On board the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Steve Irwin the international crew of 73 toasted one of their crewmates presently detained onboard the Japanese whale killing ship Shonan Maru #2.
"Here's to Peter, defender of the whales and oceanic knight extraordinaire." Was the cry. "Three cheers for the skipper of the Ady Gil. Three cheers to Captain Peter Bethune."
Captain Peter Bethune is a bona fide modern day New Zealand hero. Not only is he the world record holder for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth, he is also New Zealand's most courageous defenders of the whales.
The Japanese whalers presently have Captain Bethune detained on the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru #2. They plan to haul him back in chains to Japan and to charge him with piracy after they sank his record-breaking vessel and nearly killed five of his crew and himself.
Where is the outrage on the part of the New Zealand government?
This man is a hero in the same vein as Sir Edmund Hillary. He is a world maritime record holder, an incredible sailor, a dedicated conservationist, a family man with two children, and an inspirational legend in the world of motor yachting.
Captain Bethune set his record breaking achievement with one of the most fuel efficient ocean going vessels ever designed and he circumnavigated the world using only bio-fuel.
When Captain Bethune first approached Captain Paul Watson last year with an offer to sell the Earthrace to Sea Shepherd to oppose the Japanese, he threw into the bargain his time and his skills as the skipper of that famous boat.
The Earthrace was renamed the Ady Gil in recognition of the one million dollars Mr. Ady Gil of Los Angeles donated towards the purchase of the vessel.
When Captain Watson asked Captain Bethune why he wanted Sea Shepherd to have the Earthrace, and why he wanted to skipper the vessel he told him, "Because I'm a Kiwi and the Japanese whalers have no right to be killing off our whales in our waters under the pretense of science. I want to do my part."
This year Captain Peter Bethune has done more than his part. He skippered the Ady Gil to the Southern Ocean and disrupted illegal Japanese whaling operations so efficiently that the Japanese security vessel Shonan Maru #2 decided to deliberately destroy the legendary vessel by intentionally ramming it causing it to sink.
The collision nearly killed Captain Bethune and five of his crew.
Undaunted, Captain Bethune decided to confront the man who destroyed his ship and almost took his life so he boarded the Shonan Maru #2 breaching the security of the very vessel in charge of the security for the Japanese fleet. He boarded the ship in a "Mission Impossible" manner under the cover of darkness onto a fast moving vessel, passing a dangerous anti-boarding network of sharp spikes and netting. He was on the vessel for an hour and a half before presenting himself to the crew. The reason he waited was for daylight, so that the Sea Shepherd helicopter could document the operation.
Captain Bethune handed the Shonan Maru #2 captain a letter stating he was there to conduct a citizens arrest of the skipper for deliberately ramming and sinking his ship and endangering the lives of his crew. He also handed the skipper an invoice for three million dollars for the replacement cost of the Ady Gil.
The Japanese government is saying they will be charging Captain Bethune with injuring three Japanese crew on the Shonan Maru #2 on February 11th with rotten butter, a substance that the Japanese always refer to as acid despite the fact that it is organic, non-toxic and non-irritating. The Sea Shepherd website has the video evidence that shows the three Japanese crew suffered from self inflicted injuries when they fired pepper spray into the wind and it blew back into their faces.
"Peter Bethune places his body where it counts" "Said Captain Paul Watson. "On the front line, and he will go where he needs to go to defend the whales, be it in the path of the harpoons, on board a whaling ship or all the way back to Japan if need be. He is not one of those timid souls who whine about an injustice, he is a man who acts to right a wrong and to defend the defenseless from the remorseless. He is a hero of the first order and I am proud that he is fighting for the whales along side of us with the resolve of a Viking and the kind heart of a man who cares what kind of world will be bequeathed to his children."
Not a single whale has been killed during the last two weeks. Sea Shepherd is severely cutting the kill quota and costing the whalers tens of millions of dollars.