Sunday December 9th, 2001
Greetings family, friends and supporters from the Jungle Team.
It is the evening of the 12th in Venezuela and I (Ollie) am pleased to report that all of the “Jungle Team” are now safe and sound in Puerto Ayacucho and we are preparing for our departure to Caracas before further travels to Seamaster and home. Peter would be happy.
It is with great sadness that we have written this log and as for all, it has been a very hard time for all of us. Our first thoughts and love go out to Pippa, Sarah Jane and James, plus the Blake family back in New Zealand.
To be in such a remote, isolated area when notified of the incident and tragedy of Peter’s death, left us all onboard “Seamaster II” shaken and destroyed.
Our first difficult calls went out to Seamaster, difficult times to speak with our fellow crew and team members particularly as we were so far away and we are grateful that they were all safe and well, apart from a few injuries.
You will see in the following log that after getting the news, Franck, Alistair and myself had left the team up the Casiquiare, heading back to Seamaster to assist the guys in Brazil. For various reasons I did not make the flight with Alistair and, after speaking with the guys on Seamaster, my delay would have further compounded problems for them in departing Macapa, Brazil. They are now sailing north to safe harbour and I am thankful that they have the tranquillity of the ocean swells and winds around them. Sail on my friends.
Anyway, I figure after all that happened, it was meant for me to be here in Venezuela to continue on and support the Jungle Team on the river.
The following log is from the guys as they were completing their trek to Puerto Ayacucho. First, a few additional lines from me.
Being so remote on the Casiquiare and only having scheduled satellite telephone calls at certain times of the day, we did not learn about the incident and Peter’s death until several hours after.
Marc, Janot, Lucho and I had just been away from Big Bongo “Seamaster II” investigating a lagoon in preparation for a dive. I remember thinking while there how much Peter would have loved it.
On return to Seamaster II, we were advised of the news.
It was like a bad dream, our worst nightmare and soul destroying.
Looking back to the previous evening when we were anchored on a small sand island I reflected upon the events plus the strange occurrences we had that evening. Firstly, at around the time of the tragedy, I was fast asleep in my hammock fastened between two poles dug into the sand. I awoke when, for no reason, one pole snapped in half and I was thrown to the ground. In the next hour the largest storm we had seen during our trip unleashed itself in the area. Lightning, thunder and very strong winds lashed our small island and all the tarps covering our hammocks were flying horizontal with the wind strength.
It was all quite unnerving at the time and, although I am not a spiritual person, I personally believe that the Amazon was unleashing its grief having lost one of its strongest environmental supporters.
In the morning after the sad news we were heading up the river and came into a particularly beautiful area. All the team were very quiet and grieving in their own way, when I noticed a large flock of lovely white herons taking off and coming towards the bongo. This was particularly unusual as all the flocks we had encountered previously had fled away. They came towards us and as I yelled to all the team they circled and led us up the river. This continued for several minutes with them returning, circling and guiding us on. It was a wonderful sight and we sat in awe. I felt it was a sign from Peter. He loved the birds and he had sent a message through them for support.
I write this with some guilt for not being onboard Seamaster that dreadful night and can only find solace in the fact that we were away doing what Peter had wanted.
To me Peter was a driving force, a great friend and shipmate. His dreams were my dreams and his energy to help the planet environmentally for our future generations were unmatched. I look back and smile now, at the times onboard Seamaster when I was on watch in the evening and Peter was to follow. Regularly I did not wake him up as I knew he needed rest after a long day on navigation in dangerous areas plus getting the log out with Don. He used to get quite upset that I had let him sleep but I answered I must have forgotten. He smiled and went straight into work mode. Times like this and all the wonderful experiences we have shared over the years with yachting, Cousteau and since starting blakexpeditions are strong in my mind. We had fun together exploring the regions we had wanted to go since childhood and I will miss him more than I can say.
