Operation Musashi Crew Blog

Welcome to the Operation Musashi crew blog. Please check back often for blogs written by members of the Sea Shepherd crew, directly from the Steve Irwin in the southern oceans.

blog_Paul_Watson_blog_01_70 Captain Watson's Blog is available to members of My Sea Shepherd


Friday, February 20, 2009

Married in Antarctica!

Andy (Leading Deckhand)

Molly and I were married by Captain Watson, on Scott Island, Antarctica on February 12th.  It was the first wedding ceremony ever held on Scott Island, and we were quite possibly only the ninth and tenth people to have ever even set foot on this craggy island as it is inaccessible from the water due to its high-cliff coastline.  So, our wedding vehicle for the day was a two-seater Bell Helicopter.

blog_090212_weddingThe island is tiny, rugged, volcanic looking and snow covered.  At one end there's a huge arch, off to one side about a couple of hundred metres away a massive spire shoots 100 metres out of the water.  And to the horizons it's surrounded by smatterings of ice: growlers, bergy-bits and icebergs further off.

We also had both a still and video photographer on hand to record the whole thing - and possibly air some of it on the upcoming season of Whale Wars.

The site of the ceremony itself was right on the edge of a cliff at the very highest point of the island; perhaps 100m high.  I even had to get a rock to chock my footing so my grip-less boots wouldn't see me slip over the edge and into the crashing seas below.  The 'pulpit' was a rock formation with a Jolly Roger draped over it.   Our wedding outfits?  Matching Atlantic-class all-weather Mustang suits in orange and grey with reflective trim.  It really is the latest in wedding formal-wear this season in Antarctica.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Medical Implications of Physical Attacks on the Sea Shepherd Crew by the Japanese Whalers.

Report by Dr. David
Ship's Medical Officer - Steve Irwin

During the engagements between the Sea Shepherd crew and the Japanese whaling fleet I witnessed first hand the attacks on our crew by three methods.

  1. Water Cannons: Long range, high powered water hoses with enough pressure to break bones and cause severe soft tissue injury were aimed at individual crewmembers both in the small boats and onboard the Steve Irwin. One crewmember, a cameraman was hit in the face violently knocking him backwards off his seat and onto the deck of the small boat. He sustained a bleeding abrasion to the inner aspect of one eye and soft tissue bruising to his neck and lower back. In my opinion if the force had been taken in the middle part of his eye he would have sustained permanent eye damage. Another crewmember was knocked off his feet onboard the Steve Irwin. He also sustained soft tissue bruising and the risk of being knocked overboard and dying of hypothermia is a real risk in these waters where the survival time is measured in minutes.
  2. Throwing of heavy metal objects & other items including nuts and bolts and golf balls was deployed a number of times specifically at crew members. Numerous abrasions & bruises resulted to crewmembers. Facial bone fractures and eye damage was a very real possibility.
  3. Use of Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD). This device transmits high decibel output up to 163 decibels. High and low frequency tones to distances beyond 500 metres. This device was aimed at Sea Shepherd crew while in the air in our helicopter and at crew in the small boats and onboard the Steve Irwin. High frequency tones were severely distracting with inner ear and balance affects. Crewmembers reported feeling temporary disorientation and balance problems. Low frequency tones can apparently cause significant nervous system affects. The affects of this device on individuals operating helicopters, small boats and the Steve Irwin are very severe. LRAD blasts were aimed at close quarters at the bridge of the Steve Irwin at the time of two separate collision incidents.

I am deeply disturbed by the unprovoked attacks against Sea Shepherd crew. We were extremely fortunate that no severe injuries occurred.

I urge the Australian government to call on the Japanese government to assure that such attacks do not occur in the future.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Loss of the Whales

David, (3rd Engineer)

blog_090124_DavidWhile the whale war happens outside, the engineer's job is to sit in the engine room during a confrontation.  We have to keep a close eye on the gauges and engines whilst the rest of the crew is on deck and the bridge watching the action.  If there is a collision, we have the added fear of a possible hull breach where icy cold water from the Ross Sea could shower down on us in the engine room.

