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Operation Waltzing Matilda Crew Blog

Welcome to the Operation Waltzing Matilda crew blog. Please check back often for blogs written by members of the Sea Shepherd crew, directly from the Steve Irwin in the southern oceans.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Ordinary People - Extraordinary Change

Wietse Van Der Werf
Steve Irwin

A few days ago, running low on fuel, we were forced to head back to land. With whaling stopped for over three weeks, this is the longest and most successful anti-whaling campaign in the Southern Ocean to date. For the last few weeks we were right where we wanted to be most. The one place where we can be sure that all illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean have stopped. It is here, right behind the Nisshin Maru that our months of preparation and hard work pay off. One by one the whaling ships that surrounded us before have dropped off our radar screen. Three harpoon ships sailed off over the horizon not be seen again and after Pete Bethune boarded the Shonan Maru, this one too is out of action. I stood outside on deck during our last night with the fleet and looked at the factory ship in front of us for one last time before we turned and headed back to port. I felt a great sense of pride, to know that in the 21st century it is still a committed, dedicated, and hard working group of ordinary people that can bring about the change needed to keep this planet healthy and sane. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Icebergs and Whaling Ships

Darius Fullmer
Deckhand, Bob Barker

Icebergs. You would be amazed at how convincingly a combination of Antarctic twilight and anxious anticipation can make distant icebergs look like whaling ships.

It had been a frustrating and often tedious week on the lookout. For 24 hours a day we rotated watches on the monkey deck, the highest level of the vessel, scanning the horizon for the whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and their satellite harpoon ships. Each began the same, with high hopes that today would be the day, and each would end the same--frozen hands and disappointment.

By February 6 we really hoped we were close. Peter Hammarstedt, our

First Mate, requested an additional watch atop the ship's foremast, a spot more exposed to the icy wind than the monkey deck, but also higher and thus offering a further view.

Again, the highest of hopes on the climb up, disappointment on the climb down a couple hours later. Checking in with Peter, he suggested we maintain the foremast watch an additional four hours, a statement that would prove prophetic. After a few more crewmembers descended without any sign of the fleet, I drew the straw for the last of the foremast watches.

An hour and a half later, with the dim Southern Ocean night falling and the mercury dropping, this was disappointment on a new level. We had all felt we were close. Not only was this the end of another luckless watch, this was the end of the day we all sensed was to be the one. One last scan of the horizon. Icebergs. Nothing.

Stiff from the cold, it took some time to remove my heavy mittens for the climb down. I allowed myself enough time that it was worth an extra look about before calling it quits.

I raised my binoculars, and there it was. There it simply was. Having emerged from behind an iceberg, mast light twinkling, too big to be one of the killer ships, this was it, the Nisshin Maru factory ship.

As we gave chase, whale organs were spotted floating in the water. Only hours earlier these had been some of the most magnificent creatures on earth. We had interrupted their dirty business, a business we had every intent to putting a stop to.

And stop it we have. As I write this, it has been eighteen days of chasing the Nisshin Maru through the Southern Ocean. We have been lead through pack ice, storms, been soaked by water cannons, and even rammed by a harpoon ship. Nothing has stopped or even slowed us. Our resolve is solid, thankfully so is our hull. Eighteen days, no whales killed. An indefensible and criminal operation brought to a standstill.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Galley Update

Nicola Paris
Galley, Steve Irwin

Nicola ParisSweet Valentines Day

Although no one bothered sending me roses on the pirate ship or even an email, it was a very sweet valentines day.  In the days since, all the action days seem blurred into one… but we had a very successful day. The boat launch was as smooth as it has ever been, and our actions very successful.

We exchanged Valentines Day presents with the crew of the Bob… both crews seem to be happily wed in a mutual appreciation society. We sent them brownies and a signed photo card; and received love heart cakes in return. Aaaawwww. We love the Bob.

Monday 15th

5am was pitch black on deck, no moon, cloud cover- an advantage in the element of surprise needed for our crazy plan, but somewhat problematic for using the crane to lift a jet ski into the freezing southern ocean. Hell, lets do it anyway.

After a briefing the night before we awoke for a meeting at 4:30am.  Pete Bethune was in the middle of last minute preparations, readying himself to attempt to board the Shonan Maru and place the Captain under citizen’s arrest for sinking his ship, the Ady Gil.

As I groped my way up onto the bow of the pitching ship, slipping and sliding, near the edge of the ship to feed the bow line through the cleats in the pitch black, I had one of those surreal moments: ‘am I really doing this?’ and ‘am I really part of this crazy plan?’ Then the moment of sanity passed and I went back down to assist with the launch, and the crazy plan worked.

