Six crewmembers, four from New Zealand, one from Australia, and one from the Netherlands, were immediately rescued by the crew of the newest Sea Shepherd ship, the Bob Barker. None of the Ady Gil crew were seriously injured.
The New Zealand-registered Ady Gil sank in Commonwealth Bay off the Adelie Coast of Antarctica. The incident took place at 64 Degrees and 03 Minutes South and 143 Degrees and 09 Minutes East.
The Sea Shepherd vessels are in the Southern Ocean for a fifth year to disrupt Japan's so-called "research" whale hunt and cut into the profits of the whaling industry. The Bob Barker and the Ady Gil were engaged in chasing the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru away from the Australian Whale Sanctuary in the Southern Ocean.
The Shonan Maru No. 2 shoots water cannon at the Ady Gil before sinking the smaller vessel. (Photo by JoAnne McArthur courtesy Sea Shepherd)
According to eyewitness Captain Chuck Swift on the Bob Barker, the attack happened while the vessels were dead in the water. The Shonan Maru No. 2 suddenly started up and deliberately rammed the Ady Gil, ripping off eight feet of the bow.
"As far as I'm concerned this was at least criminal assault if not attempted murder," said Swift.
Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that one of his crew had broken ribs but it was a "miracle" that no one had died. "When they were about 40 meters away they suddenly veered to starboard and cut off the front three or four meters of my boat and sheared it in half," he said. "If anyone was in the forward sleeping quarters they would be dead."
"The Japanese whalers have now escalated this conflict very violently," said Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson, currently 500 miles to the north on the organization's third vessel, the Steve Irwin.
"If they think that our remaining two ships will retreat from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in the face of their extremism, they will be mistaken," Watson said. "We now have a real whale war on our hands now and we have no intention of retreating."
"This is a substantial loss for our organization," said Watson. "The Ady Gil, the former Earthrace, represents a loss of almost US$2 million. However, the loss of a single whale is of more importance to us and we will not lose the Ady Gil in vain. This blow simply strengthens our resolve, it does not weaken our spirit."
From its Tokyo office, the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, which represents the Japanese whaling industry, said its vessel was under attack by the Ady Gil.
Crew members aboard the Ady Gil today just before she sank. (Photo courtesy ICR)
"The research-base vessel Nisshin Maru, currently engaged in the Japanese whale research program in the Antarctic (JARPA II) had been subject to continuous attack since the early morning today by the New Zealand-registered watercraft Ady Gil following and the Bob Barker, a vessel sent to the Antarctic by the antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society." The ICR maintains that Japanese whaling is legal and is allowed under the rules of the International Whaling Commission.
The ICR said in a statement today that the crew of the Ady Gill was "repeatedly deploying and towing a rope from its stern with the intent to entangle the Japanese vessel's rudder and propeller."
"Further, the activists onboard the Ady Gil recurrently shoot a green laser device aiming at the Nisshin Maru crew and fired butyric acid-containing ball-like projectiles with a launching device. One of these projectiles landed in the Nisshin Maru's deck," the ICR said.
The ICR called the laser devices "illegal" and said they "can produce blindness when irradiated to the naked eye." The ICR said the crew of the Ady Gil "fired projectiles containing butyric acid, a substance highly hazardous to the human body including skin and eyes. Their actions are nothing but felonious behavior."
After broadcasting a warning message through a long range acoustic device (LRAD), the Nisshin Maru started its water cannons and proceeded to prevent the Ady Gil coming closer, said the ICR. "Neither injuries to the Japanese crew nor damage to the Nisshin Maru resulted from the New Zealand watercraft's attack."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is requesting that the Australian government send a naval vessel to restore the peace in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
"We have 77 crew from 16 nations on three vessels - six of them were on the Ady Gil," said Watson, who was born in Canada. "Of these, 21 are Australian citizens: 16 Australians on the Steve Irwin and five on the Bob Barker.
Included in the crew is the Animal Planet crew filming the third season of the hit television series "Whale Wars," aired on the Discovery Channel.
The crew of the Bob Barker rescued the crew of the Ady Gil without serious injury. (Photo by JoAnne McArthur courtesy Sea Shepherd)
Watson says the Australian government "has a responsibility to protect the lives of Australian citizens working to defend whales from illegal Japanese whaling activities."
The Sea Shepherd's newest vessel was purchased with a $5 million gift from television personality Bob Barker, 86, who hosted The Price Is Right game show from 1972-2007, making it the longest-running daytime game show in North American TV history.
Barker is one-eighth Native American, of the Sioux Tribe, an identity which strikes a chord with Watson, who assisted the Sioux at Wounded Knee. Barker has been an animal rights advocate and vegetarian since 1979. Barker's DJ&T Foundation, named for his late wife Dorothy Jo, has contributed millions of dollars to fund animal rescue and park facilities across the United States.
Watson says the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society secretly purchased and outfitted a former Norwegian Antarctic whaling vessel to interdict illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean and renamed it the Bob Barker.
The Bob Barker set out from Mauritius on December 18, 2009 on a long voyage across the bottom of the Indian Ocean. This morning at 0300 hours they found the Nisshin Maru and four Japanese harpoon vessels to the surprise of the Japanese whalers.
"This year, I have three ships, four small boats, a jet ski, a helicopter, 77 crew, and a bagful of aggravation for the Japanese whale poachers," said Watson just before the sinking of the Ady Gil. "We intend to make life miserable for the whale killers over the next month and a half."
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