On one of the last days of 2009, the crew of the Ady Gil received a belated Christmas present from Mother Nature. While searching for the Japanese poaching ships in Antarctic waters, three Humpback whales decided to show themselves to the Ady Gil crew and approached the ship. At first the animals hesitated to come close, but after a while their curiosity overcame their hesitation and they swam right up to the vessel. They stayed with the Ady Gil for over half an hour, coming to the surface every now and then to have a peak at the crew who were starring at them in awe.
"It gives you a very humbling feeling to see those magnificent animals. It kind of explains it again why I am here in Antarctica," says Jimmie Burrowes from Ashburton, NZ. "These whales put a real face to the journey. But it makes me mad at the same time, knowing that there are people out here killing these intelligent creatures."
The Japanese whalers stated intentions to add 50 humpback whales to their self-imposed quota this year. Humpback whales travel to Antarctica to feed before swimming to shallow waters to give birth to their young.
For five-time Antarctic veteran crewmember Simeon Houtman, the encounter was the most amazing experience in his life. "I've never seen whales so close to a Sea Shepherd vessel. It was unbelievable," he said.
Engineer Jason couldn't agree more, "One day when I'm on my deathbed and I'll make a top 10 of most wonderful things I've ever experienced, this is going to outrank everything."
After half an hour of enjoying the stunning beauty of the Antarctic wildlife, the Ady Gil continued their search for the Japanese whaling fleet.
Photos: Laurens de Groot / Sea Shepherd