The Chase Continues - Day Three

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin

Today we are plowing through the roughest seas we have experienced in the almost three months we have been down in the Southern Ocean. The weather will be getting worse as the continent of Antarctica braces itself for the long dark and bitterly cold winter ahead of it.

As one storm races over us, another is creeping up behind us from the West.

We love this weather! A combination of these windy seas and our pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet translates into no whales killed. This is the third day that the whales have been spared the bloody horror of the Japanese harpoons.

As the bow of the Steve Irwin rises up on a swell and then hammers down into a trough, the cold water explodes in white anger over the decks and splashes heavily against the wheelhouse windows. The ship shudders and shakes, rolls and pitches and pushes onward and forward.

Ahead of us, obscured by the sleet, the snow, and the fog is the Japanese whaling fleet running to the east. The weather to the north is much worse. A living monster of a gale is kissing and kicking at our stern. To the south are the Australian Territorial waters and the Japanese seem reluctant to enter those waters with us on their tail. The only course they can follow is to the east and we continue eastward also, haunting them, harassing them, hindering their every attempt to kill whales.

This is our third day of this pursuit and the third day without a whale dying from a Japanese harpoon. My crew cheers each time we pass a free swimming whale knowing that another one will be spared from the merciless assaults of the vicious killers that run like craven cowards before us.

Six miles to our stern, the Japanese Coast Guard follow, waiting for a reason to pounce on us should we board a whaler, or if we intervene to stop a killing.

I have to admit that I live for this, the thrill of saving lives from ruthless killers, forcing them to flee, forcing them to silence their deadly harpoons. There are few things more satisfying.

Zin Rain and Nicola Henrich from Australia and Amber Paarman from South Africa are cooking up a storm down in the galley serving black beans and rice with a cinnamon orange topping for lunch. The three of them have been serving three meals a day despite the stormy weather.

In the engine room, Chief Engineer Charles Hutchings from Britain with Engineers Willie Houtman from New Zealand, Stephen Sikes from the United States, and Jessica Gartlan from Australia are keeping our two massive engines turning over, keeping up our speed despite the pounding of the sea.

Two thousand miles from Australia, we are alone down here with eight outlaw Japanese ships. The Japanese whalers have not found our satellite locators and where and how we planted them will be undetectable although we imagine they are ripping their ships apart trying to find them. But, the signals are coming through loud and clear and on schedule. We have them and they know we have them and we don't intend to let them go.

What a race! The dark blue of the water opens up to reveal half sunken bergy bits the size of houses or cars. If we hit one of those at full speed we could split our hull open and so the watch keeps their faces glued to the bridge windows, peering through the mist and spray, the sleet and driving snow, to find the ice before the ice finds us.

As we race along the Albatross and the Petrels fly like protective air squadrons beside and above us.

Meanwhile we have Australian politicians warning us that what we are doing is dangerous. Of course it's dangerous. Racing through treacherous, freezing, waters filled with chunks of ice, threading our way around mountainous tabletop bergs, pursuing vicious armed killers that out number us and being pursued by armed Japanese Coast Guard two thousand miles from the coast of Australia. Please Stephen Smith, you may be the Foreign Minister but tell us something we don't know.

The truth is, Mr. Smith, that we would not be down here risking our lives to protect whales if your government had simply kept its promise to do something to kick these Japanese whale poachers out of these waters.

Instead of telling me, a deep sea Captain with decades of experience, how dangerous these waters and the situation is, why doesn't your government send down a ship to arrest these poachers for flagrant violation of an Australian Federal court order that specifically prohibits the killing of whales in the territorial waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory?

I have 17 Australian crew-members who voted for your government because of the promise to stop the Japanese whalers by Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett. They would rather not be taking these risks but your government gives them no alternative but to risk life and limb to do what your government promised to do in November but you now refuse to do in February.

We stopped these killers for three weeks in January and we are working to stop them for the remainder of February and into March.

Within weeks the ice will begin to form down here and the winds will blow stronger and colder and the seas will rise into a foaming angry cauldron of stinging frozen brine. The whaling fleet will be forced to retreat back to the land of the rising sun as the sun begins to disappear in the land of the midnight sun.

Between then and now, every hour and every day we prevent the harpoons from firing will be a victory and every day that the whaling ships are running is another day that whales will live that would otherwise be twisting in mortal agony at the end of a steel cable.

Whatever are critics say about us, our methods, the risks we take, the tactics we use, the bottom line is that we are representing our clients and our clients are the whales and we will not play politics and we are not ready to play nice as these gentle intelligent creatures are exterminated in the name of some pseudo-scientific research scam being used as a cover for commercial whaling.

Today was another great day for the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.