|Monday, January 23, 2006|
Fifty Days at Sea for the Whales
The Sea Shepherd Voyage to Antarctica Comes to an End
Fifty days and nearly 8,000 miles covered - the Farley Mowat left Melbourne, Australia, on December 6, 2005, and we will arrive in Cape Town on January 25, 2006.
We departed with all eight fuel tanks filled to capacity with 120 metric tons of diesel fuel. We will arrive in Cape Town with only one day's supply of fuel remaining. We stretched our limitations dangerously but we will safely conclude our journey.
During the fifty days at sea, we had chased the Japanese whalers for over 4,000 miles and shut down their whaling operations for 15 days. We are not as fast as the Japanese ships so it was a constant hit and ambush strategy. We confronted the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru twice and we sideswiped the whaling fleet supply vessel Oriental Bluebird, ordering it out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
We also had a bonus: On January 4, we intercepted a longline belonging to the Uruguayan toothfish poacher Poloma and we seized it (see pictures below), pulling it up from the bottom a thousand feet below complete with rope, line, hooks, buoys, anchored weights, and radio transmitter.
It was the first voyage where we searched the seas from our ship with our newly-acquired onboard helicopter, covering hundreds of miles around the Farley Mowat in our continued quest for the Japanese whaling fleet.
It was a voyage that took 43 volunteers from 10 different nations into a vast ocean strewn with tens of thousands of icebergs ranging in size from bergs the size of houses to massive tabular ice islands the size of major cities. This is a world where people are a rarity and where whales, penguins, seals, and seabirds are the dominant inhabitants.
It was the second expedition ever mounted to Antarctica that was exclusively vegan, the first being our voyage of 2002-2003 to these same waters. This unique feature of our voyage prompted one Japanese whaler to laughably accuse us of being "dangerous vegans and circus performers." We have to admit, we were amused and a bit puzzled about being circus performers.
On this voyage Captain Paul Watson stood on the top of a massive iceberg with Emily Hunter (see pictures below), the daughter of Robert "Bob" Hunter, a co-founder along with Captain Watson of the Greenpeace Foundation. Bob, the first president of Greenpeace, had died in April 2005. His daughter scattered his ashes on top of the iceberg as Captain Watson and helicopter pilot Chris Aultman shared her grief at the passing of a wonderful father, a good friend, and a legendary eco-warrior.
On this voyage, many of the volunteer crew of the Farley Mowat ushered in the New Year by joining the Penguin Club. Membership was earned by jumping into the frigid Antarctic seas and swimming with the penguins. The difficult part was that only a bathing suit could be worn or no bathing suit at all.
There is no more spectacular place on this planet than the coast of Antarctica. The crew were treated to sights of whales and penguins, icebergs and weather conditions that they will never forget.
What they will remember most, however, is chasing the whalers and the satisfaction of seeing them run like cowards each time we approached. What they will treasure the most is that they prevented the slaughter of whales and were thrilled when the Japanese whalers announced that they would not be able to get their full quota.
And they also discovered the key to saving the whales. There is no doubt the whalers are intimidated by Sea Shepherd. All we need now is a ship that can match the speed of the Japanese vessels. If we can get such a ship, we can shut down their operations and we can order and escort them from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
This week, one whale died on the Thames River in England. Millions of people followed the rescue and were saddened when the whale died. An incredible effort was put into saving the life of that one whale. It was a display of human compassion that captured the world's attention.
Yet down here at the bottom of the world, hundreds of whales are viciously slaughtered. They scream out in terrified agony as their blood pours into a cold sea from gaping jagged wounds made from unforgiving explosive harpoons.
The tragedy is that we have the ability to stop the killing. We just lack the support.
This year we are launching an appeal to secure a ship that will bring us back to these lonely and remote waters. We need a long-range fast ship.
Captain Watson and his crew are ready to return to Antarctica and they are ready to hunt down the whale hunters with the objective of shutting down their illegal whaling operations. Given the right ship, they know they can do the job effectively.
"Unfortunately we have a dilemma," reports Captain Watson. "The organizations with the money and the resources to shut down this illegal slaughter will not intervene to actually shut it down. Incredible amounts of money are spent on public relations, advertising, and documentation of the killing. The images are captured and distributed. We see whales dying in horrific agony, and the killing continues and continues despite the protests. The slaughter is brought to the attention of the public and the public responds with donations to the same organizations to get more documentation and to attend more meetings and to send out more appeals for funding. At the same time, small groups like Sea Shepherd lack the resources to simply bring this killing to an end through direct intervention. And we lack the resources because we spend the majority our funds on direct intervention instead of direct mail. It is incredibly frustrating and incredibly sad for the whales."
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be campaigning against the slaughter of seals in Canada over the next few months and will be campaigning for funds to return to Antarctica to end the slaughter of whales in December 2006.