I know I wasn't alone in losing sleep over this last week.  We started the month with finding the fleet and confronting them over their illegal and immoral whaling.  Our crew suffered minor injuries from objects thrown at them, powerful blasts from water cannons and unknown effects from the new weapons in the whaler's arsenal-the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

We are in the most remote waters on Earth.  We are here to do the job of unwilling governments to stop willful lawbreakers and it's not easy.  Most of us are not professionals and some are first time sailors.  We do our best and none of us regret a minute of our time defending the whales.

In a last note, I want to make special mention of the five Minke whales that were slaughtered on our watch.  Usually the whalers run from us when we show up, but this time they didn't.  We all feel deep sorrow for the loss of these gentle creatures.  We tried our best and did everything we could, but we simply weren't fast enough to stop the cruel harpoon boats before they got to you.  This failure will remain in our hearts forever.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Confronting the whalers

Steve (Photographer)

blog_090127_StephenIt has been an incredible week. We've done all we can to save the whales. Even though everyone on board the ship wants to stay in the Ross Sea to keep the whalers from their murderous work - we must head home.

It was just 8 days ago that we had our first serious engagement with the Nisshin Maru which began when we spotted her at 67 degrees south/ 165 degrees west. The Harpoon ships Yushin Maru No. 1 and No. 3 were with the 'mother ship.'  The Japanese fleet ran from us and made way into the ice, we fell directly behind the Nisshin with the Yushin No. 1 & No. 3 at our stern. At 06.00 HRS on Feb 2nd, the fast boats were launched against the Nisshin Maru and two harpoon ships. Delta boat, on which I am a photographer, is tasked with holding station on the Nisshin, whilst the Gemini headed off towards the Harpoon ships.

During the next 6 hours, the Delta boat team are hosed down repeatedly by water cannons and hit with LRAD sonic weapons [Long Range Acoustic Devices] from the decks of the Nisshin high above us. Eventually, the Gemini team broke off from the harpoon ships to assist the Delta crew. But one of the Gemini crew was slightly injured as the inflatable went into the strong stern water cannons of the Nisshin.

The Nisshin made way deeper into ice and tried to make it difficult for the inflatables to keep with it. But despite numerous contacts with ice growlers the small boats maintained their course with the Nisshin. Then the Gemini headed back to the Harpoon ships, this time Laurens was hit on the head with a metal fragment thrown by crew members from the Yushin Maru 3. After recovering the Delta and Gemini, the Steve Irwin continued its chase with the Nisshin well into February 3rd.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Blocking whaling operations

Emily (Quartermaster)

blog_090129_EmilyAt 6:30 in the morning, I fall out of my bunk to the zigzagging motion of our ship and loud sirens coming from outside. I run to the bridge and see high-pressured water-cannons spray the entire portside of the ship, with our crew and my friends outside getting wiped by the water. We pass the 'mother ship' of the Japanese whaling fleet by on our port. Crew on our eco-ship sends stink cans to contaminate the whaler's decks. I find out from an officer that a whale has been killed under our watch. It's now being chopped up and packaged on the 'mother ship.' We are fighting to stop this from continuing. This is the war I am in, an eco-war, a whale war.

It's February 6th and after five days of Sea Shepherd chasing the Nisshin Maru of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean - the whaling fleet retaliates. Sea Shepherd had disabled their whaling operation through the tactic of run and chase.  But today, they tested their ground and killed a whale. Out of sight, the killing went undetected. And with two nautical miles distance from the Sea Shepherd ship, the M/Y Steve Irwin, to the 'mother ship,' the Nisshin Maru - the dead whale transfer was impossible to stop.

It was the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 1 that had a Minke whale tied dead on its portside. Within minutes, an effective operation by the whalers transported the dead carcass bleeding up the slipway to the Nisshin Maru. In thirty minutes, there was nothing left of the whale but a spinal cord and the harpoon.

Solely keeping the processing ship, the Nisshin, on the run had shut down whaling for eleven days in last year's anti-whaling campaign by Sea Shepherd and five days this year. But now Sea Shepherd had to innovate a new strategy and fast. The fleet was now whaling, the very thing Sea Shepherd had come here to stop them from doing, and they were doing it right in front of us. We were no longer intimidating enough.

