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By Barbara Napoles

I Stand With Ric As A Cove Monitor

Osaka – Taiji – September 2-5, 2015
The alarm on my cell phone keeps ringing and I don’t hear it, a knock on the door .-its Kery, they are waiting for me. Some how over slept,  throw some clothes on  and splash water on my  face, brush teeth, quickly run down the stairs. Cars are waiting I jump in with Tim, I see Ric. My heart is happy, I smile and wave and give a thumbs up. We head toward the Taiji Harbor, the boats will set out to hunt today, the weather was perfect.

As we drive in lot there are many cars, media, they are all here to get a story. Paparazzi time! To spin a story about Ric. This would not be so bad if they would tell the truth. Guessing some of it gets lost in translation or as we know the media is very filtered in Japan. Its funny, if he walked down away from us a bit, all cameras are on him. With all the eyes on you the feeling is surreal. Now I understood what famous people feel with media surrounding them. Although these kept their distance and being Japanese they were polite. All eyes are on us along with the Taiji police.

More media following us, between police, undercover and others we head out to the promontory point.  An ancient look out point used by Japanese whalers in the past.

The banger boats come back empty handed and we celebrate with our first “Cove Blue Dance”. The energy of having Vicki Kiely and her children along with Ashley, Maria and the Korean delegation made the days at the cove interesting. children understood what captivity is about. We head to the cove as it is still running blue and we take PSA pictures. Nothing that can be written here can explain the feeling of the being at the beach of the Cove.

Your mind wonders as you look towards the entrance of the killing cove. You hear the birds just as you heard it in the documentary. You don’t hear the dolphins screaming but you feel the energy of the lost lives that still linger there. Even in a great sunny day as this day. It’s still a somber day.

As I begin a blessing of the cove, asking the almighty Goddess Yemaya and Olokun, powerful goddesses and Orishas of the oceans to continue to protect those that come to fight for the dolphins and to keep all of her children, the angels of the sea away from the shores of Japan. As her daughter, an Orisha myself, asked for the permission of all the guardian angels that protect all of the humans present at this time as holy water was splashed at the center of the cove in front of a small cave. Prayers and thanks were also sent to my daughter; Hollis-Rae whose ashes are in the ocean and for the spirit of Susan Mabe whose ashes rest at the Cove. “May there be peace at the cove, may these atrocities continue to be reported by all media. It’s time for the Cove to be Forever Blue! It’s time for the slaughters to end. Namaste, Amen, Ache! ”

My mind starts to think again, thoughts of Susan, my daughter and the dolphins present and past those that may lose their lives here in the future. (This very spot is where that Risso dolphin came to strand in front of Ric.)
Generally, our days consisted of getting up early to be at the pier by 5am, watch the boats go out, but before heading to the point we went to the Circle-K and we purchased coffee and breakfast. Black car waits at the parking lot daily  Black car follows us every where in Taiji. After a while it does not matter anymore if the police are following you, they are there for your safety. We did find out Nationals were in Taiji, personally never saw them or heard them.

We wait around and some media did manage to speak to Terran. Tim takes me to the Taiji Police box. All activists need to register with the police. My passport is copied and was given instructions to read as to the do’s and don’ts. Carry your passport and driver’s license at all times on you, was informed.

We head out to the Tomyosaki Point to keep a look out on the banger boats.

Tim Burns wears the pink hatAfter the boats came in empty during my stay in Taiji, we would dance to take away the worry, tension of waiting at look out point. We meet a group of activist from Korea, they are the delegation of the” Hot Pink Dolphins”. Amazing group and we hit it off well. We are all in the same team fighting for liberation of dolphins.Language is no barrier, when love is in our hearts. We all took photos with their hats! We proceeded to go and explore Japan on the Cove blue days; The Hashigui-iwa rocks were beautiful their little souvenir store sold whale meat in a can and dolphin meat in a vacuum sealed bag.

We also visited Nachi Falls and the Kumano Hongū Taisha Shinto temple, prayed for the cove to be forever blue and the slaughters to end. We gave our donation and lit a bundle of incense but not before we clean our hands and mouth prior to entering the temple. We also visit Shingu with their modern large stores of all kinds’ food and domestic product and awesome Curry Restaurant.

Day 6 – A visit to the Taiji Whale Museum
After paying entrance fee, proceeded upstairs and went through the room where all the dolphin specimens are kept in large vials full of formaldehyde. My heart was beating fast, I knew what to expect and didn’t want to take too many pictures. My heart broke when I saw the dolphin fetus in a large flask he was a boy, umbilical cord still attached. My mind races, was he removed from a mom that was slaughtered at a drive? Was he still-born in prison? I told my brain to stop thinking. The feeling was entering a “Dante’s Inferno” where the souls of many dolphins continued to linger trying to find a restful everlasting sleep.