After ducking back into the galley to get breakfast happening the morning was spent laughing hysterically at the footage of the person on the bridge of the Shonan who came out and shooed Pete away whilst looking around be-fuddled about how on earth this strange bald dude just ended up on their ship.

A bunch of volunteers had launched a high risk operation in the middle of the night, winched a jet ski by crane off the deck in the pitch black, gotten through the security spikes and netting on the whaling fleets ‘security’ ship, recovered the jet ski back onto the ship, sat down and had breakfast and a cup of tea and heard how the operation went, then sent the helicopter up to actually get footage of Pete entering the wheelhouse after hiding on their deck for over an hour.  And these guys are the trained security vessel?

Tuesday 16th

Still no whales killed and an increasingly stinky and spotty Nisshin Maru. We are well into our second week of tracking the slaughterhouse, and I’m sure they are getting a bit cranky with us by now.

Wednesday 17th

A big day.

We stopped the Nisshin Maru in its tracks. Literally. For half an hour the massive slaughterhouse was still amidst the dead calm of the morning.  We had deployed a stern line to keep them away from us, and then as we crossed in front of them, fearful of being entangled they came to a dead stop. We spent some time circling the factory ship and in the stillness between us and them, an amazing sight: whales.  Breaking through the glassy surface of the early day, they showed up to remind us again, why we are here.

We had started the day at 530am and we only just finished up for the day at 10pm or so.

Once the ship started to move again we took advantage of the clear conditions and targeted their engine ventilation systems with our water cannon – hoping to slow them down, or at least douse them with some salt water.  It was our best effort yet; six or seven passes, the last couple being within very close range brought steam pouring out of the Nisshin’s ventilation shafts. We stayed up in position for quite some time…long enough to start feeling the cold, and stop feeling my hands… all three of us were soaked through, as the workers on the Nisshin Maru started targeting us directly with their water cannons as we came closer. Once again, showing that, whilst we go out of our way to avoid injuring people; they go out of their way to injure us.  Brian had his visor blasted away by the sheer force of the water and my head was also knocked back, bruising my chin.

The Nisshin was subject to a very smelly and colorful afternoon. They have come out with a spot of measles…red dots appearing all over them; and they smell kind of sick. Our boat team has absolutely nailed the art of darting in under and around their water cannons, launching stink bomb attacks directly up the slipway.  An amazing and successful and tiring day.

Friday 19th

Very rough weather. Although good for robot dancing on slippery galley floors, it is not so good for many other activities. Even just sitting in chairs is dangerous lest you get thrown across the room. It is all the more frustrating when it hits suddenly; we had been enjoying a calm patch, and most of us woke up early morning to be thrown around our bunks, various detritus of cabins rattling around.

Storm outlook: 70 knot winds, 6 or 7 meter swells and very simple beans and rice.

Sunday 21st February

Galley tip number 17: When you wake up tired at 6am don’t mistake the container of icing sugar for baking powder as it makes for quite lame scones.

Made more hot sauce today, this time not making the same mistakes: I wore plastic gloves whilst prepping the chilies in front of a cheesy TV series. The last time I couldn’t sleep because my hands were burning so badly from the last batch I made.  We will be swapping some crew and provisions with the Bob tomorrow… so I might have to send them some hot sauce. So hot right now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Life in the Antarctic

Fiona McCuaig
Deckhand, Bob Barker

What a day! Welcomed gratefully after two slightly frustrating days of walking in what seemed like a monotonous excursion from the mess to the scullery. The last 24 hours have been interrupted by loud, banging, crunching sounds of uncompromising icebergs hitting the hull. Some of which bring wide-eyed expressions even to the engineers, who surely can’t be too alarmed knowing that we have an ice-class vessel. The scene outside has been one of the most beautiful surroundings we have seen so far - an unfamiliar world of thick ICE! I feel so grateful to be able to be in this amazing part of the globe, surrounded by beautiful undulating white ice sculptures and pristine air that is spoiling the lungs with too much of a good thing. Much respect must be given to the animals that live here in this freezer. Just today we have seen more mammals than we have seen any time before: the Antarctic fur seal, Crabeater seal, and the fascinating Leopard seal. Accompanied by the ever-present Albatross friend as our local guide.

The Nisshin Maru has taken the Steve Irwin and us into the deep depths of the Antarctic ice, hoping they could lose us this way for sure.

The day has been full of great cheer from both crews. We have swapped a few bodies with the Steve Irwin, exchanged rare resources of fresh fruit, vegan meat, anti-whaling tools, and Luke's much needed technical equipment. A slightly awkward moment handing over his parcel which had got misplaced amongst the butyric acid box delivery - unfortunately the smell had already penetrated into the bag and undoubtedly into the wires. Wow… that stuff stinks.