The strongest comfort for me at present is to know that Peter is now looking down upon us (the whole world) and seeing the big environmental picture. He will be happy scanning the planet and reviewing all the environmental changes needed and I am sure little messages to help us all on our way will come from time to time. It may be a strange thing to say but I know that he will be happy with the media attention in his honour. I hope it helps to get the message across and helps to make everyone look up and take notice of what this great man and blakexpeditions are about.
We cannot let his visions and dreams for a better future pass with him. We must all strive forward, working towards a better world environmentally. This planet is a magnificent place. Soak up and enjoy this wonderful world around you.
Enough from me. Here’s the team’s log while still travelling.
Greetings to you from the Jungle Team.
Three days have gone now since the death of Sir Peter and we are understandingly shattered by the events over the last few days. What can possibly be said about such trauma and violence?
As we heard the details of Peter’s death on the 6th of December we were all in a most sombre mood. We spent some time in deep reflection and we talked about what Peter had meant to us, individually. We laughed at the pleasure of personal memories with him and we celebrated his incredible achievements, in our private way, with a toast to his wonderful contribution to the world.
We had then to think what were we to do. Our Fellow Crew Members back at Seamaster in Brazil were severely stressed, yet due to our remoteness in the region, we couldn’t just leave everything. Over a team discussion we decided that Ollie (our Erstwhile Enthusiastic Leader) and Ali (the son of Rodger on the Seamaster) should go back to join the crew for support plus help with duties that would undoubtedly be required. We then, as a group, decided to continue on with our journey and complete our task of getting to Puerto Ayacucho. This was a big decision from all of us, but we felt that we needed to do this because Peter would have wished us to complete the job, for our fellow crew-members onboard Seamaster, and finally for ourselves… to show that energy and determination were important in times of severe need.
We then talked about how we were could salute Sir Peter, and it occurred to us that, as we had on board some water from the Antarctic from Seamaster’s voyage their last December, we could pour this in the river at the junction of the Casiquiare and the Orinoco. This was a symbol to show the smallness of the world and to emphasise the need to protect and preserve it. Yes, this was it. We all decided that Sir Peter would have liked this as it was a perfect way to enforce his feelings and the saying “Water is Life”.
In the early morning, Ollie, Alistair and Franck our still photographer managed to catch a fast sport fishing boat for a charter flight connection from San Esmerelda to Caracas. The trip was not to go smoothly as around 1pm they came chugging back to Seamaster II with a broken engine. Engines replaced with a spare onboard they were off again and just managed to make the flight before darkness.
Ideas then abounded about how we could physically mark the site, and it was decided amongst us that a cross would be made in remembrance.
With the memorial decision made and the lads away, we continued on our journey down the Casiquiare. We talked about our tasks with Lucho (our guide) and Augusto (our Fantastic Cook, who has the incredible ability to laugh at his own jokes yet make others enjoy them too) and the Seamaster 2 Team, and they were pleased that we had made this decision. It was on we go with the journey, albeit in considerably more mild and tranquil form. I found this out to my chagrin when I tried to flutter a joke over everyone to brighten them up. No one laughed yet they found it very funny when I mentioned how Sir Peter tricked me into eating an effervescent Vitamin tablet when it should have been pre-dissolved first. Oh, we all laughed over that one!
Today we are three days after the death of Sir Peter and have completed the journey down the Casiquiare. We are now travelling down the Orinoco River.
You have no idea of the bugs that we have encountered as we joined the Orinoco from the Casiquiare. This was made suddenly aware to us when we stopped to salute Sir Peter in the manner that we had previously decided.
As we left the boat to climb a 6 metre bank at the meeting of the rivers, we were attacked by ‘fire-ants’. These are little sods that sting so that one’s skin feels as though it is on fire. Poor Janot, who had made a wonderful cross to Sir Peter, got absolutely covered in bites. Action Man Marc did also though he was very brave about it. I decided to hold back and not talk, but this was not clever enough for the ants who decided that they really DID like New Zealand lamb!
