be to come home and fight this battle from land.

This was really hard for me to do. And hard doesn’t even begin to describe it honestly. This campaign is so important to me. You all know how I feel about cetaceans… but it’s also Antarctica. It’s one of the only untouched places in the world (with the exception of illegal whaling) and I want to see it left alone and kept untouched. I’m tired of people destroying our home. I want greed driven interests out of Antarctica.

Staying would have been dangerous… I would have ended up a liability. It would have also been incredibly selfish. This is a fight I will have to help with on land and not at sea.

Which is too bad because I really loved being at sea. I liked not being able to see land. There was something remarkable about being at the mercy of the elements. I was never once scared of the fact there was approx. 9000ft of water below me, in fact I found it pretty cool. I loved seeing stars without any light pollution. I loved going outside at night and seeing the phosphorescence bouncing off the side of the ship with the waves. I loved that there were no sirens, or airplanes, and nowhere to spend money… I just really loved working and being at sea. I loved having the opportunity to physically intervene with whaling.

But I can be home and proud of the three and a half months I put into getting the Steve ready for campaign.

This isn’t the end of my work. It’s just a reality giving me a road block and now I need to find a new way to help the Antarctic whales… and of course other projects as well.


I am really lucky to have such a supportive family and group of friends. I love you guys!

22 thoughts on “I had to come home…”

  1. So sorry you had to leave early. I know how your heart has been set about this campaign. I admire you taking the opportunity to be on the front lines of saving whales. Be assured, there is plenty to do from land, as I too get sea sick and do what I can from land. Hope you are feeling better. You are a true inspiration to others and you do make a difference.
    SOS, Gina

  2. Having followed your journey for a long time I know that you are not one to just wimp out or give up. I’m sure it was one of the hardest things you have done trying to make that decision to leave, and I support and respect your final decision. You will still be able to do amazing things for this cause, you will just do them from land.

    1. Thank you alleigh23! No, this is in no way my whimping out…. I thought for two days about whether or not I could manage the sickness because the thought of leaving killed me. But it wouldn’t have been responsible or safe.

      Haha exactly!

  3. You have had an amazing journey – I understand how it can break your heart! Nevertheless, thank you for being you and for what you’ve accomplished. You are an incredible woman! For the Whales!

  4. You are one of the most amazing people I know. You have every right to be proud of all the work you’ve done–not just on the Steve, but Taiji and all the protests and education you’ve done to make people aware of these crucial issues. I’m so proud to know you and feel blessed to have you in my life.

    I know this is so disappointing for you, but I’m (selfishly) glad to have you home.

  5. 😦 sorry to hear that Elora. No one can take away you trying your best, so do not beat yourself up about it. Most people wouldn’t even attempt to go knowing they get motion sickness, let alone tough it out for 2 weeks. Be proud I know all of us are!

  6. As I sit her reading your hardship I share your tears. Yes everyone knows I cry really easy. You are such an inspiration to me and my family. We support your decision and know you poured your heart and soul into every aspect of your choices. You will still do amazing things on land or sea. Love you!

  7. Love, you did awesome! So proud of what you were able to do and this is certainly not the end. I can only imagine how hard this decision was for you to make but I’m glad that you are thinking about your health and wellbeing. Looking forward to seeing you sooner and basking in the stories I can’t wait for you to share 🙂

    Love you!

  8. You are doing amazing work and however you have to do it, it will get done. You made a sound choice, and it’s not like you’re giving up, after all–that is never gonna happen. Trust you are feeling better now and on course for the next phase or your work. Remember, you are fighting the good fight–thank you!

  9. Elora, you are one of my heroes…. I followed your posts all last year – they were a large part of my developing passion and compassion for theTaiji dolphins. You’re an amazing young woman and however, wherever, whenever you fight it, I know for certain that you’ll always fight the good fight for the cetaceans! I love you and everything you stand for — Mazel tov!

  10. Congratulations dear Elora, you are a real Worrior. Thank you for fighting for the Oceans and their amazing creatures, thank for being what you are my dear girl!

  11. I think you made a very wise choice. Everything happens for a reason. I have no doubt you will be just as effective on land. PS I had “mal de debarquement”, like sea sickness, for two weeks, and it was so horrible. I was really scared it would never go away, so I know how you felt.

  12. I am sorry you were feeling so ill. I hope you’re feeling better now. This decision to leave the Steve Irwin was difficult for you and a wise. It is certainly better to perform at your full ability. I know you will find a way to continue your good work for the cetaceans from land.

    I thank you for all the good work you have already done; I thank you for all your caring and sharing. I thank you for taking action. The telling of your experience is priceless. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  13. Sorry you got so sick and had to come back before the action. What most people do not know is the real work happens before the cool stuff starts – maintenence is key to the success of any at sea work.

    I have spent several years at sea on and off and for the first month I thought I was going to die but I did not have the option of going home, the boat was not going to turn around for me. What I did to cure myself of sea sickness was first get off the meds – they are a crutch for the weak and do not work in the long run. It took a full month of non stop suffering to figure this out, you do not need them you are too strong! What I did was spend as much time as possible on deck looking at the horizon, day or night – this gave stability. After 3 days my sickness dissappeared and never came back. In my experience curling up and dealing with meds is the worst thing a person can do, get on deck and get your sea legs.

    Please do not give up on at sea work, you can get over the sickness if you give yourself enough time – no one has ever died from seasickness – it just feels like it I KNOW!. Once you get your sea legs you will never be happy on land again!!

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