The Sinking of the Ady Gil
The Official Report as accumulated and verified by Sea Shepherd crew & staff
The Sinking of the Ady Gil: On January 6th 2010, the Sea Shepherd ship Ady Gil was deliberately rammed by the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru #2. The collision tore the vessel in half, ripping 5 metres off the front end and exposing the interior to the sea. The ramming took place at 64° 02’ South and 148° 52’ East. The crew of the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker were witnesses to the collision. The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin was some 250 miles to the North at the time. The crew of the Ady Gil were rescued by the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was notified. They advised that the vessel be abandoned and that crew should not go back on board for safety reasons, they also emphasized that we had no obligation to attempt a vessel rescue, and advised against it for safety reasons. However, Captain Chuck Swift of the Bob Barker, with permission of Captain Pete Bethune sent a boarding party (including both Captains) to salvage what equipment they could.
The first tow attempt began shortly after that. The vessel could only be towed from the stern and it was like towing an empty bucket through the water backwards. When the first towing lines broke several hours later, the vessel was obviously lower in the water and the Ady Gil was brought alongside and tied to the Bob Barker. Then many hours were spent removing as much fuel and oil from the ship as possible, to avoid potential pollution and lighten the weight and increase the chances of a successful tow. After the pollutants were removed, the Ady Gil was taken under tow for the second time, with the intention of reaching a French Research base on the Antarctic coast some 300 miles distance. There was no possibility of towing the vessel back to Australia because of weather conditions and the damage that was sustained by the ramming—which resulted in ruptures to the fuel tank.
While underway with the second towing attempt, it became apparent that the vessel was going to sink no matter what happened and that reaching the coast of Antarctica would be impossible due to deteriorating weather conditions and ice barriers. The vessel was sinking slowly, but going down too quickly to reach the base. If we could not save the vessel, the greater priority became continuation of the mission to stop illegal whale poaching, which meant abandoning the vessel. However, once abandoned, the Ady Gil would become a navigational hazard, so the responsible thing to do was to scuttle it to help it sink as quickly as possible before leaving it—and we would attempt to move it as far out of the shipping lanes in the meantime.
Rather than create a stir amongst the crews and media, the decision was made (by Captains Watson and Swift) to keep the action as completely confidential as possible, but to let Captain Bethune have the final call regarding the scuttling, out of respect for him and the vessel.
When approached with this plan, Captain Bethune quickly agreed, showing and voicing no hesitation or concern. In fact, when Captain Swift shared his concern that the vessel might not sink due to the construction and buoyancy, Pete suggested that he call the engineers that helped him design the AG. Pete did so, and assured Captain Swift that the engineers “guaranteed him” that if the fuel tank and engine room were compromised—and they were—that the vessel would sink.
Later that day, while still underway with the Ady Gil in tow, a crew consisting of Captain Pete Bethune, Captain Chuck Swift, and Communications Officer Luke VanHorn went onboard to scuttle the Ady Gil. Captain Bethune opened the sea valves in the engine room while Swift and VanHorn checked once more for usable or valuable items in the body of the vessel. Mission accomplished, they departed knowing that it would take some hours for it slowly sink due to the buoyant foam in the hull.
On January 8th, Captain Chuck Swift radioed Captain Paul Watson on the Steve Irwin and said that the Ady Gil was (as anticipated and previously discussed) slowly sinking, and officially recommended abandoning the vessel. Captain Watson said that it remained Pete Bethune’s decision as to what should be done, because of Pete’s long history and the fact that it had been his boat for so long. A few minutes later, on camera on the bridge of the Bob Barker, Pete Bethune once more said that the boat had to be abandoned. The decision was solely his, twice, and he never hesitated or shared any concerns.
The vessel was afloat when the Bob Barker departed, but anticipated to be under the surface within hours. Captain Swift notified Australian Maritime Safety of the location of the vessel at 64°49” South and 137°27”East. The Shonon Maru #2 reported the vessel still floating a few hours later.
The Ady Gil was unsalvageable. There was no choice but to abandon it. It could not be towed to the coast of Antarctica and certainly not to the coast of Tasmania.
The Ady Gil was destroyed by the deliberate ramming by the Shonan Maru #2.
Report Prepared and Endorsed by:
Captain Chuck Swift (USA)
Peter Hammarstedt (Sweden)
Dr. Bonny Schumacher (USA)
Laurens De Groot (Netherlands)
Captain Paul Watson
Allegations that Captain Paul Watson ordered Captain Peter Bethune to sink the Ady Gil are untrue. The entire conversation is on film where Captain Watson on the Steve Irwin sends a message to Pete Bethune asking for his suggestion as to what to do because the Ady Gil was Pete Bethune’s command. The decision to abandon the vessel was made by Captain Pete Bethune and he states this on camera.
