Chasing the Nisshin Maru
By Andy (Leading Deckhand)
1000 hours on February 1st, 2009, excitement erupts through the mess because we've found the fleet. The Nisshin Maru is about ten nautical miles, and visible, off our port bow. With it are two harpoon vessels; the Yushin Maru No.1 and Yushin Maru No.2.
The high-speed inflatable small boats were readied for deployment, but as we came out of the calm sea from the ice-flow we were in, conditions turned bad and the small-boats action was aborted.
One harpoon vessel with the Nisshin Maru started to fall back as we pursued them, putting it between us and the factory ship as it fled. It is about ten nautical miles ahead of us, but we are slowly gaining on it. As this is happening the other harpoon ship falls in about 20 nautical miles off our stern and begins to pursue us at full speed, which is about 20 knots speed over ground (SOG) as we all steam into head seas. We're doing around 14.5 knots SOG; the Nisshin Maru a little less than that.
For some time the two harpoon ships held speed with us; one approximately one nautical mile ahead of us, the other one nautical mile astern of us. Then all of a sudden, as we headed through great expanses of growlers and ice-flow, they started to close in on us. The one astern of us suddenly started bearing down on us looking ominous and threatening as great waves break off its knife-like bow. The other kill-ship, now off our port bow, falls back abeam of us, then menacingly started to cut across our bow; to-and-fro.
We also started to tack to avoid growlers and ice-flow. Some time later, once the whalers realized that we were not interested in them and had remained focused on the factory ship, they fall into line with us. Shadowing us on our pursuit - one on our port beam, the other off our starboard quarter. No doubt they will come to play again later, should we intercept our target - the Nisshin Maru.
For now, the chase slowly confines into stormy conditions.