Thursday, February 05, 2009
Confrontation from the Delta
What a crazy day! Five days since we first encountered the Nisshin Maru and I've been excitedly tallying the whales saved on my calendar each day since then. Today it is 60 (on average 12 a day) and what a fitting start to our second small boat attack (on this leg). It started with a 6 AM wake up call and the deckies dutifully donned their wetsuits and mustang suits. It is so eerie waking up, suiting up and walking out into Antarctic summer day to be greeted by the menacing Nisshin factory ship, fleeing, just off our bow. Today I thought of all the 130 crew on board that ship. Today they are all tucked into their cabins; perhaps they are watching movies or reading magazines. I feel supremely happy that all those people aren't aiding the slaughter of the world's most awe-inspiring mammals. I can't imagine the cumulative effect of standing on the still breathing body of an electrocuted whale as it squeals and moans its 30 minutes into death. No being should have to go through that. In this day and age it simply shouldn't happen. I hope they are spending today considering other things they could do for a job.
We launched into beautifully calm seas of half meter swells and both boats head off together towards the Nisshin. After this years kit-out of the whaling ships (which leaves them looking more like fortified castles than places of research) it's incredibly hard to land any butter bombs on their decks. The boats work together doing bow sweeps and taking turns being doused by the super-strong water cannons so the other boat can get close enough to attempt a throw. The bow seems the most likely hit and my brave partner Andy steers the Delta right under it so an ominous shadow looms over us. The crew of the Nisshin gather together to form human shields because they know we won't attempt a throw when a person is near. This thwarts most of our efforts and we eventually leave the Nisshin and approach one of the two kill ships looming closer. Somewhere in the waves, water cannons and confusion our crewmate Steve has hit the deck and his eyebrow is cut and bleeding. We pull back and decide to drop him off at the Steve Irwin. On the way back we try to contact the bridge to alert the doctor but the fleet does an excellent job of intercepting our calls and jamming communication.
It shocks me how the fleet have been acting like cowboys this year. Today they used the LRAD pointed directly at Chris as he was flying the helicopter. The most compelling affect of the LRAD is an irresistible urge to raise your hands to your ears: Not so great if you are holding the controls of a chopper. He said he (and his cameraman passenger) were irritated by the sound and could feel the vibrations in their body but they luckily didn't loose control of the chopper and go hurtling towards the Antarctic sea. Today the whalers used the LRAD on the small boats but our precautions earplugs, extra head padding and helmets served us well and we were able to carry on.
All of a sudden the other kill ships appeared as if from nowhere. Thanks to the throwing prowess of Richard the Gemini, we landed at least 6 successful butyric acid hits on the kill ships despite all their netting! The smell hit us strait away and if they weren't angry before, they sure are now. Today I saw an example of their frustration when we caught on camera a Japanese crew member about to throw something at our small boat. He only stopped (and hid his hands behind his back) when we turned our cameras on him. Once again, the camera is the activists' best friend. Luckily I haven't received any nuts, bolts pieces of steel or golf balls to the head but today we did receive the universal middle finger from the frustrated crew-member. Finally with frozen fingers after five hours in the water it was time for our little Delta boat crew to go home but even that was more difficult than it seemed. The Steve Irwin was being circled and broad sided by three angry kill ships and the Nisshin Maru. Even when it was clear that we were attempting to recover our boats and chopper they forced us into a high speed circle that created a big bow wave. At the best of times it's hard to attach that 45kg hook to the boat slings but going 15 knots in a tight circle is a whole different experience. I admit I hit the deck but no damage was done and we were slung (by our talented crane man Arne) to safety. I can't describe the feeling of relief as me and my gorgeous fiancé Andy were lifted to safety. I just wanted to hug and kiss everyone and do little penguin dances. Thank god everyone is alright and let's hope they don't get more vigilante on us. May we keep them on the run and may we fight another day for the twelve lives that will be saved every day that we do. With much love to the outside world.
P.O. Box 2616, Friday Harbor, WA 98250