I had a dream the other night that Japan became the world’s top nation in leading the environmental movement. Maybe they can do a u-turn and make up for all their exploitation of our oceans our oceans. Come on Mr Yukio Hatayama, be clever!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Photographing Life on the Barker

Glenn Lockitch
Ship’s Photographer, Bob Barker

The nearly sixty-year-old Bob Barker, the latest addition to the Sea

Shepherd fleet, is an ex-whaling ship that is not short of character and is a smorgasbord to the visual sense especially for a photographer.

I joined the ship on the 2nd of December in Mauritius, having flown in from

Sydney, and arrived at Port Louis not knowing what to expect. My taxi driver from the airport, a regular driver for the Sea Shepherd crew and chatty on subjects from politics to romance, dropped me in front of a ship that had a black-painted hull and cream and deep red paint peeling from the rest of its body. What a sight! This boat was oozing character and I was going to be photographing on board for the next three months.

After being introduced to many new faces I was shown around the ship through a rabbit warren of cabins and corridors that mysteriously seemed to end up where you started. I was then shown to my cabin and dumped all my gear. I immediately grabbed my camera and went exploring.

And there has been much to photograph in the 66 days we’ve been on board ... from the repairing of the ship and loading of supplies in Mauritius; then our daily lives during our journey down to the Southern Ocean; the stunning ever-changing nature around us from albatrosses following our ship for days on end to a slow and careful meander through icebergs and growlers, interspersed with the odd pod of whales and penguins casually hanging out on an iceberg as we pass; and more recently for the last month-and-a-half, the spontaneity of actions against the Japanese whalers.

As I type, we are into our 16th day on the tail of the factory ship, which is not only a record for trailing them but also greater than all of the days combined in all previous campaigns. As each day passes by, another ten more whales are saved!

Each day, if I haven’t already been woken out of my erratic sleep to photograph a commemorative hosing down of the Nisshin Maru, the first thing I do after stumbling towards the coffee percolator is check the light outside… the most vital ingredient for photography …

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Food preparations before action…

Amber Paarman and Christine Bindal
Galley, Bob Barker

We were sweeping along the ice shelf in the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary and it was likely that we would engage the whalers in a day or two. The deckhands were getting their gear ready to go into battle while the bridge and engine room departments were trying to get as much sleep as possible in between their watches… but not Team Galley!

Team Galley keeps a careful watch to make sure that everyone is fed well, around the clock, seven days the week. The food is very important to keep the motivation and energy high for our fight for the whales.

Over the last few days we have been cooking up a vegan storm in our humble galley.

Some days before we found the illegal whaling fleet we worked longer hours to make extra meals to freeze. We prepared lunchboxes for the small boats and energy pocket snacks for our bridge people and throwing teams. It is always important that we have plenty of food so that we are available as extra hands during heated confrontations.

We plan to shut the illegal whalers down and keep them on the run until they give up and return home.


This is an old favorite Bob Barker crew special:


To fill 32 pockets with sweet vegan pocket treats (this is a perfect high energy snack to hand out during confrontation with the whalers)

2 ¾ cups vegan margarine
4 tspn. bi-carbonate soda
4 cup sugar (preferably brown sugar if you have)
4 cup designated coconut
4 cups flour
7 cups of oats
4 heaping tablespoons syrup (maple, agave or golden syrup)

These are rough quantities; you can’t go wrong with this little recipe so don’t be afraid to play around with the quantities and ingredients :-). We sometimes like to add things like dates, puffed, quinoa, cacao nibs, nuts…

Melt the syrup and margarine together then stir in with the bi-carb until frothy. Add the flour, coconut, sugar and oats. Stir well. Press mixture into trays (you can make them either thin and crunchy or 2 or 3 cm deep to have them crunchy from the outside and soft in the middle; we usually make both to keep everyone smiling).

Bake at 300 F for about 30 minutes. Cut while still hot into squares and leave in tray until cool.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blog from the Bob Barker Engine Room

Phil Edmondson
3rd Engineer,  Bob Barker

Antarctica, the oft-raging Southern Oceans – a hostile environment for a species so ill adapted to extremes of temperature. And so we bob along in our tiny life-support capsule under the guise of the veteran ex-whaling ship Bob Barker, it’s signature black & yellow paint now showing the odd streak of rust after eight weeks at sea and a little physical contact with the Yushin Maru 3!

Our character-rich little home, our sole means of taking our campaign right to the very door of the Japanese whaling fleet, presents us with a number of practical challenges which, in a very real sense, mirror those which all societies have to cope with to create sustainable communities. We all very much take for granted the services which allow us to lead a “modern” lifestyle, with often very little thought given to the practicalities and the implications - the water comes out of the tap, wastewater goes down the sink or toilet & electricity comes out of the socket in the wall. Hey presto, job done, nothing to think about – it just happens!

