I’m terribly sorry this hasn’t happened sooner but I’ve not been able to access the net from the boat to post it. I didn’t realise either that so many people were reading it – I thought only my Mum :-).
The post below takes over just after the Ady Gil was rammed and the crew had climbed onto the Bob Barker and set off in in persuit of the fleet again.
With the crew of the Ady Gil ensconced on the Bob Barker after being fished out of the Southern Ocean, some of the crew was not only surplus to requirements but a couple of the lads had commitments back in New Zealand they had to honour. A plan was made to get them back and it sounds like there was a bit of a scene caused onboard. The rumour mill was churning and we heard all kinds of delightful versions of the truth through the grapevine. As is usually the case the truth tends to be a bit bland once it comes out. The crew had to be returned to shore, so it was decided that we would meet at Kerguelen Island, which is a little blob of rock pretty much in the lower middle India Ocean. We arrived first and were only there a day when, in an eerie introduction to all aboard the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker came silently out of the fog and pulled alongside. We had a number of supplies they needed including lube oil for their engines and food for the crew. This was all transferred along with a few of the crew that needed to get back to their other lives. The Bob had had the Shonan Maru tailing them after they left the site of the ramming. The Japanese boat was forced to stop at the edge of the French territorial waters, as they’re not welcome anywhere besides Japan it would seem. This also gave us the chance to give them the slip. We left the island after some of the more privileged and “superior” crew members had a nose around on land. We mere mortals had to be content with watching the Elephant seals fighting on shore in the distance and with a couple of penguins swimming past. Yep, it must be nice for some. It’s the only time on the trip that I can honestly say I’ve been pissed off. It wouldn’t have taken much to get us all ashore.
The whaling fleet had now headed far west, more so than they ever had and we presume that they had the bulk of their whaling season during this time. They had gone to the very furthest extent of the approved “research“ area. We slid out of the Kerguelen and headed back towards Fremantle to resupply, do the crew exchange and have a bearing in the gearbox of the helicopter repaired.
After leaving Fremantle the third leg of the trip turned out to be the best one. We weren’t out of port long when we heard that the Bob Barker had a fix on the whaling fleet and were making their way towards it after a fairly leisurely stop at Kerguelen Island. They had lost their tail as they sneaked out of Kerguelen. In due course the reports came though that they had located the fleet and were hot on their tails. They soon caught up and in the initial confrontation the two Yushin Maru’s and the Shonan Maru got all heated and were trying to intimidate the Bob by doing close passes and spraying them with a bit of water etc. The Yushin Maru 3 pulled alongside the Bob at really close quarters and as she turned out her stern caught the stern of the Bob Barker cutting a meter long gash in her side, fortunately above the waterline. Also fortunately the load of the impact was transferred to the superstructure by a ladder inside the hull or it sounds like the damage may have been more significant. The Bob fell back and the Japanese whalers made a great scene in the press about the Bob Barker ramming them. Outrage! What a bunch of muppets. The Bob sat on their tail till we could catch up and give them some support. That took about five days as we were fairly far away.
Once we caught up we went in and gave them a bit of a rev with the water canon and sat on their tails until a bit of good weather came along.
We did have a good day and Pete got out on the Delta and fired some smellies onto the deck of the Nisshin and the Shonan and put the first paint on the “RESEARCH” signs.
Dropping Pete off on the Shonan Maru
Given the fact that the Ady Gil had now been rammed and sunk we were at a loss for a medium size, more manoeuvrable vessel to get up close with the large vessels of the whaling fleet and our battle plan was seriously compromised. The Ady Gil would have allowed us almost immediate close quarters confrontation capability with any of the whalers without the need to slow down or stop to launch a delta or a jetski, as is the case with the Steve Irwin or Bob Barker. Prop fouling would have been a matter of pulling up in front of them & deploying the fouler from the back deck. Pete& myself were the only 2 left of the crew from the original six. We were stuck on the Steve Irwin now and with the hierarchy on the big ship being of a different philosophy than on the Ady Gil, our hands were tied to so me extent. All of our plans and strategies had to be rethought.
