After months of preparation, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has officially set sail for their 2010-11 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, Operation No Compromise. This year's fleet is the strongest to date including veteran vessels the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker, with the addition of the newly-acquired trimaran Gojira, Japanese for Godzilla, with the necessary speed and power to outrun the whalers and put an end to their shameful activities.
Sea Shepherd will also deploy a more capable helicopter this year: the Nancy Burnet. This helicopter is faster, has a longer range, carries more people/weight, and is named after a very close friend of television game show host and animal rights advocate Bob Barker. Burnet helped facilitate Barker's $5 million donation to Sea Shepherd in the summer of 2009. It was that donation that allowed Sea Shepherd to purchase the vessel Bob Barker as well as the upgraded helicopter and other essential equipment still in use.
"This is the largest crew and strongest fleet we have prepared to defend the great whales, and I am confident this year's campaign will be the most successful yet, especially as the Japanese whaling fleet remains docked in Japan because of issues involving a supply vessel," commented Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson.
Fremantle's Mayor Brad Pettitt christened Gojira with the Australian flag during a ceremony earlier this week in her new home port in Western Australia. The interceptor vessel made Sea Shepherd history as the first ship to receive Australian registry in over three decades of operations.
"Sea Shepherd is very grateful for the incredible support we have received from the ports of Hobart, Fremantle, Albany, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and the communities of Whale Beach, Byron Bay and towns all over Australia. With everyone's support this year, we now have an Australian flagged vessel with Australian crew," Captain Watson commented.
Hobart is considered the gateway to Antarctica, and happens to be one of Sea Shepherd's strongest support bases for preparing their vessels to defend whales from being illegally targeted in New Zealand and Australian waters.
Captain of the Bob Barker Alex Cornelissen added, "The support has been overwhelming, even with children emptying out their piggy banks to help save the whales. We certainly have a connection to the Australian people, and here in Tasmania it seems to be extra strong, perhaps this is because we're much closer to Antarctica."
After a public send-off, the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker departed from Hobart's Macquarie Wharf 1 at 1:00 p.m. AEST, December 2, on a mission to enforce international conservation law, uphold an Australian Federal Court ruling, and prevent the illegal slaughter of endangered whales. Sea Shepherd held a press conference prior to departure led by Captains Watson and Cornelissen, and with some added support from Australian Greens Party Senator Bob Brown, re-enforcing his commitment as one of Australia's most passionate defenders of whales.
Gojira is expected to rendezvous with the rest of its fleet including the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker this weekend after both ships have completed their crew training at sea. With a Sea Shepherd crew of 10, the wave-piercing trimaran is currently en route from Western Australia with Captain Locky MacLean at its helm. The 115-foot stabilized monohull vessel was the current record holder for successfully circumnavigating the globe in 1998 in just 74 days, a record to later be broken by the Ady Gil, which was lost at sea during last year's campaign after a collision with Japanese harpoon ship the Shonan Maru No. 2.
Animal Planet is onboard all three vessels to document Sea Shepherd's conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean for the fourth season of their hit television series Whale Wars.