The Sea Shepherd vessel, Steve Irwin, in Antarctica. It’s cold.
This is the third blog post in the series documenting the February to March 2008 leg of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling Antarctic campaign. Previous posts in the series are here. The following post was an email I sent on the ninth day at sea.
From: Steve Irwin Vessel
Sent on: 2/23/08 5:31 PM
Meow. So we’re in the Antarctic officially chasing the whaling fleet. It’s been tiring but I’ve been wired during most of it.
Last night I got no sleep. I got woken up around 2am to go to the bridge because we found a suspicious long-lining vessel. Suspicious as in, after I got up to the bridge, they radioed us to threaten us, saying they were armed and would repel us by force, even though we told them we’re just a conservation vessel. And frankly, if I drove alongside a bus in the Midwest who suddenly radioed me saying they have guns and would shoot me, I’d find them suspicious too. We communicated with them for a while, and they kept asking us to identify ourselves over and over again, and we’re not sure why they did that. But we think the chatter may have attracted the attention of the Japanese, because about an hour later, we found a Japanese vessel, which came near us but then lead us on a chase leading East.
We chased it for a while, but the officers decided it was odd for the Japanese to come so near the radio chatter that so clearly identified us, before leading us on a chase. So first officer Peter Brown did a “Crazy Ivan,” which is a maneuver where you make a sudden unexpected turn, to see how the Japanese vessel would react. We made a 180 degree turn and gunned it going West, and lo and behold, the Japanese vessel turned and followed us. That meant the Japanese vessel was the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68, the Japanese military ship whose only purpose was to track us and lead us away from the whaling fleet. Some of the crew were bummed about that, since it would be harder to find the rest of the fleet with the Fukuyoshi reporting our position to the rest of the whaling fleet. But those pessimists should’ve had a little more faith in us. :)
The Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68, chasing us.
We played cat and mouse wargames with that ship for a while, in order to get at those whalers before they could harpoon any more baby whales (they kill baby whales!). Then, later that day, our cat and mouse games paid off, as I spotted a harpoon boat on my radar (I call it my radar now because I put so much time and effort into fixing it, and it keeps beeping and making noise and everyone wants to shut it off all the time, and I was the only one who had the faith to keep using it, and the clunky little bugger was the one that picked up the harpoon boat!). The Fukuyoshi tried to get between us and the harpoon boat, but we gunned it past the Fukuyoshi, and we chased the harpoon ship out of a sunny, calm area filled with whales that they would normally have turned into a slaughterhouse of mothers and their calves.
The harpoon boat running away from us.
Close up of the harpoon boat running away from us.
After the chase ended with snow and bad weather moving in, keeping us from effectively tailing the harpoon ship, we came across yet another long-lining vessel, a South Korean vessel called the No. 2 In Sung. We deployed the Delta attack boat to investigate it.
The South Korean vessel No. 2 In Sung.
Our Delta attack boat investigating the No. 2 In Sung.
It turns out it had a permit to be there, but it was bringing up Patagonian toothfish (you probably recognize them on menus as “Chilean sea bass”), which was very illegal.
The In Sung illegally poaching a Patagonian toothfish (photo taken by ship’s official photographer Noah Hannibal)
That was quite upsetting, to see that everyone is pretty much doing anything they want in the Southern Oceans because there’s no law enforcement aside from our tiny ship out here. The other upsetting thing was that the Fukuyoshi came surprisingly close to us when we were investigating the In Sung. They never came that close to us before. I don’t want to accuse poachers of working together, but that was just suspicious that the two closest times they came to us was when we were investigating poachers. Anyway, we repelled them by gunning straight for them, forcing them to back off.
We attack the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 to get them off our tail.
We also sent the footage of the poaching to the Oceanic Viking, the Australian customs vessel in charge of the Australian Antarctic territory. Unfortunately they were thousands of miles away and decided not to pursue the matter. >.< No wonder poachers do anything they want here. I’ve been getting very little sleep, since as a bridge officer they wake me up in the middle of the night every time there’s something suspicious to investigate, but hey, I gotta keep up my NYC sleepless lifestyle somehow. -Tod