We had previously tossed an idea around, more in jest than anything else, of boarding one of the harpoon vessels and grabbing one of the crew, tossing him overboard and making a citizens arrest for poaching once we had him safely on board our boat. It would never have happened in that format but it planted a seed for what actually happened.
Pete was understandably upset that the Ady Gil was no more and decided he wanted to board the Shonan Maru and arrest the Captain. After all he was, arguably, responsible for (amongst other things) six counts of attempted murder. If you had done the same thing with two cars in the car park of your local supermarket you could bet your hat that you’d be sent straight to jail without collecting $200 and that attempted murder wouldn’t be the only charge you’d be facing. Why should it be any different because we’re in the Southern Ocean thousands of miles from civilisation? Given that the Southern Ocean is an incredibly inhospitable place and a trifle more dangerous than the car park of Woolworths, I’d say he was even more culpable.
Obviously the chances of getting the Captain to leave his vessel, come passively over to ours and be taken back to Australia or New Zealand as a “war prize” to face his fate was practically nil. The probability was that Pete was going to be arrested and taken either to an Australian vessel, like Potsy and Giles had been previously, or to Japan for trial for whatever charges they could conjure up. Pete was prepared for this and went into it quite happy to face whatever came of it. The idea was to get as much exposure, especially in Japan, as we could get. It transpires that the press in Japan is dominated by the state and is quite the propaganda machine. With the ICR being semi government – or at least state funded – and having big business behind them, the press is wholly on the side of the whalers and Sea Shepherd are portrayed as terrorists, comparable to El Kaida with fully trained operatives and all. Nothing could be further from the truth really, but the Japanese public (and surprisingly – some intelligent westerners) lap it up and honestly believe that we are a serious threat to their national security and culture. If Pete can have a public trial it would bring the whole issue into the media spotlight and we would have a platform from which to present a case against whaling in their back yard.
And so the plan was formulated. What remained of the whaling fleet was following us as we trailed the Nisshin Maru. With the two harpoon vessels out of the picture having turned off and gone south to wait, the Shonan Maru was trailing about a mile behind us some distance off to our port, on a course running parallel to ours. After some serious scrutiny of images we had of the target, it was decided he would board her at a point where one of the fenders rested on top of a sort of protective ladder on the port side. By coincidence the anti-boarding spikes that were about two meters apart around the rest of the vessel were further apart on that section of the rail and the only problem once Pete had his feet on the rail of the boat would be the protective net that they drape around the whole vessel to stop projectiles from landing on the deck. The chances of pulling it off in daylight hours were slim as they have at least 4 watchmen (sometimes 7) permanently posted and they also had their new “secret weapon” – the pepper spray launchers. If we came within 100 meters of them or even showed any intention of doing so they would be out with their new face masks and protective suits patrolling the deck. Quite comically, on the first Delta strike that Pete & the lads did with the spud gun to put a few smellies and some paint on their decks, they were quick to their posts and, obviously never having used the equipment before, they fired a vile stream of pepper spray as the inflatable came within shot. The aerial footage shows the two operators having a go with their handpieces, shooting straight into the net I mentioned earlier. It predictably sprays back in their faces and they’re seen to be coughing and spluttering and rapidly heading upwind wiping their faces and tearing masks off. So much for the trained Security personnel then…. The ICR website and press release the next day expresses outrage at the “Eco terrorists” having fired butyric acid at the crew and “burning” three men. That footage was put on U-tube to set the record straight. It makes me wonder who was lying, the crew to the bosses, the bosses to the public relations department, or the PR department to the world. I know where I’d put my money.
The anti-boarding spikes as seen above here in yellow, precluded the use of the Delta as they would probably be moving at about 15 knots in an unpredictable swell and the differential vertical movement between the two vessels would mean a good chance of puncturing one of the pontoons and maybe a drivers’ head at that. The jetski was the obvious choice as it only left the latter option. It was small, maneuverable, and incredibly quick. With 265 horsepower in a wetbike that weighed just over 450kg’s it was a little dragster, without question the fastest craft I’ve ever ridden on the water. We would launch an hour before sunrise to allow for the light to be improving in case anything went wrong. They would be at their most vulnerable at that time with the watch crew fatigued and everyone else in a deep sleep. Hopefully. So there we had it – a plan.
