February 9, 2009

Confronting the Nisshin Maru

By Nicola (4th cook)

Saturday 6th February

blog_090122_NicolaEverything changed today.

I was woken up around 5am by the sound of the LRAD sonic weapon intruding into my dreams.  I opened my porthole to see what was happening only to see the Nisshin Maru's high powered water cannon blasting our ship from a range of only 10-15 meters.

I later found out that one of the kill ships had approached the Nisshin at a very fast rate and unloaded a whale they had caught.  It's the first time that a whale has been killed with Sea Shepherd in the vicinity; and it shows that the whaling fleet is upping the ante.  We moved closer to the Nisshin in order to try and blockade a second transfer when they turned their cannons and acoustic weapons on our ship.  We turned out to be in for a very long day.


I was asked to be ready to join the boat team if the need arose; so I had to gather the necessary thermal waterproof gear to suit up.  With the last confrontation lasting over five hours in the sub zero conditions it is very important not to expose yourself to the possibility of hypothermia thus endangering the action; and necessitating return to the ship. In the end, although we considered launching the inflatable boats we would have lost speed which meant our ship would have lost pace with the Nisshin and would have enabled the further processing of whales.

With four of the fleet making dangerous maneuvers near us; causing several very near misses during the day, which saw all of us bracing ourselves on deck, preparing ourselves for collision - the inevitable finally occurred.  We had a large scale collision.  I was on the forward deck; but moved towards the aft deck as I saw the crew of both whaling ships turning their high powered cannons on our crew on the bow who were attempting to film the transfer.  The Nisshin Maru was to our port side, and the harpoon ship attempting to transfer the whale carcass was on our starboard side.  We were very close to the other ships and were then boxed in by another harpoon ship.  It seems they are prepared to continue their killing at any cost.

As I ran down towards the back deck to avoid being swept off my feet by a water cannon I was nearly hit by the metal shrapnel their crew were hurling at us.  Later I picked up several pieces of metal; large nuts and bolts which could have blinded us; or even knocked someone out.  Then a terrible crunch and our ship turned at an angle of nearly 30 degrees and the two ships seemed to be locked together - a surreal moment in time when I wondered what could happen next... could we entirely tip over, had we ripped a massive hole in our hull?  We all braced ourselves.... as our ship seemed to hang in mid air for a long time... and then the ships came apart; and it was over.  Our crew stood together; quite relieved for just a couple of moments until senses kicked in and we ran down to check the damage and make sure we weren't taking on water.  Luckily we came away with relatively minor damage.

It was a lucky day for us. And a devastating one.  A few whales were killed today where previously our mere presence had prevented this from happening.  It was good to be reminded why we are here. Although I cried tears of frustration; and felt sick to my stomach when I heard of another whale being killed and brought on board to be packed and processed within hours into small cardboard boxes for the Japanese meat market; I am also glad.  People will be reminded what a horrific slaughter these animals endure when the footage is released of a whale taking one harpoon, seven shotgun blasts, and twenty minutes of thrashing agony to die.  Perhaps the Australian government could go out on a limb and take some damned action so we don't have to put our lives on the line to do their job.  And maybe it might help if a few people reminded them of that.


Saturday 7th February

It's quieter on the ship today. While many people rest up a few of us get back to the normal routine. There are still three meals a day to cook, an engine room to run, chores to do.  We continue on as normal with our cooking whilst some other crew peruses the international headlines yesterday's action made.  We have two birthdays on board today so we are making cakes early in case we have to suit up for action later in the day.  The galley is constantly hard work; with me and Laura both involved in roles on deck, and our Japanese crewmember very busy with translation, we are all stretched to the limit to manage the juggling act of fuelling the crew, and being involved at the front line.

We are still chasing the Nisshin Maru and the harpoon ships are keeping their distance.   It feels a little like the calm after a big storm.

I feel absolutely exhausted; emotionally and physically drained.  It was a gut wrenching experience to see the dead whales being hauled alongside the harpoon vessels yesterday. I never want to see that again.  And I am glad to be on board a ship with a bunch of wonderful, strong, funny, passionate, brave, determined people willing to do their best to stop that as well.


The whales are counting on us for protection . . .
We are counting on you to keep us fighting for them.



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