The Esperanza in the Southern Ocean.
in the Southern Ocean - campaigning against illegal whaling - we
find ourselves in an unexpected situation. The vessel we had been
searching for - the Japanese factory whaling ship
- issued a distress call after a serious fire broke out on
Update 17 February 2007: We sighted the Japanese government's whaling factory ship
at about 07.00 (New Zealand daylight time) this morning. Two ships - the re-supply and re-fuelling vessel
and one of the harpoon, or catcher boats the
- are tied either side of the
. Nearby are two more catcher boats. Standing off, some distance away is the US Coast Guard icebreaker
asked us for assistance in translating between them and the
, and the Esperanza's helicopter has been conducting an aerial survey of ice conditions at the request of the Japanese vessels. More news as it happens, and breaking news at the weblog.
is now less than a day's sailing from the disabled whaling ship.
We've made a commitment to the fleet to assist the crew in any way
possible, and make an environmental impact assessment if needed.
One crew member of the
is still missing, and it's reported that the ship could be
carrying approximately 1,000 tons of oil and sitting 100 nautical
miles from the largest Adelie penguin colony in the world.
The Fisheries Agency of Japan has already refused help from
Greenpeace. However, the Esperanza
is continuing on its course to the stricken vessel.
"Our first thoughts are for the missing crewman and the rest of
the people on board. This is not a time to play politics from
behind a desk in Tokyo," said Karli Thomas, expedition leader on
board the Esperanza. "This is a human tragedy and a potential
environmental disaster. We have a moral obligation to act and there
is a legal obligation under the Antarctic treaty for the Nisshin
Maru's owners to accept our help."
Greenpeace has offered to tow the whaling factory ship out of
the pristine Antarctic environment of the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary. The Esperanza
's captain, Frank Kamp, had ten years experience working on
salvage vessels before joining Greenpeace. Another vessel may be
required to tow the 8,000-ton
beyond Antarctic waters through the stormy "Roaring Forties"
weather, though we'll be making every effort to take the
all the way into port.
"While we recognise the humanitarian and environmental need to
assist the Nisshin Maru
, we are not in the business of salvaging a whaling ship in
order for it to start whaling again next season," added Thomas.
"This tragedy should mark the end of this terrible business and the
government funding should be invested not in a new or repaired
ship, but in something that the Japanese people can truly benefit
As of this writing, the Esperanza will arrive at the Nisshin Maru's
location in a matter of hours. You can stay updated on this
story via the Greenpeace Ocean Defenders
Weblog direct from the ship, and see what the Esperanza sees
The accident comes on the heels of a
meeting in Japan aimed at reintroducing commercial whaling.
Almost without exception, pro-conservation members of the
International Whaling Commission boycotted the meeting.
Live updates from the Esperanza weblog
All the latest from our ship in the Southern Ocean and our political team around the world.
See what the Esperanza sees with our live webcam from the bow of the ship.