After a few days of preparation we identified a weather window in which we thought we may be able to do it. This far south the weather is barely predictable and quite changeable. Low temperatures and storms coming straight off the Antarctic landmass make for harsh conditions. The water is normally below freezing and even in mid summer there are regular snowstorms. This wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
Pete and I were sharing a room and neither of us slept more than a couple of hours that night. He was fidgeting, packing his stuff and “cleaning up” and I was up and down getting stuff together and prepared, testing gear and making sure we had all the bits together. We arose at about 4 am and got everything ready. Undergarments beneath the tactical dry suits, suiting up, double checking, headgear including a helmet-cam for myself (that came adrift ten seconds into the mission), lights for locating in case someone fell off the jetski, flares for location of the jetski in the dark, night vision for being able to see in the ink black, locator collars as worn by pig hunting dogs for locating lost persons by GPS in fog or bad visibility, commercial maritime locator / rescue beacons in the front compartment of the jetski and radios for communication with the Steve Irwin, a satellite phone in case we became separated from the fleet, drinking water, energy bars, fresh underpants. Condoms…naaah.
At 04h45 we were on deck and mounted the jetski, getting set up and stowed, at 05h00 we went into the water. I have neglected to mention before that we had one extra piece of luggage. A cameraman from Animal Planet was to be strapped to the back of the jetski. Joe was kitted up and ready to go. The plan was that we would see if the craft was stable enough to operate in the conditions with him on the back and if not we would drop him off back on the Steve Irwin before we set off. We couldn’t practice before the time as any stopping, changes in speed or direction of either of our ships was met with the greatest suspicion from the Shonan Maru. We had to get across nearly half a mile of water before they caught up with us so timing was critical. A moment before we were lowered down into the water I was handed the sat phone. I put it into the footwell of the jetski and clamped it there with my leg. As we hit the water and the hook released from the crane we leaned over at a jaunty angle to our starboard side. The Steve Irwin stared moving off and we realized that it was too late to drop Joe off. The conditions weren’t that bad and I judged that we would probably make it. So we set off. Once out of the navigation lights of the ship it was pitch black. I had chosen not to wear the night vision scope as it was not possible to get the headstrap firm enough to stop the scope swaying around, and I knew if I used my peripheral vision it would be enough to see what I needed. There was about a meter of swell as we made our way across. A breeze had sprung up and brought a slight chop top the surface of the water, so when we got up a bit of speed in the trough of the swell and crested a wave we would fly over the other side if I didn’t tap off. The water was below freezing and the spray in my face was like a handful of sand or gravel being blown hard onto my exposed skin, stinging like hell until the numbness took over. At the same time I had to keep enough speed on to make it across the gap to the path of the target. I was busy concentrating on negotiating the waves and when I looked up everything had changed. The Shonan Maru, after seeing the Steve Irwin stop, had taken a hard turn to port and was barreling away from us. That meant we had to make a bit more speed and get into its wake as we would never maintain pace and catch up with the ship if we travelled parallel to it in these conditions. A quick pause to get my bearings, with only the navigation lights of the Steve Irwin and the Shonan Maru in sight and I hear Pete saying, “Here mate, my night visions given up. Take it!” I put it over my arm and put on a burst of speed and soon, half flying, half floating we hit the wake of the boat. I listened to the Animal Planet sound recording after the event and you can hear Pete saying “Whoa, there’s a bloody big wave coming here” or words to that effect. I tapped off & we crested that easily, getting into the wake now and pushing hard to get alongside. Hearing anything over the thudding of the hull, the roar of the engine, the whine of the jet, the whistling wind and the splashing was made impossible by the 9mm hoodie over my ears. This and the numbness of my face made it seem like I was in some kind of a capsule.
Yep, it’s cold down there…
The smoother water within the wake meant the going was a bit easier with only the swell to contend with and not the chop. We must have got up to about 35 to 40 knots in the pitch black, only the stern light of the Shonan Maru visible to guide us. We drew up just astern of the ship and I turned to Pete. “All go?”…… “Yep! Let’s do it!”
