The ship, the students, the chief and the children

Defying the fossil-fuel order

Featured in

  • Published 20240206
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-92-4
  • Extent: 203pp
  • Paperback, ePub, PDF, Kindle compatible

UNDER A WARM blue morning sky unevenly patched with ragged strips of grey and white, a crowd of about a hundred people stands on a concrete wharf in Port Vila. We are waiting for the arrival of Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, which is visiting Vanuatu for the first time in many years. I’ve been onboard for various legs of the iconic vessel’s current journey through Oceania, but on this occasion I’m among the land contingent.

Standing closest to the waterfront, a muscular middle-aged man to whom I’ve just been introduced, the Honourable Chief Timothy, blows a conch shell with enormous force, the low note resonating across the quay like the bellow of a large mammal. The honourable chief has close-cropped silver hair and beard, and although bare-chested and footed, he is heavily decked out with armbands, chunky anklets, an over-the-shoulder basket bag, a prominent necklace of massive polished tawny-brown spherical seeds and a bark-cloth belt that is holding up a bright-green skirt of leaves descending to his shins. As the Rainbow Warrior gets closer, Honourable Chief Timothy waves the ship in, swinging a sash of woven plant fibres in a round beckoning motion and calling out in his deep chant-like voice: ‘Welkam home, Greenpeace! Come home! Our people have lots to tell you! Our mothers, our fathers, our people, our government – we have things to tell you!’

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

More from author

The trick that tells the truth

Non-fictionAs subjects of late capitalism, we’ve become inured to the amoral cynicism inherent in relentless corporate marketing; yet both the good faith of our human nature and the susceptibility of our lizard brains ensure that we also remain receptive... In 2020, the disjunction between AGL’s public relations and the truth of the company’s business practices was highlighted and ridiculed in the public realm, ending in a court case of profound significance on Australia’s twisted road to belated action on climate change.

More from this edition


PoetryWhat is the voice of one who has died if no one listened to what remained unspoken? It no longer matters.

The emperor’s twin 

Poetry In the absence of gods, must we choose monsters? You can never really know the difference, or see under. These creatures are all skin; hence history’s...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.