The Esperanza (foreground) and the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru, disabled by a recent fire.
The Esperanza had arrived at the location in the Ross Sea at
about 07.00 (New Zealand daylight time) today. Two ships - the
re-supply and re-fuelling vessel Oriental Bluebird and one
of the harpoon, or catcher boats - were tied either side of the
Nisshin Maru. Nearby were two more catcher boats.
Shortly after the Esperanza arrived, a US Coast Guard
icebreaker, the Polar Sea appeared. They said they were
also here to assess the situation. The Yushin Maru then asked our
campaigner from Japan,
Sakyo to help translate between the two.
When we arrived the weather conditions around the ships was
quite good, with calm seas and clear visibility, but several
icebergs and loose ice nearby. But the weather forecasts indicate
that might well change over the next couple of days. Over the
course of the day we saw once again how quickly conditions can
change here. The sunny morning turned into a cloudy snowy midday
and then once more into sunshine in the afternoon, but with
considerably more ice around.
When we first arrived, Sakyo radioed the Nisshin Maru,
but received no answer. He then radioed the catcher boat, the
Yushin Maru and repeated the assurance that the Esperanza
had come to help. They responded, asking us to standby and
requesting that we assess the ice conditions.
The Esperanza's helicopter made an initial aerial assessment of
the situation. After flying over the Nisshin Maru, it looked
fairly normal, with no sign of fire on the decks, or any sign of
damaged equipment. There was a lot of power cabling and ropes slung
between the catcher boat and the Nisshin Maru. The ship's
decks were white with snow and approximately 12 people were
visible on the deck.
Offer of help
Yesterday we offered to tow the Nisshin Maru north, in
order to assist and ensure there was no further threat to the
environment from the disabled vessel. The Fisheries Agency of Japan
responded by calling us "terrorists" an unhelpful response, given
the potential for further risk and danger in this already serious
humanitarian and environmental situation in depths of the Ross
Right now, the Nisshin Maru is secured - to two other
ships, which takes care of short-term difficulties. It's been
reported that one of them, the Oriental Bluebird, could tow
the Nisshin Maru. However, Frank Kamp, the Esperanza's
captain, says that the Oriental Bluebird clearly isn't the
best option - and he has ten years experience on salvage vessels.
The Oriental Bluebird is too big and too difficult to
manoeuvre should more problems arise. As it stands, we're still the
best option should the Nisshin Maru need to be towed out of
the Ross Sea, so we'll wait nearby to see what happens in the
coming hours and days.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark == and beyond
Elsewhere in the world, other pro-whaling nations have been
getting themselves into trouble. While at the so-called
"normalisation" (commercialisation of whaling) meeting in Tokyo,
Danish IWC commissioner Ole Samsing suggested excluding both media
and NGOs from future International Whaling Commission (IWC)
We responded, questioning whether or not we had
misunderstood Mr Samsing. The media seems to have seized
upon this, and asked Mr Samsing for clarification. He repeated his
suggestions to the journalists, which has caused a scandal in
Denmark, where the foreign minister will now have to explain
Denmark's position in the IWC in parliament, where he is sure to be
grilled by the environmental committee.
Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, another whaling scandal has broken out.
Two newspapers have published articles on a scandal involving a Mr
Marenco, who was at the "normalisation" representing Nicaragua. The
thing is, Mr Marenco used to be the IWC commissioner, during
a former, highly corrupt government. He wasn't in Tokyo as an
official representative of Nicaragua at all - his bosses at the
ministry thought that he had left on holidays! (Read an update
about this from our Oceans Campaigner Shane on the
Ocean Defender weblog).
Finally some news from the good guys in whaling:, the
environment minister of Costa Rica, which is a pro-conservation
country, has announced that the country will be voting at the IWC
meeting in Anchorage, Alaska in May. Costa Rica had been having
some problems reconciling debts with the IWC, but has managed to
clear these debts though local private entities. Welcome back,
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 bridge of the ship.