The Chase Continues - Day FiveCommentary by Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin
February 23rd to February 28th
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin almost caught up with the Japanese fleet in Vincennes Bay where they were attempting hunt whales. They did not make much progress. We were almost on them when they took off again - this time due north and after a hundred miles they headed east again.
The weather has turned nasty and heavy fog has surrounded us for hours. Mammoth icebergs slip by seen only as large masses on our radar. The spray crashing over the bow and splashing onto the windows of the wheelhouse turns to ice immediately. Winter is coming and that means that the Japanese only have a few weeks left to kill whales and Sea Shepherd crew intends to make those few weeks very difficult for the whalers.
The Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 with their contingent of Keystone Japanese Coast Guardsmen keeps tailing us, and they keep relaying our position to the Japanese, preventing us from closing on in them. But it works for us - just so long as they keep moving they are not killing whales.
Today the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 came in close behind us in the fog. They were within a half a mile when 1st Officer Peter Brown pulled a "Crazy Ivan" by coming around 180 degrees heading straight for them - bow to bow. The Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 immediately turned and ran back to wherever it was coming from. The Steve Irwin resumed our course and the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 stayed behind at a respectful 6.2 nautical miles for the rest of the day.
"I've never seen a bigger pack of cowards in my life," said Shannon Mann, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. "They have eight ships down here and they are running scared from little old us. We must be really scary!"
Despite what we can only imagine was a furious effort to locate our transmitters, the signals are coming in and we continue to tail the fleet despite the seas, the weather and the visibility. If technology can track a whale through the ocean it can certainly track a whaling ship.
This Sea Shepherd campaign, which began on December 5th, 2007 when the Steve Irwin first left Melbourne and is continuing into March 2008, is the longest ever harassment of the Japanese whaling fleet since illegal whaling activities began in the Southern Ocean in 1986.
We've had many people participate on the three different ventures down to the Southern Ocean this season and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is grateful for not just the participation of volunteer crew but also for the support of people on land who provided donations of funds, fuel, and labor. There are 33 crewmembers on the Steve Irwin right now but more than fifty have directly participated and hundreds have been hands-on supporters. It really has been a team effort.
Spirits are high with the crew. The cooks served vegan tacos with salad for lunch. The Bosun held a knot tying class in the afternoon and the night before there was a showing of Master and Commander with the crew divided into pro and anti-Russell Crowe fans.
One of the crew celebrated his birthday today. Raif Lowe from Melbourne, Australia turned 33.
It looks like we have secured day number five as a no-kill day for the whales. The whaling fleet is burning expensive fuel and getting nothing in return. Every whale we see swimming free brings joy to the crew. Our immediate goal is to make it another no kill week down here in the Southern Ocean.