, December 26, 2008 (ENS) - Captain Paul Watson reports from the bridge of his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship the Steve Irwin that this morning he encountered the Japanese whaler Kaiko Maru.
"The Kaiko Maru emerged from dense fog in front of the Steve Irwin," he writes. "The Sea Shepherd crew pursued and delivered 10 bottles of rotten butter and 15 bottles of a methyl cellulose and indelible dye mixture."
"That is one stinky slippery ship," said Sea Shepherd 2nd Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden.
Methyl cellulose is a white powder that dissolves in cold, but not in hot, water, forming a slimy, gooey gel. It is sold under many trade names and is used as a thickener and emulsifier in food and cosmetic products. Like cellulose, it is edible but not digestible, not toxic, and not allergenic.
The substance is popular for use in special effects for motion pictures and television wherever vile slimes must be simulated.
The activists' aim in hurling the smelly butter and slimy goo onto the Kaido Maru was to intimidate the Japanese fleet and keep them moving eastward out of Australian Territorial waters, said Watson.
The two ships collided as they engaged in the icy waves of the Southern Ocean, said Watson.
"As the Steve Irwin came alongside the starboard side of the Kaiko Maru, the whaler steered hard to starboard and struck the Steve Irwin lightly crushing part of the aft port helicopter deck guard rails on the Sea Shepherd ship," he said. "There was no serious damage to either ship."
The Steve Irwin, left, encounters the Kaiko Maru in the Southern Ocean. December 26, 2008 (Photo by Eric Cheng courtesy Sea Shepherd)
The encounter took place off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory north of the Mawson Peninsula.
The Sea Shepherd crew has been pursuing the whaling fleet eastward for a week across 400 miles through the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone, and during that time no whales have been killed, says Watson.
On Sunday, the Sea Shepherd found the Japanese whaling fleet but was hit at once by a severe Antarctic storm bringing 50 to 60 mile per hour winds, blizzard conditions and heavy seas.
The Steve Irwin was forced to take refuge behind a large iceberg as heavy ice began to build up for miles around the ship.
"It was an ominous sight," said crewmember Steve Roest from the United Kingdom. "All around us for as far as we could sea was a massive pile of ice. It took Captain Watson more than seven hours to navigate a path through it and at times we felt for sure the ship would be crushed, and that is not a very reassuring thought in these remote waters."
"It was a somewhat frightening scene to see hard ice growlers the size of houses being tossed about like confetti in massive swells driven by gale force winds," reports Watson. "I had to thread the ship between those bucking chunks of lethal ice knowing that if just one of them was tossed against our hull, we would be holed and sunk very quickly.
The Steve Irwin makes its way between two icebergs in pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet. December 21, 2008 (Photo by Eric Cheng courtesy Sea Shepherd)
"I was not completely confident that we would make it," he writes, "a thought that I did not share with the crew at the time."
He characterizes the coast of Antarctica as "remote, unpredictable, and hostile to human life and not a place for the faint hearted. A constant vigil must be kept on weather and ice conditions."
The hardest part of maneuvering through the ice field was when the Steve Irwin reached open waters to be met with a massive swell coming from the South, he said.
"Our objective now is to chase them out of Australia's Economic Exclusion Zone," said Watson. "I have a chart here and it clearly states that these waters are Australian EEZ."
"There is an Australian Federal Court Order specifically prohibiting these ships from whaling in these waters. We have informed the whalers they are in contempt of this Court ruling," he said.
The Japanese ship was ordered out of the territorial waters of Australia by Australian citizen Jeff Hansen from Perth, Western Australia, who spoke in Japanese.
"We still have them on the run and we intend to keep them on the run for as long as our fuel resources allow," said Captain Watson.
In just 90 miles, the Japanese fleet could enter the New Zealand Zone.
The Japanese claim to be conducting perfectly legal whaling that is allowed by the scientific research provision of the International Whaling Commission's treaty language.
Their current whaling program is based on a self-set quota of "a lethal research take of 850 minke whales and 50 fin whales," as well as non-lethal sighting surveys and biopsy samplings from live whales, says the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, the government agency responsible for the activities of the country's whaling fleet.
