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The Battle for the Whales Turns Ugly in the Ross Sea
On board the Steve Irwin --The Ross Sea, 5 February, 2009, 1700 Hours Sydney Time
The Steve Irwin engages the Japanese harpoon whaling vessels, the Yushin Maru's No. 1, 2, and 3.
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
"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 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
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 Roest is resting
comfortably. They whalers were very aggressive."
About Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an
International non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to
end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's
oceans in order to conserve and protects ecosystems and species. Sea
Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document,
and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities
on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our
delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their
survival for future generations. Founder and President Captain Paul
Watson, is a renowned, respected leader in environmental issues. Visit
http://www.seashepherd.org for more information.