A slight turn to my port and a good burn on the throttle brought us up parallel with the side of the ship, the grey blue paint glowing faintly offering a shady shape off to my right. I judged the anti-boarding spikes in what little light I could see from the stern light and made a swerve into the gap. We’d seen the security vessel from about 50 to 70 meters away during skirmishes over the past few days but it had never looked quite this big. It was huge compared to the jetski. As the waves passed down the side of the ship there was a variation of about 2 meters on the water line. These harpoon vessels had a very wet deck. I drew alongside and as we got about half a meter away I felt Pete get up and stabilize himself, then launch himself onto the rail as the ship rose and we fell. As soon as I felt the weight go off I turned out and while concentrating on the waves and my proximity to the ship’s side I saw a shadow fall into the water out of the edge of my vision. Half a second later I heard Joe scream, “Pete’s off, he’s fallen!”. I brought the wetbike around hard and not 40 or 50 meters away saw the silhouette of Pete’s head in the wash of the ship. I roared up to him and shouted to Joe to try and grab him. They latched hands first time and seconds later after trying to keep the bike as stable as I could I heard Pete’s voice over my shoulder. Quite what he was saying I couldn’t make out. I opened her up again. “Whoa whoa!! Wait, Joe’s getting sorted!”. He must have been bellowing as I heard that bit. Mumbling follows. I try again. “Wait up mate, Joe’s getting himself stable!” ….A pause and then “OK, let’s go!”. I open it up and in what feels like no time we’re flying up next to the ship again, the hull of the ski slapping the water loudly as we land from the jumps between waves. I hear Pete shout that he wants to go aboard further to the stern, where the light is. I reckon that would be a problem as not only would it blind him and the camera, but the spikes are closer together there and it’s heaving up and down. There’s a lot more vertical movement at that point than amidships. I position us for the original gap again and swing it in. As we draw near the hull a wave comes across from the outside and slaps us like a leaf in the breeze into the side of the ship. A loud bang and the jetski shudders, topples radically and for a moment I think we’re all going in. That wouldn’t be a good scenario as if one of us happened to get dragged in under the hull amongst the propellers it would be… well….messy. I pour on the horses and it pulls out of the slide but we’re now just ahead of the stern of the ship and the anti-boarding spikes are there, dangling above our heads. I tap off and swerve out, get alongside once again and shoot up to the sweet spot. I pull in. We get about 6 inches from the ship and suddenly, unbelievably, the rail of the boat is at our hip height for a few seconds as we ride over a big swell. Pete steps onto it like it was a rowing boat next to the lake jetty. He’s positioned with his feet both on the rail and his left hand holding the ladder, his right hand grasping for the knife he’ll use to cut through the net. The next wave comes and the jetski rears. I’m watching Pete and it bucks up into my face, the padded cross member of the handlebars hitting me just softly in the face. Lucky. Dropping back a little I look for Pete again and he’s already disappeared in the gloom. I speed up again and in a flash I see the vertical waving of his signal light. He’s on! Result!
I stop, and check how Joe is doing. He’s good. I take my gloves off as my fingers are dead with the cold and not functioning well enough to haul out the radio to contact the Steve Irwin. “Steve Irwin, this is Larry, Pete Bethune is safely aboard the Shonan Maru over”. A surprised sounding Locky says “Well done! Where are you now?”. I give him an estimated position in relation to the Shonan Maru’s current one. “You’ll have to come back and fetch us Locky, we’ll never be able to catch you in this”. I’ve suddenly realized that the wind has picked up to about 15 or 20 knots and now that we’re out of the lee of the ship it’s getting really choppy.
