It’s 6:30 in the morning, I fall out of my bunk to the zigzagging motion of our ship and loud sirens coming from outside. I run to the bridge and see high-pressured water-cannons spray the entire port side of the ship. With our crew and my friends outside getting swamped by the water. We pass the Nisshin Maru, the ‘mother ship’ of the Japanese whaling fleet, on our port. Crew on our eco-ship toss over stink cans to contaminate the whalers decks. I find out from an officer that a whale has been killed under our watch. It’s now being chopped up and packaged onboard the mother ship. The Sea Shepherds are fighting to stop it from continuing.
It’s February 6th and after five days chasing the Nisshin Maru through the Antarctic Ocean, the fleet finally retaliated. For five days, Sea Shepherd had disabled the fleet’s whaling operation by chasing the fleet’s ships so they couldn’t effectively hunt whales. But today, they tested their ground and killed a whale. The Sea Shepherd ship, the Steve Irwin, was two nautical miles away from the Nisshin Maru when it happened, making it impossible to stop.
One of the fleet’s harpoon ships, the Yushin Maru No. 1, had a dead Minke whale lashed to its portside. Within minutes, the whalers transported the dead, bleeding carcass up the slipway to the Nisshin Maru for processing. In thirty minutes, there was nothing left of the whale but a spinal cord and the harpoon.
Keeping the processing ship, the Nisshin Maru, on the run had shut down whaling for eleven days during 2008’s anti-whaling campaign by Sea Shepherd, and five days this year. But now the Sea Shepherd activists had to improvise a new strategy — and fast. The fleet was now whaling again, the very thing Sea Shepherd had come here to stop them from doing, and they were doing right it in front of us. We were no longer intimidating and the group had lost its ground in this whale battle.
Within two hours, the fleet had transferred two more dead whales to the Nisshin for processing. During this time, the Irwin was still narrowing its distance to the mother ship, but was unable to do anything but watch the blood and guts come pouring out of the “death ship” ahead. Reports of two more whales killed and on their way to the Nisshin come in from our helicopter in the air. But before they can be transfered, a plan is hatched.
“Blockade the stern. Allow no more whales to go up that slipway — that is our objective,” says Paul Watson, captain of the Irwin and founder of Sea Shepherd. Blocking transfer would make killing any further whales impossible for the fleet. First Mate Peter Hammarstedt, a Swede, brings us within 200 meters of the mother ship’s stern, blocking the fleet’s transport. And stopping whaling once again. But will it work? For how long? Can we gain our ground back again in this whale war?
…Read Part Two in tomorrow’s blog post.
Emily Hunter is an environmental journalist. She is currently working on a book about young environmental activism, The Next Eco-Warriors and a documentary on illegal whaling in Antarctica.