The Bob and the Steve are microcosms of a modern community, with all it’s needs and practicalities, with the added challenge of your “world” moving in all 3 dimensions simultaneously; freezing seas and howling winds outside the front door; icebergs small & large nodding at you through the window; and the occasional whaling vessel hosing you down, blasting you with their LRADs, & threatening you with very physical contact. Everything we need for the campaign must be either brought with us or created by us - with a little help from modern technology of course! When our life-support systems falter or fail, it affects all of us directly and immediately, and we have to fall on our own resources to restore the equilibrium – no 24/7, on-call services out here at any price.

And so, technology being what it is, we found ourselves with a temporarily defective water-maker – our only source of fresh water – and much-depleted water tanks. Water restrictions are immediately implemented, water is only to be used for cooking – no washing, no showers, no laundering, no arguments! What to do? Surrounded by fresh water, albeit a little tied-up, but not a drop to drink. (Factual note: 90% of the Earth’s fresh water is locked-up in the Antarctic ice cap) Bright idea, let’s hook an iceberg, crush it, melt it, problem solved. Slightly trickier in practice than in theory, but what a spectacle, Dave in the icy waters in his dry suit

(like a simian sea-lion, snorting included, whiskers excluded) netting the small “growlers” before we crane them on board.

And so it is with all of our day-to-day problems, solve them or suffer, sink or swim! A humbling backdrop to our day-to-day fight to prevent the brutal slaughter of our most enigmatic of neighbors, and a constant reminder of how our experiences here translate in a very real sense to the challenges of sustainability that our whole world faces. Meanwhile our aquatic friends suffer a similar, yet starkly different, set of challenges – we intend to see that the harpoon isn’t amongst them!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Keeping a Promise

Matt Kimura
Bosun, Bob Barker

My name is Matt Kimura and I’m honored to serve as bosun on the Bob Barker.

As bosun I’m responsible for the deck, small boats, and the 8-person deck crew.

I spent 16 years working on ships and tugboats.  I have extensive small boat open ocean experience. 10 years ago, I became a grammar school teacher.

When I told my students how the Japanese whaling fleet intends to come down to Antarctica to slaughter 950 whales, they let out this collective gasp.  I didn’t need to explain about treaties, endangered species, research quotas, or sanctuaries.  The children knew in their heart that killing whales was wrong.  It was at that point that this campaign took on a new meaning for me.

I promised my students that I would go down to Antarctica with Sea Shepherd and do everything possible to make sure that they and all children grow up in a world where whales are cherished and protected not hunted down and slaughtered.  I intend to keep that promise.

Three days ago we engaged the Nisshin Maru.   As we pulled up behind the factory ship, three harpoon ships and the security ship, the Shonan Maru, surrounded us from behind. They then started circling us like a pack of wolves.  They would pass as close as 50 meters alongside then cut dangerously close across our bow.

When the Yushin Maru 3 came up within 40 meters that was close enough. The

Yushin Maru 3 then veered right into our side.  I yelled for the deck crew to get down as you could hear metal screeching and our ship heeled over.

A quick survey of our vessel revealed a one-meter gash just above the waterline.  The Yushin Maru 3 however went dead in the water and has not been seen since.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Into the Storm

Fiona McCuaig
Deckhand, Bob Barker

Seasickness is soon to hit. We are relentlessly following the whaling factory ship and it is leading us into the eye of a huge storm. I’m sure that they are hoping that the hole they created in our hull from their violent ramming a few days ago will leave us drowning in the ten meter swell (of course we’ve repaired the ship) … the mood on the ship would normally be lethargic with the thought of being undeservedly tossed around for 24 hours, objects flying athwart ship, nausea deep seated in our stomachs. But the crew on the Bob Barker could not be happier.

We’re entering our second week of carrying out our number one Waltzing Matilda campaign strategy. Keeping up the bum of the factory ship means seven blissful days that whales have not agonized in a 20 plus minute barbaric harpoon death; five days of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary living up to its name and five days of the factory ship workers redundant in their cabins with the vacuum packing machine switched off - all helping toward making the situation economically nonviable for the whalers so they go home to Japan, and stay home.

The Steve Irwin is now here with us and we are so proud to have the two ships together at last. It would have been great to have the Ady Gil here too if the illegal whalers had not aggressively sliced it in two pieces last month. Cabin fever is quickly blown off with a visit to the shelter deck. The "war scene" can look slightly comical with the six ships perfectly arranged in a triangle. First we have the Nisshin Maru speeding away at their full speed of 15 knots, followed by the Bob Barker and Steve Irwin on either stern side and behind us the harpoon and security ships.

And I have to ask myself: where are we going? Where are the Japanese whalers taking us?

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