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Authors: Philip Roy

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BOOK: Eco Warrior
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“What should we do, Hollie? Go up and check on Margaret, or wait?”

Hollie raised his paw. I picked him up and let him sit on my bed. “We can go up and just take a peek through the periscope. She won’t even know we are here. She’s probably sleeping anyway. What do you think?”

I looked into his eyes. Hollie was the sweetest dog that ever lived. And he was, without question, a rescuer.

“Okay, let’s take a peek.”

I pumped air into the tanks and we began to rise. Halfway up, I felt the storm. It was a bad one for sure. I raised the periscope before surfacing, but the waves prevented me from seeing anything. We would have to surface, and I’d have to strap on the harness even before opening the hatch. Chances were Margaret had drifted, even though her sea anchor would have slowed her drift. What I was counting on was picking up her signal on radar from the crests of the swells.

But there was no signal. And even after twenty minutes there was no signal. Nothing. Where was she? I climbed the ladder and opened the hatch. The wind screamed like a witch, and the rain pounded sideways against me. The sea was so wild it was impossible to make a sighting. I carried up the binoculars and scanned the darkness for any sign of a light, but couldn’t see anything but dark walls of water rising and falling. It was hopeless. Margaret was gone. But where? I didn’t think she would have drifted out of our radar range so quickly, not with a sea anchor in the water. Had she sunk? I forced the thought out of my mind. Was it possible she had started the engine after all, and was motoring out of the storm? How could I know? Would I ever know?

Chapter Seven

TWO WEEKS LATER, we reached Perth. After a month at sea, the sight of land brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help it. I was so used to seeing nothing but water I forgot just how much I missed the land. When I caught my first glimpse of it—just a thin flat line on the horizon—my eyes flooded with tears. That we had almost died on the way here probably had something to do with it.

Hollie’s nose was twitching all the time now. He was picking up new smells through the open hatch, and wouldn’t leave my side for fear I might go for a walk without him. If I went to the stern to check the engine, he had to come with me. If I went up the ladder, he sat at the bottom and whined pitifully until I came back down.

“Don’t worry, Hollie. I won’t go for a walk without you, I promise.”

Seaweed knew there was land because he went for a flight and never came back. He always got to explore first. He’d be there when we arrived, and greet us with a bored look on his face, as though he had seen everything already and was anxious to go somewhere else.

I had debated entering Australia secretly, and keeping the sub hidden, as we were used to doing, but had decided against it. Ever since I first went to sea I had been an outlaw, because registering the sub required an inspection, and the Canadian government had a zillion rules and regulations, and the chances of getting a homemade submarine registered were next to none. So, I just went to sea without papers. And that made me an outlaw.

But two officers from the South African navy kindly registered the sub in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, returning a favour for a friend of theirs I had helped. That made the sub legal for the very first time, and me no longer an outlaw. While I didn’t know if that would hold up in Canada, it ought to work everywhere else. Still, I was nervous calling the harbour authorities in Perth to request permission to moor. What if they decided the sub was a threat to the security of Australia, or judged it unseaworthy? By the Law of the Sea they had the right to seize it. They probably wouldn’t, but they
could
, and that made me nervous.

I called the harbour authorities on the shortwave when we entered the twelve-mile territorial zone of Australia. I wasn’t actually sure if we had entered it or not—it wasn’t like there was a sign floating in the water that said “Twelve-Mile Zone”—I just guessed. It took awhile to explain who I was, and what my vessel was. Harbour police never expect to see a civilian submarine. If you say, “submarine,” they always assume it is a military sub, and their voices get really stiff over the radio.

But the Customs officers who came out to meet us two miles off shore were very friendly. There were three of them in an outboard harbour boat: two men and one woman. They were carrying machine guns, which was what I had expected. Canadian officials did the same. Over the radio I was ordered to stay on the surface all the way in, and leave the hatch open, which I did. I was also told to have the entire crew on deck when the harbour boat rendezvoused with us, which I did, holding Hollie in my arms. Seaweed was already gone. He didn’t take orders from anybody but himself.

They approached quickly, and circled us three times before cutting their engines and coasting to a stop. Once they had a good look at Hollie and me, they were all smiles. “G’day!” they yelled through a megaphone. “Welcome to Australia!”

They inspected the sub in ten minutes, asked me a few questions, stamped my passport, and offered us a berth in Jervoise Bay, about six miles south of Fremantle, Perth’s enormous harbour. I happily accepted. We followed them in at eight knots, and they showed us where to tie up. Then they wished us good luck, waved, and sped away. I had heard that Australians were friendly. In all our travels, I had never felt so welcome as I did here. And how wonderful it was to come in legally.

The berth was in a small floating pier, with enough room for about a dozen boats. I tied up on the berth furthest from shore. Only three boats were moored, and there was no one around. It was too shallow to submerge, but I let enough water into the tanks to sink the hull just beneath the surface, until we were more or less sitting on the bottom. Only the portal was showing now, sticking up two feet above the pier, like an industrial drain. When the tide came in, the sub would rise with it, and the portal would maintain roughly the same position. You would only know there was a submarine there if you walked out onto the pier and stared into the water.

At first, I figured they gave us this spot because it was far from the fancy, crowded marinas of Fremantle Harbour, where a submarine would draw unwanted attention. But a quick glance in the other direction revealed another reason— we were moored next to a naval dockyard. Perhaps they wanted the navy to keep an eye on us. On the other side of the navy was an oil refinery. Everywhere else I looked I saw industry. We were in the industrial zone, not the prettiest corner of the city, but I was more than grateful to have the berth.