Japanese Coast Guard fire from the deck of the Nisshin Maru. March 7, 2008 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
Tonight, the Discovery Channel's "Animal Planet" features a marathon of episodes from "Whale Wars," the series based on the Sea Shepherd's 2007-2008 battle against the Japanese whalers.
The institute takes exception to the "Whale Wars" series, claiming that Animal Planet directors staged a supposed shooting of Watson on the bridge of the Steve Irwin last March.
Watson says he was struck by a bullet in the chest on March 7 by the Japanese Coast Guard who Watson says "began to throw flash grenades at the crew of the Steve Irwin" from the deck of the Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the Japanese whaling fleet.
The projectile struck just above Watson's heart and mangled his anti-poaching badge, which was worn on his sweater underneath his bulletproof Kevlar vest.
Captain Paul Watson immediately after he was hit with a projectile. March 7, 2008 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
Dr. David Page was videotaped on board the Steve Irwin prying the bullet from the vest. "You have been hit by a bullet," he said.
But Minoru Morimoto, director general of the Institute of Cetacean Research, who was not on the scene, said from his Tokyo office, "Animal Planet is treating its viewers, advertisers and financial backers like fools. This is scripted, plot-driven television motivated by a scramble to reverse sinking ratings. Animal Planet has co-opted ecoterrorists into staging violent incidents for its TV cameras."
Watson says the violent whalers "will not hesitate to fire upon whale defenders in defense of their illegal profits."
Watson complains that the Australian government would not permit him to equip his crew with Kevlar vests last year. "Because of the threat of gunfire, I decided to provide my crew with Kevlar vests and requested permission to have them sent to Australian Customs to be brought onto the ship at departure," he said last March. "The request was refused thus directly endangering the lives of my crew."
The conservation ship Steve Irwin is named after the Australian television personality, wildlife expert, and conservationist, the late Steve Irwin. He died in 2006 after his chest was fatally pierced by a stingray barb while he was filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
On December 5, 2007, at Victoria Docklands in Melbourne, Australia, Captain Watson and Steve's wife, Terri Irwin, officially announced the new name for the ship, formerly known as the Robert Hunter after the late Canadian journalist and conservationist.
Terri Irwin, left, and Paul Watson christen the Sea Shepherd vessel the Steve Irwin. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship MV Steve Irwin was named in his honor, christened by his wife Terri, who said "If Steve were alive, he'd be aboard with them!"
"The Australian Government remains resolute in its opposition to commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling," Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said in a statement as the Japanese fleet left port for the Southern Ocean earlier this month. He said the government is undertaking "intense diplomatic engagement."
"We are aware that the coming season's anticipated whaling activities in the Southern Ocean are once again likely to attract protests from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society," said the minister.
"The Australian government respects the right of individuals and groups to protest peacefully," he said. "But no matter the objective, we do not condone, indeed we condemn, dangerous or violent activities, including any activity that may jeopardize safety at sea or could lead to injury or loss of life."
At a meeting in March this year, all members of the International Whaling Commission collectively called upon Sea Shepherd to refrain from dangerous activities, and called on vessels and crews concerned to exercise restraint.
"The Australian government expects any unlawful activity to be dealt with in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws," said Garrett, adding, "The Southern Ocean is a remote and inhospitable region where the risk of adverse incidents is high and the capacity for rescue or assistance is low. As the government has repeatedly done in the past, we call upon all parties to exercise restraint and to ensure that safety at sea is the highest priority."
Back in Tokyo, Morimoto says "common sense" needs to be brought into the discussions over commercial whaling. "Many whale stocks in the world today are abundant and commercial whaling can be managed on a sustainable basis, while conserving real threatened species - such as the blue whale - based on evidence derived from scientific research."
Whales are not endangered, said Morimoto. "A commercial whaling regime could be undertaken tomorrow in a manner that would ensure whale populations continue to grow and allow current and future generations of the world to enjoy the grace of the ocean forever."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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