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The Orca Express

“Come on…just…zip…up”, I grunted as I stuffed the last thing in my bag. My class was going on a two week long whale watching excursion and I couldn’t wait to get out the door. My dad popped his head in the door. “Did you pack your whole room in there, Kris?” my dad said jokingly. “No! I just want to make sure I have everything I need and you know how excited I am about this whole trip.” “I know, I know, two whole weeks you can eat, sleep and breathe whales!” I grinned. I had loved whales ever since I could remember. Actually ever since my mom had passed away, which was when I was two. I don’t really remember her but my dad told me she loved whales as much as I do. “Well, I guess we better get going then” I said and handed my bag to my dad. He faked like he was about to fall over from the weight of the bag and followed me out the door.

As I settled into my not-quite-so-comfortable bus seat, I waved out the window to my dad one last time. I knew I was going to miss him like crazy, but I was on my way the trip of my lifetime. “Ready or not, here we go!” my best friend Alexis yelled. I couldn’t wait to get to Alaska to see some real whales, but first we had long ride ahead of us. We rode the bus all the way to the Portland airport. Since we live in Oregon, Alaska’s not that far away, but we still had to fly across the ocean to get to our ship.

Three hours and some stale airplane peanuts later, we were in Alaska. Then we had to go through customs all over again, and finally we were on our second bus to the port. When we finally arrived at the ship’s slip in the marina, we all stared up at it. It read “The Orca Express” in big curly white letters. I personally thought it was perfect, but I heard some of my classmates disagreeing with me. “Eww! This is not the cruise I signed up for.” A snobby girl named Cammie cried. The boat was a little dingy, but it looked really rustic and real. Following Mrs. Smith’s lead, we walked up the gang plank and began our adventure.

As the week went on the days started to blur together. Everyday was something different, unique and fun. One day it was trying to imitate whale song and the next day it was sketching the whales we saw. It was around the fifth day, which would be Friday, that things started to go wrong. Alexis and I were up and ready at 6:30 am, like usual scanning the horizon for whales. Way off to the distance we saw what looked like another ship. At that we point we thought nothing of it and went about our day as usual. However, by late afternoon, it was clear there was something funny about the ship. The writing on the side appeared to be in Japanese and there was a weird smell drifting away from it. I decided to ask Laurence, who was a really cool crew member I had become friends with. “Hey Laurence, what do you think about that ship off in the distance?” I asked. “Oh….er….that one just there?” he pointed. “Yeah” I replied. “I don’t know. It’s just another ship passing by. It’s a big ocean out there, Kristina. Now I suggest you get back to your cabin because 6:30 is pretty early.”

In the morning Alexis and I were up a little late, due to staying up talking all night about the mysterious ship. We had come to the agreement that it was up to no good and we were going to do something about it. We walked out to the deck and the sun was shining brightly. No one else was on the deck because they had all woken up early and been out on the deck and now they were eating breakfast. Just as I started my usual scan the horizon routine, I noticed something shocking. The water was blood red all around the ship. I immediately turned and started running towards the rest of the class. As I was sprinting to the galley (or kitchen on the boat) I suddenly had a horrible thought. I remembered going on a job with my dad before (he’s a veterinarian) when we were at the beach. A whale had beached itself and my dad was dispatched to try and get it back in the water. As soon as we reached the whale we saw it was bleeding profusely. I asked my dad what happened, immediately concerned. A look of rage washed over his face as he muttered one word. Poachers. As I ran, the three thoughts merged in my head; Red water, whales and the weird Japanese boat. Omigosh, I thought. The boat wasn’t just an ordinary weird, stinky Japanese boat. It was a fishing boat, fishing whales. “Mrs. Smith! Mrs. Smith!” I managed to yell as I suddenly fainted from shock. As I was blacking out, things seemed to move in slow motion. I saw my classmates rushing towards me and Alexis rushing past me to tell Mrs. Smith what happened. I barely felt my head hit the ground as my world went black.

Blink, blink. I sat up groggily and looked around. Everything seemed blurry and out of focus. “Kris! You’re alive!” I heard Alexis say sarcastically from the other end of the room. “Hey Lex, it’s good to see you too. How long have I been out?” Her voice softened. “I was really scared, Kristina. You were out cold for two days.” “So then today is……” I stopped. Thinking hurt too much. “Monday” Alexis finished for me. All of a sudden my memory flooded back to me. “The ship!” I yelped. “What happened?” “Calm down. It was just a regular old boat” Alexis said. “No it wasn’t! It was a whaling ship poaching whales. Didn’t you see the big harpoon gun on deck? And that’s what the smell was, rotting whales carcasses. And the red water, blood from a recently killed whale. It all fits perfectly.” Alexis stared at me a few seconds, and then surveyed me from my feet to my head, as if making sure I wasn’t crazy. “You know, I think you might have something there.”