Report from Captain Chuck Swift of the Bob Barker to Captain Paul Watson of the Steve Irwin:
I never ordered Pete Bethune to do anything. I shared with him that you and I discussed sinking the vessel, and that you had requested we do it—if he/Pete was comfortable doing so. Pete never shared any hesitation or concern. In fact, when I shared my concern that the vessel might not sink, Pete suggested that he call the engineers that helped him design the AG; he did so, and assured me that the engineers assured him that if the fuel tank and engine room were compromised (and they were)—that the vessel would sink. The fuel tank was clearly and largely ruptured, but even the engine compartment was taking on water because the wall between those sections was cracked a bit. Our efforts to tow the Ady Gil lasted most of 36 hours. Two towing systems utilizing varied rope and fastening systems both failed as the vessel dropped deeper into the water and resistance increased. In the end, the Bob Barker was traveling at between 1 and 1.5 knots when the ropes broke for the second time. Luke VanHorn, Communications Officer (Bob Barker); Chuck Swift, Captain (Bob Barker); and Pete Bethune, Captain (Ady Gil) boarded the vessel. As previously agreed, Pete entered the engine room and opened the sea valves while Chuck and Luke searched for any other valuable or usable equipment in the body of the Ady Gil. Pete exited the engine room with an excited smile and said something to the effect of, “Job well done!” We departed the vessel. When we last saw the Ady Gil, it was lower in the water than ever before (approximately 40% of its vertical profile), with its pontoons, engine room, and fuel tank clearly under. According to Pete Bethune and the engineers he told me he spoke with—the vessel was headed for the bottom within a few hours.
2nd Officer Bonny Schumacher on the Bob Barker sent this note to Captain Pete Bethune October 6th/2010:
I was not privy to your conversations with Chuck or Paul, but witnessed most else. We had to tow the Ady backwards, not her designed direction to face oncoming water. So her stern took on water. We made more than one attempt to tow her; she snapped the strongest lines we had and we could do no more ourselves to tow her. I was not asked if she would sink or if she could be made to sink- if I had been, I would have deferred to your understanding based on her open volume, net weight, and density of the carbon matrix. In any case, the only proper authorities available for that unanticipated and urgent judgment at hand were you, Chuck, and Paul.
In view of the fact that I have never encountered any difficulties in expressing disagreement with Chuck or Paul as my captains when appropriate, I am shocked that you would intimate only now, and publicly, that you disagreed with their opting to leave the Ady in order not to lose the Nisshin Maru. Your statement to us, the Bob crew, and the AP folks and their cameras on the Bob, was that we couldn't risk losing the Nisshin, since our primary mission was to prevent them from being able to process harpooned whales, in order to force all their kill ships to stop the harpooning. So how can you say now that you disagreed?
Further, as captain of the Ady, not only could you have disagreed, you could have refused - but you did neither, to my knowledge. You chose, correctly in my opinion, to do what we had to do to keep from losing the Nisshin.
Statement regarding the sinking of the Ady Gil By Laurens de Groot Navigator / First Officer on the Ady Gil during Operating Waltzing Matilda
After the ramming by the Shonun Maru 2 our crew was saved by the Bob Barker) crew. When the remains of the Ady Gil were inspected it became clear the fuel tank had been breached. Shortly after, the crew of the Bob Barker and the Ady Gil removed all environmental contaminants from the vessel. When this was done we (Chuck, Peter H, Pete other officers and myself (on the BB) as well as Paul Watson and supporting on shore staff) discussed our best options to salvage the vessel. Taking it back to Hobart, Tasmania was impossible as the vessel was severely damaged and would never make it through the Southern Ocean. Taking it to the Antarctic shore was our only bet and we decided to give that a try. The Bob Barker began to tow the Ady Gil. After a little while it became clear that sea water was still entering the vessel. I remember that the tow line had broken. The vessel was deeper in the water. Due to the extra (water)weight of the vessel it seemed impossible to tow the vessel any further. It became clear to everybody on the Bob Barker (crew, officers and Pete Bethune) that the vessel was unsalvageable. During another attempt to tow the vessel, the line broke again. This happened overnight while I was asleep. The next morning I heard that the Bob Barker had abandoned the Ady Gil as it was still sinking and impossible to tow. Pete told me that he had helped scuttling the vessel early in the morning to help it sink as it had become a navigational hazard in the Antarctic Ocean. At that point it was explained to me by Pete as the only right thing to do with the Ady Gil as it was impossible to salvage. It made perfect sense to me and the only logic -though tragic- solution. After that we continued our voyage to meet up with the vessel Steve Irwin.
Statement from Captain Paul Watson of the Steve Irwin.
The Steve Irwin was some 300 miles from the Bob Barker and the Ady Gil when the ramming by the Shonan Maru took place. On January 8th I was called by Captain Chuck Swift and informed that it was impossible to tow the Ady Gil any further. Captain Swift asked me what we should do. I said “It’s Pete’s boat, it’s his decision.”
Chuck had a meeting with Pete and Pete decided that the vessel could not be salvaged. He made the decision to abandon it and to scuttle it to avoid it being a navigational hazard. No one ordered Pete to do it. It was his command and Sea Shepherd captains are in complete command of their own ships. I did not order Captain Bethune to either abandon the vessel or to attempt to scuttle it. It was his responsibility and his decision.
Ref: Logbooks of the Bob Barker/Ady Gil/Steve Irwin