Best & latest on the Antarctic situation, including overview from Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson.
There was an excellent piece in the Guardian today, A Tale of Two Ships. It makes for a lengthy but captivating read, pitting the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd philosophies against one another to enhance readers’ understanding.
This time, the environmentalists are aware they could be sailing in to a carefully laid trap set by the Japanese fleet, which is clearly intending to regroup and draw in its hunters. Little else would explain the tactics of the mothership which, having sailed 800 miles north out of the whaling grounds, has now turned round and is steaming back at full speed, possibly to draw Greenpeace away from the whalers and to leave their ship dangerously low on fuel.
“Anything could happen”, said Greenpeace’s Dave Walsh, on board the Esperanza last night. “We do not know what we are going down to, or what will happen.”
In Watson’s view the Japanese are now “acting irrationally” and potentially dangerously. “Something’s definitely going to happen,” he said by satellite phone yesterday. “Two years ago, we chased the whalers for 3,000km along this remote Antarctic coast. We will continue to pursue them for as long as it takes. The oceans are being pillaged and destroyed and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the only organisation out on the high seas trying to do something about it.”
As Watson’s remarks show, there is far more at stake than a chase. Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace might both be pursuing the same whaling ships, but at play in the southern ocean are large egos, corporate pride, old jealousies, intense rivalries, distrust and fundamental differences of opinion about the environment, protest and confrontation.
The next piece is fresh of the interwebs from the keyboard of Sea Shepherd’s own chief-of-righteous-mayhem, Paul Watson. Pilfered from the ever-worthy pages of Tasmanian Times, it more or less conveys that the tale is actually of nine ships and hundreds of crew.
The big guy pretty much lays out the whole thing as a lovely read and a good smack in the mouth to anybody thinking they know all that’s going on in the Southern Seas…
The Cold War at the bottom of the Planet
What the Yushin Maru No 2 told the Steve Irwin.
Captain Paul Watson Commentary
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin
The dark waters of the deep Southern Ocean may be icy cold but tensions are heating up under increasing pressures as the ships of the Japanese whaling fleet experience more and more aggravation from the whale defending groups Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The Cold War at the Bottom of the Planet to Save the Whales
The Australian Navy May Just Have to Wade in to Keep the Peace
The morning of January 17th, 2008 witnessed the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin in hot pursuit of five vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet. In front of the Sea Shepherd ship is the supply vessel Oriental Bluebird being escorted by the whaling vessels Kaiko Maru Kyoshin Maru No. 2 and Yushiin Maru. All four vessels are heading east.
To the south of the Steve Irwin heading eastward, also on a parallel course, is a fifth Japanese vessel, the Yushiin Maru No. 2 with two Sea Shepherd hostages onboard. The Steve Irwin is keeping track of the movements of the surrounding Japanese whalers by radar and regular helicopter surveillance flights
All these ships are in the area along the 60 degree Southern line of latitude and 80 degree Eastern Longitude. This is about 2130 nautical miles Southwest of Fremantle, Western Australia.
Behind this small flotilla of ships at a distance of nearly 600 miles is the Japanese Factory ship the Nishiin Maru shadowed by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. Both these ships are heading directly for the Steve Irwin and all the ships of the Japanese whaling fleet.
Within two to three days all of these ships may be in one spot and it is an area outside of the boundaries of the whale killing grounds, deep in international waters where the laws are slipperier than the fish swimming below.
What is happening?
The Japanese are not whaling and have not been whaling since January 12th when they began to run from the Esperanza and the Steve Irwin heading northwestward. The Nishiin Maru took a course straight towards South Africa but then only two days ago when the Sea Shepherd crew boarded the Yushiin Maru No. 2, the factory ship did an immediate 180 degree turn and headed back towards the fleet.
Whalers and whale defenders are all on a collision course in one of the most remote and hostile areas of the planet – the southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia.
Sea Shepherd is accusing the Japanese of kidnapping, extortion and the illegal poaching of whales. Greenpeacers are accusing the Japanese whalers of pseudo-science. The whalers are accusing Sea Shepherd of piracy and Greenpeace of opportunism and eco-imperialism. Greenpeace is calling Sea Shepherd dangerous militants. Sea Shepherd is dismissing Greenpeace as wimps. It’s a strange combination of ever-churning conflicting alliances.
And these ships carry the most incredible mosaic of people imaginable. A few hundred people of diverse nationalities and cultures on ships flying the flags of Japan, the Netherlands and the Five Nations of the Iroquois.
Passionate volunteer whale defenders, embedded media, ruthless whale killers, compassionate vegans and macho meat eaters, members of a Japanese seaman’s unions controlled by the Yakusa, Japanese nationalists, Southern American rednecks, aging hippies, outback larrikins, anarchist punk rockers, technocrats, surfers, deep sea divers, a brewing clash of conflicting cultures, all fuel to feed the fires of a major conflict.
There is a foreboding potential for trouble here and past confrontations in these remote chilly waters have resulted in collisions, deliberate rammings, harpoon blockading, high pressure water hoses, foul smelling stink bombs, helicopters and racing inflatable boats. This year we can add abductions, ransom demands and threats of piracy charges.
Years of frustration, heated tempers and seething anger are feeding a frenzy of furious skirmishes. In short, all hell is breaking loose down in these stormy southern waters as curious penguins look on patiently and the whales spout and blow. And this leads to the next question.
Where is Australia?