Like a small handheld lighthouse, a silent phone screamed its light into the darkened room, warning of the treacherous waters ahead.
In the darkness a curled frame wrapped in sheets looked like a walrus stranded on a small island and it was only the shriek of light from the silent phone that would shatter the illusion, revealing a man sheltering in his dreams.
Weary and tired from more than just a days work, his crooked ageing body seemed to want to shipwreck itself within this room. It was here his mind would be adrift with memories of the sea, a place more mythical and misunderstood than anywhere on earth. Gently the salty wind, the sway of the vessel and the vast blue would envelope him like a rising tide as he lay down in yet another unfamiliar bed to rest.
It had though, been some time since Graham Orbost had stood on the bow of a ship at such an hour, scanning the horizon for the light. Orbost had anchored himself now to a life of meetings and debate that never seemed to inch any closer to a meaningful end.
And there the light shot out again wanting for attention, the latest burst tickling his eyelids and calling him back to the room. Orbost untangled his arms and reached for the phone, revealing a flurry of missed calls and text messages.
“He is dead. We need to meet, NOW.” Sent 3:12AM
“There’s an urgent briefing on your email, read it and call me immediately, we need to develop a statement.” Sent 3:28AM
“I’m up and reading.”
Orbost switched on the light, gathered his glasses and held the phone like an inexperienced luddite, pressing each number and application precisely, waiting earnestly for his unwanted companion to tell him what he needed to know.
To: Dr Graham Orbost
From: Evelyn Bright
Date: Monday 21 December 2015
Time: 03:26 AM AEST
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL Briefing Note 2015/1201 Reported death of white humpback whale in Southern Ocean
That the Head of the International Whaling Commission seeks an injunction against further scientific whaling activities in the Southern Ocean until an investigation into the death of Migaloo has been completed.
Media reports indicate that Migaloo, a seven-year-old rare albino male humpback whale has been killed in the Southern Ocean.
As yet no footage of the reported incident has been released to the media.
It is unclear from media reports if Migaloo was deliberately or accidently killed by scientific whaling activities or activist responses to such activities.
Media reports indicate that both the Japanese scientific whaling vessel Nisshin Maru and the activist vessel MV Aemila are leaving the Southern Ocean following the incident.
Migaloo is a seven-year-old rare albino male humpback whale first spotted as a juvenile off the east coast of Australia.
Migaloo is known throughout the world as a rare albino mammal and has received significant media attention in the past when sighted during his migration along the east coast of Australia.
The Japanese scientific whaling vessel Nisshin Maru entered the Southern Ocean on 5 December 2015 and encountered the anti-whaling vessel Aemila on 7 December 2015.
Activist aboard the Aemila routinely film several interactions with the Nisshin Maru as well as the activities of scientific whaling, releasing this footage to the media and through social media.
The potential release of footage to the media of Migaloo being killed, the rare albino will draw significant international attention
The effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission may be the subject of media commentary
Media Liason Officer - International Whaling Commission
Orbost’s immediate gut reaction was that this had been a deliberate act, but as the Commissioner he knew better than to jump to conclusions as the stakes were too high.
He thought through the invisible net that seemed to trap whales in a never-ending debate of cultural, political, economic and social dynamics, just as volatile and unpredictable as any ocean.
An impulsive unfounded claim towards the activists would see the International Whaling Commission attacked every which way at the same time pointing the finger at Japan with such conviction would trickle through trade talks, corporate deals and investment activities throughout the world.
Yet the death of a rare albino humpback whale caught on film could be powerful, but it hadn’t been released … yet.
This baffled Orbost. He determined he would need to proceed cautiously yet proceed – any form of stalemate and inaction on his behalf would corrode the credibility of the International Whaling Commission further.
The last time he had interacted with Captain Tom Nugent of the activist ship the Aemila, Nugent had placed just such a veiled threat in his correspondence, deriding the International Whaling Commission as futile, feeble and all talk.
Secretly Orbost shared Nugent’s frustrations.
They were in pursuit of the same treasure - a world free from whaling yet with vastly different tactics; one charting a seemingly steady course through discussion and debate; the other confronting the act itself in the unpredictable slop of the sea.
Orbost and Nugent needed each other but they were starkly different, coexhisting like land and ocean. The land needed the ocean to frame its boundaries while the ocean needed the land to break against in order to be heard.
Orbost sat on the edge of the bed thinking through years of interactions with Nugent, which always seemed to be shrouded in a fog of continuous suspicion that in this moment was thick with conspiracies.
“Would Nugent have done this deliberately to bring international media attention to their cause?”
Orbost righted himself, his joints creaking as he reached for his stick to steady himself and he made way to the bathroom to splash water on his worn face.
In the mirror, he stared into his crystal blue eyes hoping to find a small piece of his soul to cling to before the day tossed him about. Again the question rose up at him.
“Did Nugent do this?”
His phone lit up the room behind him again. It was 3:43AM now. He would have to call Evelyn.