Saturday, February 7, 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.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Confrontation from the Delta

Molly (Deckhand)

blog_090205_MollyWhat 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.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Being an Activist in Antarctica...

Nicola Paris (Galley Assistant)

South of 70 degrees.  Where there is no god- if that's your thing.

blog_090122_NicolaIts 1:40 AM on the 5th of February and I can't sleep.  I am looking out the porthole at a muted grey seascape, in a state of constant twilight.

Yesterday morning I was woken up at 5 AM by someone letting me know that two of the whaling fleet's harpoon ships were suddenly flanking us as we were pacing with the Nisshin Maru - the whaling fleet's factory processing ship.  We had a long running battle the day beforehand and everyone was catching up on sleep.  By the time I got my wet weather gear on and up on deck, all three harpoon boats were looming out of the mist - twisting and turning at sharp angles to try and distract us from the factory processing ship, and our main target, the Nisshin Maru.

There are a broad spectrum of people on this ship, three from West Australia this time - myself, still in the galley - and on board for the last year, Stephen, a veteran of several campaigns in the engine room and our brand new doctor David.  We are from all different walks of life.  We have hard core vegan animal right's activists through to ex police and military.  I guess I fall somewhere in between.  I don't identify as an animal right's activist, although definitely an activist of sorts.  I guess it's more as a global citizen that I am here.  I am not here because of a strong emotional bond with whales I have had since childhood, like some people; it's not because I hear the screams of animals in my nightmares - I am here because if we can't do something as simple as stopping the killing of one of the most endangered, complex, gentle creatures on the planet, then what hope is there of changing; and then doing what needs to be done?  So much to do, so much damage to be undone and yet we are fighting a battle at the edges of the earth because we can't even get this one thing right.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

All for the Whales

By Dave Nickarz (3rd Engineer)

blog_090124_DavidWe are now in our fourth day of chasing the Nisshin Maru-the factory whaling ship that has no business being in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.  We're all pretty glad they're running from us because that means no whales can be killed.  The engineers have some more work to do with the increased speed of the chase, and we have to deal with the increased air pollution as well.

This is all worth the price if fewer whales are killed this season.  During my shift in the engine room I make the time to take brief visits to the bridge.  Sometimes the Nisshin Maru is a mile away and obscured by fog, and other times it is only tens of meters away with their water cannons on full bore onto our bow.

I hope the whalers feel even a small fraction of the fear that the whales have to endure.  Hundreds of Minke whales and tens of Fin whales will have exploding harpoons enter their bodies and shards of metal thrust into their internal organs.  These whales will never know why they are being slaughtered- for commercial gain, false science and national pride.

We had the privilege of watching Fin and Minke whales swim along side us as we chased their killers from the Ross Sea recently.  We're putting the whalers on the run while the whales swim free. It was as if the whales were thanking us for this. But it really is the least we can do.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chasing the Nisshin Maru

By Andy (Leading Deckhand)

blog_090128_Andy_Perry1000 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.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Getting Closer

Nicola (4th Cook)

blog_090122_NicolaIt was quiet on the ship last night - people are trying to catch up on sleep and preparing for action.  We are amongst the ice and I saw the first iceberg of this trip to the Antarctic yesterday. It seems surreal to be unexcited by icebergs.  Yes, they are stunning; some of them are like ancient frosted glaciers with caves carved out by constant water pressure, the type of locale you could imagine the White Witch from Narnia feeling comfortable in. Icebergs I will continue to be in awe of but after being amongst the heavy ice earlier in the campaign- well the first iceberg seems more like an overdue landmark. Letting us know we are getting close to where we want to be.  And I hope we are!

Once we are down this far south we can start to deploy the helicopter in search patterns to seek out the fleet. This means the deck team is constantly on standby to prepare for boat launches.  I myself am an adopted part time "deckie", although I still made breakfast and lunch today - the joys of multi tasking!

We had a Haiku competition on board. I am yet waiting to hear if my haiku won. But here is one I forgot to submit - dedicated to the boat crews:

Crazy pitching seas

Small boat launch in big weather

That's just how we roll.

