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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two Reasons to Celebrate

Gunter Filho
First Officer, Steve Irwin

Gunter FilhoOur Sea Shepherd crew had two very good reasons to celebrate the 25th of December. Of course Christmas was one, celebrated with a feast prepared by our brilliant galley team, and the other was the 5th anniversary of Sea Shepherd's very first encounter with the evil whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru.

I remember that day clearly…the storm, fog, silhouettes of the Greenpeace ships stopped in their tracks, and suddenly, the giant Nisshin Maru slaughterhouse coming into view. The action began as soon as our ship the Farley Mowat showed up out of the fog.  Captain Paul Watson changed course to head in the direction of the Nisshin Maru and we started taking the 8-10-meter waves sideways, sending her into 45-degree rolls.  At the time, I was on the “monkeydeck” on top of the bridge hugging the mast as strongly as I could to avoid being catapulted off.

The Nisshin Maru started running away and when it seemed that they would disappear in the fog, they slowed and waited for us to catch up. It didn’t take long until we were side-by-side with the giant factory ship, quite an impressive scene. The massive bow of the Nissin Maru was thrown entirely out of the water by the huge waves and then it suddenly turned in our direction. Paul kept our course steady. It was like David and Goliath going head to head; the Farley Mowat weighing in at 600 tons, and the 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru on a collision course.  The Japanese whalers came really close to making contact with us. The only thing we could see on our portside was the huge black side of the hull with “research” written on it. When they realized that Paul wouldn’t retreat, they ran from us again and disappeared into the storm. And since that encounter, they’ve just kept running.

That year with our little, old, slow, and rusty Farley Mowat we were able to get our very first victory for the whales in the war against the whalers by saving 86 whales. And it all happened on Christmas Day exactly five years ago.