I turn to Joe. “How was that?” He’s as excited as I am, but ever the professional, he gives me an impromptu interview his infra red camera held out at arms length framing my face. We wait for what seems an age but was in reality about ten minutes. The navigation lights of the Steve Irwin approach, but quite a way ahead of us. I radio Locky to guide him in and rip the handheld flares off the shoulder of my life jacket. I ignite one and the ship alters course and steers towards us. It burns out and I light another one. In moments the ship is only 100 meters away and we make our way across to it. Joe catches the cable from the crane and attaches us to the big boat. Next thing we’re up in the air and then alongside the bulwarks against the fender. Joe jumps off over the rail and I follow him shortly afterwards, my legs are like jelly from all the adrenaline and I, very suavely, crash down onto the deck in a heap. I stand up and get interviewed again. There’s a sense of disbelief on board, everyone is totally stoked and the feeling of elation spreads as I tell the story. It takes a couple of hours for everyone to acknowledge the fact that we had one less crew member on board now. People missed him. That says something about the bloke.
Pete is on his way to Japan. Mission successful. I hit the showers and have a cup of coffee. It’s impossible to sleep for the rest of the day as I’m still surfing an adrenaline wave. There are phone calls coming in thick from all around the world, the press are jumping on it like locusts. Paul Watson handles them like a true master. One has to give credit where it’s due and he’s got them feeding out of his hand. The world is hungry for this. Later between phone calls he says to me “You know, I didn’t think it was possible”. Coming from him I took that as a major compliment. He’s a man who’s quite scant with his praise and that’s as good as I’ve heard from him.
Not long before sunrise Chris takes off in the chopper with a Jamey, one of the AP cameramen. They fly across to the whaler and Pete, having hidden under a propaganda banner on deck for 95 minutes without being discovered casually steps into frame and makes his way to the bridge and knocks on the door. He must have been freezing his bollocks off after falling in the water and then being exposed to the icy cold for that long. In what has already become a classic piece of U-tube footage and was watched on news channels around the globe, the bewildered watch officer comes out and shoo’s Pete away. He clearly doesn’t need this in his life. He wonders over to the bridge wing and peers over the side. “Where the f**k did he come from?!” is written in capital letters across his face. Just those few seconds of footage has made this whole journey worthwhile for me. How they didn’t know he was on board is quite beyond me.
Quite what was going to happen to Pete was another question. The Japanese were caught totally off guard. Their press release later that day said as much. It was four days before they had decided that he would “probably” be taken back to Japan. The ICR’s bungling New Zealand public relations man, Glenn Inwood, describes Sea Shepherd crew as “cockroaches”. At least these cockroaches have still got their souls. His has been sold for a few measly dollars. How does he look his kids / grandkids in the eye? Perhaps he doesn’t have any – he doesn’t seem to have any testicles.
The New Zealand government gives stock answers. Murray McCullay, the Japanese trade envoy to New Zealand and part time foreign minister says we should exercise restraint. He says we were silly to take the chances we had. “ You would only last twelve minutes in that water if you had to fall in”. Thanks Murray. Perhaps if you had done your job instead of kissing the Japanese Government’s arse we wouldn’t have had to do something about it ourselves Murray. Perhaps if you hadn’t dodged an appointment with Pete that we tried to set up for this particular reason you would have been better informed Murray. Perhaps it would have been more expedient to discuss the situation with Pete than to set the Maritime NZ lads on us to look for an excuse for withdrawing the New Zealand flag from the boat. If you stand back and take a look, the planet is in the deepest crisis in geological history and the leadership that we, globally, have put in place to manage it is debatably the weakest it has ever been. I’m quite concerned about that. To be fair he probably didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the issue. He had to work out how much was left on his housing allowance, foreign travel allowance, expense accounts etc.
Peter Garret, the once militant enviro-crooner that has become the Australian Minister for the Environment was just as bad. He sat on a wall / fence of government rhetoric. He’s just had a major demotion as a result of mismanagement of another shocking political issue. That one involved endangering human lives so it was different. More important. Humpty Dumpty. Perhaps he had other important stuff to think about too, like selling his countries remaining energy resources to China. Their natural gas reserves that is, not the Midnight Oil ones, though I’m sure they’d be for sale too.
I caught up with Joe the cameraman a couple of days after the trip on the jetski. I asked him how it was for him, being strapped to the back of the thing half submerged in freezing water blasting along at 40 knots through the darkness. He told me he had found God. None of his footage was of any use at all as it was just sky, water sky, water….. Joe’s a good bloke. He worked on an Alaskan fishing trawler for 7 years. That hardens you up a bit.
