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The Battle for the Whales Turns Ugly in the Ross Sea

flag_japan_tinyJapanese translation

On board the Steve Irwin --The Ross Sea
February 5, 2009- 1700 Hours Sydney Time

A crew member braces for an evasive maneuver
as the 8000-ton Japanese factory whaling ship,
the Nisshin Maru, bears down on a Sea Shepherd
inflatable boat. Photo by Steve Roest/
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

With the fifth day that the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin has shut down all whaling activities by the Japanese fleet, the frustration of the whalers violently erupted.

A Fin whale was spotted at 1211 Hours. The Steve Irwin launched two fast inflatable boats to head off any attempt to harpoon the whale. The helicopter was launched to film the blocking action.

All three harpoon vessels, the Yushin Maru #1, Yushin Maru #2 and Yushin Maru #3 attacked the Steve Irwin in dangerous passes to foul the Steve Irwin's propeller.

At 1220 the Yushin Maru #1 was a quarter mile away on the port side and heading directly towards the Steve Irwin. A 2nd harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru #2 was moving in a full speed from the Starboard side. The Yushin Maru # 3 approached rapidly from the stern.

At 1230, the Nisshin Maru aimed the Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) at helicopter pilot Chris Aultman of California and Animal Planet cameraman Ashley Dunn of Tasmania.

"At first it was just a loud noise," said  Aultman, "then they turned up the volume and we could feel it in our legs and chest."

Aultman retreated out of range of the device but was shocked they used it.

"It was extremely irresponsible for the whalers to aim that devise at the helicopter," said Captain Paul Watson. "They were doing nothing but filming and presented absolutely no threat to the ships. They demonstrated absolutely no regard for human life."

At this point the harpoon vessels turned on their LRAD and aimed it at the small boats and the Steve Irwin.

This sonic attack was followed by the Nisshin Maru turning into the Steve Irwin and attempting to actually ram the Sea Shepherd vessel at full speed.

Captain Paul Watson ordered the small boats to act like fighter planes in a dog fight. "You've got to keep those hunter killer boats off our bow. If they cripple us down here we will be helpless," he said.

The small boats retaliated by threatening to foul the props of the harpoon vessel.

Steve Roest of the United Kingdom was injured when he became disoriented, dizzy and was knocked down cutting open his head. Ship's doctor David Miller from Perth sutured the wound with five stitches. Captain Paul Watson received rope burns when he fired a speed line in front of the Yushin Maru #1 to force them to retreat from an attempt to cross the bow with a fouling line.

The whalers jammed the Steve Irwin's radios and navigational instruments and kept a steady bombardment of the Sea Shepherd crew with the LRAD's. Captain Watson spent four hours undertaking zigzag and circular maneuvers to avoid the prop fouling.

"The attacks by the three ships became so aggressive we had to fire flares and speed lines over their head to force them to back off," said Watson.

The small boats also retaliated with rotten butter bombs. The Steve Irwin retrieved both boats and the helicopter by going in tight circles with the three harpoon vessels circling on the outside blasting the crew with LRAD's and towing fouling lines.

"It was very worrying for us," said Steve Irwin 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden. "Our helicopter was almost out of fuel and the whalers were forcing us to keep avoiding them making it difficult for the helicopter to land."

At 1700 Hours, the harpoon boats backed off and the Steve Irwin resumed the pursuit of the Nisshin Maru. The whaling fleet is once more running before the Steve Irwin heading due South deep into the Ross Sea.

"The crew are tired and a little dizzy from the LRAD's," said Dr. Miller. "But everyone is in good spirits and Steve Roest is resting comfortably. The whalers were very aggressive."



Sea Shepherd crew members are hosed by water cannons from
Japanese harpoon whaling ship, the Yushin Maru No. 1, as the
Sea Shepherd helicopter flies alongside.
Photo by Steve Roest/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd's M/Y Steve Irwin, left, engages in a cat-and-mouse
chase with a Japanese harpoon whaling vessel.

Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Crew aboard Japanese harpoon whaling ship, the Yushin Maru No. 1,

use water hoses to spray Sea Shepherd crew members.
Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Crew members aboard Japanese harpoon whaling ship, the Yushin Maru No. 3,
give Sea Shepherd activists a middle finger while using an LRAD
(Long Range Acoustic Device) sonic weapon developed for the military.

Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd crew members are hosed by water cannons from
Japanese harpoon whaling ship, the Yushin Maru No. 1.
Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society


















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