ARRIVING ON SCENE WITH THE WHALING FLEET
by Melanie Duchin
February 17, 2007
Yesterday morning at 7am I was in the bridge with my morning coffee when third mate Zeger sited through binoculars the Nisshin Maru and other vessels from the whaling fleet. As we got closer, we saw that the re-supply and re-fueling vessel Oriental bluebird was on one side of the disabled Nisshin Maru, while one of the catcher boats (the vessels with the harpoons the actually kill the whales) was on the other side. Two other catcher boats were hovering near the Nisshin Maru. On our stern was the US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea. The Polar Sea was doing just as we were: getting closer to the Nisshin Maru to assess the situation.
At 8am we radioed the Nisshin Maru, but the ship did not answer, which was not a surprise given the ship had a serious fire and is most likely without power. We radioed to the catcher boat, Yushin Maru, and told them we are here only to assist in whatever way was required. The Yushin Maru replied that it would be helpful if we could assess ice conditions in the area, and it may be helpful if the Esperanza helped them navigate once towing is underway. Since then we have been standing by, waiting to see if the Nisshin Maru and the fleet are in need of anything from food, water and blankets to medical care or anything else.
We’ve had a number of conversations with the fleet throughout the day where they have updated us on their progress and we have provided information on the location of the ice pack and ice-free waters. At around 3pm, the fleet contacted us to give us an update on their progress, and at that time they informed us that they had found the body of their missing crew member.
Needless to say it’s been an emotional day. My thoughts are with the crew member’s family and friends, as well as with the rest of the crew of the Nisshin Maru. I can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now. What a terrible tragedy. I will keep them in my prayers.
I have read many times about instances where tragedy and misfortune break down walls and transcend differences between people. I know that right now, my heart goes out to the people on the ships in the distance. It sounds like they are appreciative that the Esperanza is here, on stand-by and ready to assist, and that they would not hesitate to ask us for help if they needed it. In times like these the walls come down and the spirit of compassion, kindness and cooperation take over. At least that’s how it feels from my vantage point.
Yesterday the Institute for Cetacean Research issued a statement saying that the disabled Nisshin Maru would not accept any help from Greenpeace because we are “terrorists.” I hope that the ICR executives sitting in Tokyo have finally come to realize that non-violence underlies all that we do, and that the “peace” in Greenpeace is an integral part of all of our words and actions.