What a difference (a month and) a day makes …

by Guest Blogger

December 21, 2005

And suddenly there it was. After a month and a day at sea, there on the horizon sat the factory ship of the Japanese whaling fleet, the infamous ‘Nisshin Maru’ and she was getting closer by the second.

Yesterday our two ships split up to increase our search area and the Esperanza spotted the whaling fleet this morning at 07:30. So we headed at full speed towards her and towards the whalers.

Our ship was a hive of activity and anticipation and she shuddered with the extra exertion of ‘full speed ahead’. When we arrived our captain immediately called the Nisshin Maru over the radio and asked them to leave the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and return to Japan or we would start ‘non-violent direct action’ to stop them killing whales. There was no response. So without delay our four inflatable boats and their crews were lowered into the water ready to meet up with the four others simultaneously launching from our sister ship.

The plan was simply to form a circle round the Nisshin Maru with our flags and banners – written in 10 different languages including Japanese – flying high to let them know in no uncertain terms that we have arrived and we mean business.

And for about three seconds everything went according to plan. What spoiled the plan was the arrival of one of the three hunter ships to transfer a dead whale to the Nisshin Maru for ‘processing’. So we did what any self-respecting "Ocean Defenders" would do. We tried to stop them.

The next hour was a blur. Our boats closed in and within seconds four fire hoses and two water cannons were turned on them and their crews. The Esperanza and all the inflatables placed themselves between the hunter ship and the back of the Nisshin Maru preventing the transfer of the dead whale. The hunter ship started to get impatient and tried a new tactic of bumping the Esperanza out of the way by banging in to her port side with their ship. Luckily it seems the only damage has been to the paint job.

At one point the factory ship did a u-turn and headed straight towards the Esperanza. The thing with big ships is that if they are made to do anything suddenly they seem to move in slow motion and it left me holding my breath as the Esperanza moved as quickly as it could out of the way. One of our smaller boats was caught between two huge waves created by the ships wakes and was flipped upside down, putting the survival suits of the two crew to their first real (and successful) test. In the end we delayed the whale transfer by nearly an hour, which translates into an hour where that hunter ship could not hunt any whales.

So now all the questions of "when are we going to get there?" have been answered. We are here, we have arrived at our mystery destination and are already bearing witness to the horrors of the whale meat industry. Until this morning the Nisshin Maru was nothing more than a ghost ship to me, a feathery image in my mind made from snippets of video footage and photos. But now I can look outside and there she is, a black silhouette on the horizon with her hunter ships floating silently nearby, harpoons poised…

Before I sign off there’s something else I really want to share…last night we witnessed a sunset of such exquisite timeless beauty that it is beyond words and our crew gathered on deck and stared at the horizon in stunned silence.

And just for a moment in my imagination, in my minds-eye I saw the fleet of four Japanese whaling ships floating somewhere nearby. Their ships looked like ours except for the whaling harpoons on their bows and even though their reason for being here was not one of peace, just like us their crews were gathered on deck in small groups in a humbled silence to stare in awe and wonder at the breath-taking universal beauty of that sunset.



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