On that note of genius I will leave you to reflect in my wondrous poetic talent and await calls from literary agents whilst I hand wash my thermal underwear!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Battle for the Whales

Emily (Quartermaster)

blog_090129_EmilyThere is a steady silence on the bridge. Crew fills the room but no words are uttered. We stand poised staring at the horizon with one goal in mind. We are ready to pounce. We are ready for battle. Few have embarked on such a battle - the battle for the whales, the battle for planet earth. Even fewer would embark on such a battle with the 'radicals' of Sea Shepherd that risk their lives for marine wildlife.

On January 29th, we have a crew meeting on the Sea Shepherd ship, the M/Y Steve Irwin, and the officers notify us that they believe we are close to the whaling fleet. The final battle in southern ocean whaling could be near.  After five years of anti-whaling campaigns in the Antarctic waters, three confrontations this year with whalers - I am hopeful we can end whaling finally. The Sea Shepherd's goal has been to stop the 'mother ship' of the Japanese whaling fleet which would disable the entire fleet from operating. We now believe we are closing in on our target 'death ship.'

But as we near to the possible end of this 'whale war,' news comes in that the war in the southern ocean could end through other means than the activist fight: through political maneuvering that would have the whaling fleet winning this battle rather than the whales, who are so close to victory. Information leaks that there has been secret meetings by six members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), including the United States, Australia and Japan. The meetings that are attempting to strike a deal with Japan to heal its fractioned international body.

If the present talks turn from a thing of an activist's nightmare fiction to non-fiction, then there would be a deal strike where Japan would be the lone benefited party.  Japan would be allowed to commercially kill whales both coastally in Japan and in the North Pacific. Presently, Japan is attempting to catch 935 Minke whales and 50 Fin whales in the southern oceans. This new deal would allow the Japanese whaling fleet to catch at a higher level than their present quota. All of this in exchange for Japan phasing out their hunt in the Antarctic waters over the next five years by twenty percent less each year.

This deal is strange because the fleet has already been failing to reach their Antarctic quota over the last two years. They have only been reaching 50 - 60% of their quota, giving Japan more whales than is already protested about internationally.  But the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling, established in 1986, has not been lifted. Allowing commercial hunting by Japan in this new deal then makes the 1986 ban arbitrary. This deal also then recognizes that the so called 'research' hunt that Japan claims its hunt to be over the last eight years as a commercial one, with no repercussions.

Which begs the questions: why is environmental law established if it can just be turned upside down on its head? How is it that there is no enforcement or repercussion towards those that shoot whales illegally? Why is it that instead the real 'eco-terrorists' (the whalers) are given gifts for their efforts, such as this new deal?

The southern ocean battle for the whales may end soon. Not in the way the Sea Shepherd activists had readied themselves for, but in a way that is the best case scenario for the whalers. Will this war ever end? It seemed so but now probably not if this deal is chosen. Sea Shepherd will continue their fight for the whales as they have for 30 years.

But when we've come so close to winning this war for the whales, it's hard to swallow for me that things have only come full circle instead of at an end. My parents, co-founders of Greenpeace, began the fight for the whales in the North Pacific targeting Russian and Japanese whalers. The war was believed to be won in 1986 with the IWC ban. It began again under the disguise of 'research' whaling with Japan. We too, the 21st century activists, believed we were close to finishing this war with the Antarctic whale battles coming to an end. But instead of standing here now on the bridge of the Sea Shepherd ship nearing to the final battle for the whales - it could just be the beginning of another chapter in this never ending battle for the planet.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading Harpoon while Saving Whales

David Nickarz (3rd Engineer)

blog_090124_DavidIt's now 56 days into our mission to stop the pirate whaling of the Japanese government in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.  We left Hobart about 8 days ago now, after a short break to refuel and re-provision.

We have now returned to the whale sanctuary.  This refuge had been established by several nations in the early 1990's as a place whales could live and feed, unmolested by humanity.  Whalers ignored the establishment of this sanctuary and continued their commercial slaughter under the lie of scientific whaling.  They resorted to this lie because a moratorium on commercial whaling was established in 1986.

After almost finishing Andrew Darby's book Harpoon, I'm given a sense of history of the holocaust that humanity has inflicted upon the great whales of the world.  Whalers have started with the largest of the whales-the Blue whale and chased it to the ends of the earth, and to the edge of extinction.  The Right whale was the 'right' whale to kill, not because of their size, but because they happen to float when you kill them.  There is no great mystery to the names given to the great whales--in fact some of them are down right ignorant.