Now that the Bethunator was on the Shonan Maru, kicking his heels, eating whale offal with rice and drinking Japanese tea, we needed to continue our campaign against the whaling fleet. I, blinking and shielding my eyes from the bright light, was allowed out of the depths of the engine room. The spud gun was overhauled and bottles of butyric acid filled. Whatever paint we had left was bottled too. You can imagine how much work it was emptying all those beer bottles. Nickleback – the popular band had, in support of our cause, donated some T-shirt launchers that they had used at one of their concerts to hand out freebies to the crowd. They can shoot a rolled up T-shirt about 150 meters and are the right diameter for a wine bottle, which they shoot a fair distance. They use a small compressed CO2 cylinder to power them – much along the same principal as the spud gun.
A couple of days after the drop off, we had a really nice day and the Delta was readied for an attack. We took 36 bottles of paint and butyric acid and the spud gun and left on the first mission. Chad, an American person, was at the wheel and Leon, a keen young Aussie lad was his right hand man. There was the omnipresent Animal Planet cameraman filming it all and myself on the launcher. It has to be said that the black tactical dry suits that we got for the Ady Gil look a bit more intimidating than the bright orange Mustang suits worn by the Steve Irwin crew. The photos show me on the back looking like some sort of gunslinger operating the shooting gear.
Chad is a really good boat operator with good judgement and an instinctive feeling for the movement of the bigger ship and its water canons. He took us up to the tail of the Nisshin Maru hanging back just out of reach of the water canons. I readied and loaded the spudgun, give Chad a nod and he shoots forward toward the large “RESEARCH” sign on the side of the ship. Research my arse. As we draw alongside I fire a bottle of paint at the banner saying “Animal Planet Supports Environmental Terrorism”. I get a direct hit but the bottle sails right through the cloth, smashing on the superstructure somewhere behind it. I load again and Chad has got us up between the water spouts and I baste the research sign with my first bottle. There are already a few splotches on the writing from where Pete had had a go a few days before. That wasn’t enough. Getting your eye in with the spud gun takes a few shots and although I had been told only to shoot below the black of the side of the ship some of the shots fly high. One of them crashes into the very top of the bridge, narrowly missing the ships expensive communications dome. Some others leave splotches near portholes and on the superstructure, but most of the paint is left surrounding and covering the writing, port and starboard. We fall back again and Chad shouts “Slipway?”. I nod my head and load some butyric acid. He draws up close, dummies the controllers on the water canons and gets me right up under the murderous tunnel up which the dead whales are dragged for “analysis”. I fire a shot and it flies low, hitting the slipway. We fall, back, I reload and he does it again. This time the bottle flies up cleanly and gets a direct hit on the flensing deck, spraying everywhere. Travelling directly behind the ship shortly afterward, we get a waft of the smell, absolutely putrid. It’s a mixture between a Vindaloo beer fart, vomit and unwashed body. And some. The crew on these vessels must absolutely hate the smell of that stuff. As we dance amongst the huge jets of water I loose off bottle after bottle and 95% of them get within a meter or two of their target, only about 6 missing altogether. The art of placing the Delta lies in anticipating where the water jets will travel. Operated remotely from hidden little cubicles somewhere, they move fairly cumbersomely but would be devastating if they caught the inflatable. They also have the disadvantage of having to start up the jets on the port and starboard independently as the pumps don’t have the capacity to run both sides simultaneously. Chad dodges, swerves and weaves nimbly in between them. He’s a master. We get a small burst from one at one stage but it was negligible as the jet was at its furthest reach.
Before I know it, my rounds are finished. We return to the Steve Irwin elated and riding that adrenaline wave that becomes so addictive. This is just like being in the military but without the more certain odds of getting your arse shot off. Once on deck we discuss the attack and decide that we can do better. We agree that we’ll adjourn, have a leisurely dinner and do a second mission afterwards, weather permitting.