“It all fits!” I said persistently, as Laurence continued to deny it. “Those are all assumptions. You can’t always be sure you’re right. Alexis and I were down in the galley after lights out trying to explain it all to Laurence. “Yeah, Laurence, you have to admit she’s got something here” Alexis chipped in. “And we even have a plan.” I said smiling innocently. “Well let’s hear it then” Laurence said reluctantly. “Ok, so first we focus on the polite attempt. This boat has a radio right? So we radio the Nisshin Maru (the Japanese ship) and ask them to stop harpooning whales. If they don’t respond to that, we throw butyric acid bottles on their deck, which before you ask, are not harmful and will only contaminate their packaging areas so all the whale meat will go bad” I finished breathlessly. “Wow. That’s…that’s actually a good idea!” Laurence replied. “So when does operation save the whales go into action?” Alexis asked. “Tomorrow morning” I said with a smile on my face. Hang in there whales, I thought to myself. We’re fighting to save you.

I could barely sleep last night; I was so excited about today. We woke up and immediately moved into action. Laurence was good friends with the captain and he managed to get the captain to let us borrow the radio for a minute. I pulled out the school laptop I had been hiding under my shirt. The plan was to type in what we wanted to say into a Japanese translator, and make the computer repeat it in Japanese over the radio. We typed it in and got ready. I picked up the microphone with a shaking hand and said, “This is the Orca Express to the Nisshin Maru. Do you copy?” We all waited in bated breath. A little pop of static made us all jump, but nothing else happened. “This is the Orca Express to the Nisshin Maru. We are asking that you stop all illegal whaling operations immediately. Do you copy?” The computer said this time, in its flat mechanical voice. I was disappointed. I thought for sure they would respond. Suddenly the radio crackled to life. “This is the Nisshin Maru to the Orca Express” a voice said in English. “We are radioing back to inform you that all whaling processes being carried on at this time are for research purposes. Thank-you for your concern. Good-bye.” We stared at each other. “Well” Alexis said, “That helped a lot.” “I guess we can’t do anymore about it if they say it’s for research purposes” Laurence said. “But you don’t really believe that do you?” I said astounded. “I don’t know what to believe anymore” Laurence said, rubbing his eyes. “Case closed girls. I know you wanted to do something to help, but there is nothing more we can do now.” “Now why don’t you go to class?”

The next few days Alexis and I moped around, in a state of depression. We had come so close, but tomorrow we would be going home. “Lex, what are we going to do? We only have one more day.” Alexis grinned slyly. “What about those Butyric Acid bottles. You said they wouldn’t hurt them. And then if it was for research purposes, it wouldn’t matter if the meat rotted because they just want the bones.” “Yeah, I like that. Leave them a little something to remember us by” I replied.
That night, after packing up and eating dinner with the rest of the class, Alexis and I waited impatiently on the side of the deck in the dark. Both of our arms were full of Butyric Acid bottles. The Nisshin Maru was about fifty feet away. I was pretty confident about Alexis’s arm because she was the pitcher for the school softball team. My own arm was just average. “On the count of three” I started. “One…..Two…..Three!” I closed my eyes. I heard a loud shatter as Alexis’s bottle hit the Nisshin’s deck and a large “plop” as my sunk in the water. “Keep going” Alexis whispered. We threw the rest of the bottles and about half actually hit the Nisshin Maru’s deck. We dove back in our cabin and leaned, panting against the closed door. “Phew…” Alexis said as she caught her breath. “That was rough.”
The next morning we walked out on the deck, just as we heard Luke exclaim, “Look that weird ship’s almost gone!” Alexis and I shared a wink and boarded the bus back home. As soon as the plane touched down in Portland, my dad rushed towards me and enveloped me into a hug. “How was it honey? Did you do anything fun?” I looked at Alexis and grinned. “Oh yeah you know the normal stuff, research, homework oh and saving whales from poachers.” “What?” My dad asked surprised. “I’ll tell you in the car. It’s a long story” I said smiling. “Well, we have a long ride home.” my dad replied. Good luck whales, I thought to myself as we headed to the car and back to normal life.




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