The Sperm whale was given its name because, as Farley Mowat puts it in his book, Sea of Slaughter, "some idiot thought that the large sack of oil in its head was full of sperm".

The Minke whale was named after a German named Mincke, who accompanied Svend Foyn, a 19th century sealer (often called the father of industrial whaling).  He developed both a ship fast enough to catch the quicker whales and the grenade-tipped harpoon which is still used today.  The other name for a Minke whale is Piked whale-not much better.

I propose we change the name to something vastly more dignified than after a seal clubber or the method of slaughter.

All this history brings me back to my role on this ship.  I sit here day after day in this engine room-watching dials, cleaning up and feeding oil into engines.  After 53 days and more than 100 four hour shifts, I can say that it's wearing me down.

I am encouraged to know that I am part of an effort that could see the end to Antarctic whaling-just as the generation before me saw the end of whaling in Australia and the introduction of a ban on commercial whaling world-wide.

As we approach the fleet of whale killers, I have a greater sense of history and my place in it thanks in part to Andrew Darby's book Harpoon.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leg Two Begins

Andy (Leading Deckhand)

blog_090128_Andy_PerryOn Wednesday, January 21st at 1630 hours, the lines were off and leg two of Operation Musashi began. But it was not long until we went to anchor for a couple of hours off the Hobart suburb of Lower Sandy Bay.  With so much work to do in port, such as: modifications to our rigid-inflatable boats (RIBs), repairs and modification to the ship's running gear and associated equipment, the taking on board of fuel and oil, restocking of food and water, etc... We haven't had enough time and opportunity to ensure that everything was securely tied down.  So we did that on anchor and took our time about it to ensure it was done properly, because according to the weather bureau, as soon as we were to go out of the Bay we were going to be hit by big seas (up to 14 meters swells) and strong winds (up to 60 knots). So we needed everything on and in the ship to be so secured that you could hang it upside-down, shake it about and not a thing would move or rattle.

Since then, rough seas have persisted for most of the week here out at sea, if not increased, as have the winds.  There is now a sign on the exit hatches that states that no one is allowed out on deck without permission (i.e. notifying the Bridge - and having a good reason to be out there) or by themselves.  The storm has become so strong that doing any deskwork is both a challenge and quiet risky in terms of ones personal safety. Despite this, I had to go out on the aft deck and wrestle with a bunch of 200L AvGas drums that have come loose from their cradles and bindings to re-secure them back into place.

Other work this week included:

1.  The deck crew went over the new crew induction book prepared by Chris (Helicopter Pilot) and Dan (Bosun)

2.  The deck crew had a meeting to discuss what worked, what didn't work and what can be improved and/or rectified from the first leg of this campaign.

3.  The deck crew had practice and training with the RIBs to ensure a quick and successful execution of our inflatables in confrontation times.

In our free-time, we were treated with the Animal Planet crew preparing a Mexican feast for the ship's dinner Friday. Our Japanese translator and Galley assistant lead a Japanese feast for Saturday's dinner including veggie sushi and dumplings.  The food has been delicious.

The deck department is getting ready for anything to happen in the next couple of days. Everyone is working hard in every department, and we are all poised for our second round with the whalers.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quartermaster's Blog

By Steve Roest (Quartermaster)

blog_090127_StephenWe're now 6 days out from Hobart and searching for the Japanese whaling fleet.  We have over a million square miles to search in, but hopes are high that the Captain will lead us to the slaughter ships.  On this second leg, I will be working as a quartermaster on the bridge from 00.00-04.00, as one of the campaign photographers, as an assistant to the communications officer, and just in case I'm not busy enough, I'm also the assistant to the ship's doctor.