Everything is prepared after dinner and the T-shirt launchers are loaded too this time. We reckon on using them for firing bags of an organic powder that when wetted forms a resilient slime that coats everything proves very difficult to remove. These are destined for the aft deck where the flensing takes place. There are nets suspended over the back deck though, so we plan on trying to land the paper bags on top of these in the hope that the whalers will not be able to get to them and will try and wash them down with a hose, wetting the paper and releasing the slime to drop onto the decks.
We gear up again and launch the Delta. This time we have Simeon the Steady Hand, the cameraman that was on the Ady Gil at the time of the ramming. He’s quite a lad. Chad takes us to the stern of the Nisshin, Leon this time has a T-shirt launcher with which to wreak some havoc of his own. We load & lock with powder and Chad makes his move. He gets alongside the starboard aft Nisshin Maru nametag and Leon & I fire. Mine sails up and hits the gantry above the flensing deck. Leon’s launcher fires a half-baked shot. The O-ring on the pressurised cylinder has blown out. His gun is useless. We weave in and out and I place a couple more shots with mine but the small cylinder quickly runs out and the shots fall lower and lower and then fall short. So it’s back onto the big guns and I ready the spud gun once more. We had another 27 bottles of butyric and 18 bottles of paint. This time my score is higher. We place butyric acid all over the place. On the walkway to the watch house above the slipway I manage to land three bottles and also a couple on the hangar wall that overhangs the flensing deck. All in all, I’d judge that the flensing deck wouldn’t be a very pleasant place to hang out for the next few days. We make our way forwards and weaving in and out, plaster the “RESEARCH” signs with some more blood. The forward Nisshin Maru nametags get some love this time too. We get right to the front and as planned, Chad sits the Delta about 30 meters in front of the towering bulk of the bow of the ship. I fire bottles of butyric acid onto the forward deck and, aiming really high at the huge spotlights on the gantry above the forward deck I hit the frame a meter either side of the lights. The rancid liquid sprays down, covering everything on the deck in a fine spray. The inlets for the ventilation for the factory space and the accommodation all draw air from this area so the inside of the ship will be olfactory hell for the next couple of weeks. Shortly after this event we travelled into some seriously harsh & stormy weather conditions and quite often my thoughts were with the crew. We had a couple of wine bottles full of paint left that could no longer be fired by the T-shirt launchers so a quick plan was made that we pull up hard alongside and Leon could hand throw these while I fired up onto the deck with smellies. Chad had us in under the water canons in no time and I fired at a ventilation inlet we had identified from close inspection of the digital pictures we had of the starboard side. Direct hit! Suddenly we were out of ammunition again. We return to the Steve Irwin and take a good shower, a job well done. This feels so right it can’t be wrong!
As it happens we were right to have taken the second trip that day as it was the last weather window we had on the whole trip. It turned pretty foul the very next day and stayed that way till we turned around.
With the whalers season drawing to a close and the supplies dwindling on the ships, we turned around and headed home. The return trip seemed to take forever but the welcome we got back from the public in Hobart was well worth the wait. I wish I could say the same for the welcome we got from the government but that’s another story. It would appear that the opinion of the Japanese government is more important than that of the everyday Australian as we were detained on arrival for the purposes of executing a search warrant for some kind of a spud gun. I knew nothing about it…
The whole campaign has been a total revelation for me. I have come into contact with so many good, caring, generous and selfless people during the course of the last six months that I feel quite refreshed. If you are even slightly environmentally aware in some places you can be looked at as a bit of a wierdo – an outsider of sorts – as everyone rushes forward in their consumerist trance as the death cries of Mother Earth are drowned out by the Eastenders theme tune. But there are thousands of us and I venture to say millions of us that actually care – enough of us to make a huge difference. We need to start organising on a scale that we never have before as we all know that planet Earth is in crisis. Now is the time we need to do something. The passion I’ve encountered in people has been inspiring and has filled me with admiration. People have opened their hearts, their homes and their lives to us and the generosity has been humbling. I am so so proud to have been part of this effort and have vowed to continue with what I now see as my calling. I’ll be continuing with the Steve Irwin for at least another 6 months and will see what direction my life is taking at that point. I’d love to do another campaign to the Southern Ocean. Watch this space……