The M/V Steve Irwin navigates for 24 hours
through a large field of ice, which was blown
in by the strong winds of an Antarctic storm.
Photo: Eric Cheng
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin was forced to take refuge behind a large iceberg as heavy ice began to build up for miles around the ship.
"It was an ominous sight," said Steve Roest from the U.K. "All around us for as far as we could sea was a massive pile of ice. It took Captain Watson more than seven hours to navigate a path through it and at times we felt for sure the ship would be crushed and that is not a very reassuring thought in these remote waters."
The Steve Irwin and the Sea Shepherd crew are now in full pursuit of the fleeing Japanese whaling fleet. This is the earliest in the season that the whalers have ever been caught.
Sea Shepherd has filmed the Nisshin Maru from the helicopter and has had a close encounter with the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru.
The hardest part of maneuvering through the ice field was when the Steve Irwin reached open waters to be greeted by a massive swell coming from the South.
"It was a somewhat frightening scene to see hard ice growlers the size of houses being tossed about like confetti in massive swells driven by gale force winds," reported Captain Paul Watson. "I had to thread the ship between those bucking chunks of lethal ice knowing that if just one of them was tossed against our hull, we would be holed and sunk very quickly. I was not completely confident that we would make it, a thought that I did not share with the crew at the time."
The coast of Antarctica is remote, unpredictable, and hostile to human life and not a place for the faint hearted. A constant vigil must be kept on weather and ice conditions. Added to this is the violence of the whalers who will not hesitate to fire upon whale defenders in defense of their illegal profits.
The M/V Steve Irwin navigates through a large field of growlers
in 6-7 meter swells and 40-knot winds. Antarctica. Photo: Eric Cheng
The Japanese whale processing ship Nisshin Maru is
spotted from a distance by helicopter crew