The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin left Hobart, Tasmania at 1800 Hours on December 31st, 2009 to return to the search in the Southern Ocean for the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
The Steve Irwin had lost the tail of the Shonan Maru No. 2 when the Sea Shepherd crew returned to Tasmania. The Japanese were anxious to put that tail back on the anti-whaling ship knowing that a continued tracking of the Steve Irwin would keep the conservationists away from the whaling fleet.
The Japanese were desperate to not lose track of the Steve Irwin, so desperate that they appear to have fraudulently poised as New Zealand government agents in their efforts to find the Steve Irwin at sea.
On January 1st, 2010 two men, Glen Inwood and Chris Johnston from Omeka Communications located in Wellington, New Zealand chartered a Chieftain aircraft out of Melbourne. They identified themselves as acting on behalf of the government of New Zealand to track down and locate a New Zealand catamaran and the Steve Irwin on the pretext that if they (the Sea Shepherd ships) were to get in trouble it would cost the New Zealand government a great deal of money to rescue. They wanted the ships located and an estimate given of their track and speed.
The Chieftain aircraft undertook two four-hour searches. The searches failed to find the Steve Irwin. The Ady Gil, the Sea Shepherd catamaran, was fourteen hundred miles south so finding it was out of the question. It was the Steve Irwin they were looking for.
The two searches failed to find the Steve Irwin so Inwood and Johnston chartered a second Chieftain for another four hour flight. It also failed to spot the Steve Irwin.
Sitting at the 200-mile limit, the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru waited for word from the spotter planes to resume the tail on the Steve Irwin. It had been spotted and identified by a boat out of Hobart with a six-person crew identifying themselves as the Taz Patrol.
Meanwhile, the Steve Irwin had latched onto a passing storm and rode the winds and heavy rains across the Economic Exclusion Zone into international waters undetected.
The 12 hours of flight with the Chieftains at $1,610 an hour cost Glen Inwood $18,320. He put it on his personal credit card.
Was Glen Inwood a representative of the New Zealand government as he said?
No, Mr. Inwood owns Omeka Communications, the New Zealand public relations firm that represents the Japanese whaling industry.
It will be interesting to see if the New Zealand government has a problem with a Japanese hired public relations firm representing themselves as New Zealand government agents.
The end result was that the search was unsuccessful, the Steve Irwin is running south without a Japanese tail, the Yushin Maru is not whaling, and the whaling industry is out another $18 thousand dollars.