On behalf of the team, I commented “Sir Peter was a man who loved the Natural world. He was intrigued by it and he was happiest when he was in it. He wanted others to see the natural beauty that there was around us, and to treat it well, so that in the future we all had a cleaner world where we could enjoy flora and fauna. Sir Peter did not want Zoos and Gardens to be the only places where Animals and plants could be found, in the world of the future”.
All the Members of our team have become very close over the last few days as we struggle to deal with Sir Peter’s death. All of us have some comment that we would like to say. I have done and said enough, for the moment (I keep on being told I am rather too chatty!) so I am going to ask Janot (who of us has been the longest with the Seamaster), Marc (who was a close colleague of Sir Peter since the first expedition in New Zealand), Simon (Film Director) and James (Film Producer) to comment about the Sir Peter and events that have recently overpowered us:
From Marc Lonergan Hertel:
I cannot put into words my regrets and sorrows at this moment.
Sir Peter and I have been working very hard over the past months on a one on one basis to make this a fascinating journey.
We have always known the risks of travelling the world’s oceans and rivers. We have made safety paramount to all, but were always committed to the fact that if one of the team members were to be accidentally killed or injured it would be in the attempt to show the world the wonder and beauty of our planet. We are doing what we love, by exploring, and we cannot ask for anything better in life than to be involved in this global awareness. Sir Peter died defending the lives of his crew, and he died protecting the natural planet… he died doing what he loved… and he has made a difference.
After two years working with Peter, I feel a big trouble, when thinking we will never see him again. It will make a big hole on Earth, people like him are so difficult to replace. I hope the quest, His quest, will not finish with his life, for me and for the whole world.
We need such leaders to show the people it’s more than time to take care of this planet of ours.
For the time being, we keep going towards our initial goal to honour his memory, and I feel very proud to be a part of a team of friends, here, plus the guys back on Seamaster in Brazil who were more than exposed beside Peter. Peter was such a mentor and prestigious leader his loss is heartfelt to me.
From Simon Atkins:
One of the greatest privileges of my profession is to be able to share - often intensely - in people’s lives and experiences. Although I only first met Peter three months ago, I do feel during the time I spent filming him and his expedition team that I did gain a valuable insight into the man and his mission. I will always remember the enthusiasm and passion with which he would talk to me (and the camera!) about the beauty and wonder of the natural environment; his experiences with the whales and dolphins as a yachtsman in the Southern Ocean; and a whole plethora of anecdotes from his recent Blakexpeditions voyage to Antarctica. In the Amazon he seemed to me to be never happier than when he was able to set off in a kayak to explore the nooks and crannies of the river banks and lagoons, or behind the wheel of Seamaster successfully find away up the Rio Negro through the myriad sand banks and submerged granite boulders.
His message and mission as expressed to me was deceptively simple: the natural world is beautiful and amazing and deserves protection - and if you could only share and convey that to the people of the world then they would wish to protect it too. It was with sure great sadness that I learnt of Peter’s death three days ago, but judging from the responses of the rest of his team I feel that his message to the world will continue to spread.
From James Walsh:
For me, it was an extraordinary moment when I heard of Peter’s death. I have spent most of the last six years of my life in South America. I find the people resilient, resourceful and respectful. I could never have imagined that such a cruel fate could have befallen such a worthy man in so complex a continent. I truly believe that Peter’s name will live on, given that he has dedicated so much of his passion towards such a noble endeavour: that of seeking an understanding of the natural world of which we are all part, and of which we all share, and to which we all have a duty. Peter had the foresight to make this his mission, to show people that we all shoulder the responsibility of what is our natural heritage, and to ignore it would be to the detriment of us all.
Well, there you have it from the Jungle Team… thoughts and images from us about a man who mattered, a man of significance.
So all from us in the Jungle Team. We want to thank everyone for you’re great support to us over the last week. We are planning on bringing you further logs so keep watching but excuse us if there is some delay.