The roaring forties and furious fifties have actually been quite calm this time, unlike the force 10 storms we experienced on the first leg of the campaign. Everyone is prepared and there is a sense of acute anticipation as we head towards the ice.  My bridge watch is with Pedro [2nd Mate], a veteran campaigner for Sea Shepherd and Jane (an experienced quartermaster). On watch, my  quartermaster's role includes monitoring radar for ships (i.e. whaling vessels) and scan the horizon for icebergs, including dangerous 'growlers ' (lumps of ice too small to be picked up on radar but easily large enough to damage the ship).   The bridge is the nerve centre and command post for all ships operations. Here the mood of the ship is felt most acutely and that mood is confident and determined.

As a campaign photographer, I've learnt the frustrations of faulty computers. A days worth of work lost in the cyberspace crash zone and cameras lost with flooding on the deck. But I will get to be in the thick of actions as they happen, whether it be photographing a harpoon ship from our Delta fast boat (aka zodiac) or with a little luck, a ship-to-ship action with the Nisshin Maru.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blog from the Engine Room

By David (Engineer)

blog_090124_DavidWe are underway the second time this season to find and stop the criminal whaling fleet from Japan.  This is my third Antarctic whaling campaign with the Sea Shepherds and I hope it will be my last.  Putting up with the rough seas and time away from loved ones takes its toll on us volunteers.

We can't just walk off the ship and go to the nearest pub for a beer, or to the nearest park for a dose of terrestrial wilderness.  We are stuck in this noisy metal box for the next several weeks.  Of course, it's nothing compared to what the Minke and Fin whales have to endure.

Our purpose and the vast ocean wilderness keep us going.  We've seen a number of sea birds including the Albatross which seems to hover without beating its wings.  They fly around the ship, perhaps hoping to find discarded food scraps.  Maybe the Albatross thinks we are a fishing vessel and is waiting for the discarded portion of the catch.  Who knows?

Our engine room watch has been uneventful and routine.  I hope it stays that way and that no unforeseen damages to the engine change that.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog from the Galley

by Nicola  (2nd Cook)

blog_090122_NicolaWe are on our way back down to Antarctica.  It feels good to be on the move again, and to be traveling away from the mania of port and reprovisioning.

The people of Tasmania were very generous, and we received some lovely seasonal produce... we are happy to be currently drowning in stonefruit.  Thousands of dollars in food donations later, we are well stocked with fresh provisions for the second leg.

What does it take to feed 41 people vegan food for 60 days?

350 kilos of potatoes, 150 kilos of onions, 40 kilos of tofu... and the list continues. It's over 7000 servings of food.

Head Cook Laura and I are both sad today having left good buddies behind in Tasmania.  We've lost Zin, the previous head cook, who I worked under on the last campaign and have spent the last year on board with. Laura lost a good friend, Shannon, our galley part timer (quartermaster full-time) who she has traveled with on several campaigns.


Breakfast - Oatmeal, Fresh fruit, cereal

Lunch - Home made bread rolls, bean dip, roasted eggplant, fried capsicum & zucchini Dinner - Stir fry rice, 'Honey' ginger sauce

A beautiful sunset ends our day, soon to be a rare occurrence, which shows us the way forward - to the fleet, and hopefully shutting them down for good!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Indonesia Sends Whalers Packing

by Jeff (Quartermaster)
Australian Director

blog_081220_JeffToday, the Indonesian forestry authorities, CITES authorities, and the local government officials have demanded PT PAL dismiss the Yushin Maru No. 2 from Surabaya harbor without repair.

The harpoon vessel Yushin Maru No.2 had to leave the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to repair a damaged propeller it sustained while illegally whaling within Australian territorial waters in late December 2008.

The ship has been sitting in port in Surabaya waiting for repairs since the 5th January 2009.

Under the EPBC Act, Australian law prohibits foreign whaling vessels entering Australian ports or an external Territory if the Master of the vessel does not have permission from the Australian Environment Minister. This is detailed in Section 236 of the Australian Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Under this Act a foreign whaling vessel means a vessel, other than an Australian vessel, designed, equipped or used for killing, taking, treating or carrying cetaceans; or supporting the operations of a vessel or vessels designed, equipped or used for killing, taking, treating or carrying cetaceans.

The Indonesian authorities took great diligence in researching Australia's stand on these vessels and acted accordingly. They've supported Australia's notion that whales are highly intelligent creatures that play a vital role in sustaining healthy marine ecosystems.

