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Kisses from the Kyo Maru

by Guest Blogger

December 21, 2005

Although my last post was about the Kyo Maru, it’s worth mentioning that it is not alone in behaving like that. We’ve put our boats off the stern of the factory ship many times on past expeditions to slow the whaling process down, and in my experience all the hunter ships will muscle our little boats right out of the way. So today we tried something new, and Kyo went well over the line in response.

I should start by saying this is something we’ve wanted to do for years (at least I have), but we needed a ship as maneuverable as the Esperanza to do it safely. I’ll also need to explain a bit about how the whaling process works: Three ships go out hunting. When they harpoon a whale they tie it alongside, and bring it to the factory ship. A cable from the factory ship is used to pull the whale up its stern ramp. The whole transfer process happens at about 5 knots (6 mph/9 kph). More importantly, if the whale is tied along the port (left) side of the hunter, then the ship has to be positioned behind and a bit to starboard (right) of the factory ship before they can transfer the whale.

Today, Frank parked the Esperanza right about where the hunter ship wanted to be – approximately 100 metres (roughly 100 yards) behind the factory ship. Close enough to wreck havoc with their transfer process, but far enough back to stay safe.

After pushing through our boats the Kyo came alongside the Esperanza from the stern, and very deliberately steered right into her. People on board the Esperanza tell me our whole ship shook at the bump, although I don’t think it was intended to cause damage. While the crew of the Kyo turned their fire hoses on our ship, their helmsman backed off and came in again – most likely trying to push the Esperanza out of the way. But the Esperanza is quite a lot bigger and more solid than our rubber and plastic boats. The whaling ship couldn’t move her. As he had during the entire incident, Frank steered a steady course.

The only comical aspect I have heard about this whole dangerous episode, was John’s report of a lone Kyo deckhand, futilely running around with a fender, trying to cushion the impact.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident – although it is easy enough to knock someone overboard or jar them into something with this kind of unexpected hit. And the damage to our ship is not serious (i.e. scratched paint). But it is scary that the whalers will – out of frustration, anger or maybe over eagerness – resort to running into our ship.

For our part, we stay non-violent and peaceful. With the Kyo on us, the factory ship changed course, leaving the Esperanza out of position and making the transfer possible. Frank had to decide – he had the bigger ship and could have pushed the Kyo back out of position. Instead, he chose to steer a steady course, a decision not regretted.

-Andrew 

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