Onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza 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 Nisshin Maru - issued a distress call
after a serious fire broke out on board. Missing since the fire,
the body of 27-year-old Kazutaka Makita, has been found. We
offered our condolences to the crew and would like to extend them
to Kazutaka Makita's wife and family.
Esperanza on course
The Esperanza is is standing by, nearby 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. 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.
Meanwhile we have been using our helicopter, Tweety, for aerial
surveys to assess the ice conditions nearby. The pack ice to the
south of our position has moved 3 miles north in the last 24 hours
and is now only 10 miles away.
Greenpeace Japan's Executive Director and Whales Campaigner offer help to the Japanese Environment Ministry
We offered to tow the Nisshin Maru north, in order to
assist and ensure there is no further threat to the environment
from the disabled vessel. The Fisheries Agency of Japan has
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 the depths of the Ross
"Our first thoughts are for the crew and the family of Kazutaka
Makita. 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." Thomas added.
Offer of help
The Esperanza's captain, Frank Kamp, has ten years of experience
working on salvage vessels prior to joining Greenpeace. Another
vessel may be required to tow the 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru beyond
Antarctic waters through the stormy "Roaring Forties" weather,
though we'll be making every effort to take the Nisshin Maru 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 from."
The Esperanza crew weblog has the latest updates from the Southern Ocean
See what the Esperanza sees on the live webcam