The question has to be asked:

If a foreign country to Australia will enforce Australian law and kick these illegal poachers out of their ports, why is it that the Rudd government refuses to enforce the Australian Federal Court Ruling?

The Japanese whalers are once again illegally whaling within Australian waters in violation of a global moratorium on whaling.

While highly intelligent, endangered, and social beings are being slaughtered in the Antarctic whale sanctuary, the Rudd government is still talking diplomacy.

As the harpoon is fired smack into the back of one of the last endangered gentle giants on this rare and beautiful planet, will the Rudd government still be uttering that ill fated word "diplomacy"?

The Australian people voted for the Rudd government on a pre-election promise to stop Japanese whaling in Australian waters.

The whales are dying and time is running out.

There is blood on your hands, Kevin Rudd!

The time to act is now!

Enforce the law, Kevin Rudd, and protect the Australian Whale Sanctuary-- send these illegal poachers back to Japan!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Last Roll for the Shepherds

by Jeff (Quartermaster)
Australian Director

blog_081220_JeffTuesday 6th January:

With fuel running short, the first leg of Operation Musashi to shut down the whaling fleet is coming to a close as we return to port to refuel. We had been right in the thick of an area where we thought the fleet would be, inside a cove of ice opposite the Ross Sea Ice shelf.

The campaign so far had been plagued with adverse conditions of fog, ice and gale force winds hindering our search of the fleet and today was no different. At 0630 the fog had somewhat lifted and with a visibility of at best 5 miles, a decision was made to launch the helicopter. I helped the heli-team putt on the blades and manned the water valve in case of fire on start-up. Chris did an L shaped pattern swoop, zig-zagging south of us into the ice further where we believed the fleet to be lurking.

Chris returned with the report that the fleet was not sighted. With the ice surrounding us to the south, we navigated the ice north making progress towards Hobart to refuel.

Willie came to the bridge on our PM watch to see who might be keen on a poker game. Willie stated that surely if we were to get a poker game under way, odds are we would find the fleet right in the middle of it.  Well, about 30 minutes into the game a phone call came down to the mess that Amber had spotted a light on the horizon. From that point on the calls kept coming with more and more lights spotted on the horizon indicating multiple ships! The captain stating that the only ships that would be operating in this area would be the fleet. "They had to be around here someplace," the Captain stated.

With the poker game well and truly dusted, it was once again all hands on deck as we went to red alert to prepare for another confrontation with the fleet.

I grabbed my mustang and wet suit in preparation for operating outside and any possible boarding opportunities and headed for the bridge.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Confronting the Kaiko Maru in the Fog

by Jeff  (Quartermaster)
Australian Director

blog_081220_JeffArriving back at the bridge after dinner, I noticed something on the radar that warranted first mate Peter Brown's attention. There was a long trail coming off of an object in a direction not in unison with the ice bergs. Acquiring the target we had its speed, course and heading and a call was made to Captain Paul Watson to plan the potential attack.

As the target moved in, it appeared as though it was going to pass within a mile between us and an ice berg in the thick fog.

With visibility severely restricted, a vessel less than a mile away and a heavy ice field, Captain Watson took the helm once more to guide his band of whale defenders towards a suspect poaching vessel.

All crew were ready, in position and eagerly waiting to spot one of the ruthless whaling fleet; however it was Quartermaster Emily Hunter, daughter of the late Robert Hunter, who made the call. On the bow of the Irwin through binoculars, Emily did her father proud as in and out of dense fog she made out the white hull of the target with that bone chilling word along its side "RESEARCH."

"It's definitely one of the fleet, it's the spotter vessel, the Kaiko Maru," Emily said.

In one week we have encountered two illegal Japanese whaling vessels deep inside Australian territory waters. Sea Shepherd has the whaling fleet on the run, running them out of Australian waters in defense of the gentle giants. Peter Garrett does not need any more evidence to take these illegal poachers to the international courts. The time for false promises and talk is over Mr. Garrett; it's long overdue time to act!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blog from Andy - High Seas Encounters

Andy (Leading Seaman, Deck Crew)


0800 HOURS

I awoke to stormy, choppy conditions; I can feel in my cabin that the Steve Irwin is pitching and rolling more than she has the last few days ­ though not nearly as much as she did steaming here from Hobart.

