The Cold War at the Bottom of the Planet to Save the Whales

The Australian Navy May Just Have to Wade in to Keep the Peace

The morning of January 17th, 2008 witnessed the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin in hot pursuit of five vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet. In front of the Sea Shepherd ship is the supply vessel Oriental Bluebird being escorted by the whaling vessels Kaiko Maru Kyoshin Maru No. 2 and Yushiin Maru. All four vessels are heading east.

To the south of the Steve Irwin heading eastward, also on a parallel course, is a fifth Japanese vessel, the Yushiin Maru No. 2 with two Sea Shepherd hostages onboard. The Steve Irwin is keeping track of the movements of the surrounding Japanese whalers by radar and regular helicopter surveillance flights

All these ships are in the area along the 60 degree Southern line of latitude and 80 degree Eastern Longitude. This is about 2130 nautical miles Southwest of Fremantle, Western Australia.

Behind this small flotilla of ships at a distance of nearly 600 miles is the Japanese Factory ship the Nishiin Maru shadowed by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. Both these ships are heading directly for the Steve Irwin and all the ships of the Japanese whaling fleet.

Within two to three days all of these ships may be in one spot and it is an area outside of the boundaries of the whale killing grounds, deep in international waters where the laws are slipperier than the fish swimming below.

What is happening?

The Japanese are not whaling and have not been whaling since January 12th when they began to run from the Esperanza and the Steve Irwin heading northwestward. The Nishiin Maru took a course straight towards South Africa but then only two days ago when the Sea Shepherd crew boarded the Yushiin Maru No. 2, the factory ship did an immediate 180 degree turn and headed back towards the fleet.

Whalers and whale defenders are all on a collision course in one of the most remote and hostile areas of the planet - the southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia.

Sea Shepherd is accusing the Japanese of kidnapping, extortion and the illegal poaching of whales. Greenpeacers are accusing the Japanese whalers of pseudo-science. The whalers are accusing Sea Shepherd of piracy and Greenpeace of opportunism and eco-imperialism. Greenpeace is calling Sea Shepherd dangerous militants. Sea Shepherd is dismissing Greenpeace as wimps. It’s a strange combination of ever-churning conflicting alliances.

And these ships carry the most incredible mosaic of people imaginable. A few hundred people of diverse nationalities and cultures on ships flying the flags of Japan, the Netherlands and the Five Nations of the Iroquois.

Passionate volunteer whale defenders, embedded media, ruthless whale killers, compassionate vegans and macho meat eaters, members of a Japanese seaman’s unions controlled by the Yakusa, Japanese nationalists, Southern American rednecks, aging hippies,  outback larrikins, anarchist punk rockers, technocrats, surfers, deep sea divers,  a brewing clash of conflicting cultures, all fuel to feed the fires of a major conflict.

There is a foreboding potential for trouble here and past confrontations in these remote chilly waters have resulted in collisions, deliberate rammings, harpoon blockading, high pressure water hoses, foul smelling stink bombs, helicopters and racing inflatable boats. This year we can add abductions, ransom demands and threats of piracy charges.

Years of frustration, heated tempers and seething anger are feeding a frenzy of furious skirmishes. In short, all hell is breaking loose down in these stormy southern waters as curious penguins look on patiently and the whales spout and blow. And this leads to the next question.

Where is Australia?



Melbourne, Australia –Sea Shepherd crew members Benjamin Potts from Australia and Giles Lane from the U.K.  today remain hostages on the illegal Japanese Whaling vessel, Yushin Maru No. 2.

In response to inquiries from the media, the parents of Benjamin Potts have asked Sea Shepherd to issue the following statement on their behalf.

“Our only concern at this point in time is the welfare and safety of our son and his fellow crew member.  We urge all parties involved in this incident to ensure that it is resolved as quickly as possible.  We are very proud of our son and support him and the anti-whaling campaign being conducted by Sea Shepherd.  We have received extensive inquiries from the media seeking interviews.  However, at this time we feel it is not appropriate to take part in any interviews or make any further statements.  We ask the media to please respect our privacy and that of our family at this time.”

Captain Paul Watson Commentary, and a family statement

On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin

The dark waters of the deep Southern Ocean may be icy cold but tensions are heating up under increasing pressures as the ships of the Japanese whaling fleet experience more and more aggravation from the whale defending groups Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.