I grabbed my hat, sunscreen, money, water, and dog biscuits. I emptied the tool bag, wiped it clean, and put Hollie inside. It was the perfect size for a small dog, and he could lie down and sleep whenever he got tired of walking. It had a wooden frame with nylon mesh sides, and was comfortable on my back. I climbed out of the portal, shut the hatch, and sealed it. If we were going to start mooring in public places, maybe it was time to get a lock.

Standing on the little pier, I took one final look at the sub. It seemed so tiny here, next to the other boats, tied up like a mule. I could hardly believe we had just crossed an ocean with it. I was taught that you cannot love an inanimate object, you can only love a person, or maybe an animal. Well, I guess I was breaking that rule, because I loved my submarine.

I crossed the pier, bent down, and let Hollie out of the tool bag. He stood for a second or two, just staring at me, trembling, waiting for me to say it was okay. “It’s okay, Hollie. You can go.”

He ran up the sandy bank to the road, shaking with excitement, and I followed him. The sand felt strange beneath my feet, as it always did after being at sea for a long time. But the strangeness lasted only about ten minutes. Then it felt as though we had never left the land. There were palm trees and dry deciduous trees lining the road. It looked like a cross between Africa and Canada. Hollie looked up at me. His eyes were wet with excitement. “We’re in Australia, Hollie!
Australia! Woo Hoo!

We walked for three hours, which went by like nothing because we were so thrilled to be walking we hardly noticed the heat, until I realized that my mouth was so dry I almost couldn’t swallow. It was hot! Hollie was smart, though. He knew how to walk in my shadow when the sun was strong. When we turned ninety degrees onto a new street, and my shadow shifted, he’d find it and stay in it. Sometimes he’d walk beside me, or behind me, or in front of me, but always in my shadow. Whenever I stopped for a drink of water, I’d give him one, too. We had taken long walks in the Pacific, India, South Africa—all hot places—but I’d have to say that the sun in Australia
felt
hotter. And that’s what my guidebook said, too. A page with stern warnings about the dangers of the sun was titled: “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun.”

But it was a strange kind of dryness. In Canada, we’d say that these trees were dead. Here, they seemed to be doing all right. Whenever they were close to a source of water, they were green. Whenever they weren’t, they were yellow, brown, or grey, but still had leaves clinging to them. The soil beneath them was sandy, slightly red, and dry as dust. I could sense the outback not far away, and beyond it, the desert, where the origins of the rivers that emptied into the harbour narrowed to dry riverbeds, where the pipes of the city’s water system didn’t reach, and trees didn’t grow. I was keen to see all of that, but not on this first walk, of course. For now I was just happy we could stretch our legs for a few hours.

After the first three hours, Hollie was resting in the tool bag, panting like a little motor on my back, and I was walking in the shade as much as I possibly could. By the late afternoon we had reached the centre of town, where I found something I was anxiously seeking—a real Italian pizzeria. It looked like a little piece of Italy in Australia, although it was air-conditioned inside, and that made it feel as though we had walked into the Arctic. I chose a booth by the window, let Hollie out of the tool bag, and peeled the sweaty t-shirt away from my back. Hollie sat so quietly beside me no one noticed him. And when the waitress came, she just smiled at him. I ordered a large pizza, two tall glasses of pop, a special plate of toppings for Hollie, and a large bowl of water. It was hard to wait because we were so hungry. Then, when our meal finally came, and I took my first bite, I immediately thought of Margaret. It bothered me that I had never thought to ask her whether she had enough food. Why didn’t I do that? Then I couldn’t help smiling a little, because I knew she wouldn’t approve of me worrying about her at all. Not one little bit.

Before I finished eating, I heard noises outside. Hollie was flat on his side now in deep sleep, and didn’t hear anything. Outside, a parade was going by. I waited until it passed by the window, then stood up and watched. Hundreds of people were marching up the street, carrying poles with slogans on them. It wasn’t a parade; it was a protest. I had never seen a real protest before, so I paid for our meal, put the rest of the pizza into a box, slid Hollie into the tool bag, and went out to follow the marchers.

They went up one street and down another, shouting, “NO MORE MINING! SAVE OUR PLANET! NO MORE MINING! SAVE OUR PLANET!” It was an environmental protest! I had surely come to the right place.

The protestors marched to the front of a large government building, and stopped. There were police on horseback there, but they didn’t look surprised or angry. The protestors didn’t look angry either. Everything was well organized and orderly, as if it were something they did every week. A handful of protestors took turns speaking from a megaphone. They had strong Australian accents, and it was a little hard for me to understand. Mostly they seemed to be demanding that the government stop giving tax breaks to mining companies, and put more money into saving the environment. They wanted big oil companies to pay for their oil spills, and they wanted more money spent on saving whales, sharks, and turtles. I couldn’t have agreed more. Then I heard one person say to another, “Ahh, they just say the same things. They never change anything.” “Yeah, but just wait till Brass-knuckles Bennett has a turn,” said another. “They’ll get an earful then.” “Who’s Brass-knuckles Bennett?” asked the first. “A big-shot barrister from Sydney. Goes to bat for the whales.”

I moved closer as a large man stepped up to a podium and took hold of a microphone. TV cameras closed in on him as he spoke. I strained to hear every word.

He was a big man but had a soft voice. There was something very compelling about it, so that I think I would have listened carefully even if he were selling farm machinery. He looked like someone who might sell farm machinery, too, not practise law. Basically, he said the same things that Margaret had said: that too much damage had been done to the environment already, and that it was too late to stop global warming. All we can do now, he said, is buy time and try to save the things we can, but we can only buy time if we stop opening new coal mines and refineries, and close down the old ones. If we don’t do that, and do it now, he said, then we can kiss the Earth goodbye sooner rather than later.

BOOK: Eco Warrior
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