My walk through the museum was fast as Vicki and the children were trying to record PSA’s at the outside dolphin pens. I took a quick walk to the show pool where people sit in an outside stadium to watch the dolphin show. The pools had dolphins that were restless and I searched for Hope and Faith, a pantropical pair of dolphins that were kept prisoner in the world’s smallest tank.

I wait anxiously to see a dolphin’s head pop up thru the surface. I search the pool, my heart aching as I knew that this was all in vain. They were no longer there. Did they die or were they sold? My heart knew the truth, pantropical are pelagic dolphins that don’t do well in captivity. Their stay in that horrible little tank destroyed their soul and will to live. I leave with a hole in my heart as I now walk towards the sea pens.

The sea pens contain the pilot whales and the pied and albino Rissos. I couldn’t see them; my attention was caught by dolphins with their heads out of the water, and mouths open begging for food from the tourist.  I feel my legs weaken in that wobbly rickety floating cat walk. I just looked at the dolphins and try to speak, the only words spoken; I am so sorry.  Needing to leave that area before losing my step as many other tourists wanting to feed and see the dolphins, I made my way out from the sea pens. Shaken, biting my lips fighting to hold back the tears.

Heading toward what was the building where Angel and the rest of the dolphins are kept; there is a small shallow concrete pool by the door. Peering in there is a sting ray with the tail in bad shape, raw skin and bloodied. Wondering, how it got here and what was his/her story?

Entering the building I can see straight ahead the glass tunnel, I look for Angel. There she is! She passes by me with one eye closed. Poor girl is sleeping. In her slumber she just goes around and around in that awfully small pool. Green algae on the walls, in tow other dolphins. Her skin looks good I noticed, no one is bullying her or raking her. She is a matriarch now in her young age as she seems to lead the others.

There are two dolphins playing and wanting to engage in sexual courtship. They just go around and around I don’t want to lose sight of them; I too go around. Deciding to go up top and watch them from the topside walking by aquariums full of jelly fish and a lonely puffer fish.

Reaching the top, the pool has a dome cover I also see Mole and the motley crew of dolphins and of course Angel. I call out to them and to Angel.. Hi Angel! Angel proceeds to do a head stand and gives a fluke salute, half of her peduncle is out of the water. Amazed and heartbroken I shut off the camera and proceed to compose myself. Not wanting to let anyone to see me cry I look out toward the sea pens. Wipe my tears and continue. As we head out I say my good byes to the captives with apologies that we are trying to stop the heinous drives that brought them there. Passing through the building that housed the world’s smallest dolphin aquarium it is now closed. A great victory is felt, thanks to Enson Innoue that was able with his stardom to move Hope and Faith out to an outside bigger tank.

Rushing to get out I happen to notice a whale skeleton that is the gateway to the dolphin pens. Today was Maria Nangle’s last day in Japan and she needs to catch her train. We enter the car I proceed to have my cry. Taiji Whale Museum is filled with the souls of dolphins past and the souls of dolphins present crying out to feel freedom again. Tomorrow I too leave for home.

If you visit a dolphin show, your money and your cute family pictures with captive dolphins, is what continues to feed this giant.

We proceed to a quick visit Dolphin Base pens but the rains obstructed our views. Heavy rains are predicted during the day and for most nights in Japan. We huddle under a staircase, noticing the rain, coming in sideways from the coast. We decide to head back to the car. Dolphin Base was at the bottom of the hill and we had parked uphill. We race back up hill as water washed down we all got soaked to the bone.  May there be more rainy days to come in Taiji.

The people of Japan are kind, helpful, and always ready to help foreigners. As I get ready to leave Taiji, on my 7th day after another blue cove in Taiji, Ric O’Barry takes me for a quick visit to the caves and hot springs at the Uroshima Hotel. The Uroshima Hotel is where Ric stays as it’s a peaceful place and the room are ryokan and he visits the hot springs often. It holds the record for having the longest escalator that takes you to the top on the mountain where a temple resides.
Heading back to the hotel, catch the last boat before they break for lunch bidding goodbye to my friend and mentor. He stays at the Uroshima.

At the train station platform, we wait for my train that is soon to arrive giving one last hug to Terran, Tim, Kery, trying to hold back the tears we say goodbye. You build a special bond with those that you meet in Taiji. Terran and Tim took great care of all of the monitors visiting this trip and I’m very grateful for this, we laughed and kidded around feeling great acts of comrade.

Please follow: dolphinproject.net

Now I understand the sadness that all monitors feel when they leave this town and the people. Have we done enough? We will, when we get back to our respective homes. We will continue to stand up and speak out on behalf of the dolphins.
The beauty of Japan and her citizens stole a piece of my heart and my soul.
Sayonara, Nippon, Sayonara.
Yours truly,
Barbara Napoles, Cove Monitor.