I get up for breakfast.  There is sleet squalling horizontally across our decks, which are covered in ice and snow.  The conditions on deck are very slippery, so the deck crew resigns itself to rostered indoor duties for the day.

1000 HOURS

News sweeps across the ship that a vessel has been picked up on our radar just 13 nautical miles from our position.  The radar shows our bearings on a collision course with theirs, which means we should make visual with them soon, as long as they maintain their course.  The anticipation and excitement mounts: is it a Japanese whaling ship?

1100 HOURS

The call goes out to the deck crew to suit up and ready the small boats for deployment.  We ready with excitement and adrenaline coursing through our veins.  As a small boat driver I put on my wetsuit, Mustang suit, PFD (personal floatation device), boots, gloves, helmet and goggles.  I am ready for battle.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Confronting the Yushin Maru No. 2

by Jeff  (Quartermaster)
Australian Director

blog_081220_JeffThe pursuit of the elusive Japanese whaling fleet has led Sea Shepherd off the Adelie Coast of Antarctica, deep within the pristine, icy waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

A vessel was spotted on the radar at 10:00 hours with a bearing of 330°, traveling at 12.7 knots and a range of 8.9 miles. The crew was put on red alert as we made preparations for possible confrontation with the whaling fleet.

The question of which vessel had been discovered was quickly answered, when out of the fog off the Steve Irwin's port side came the kill ship, the Yushin Maru No 2. Only meters separated the two vessels as the crew of the harpoon ship frantically merged toward a huge net structure. Sea Shepherd tactics have apparently resulted in the Japanese whalers modifying their vessels to develop a device to try and repel boarders delivering arrest warrants for the whalers illegal activities.

The delta boat was in hot pursuit of the killer ship for an attack when the weather turned for the worse with fog, snow, and raging 60 knot winds closing in. The delta was forced to return. The deckhands showed impeccable teamwork and courage as they fought hard against raging winds and spray to get the delta back on deck.

The Rudd government's false election promise has forced 48 volunteers from around the globe to put their lives on the line to do the government's job of upholding the Australian Federal court ruling.

The Japanese whalers are now on the run which means no whales will be illegally slaughtered in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. At least, not on Sea Shepherd's watch!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

From the 8-12 watch on the Bridge of the Steve Irwin . . .

by Jane (Quartermaster)
8-12 Bridge Team

blog_081214_1_JaneFinally, after 5 months of preparation to include painting, grinding, chipping, and the on load of equipment, the Steve Irwin has set sail! We left Brisbane, Australia, with Daryl Hannah, a super addition to the bridge's 12-4 watch team, excited for adventure and action. Within 2 hours or so we realized our propellers had a layer of barnacles preventing us from making best speed, a speed that is critical to catching the whaling fleet. It was then decided that Luke, Chris, Josh and Arne would dive and clean the propeller and hull of the ship.

After a couple days at sea, just long enough for the crew to start feeling their sea legs, we arrived at Newcastle for fuel and food. Despite a police escort to ensure we didn't act up, Newcastle was a very welcoming town. The townspeople were full of hospitality asking questions and even opening a $500 tab for the crew at one of the waterfront bars. It was a great 24 hour stop.

We departed Newcastle, leaving behind Daryl Hannah, and soon after arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, a pro-conservation city, to top off our fuel tanks. The media was plentiful and very favorable and was keen on getting Sea Shepherd's conservation message out. Sadly we left behind Kim and Rob, but gained Emily and Doug.

At the moment we are headed to the Ross Sea to fight the great fight for the whales! Our path is taking us along the outskirts of a storm the size of Australia. It would take too long to avoid it, so we are heading south through the 4-8 meter seas and 40 knot winds. The weather is taking its toll on some of the crew members, who are hunkered down in their beds, while others suited up in mustang suits to experience the ocean spray and seas on the bow. Regardless, when meal time comes around, everyone comes into the mess to have Laura and her crew's awesome cooking. Talk ranges from favorite songs to tactics we are going to use this year on the whaling fleet, but it is apparent that everyone's focus is on saving whales and stopping the illegal slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Just a few more days until we start seeing icebergs!



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