Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Southern Ocean Chess

When Sea Shepherd updated me on progress last Saturday, it was Day 17 since finding the Japanese whaling fleet - and the whalers' supply vessel Sun Laurel was leading them into a storm to try and shake them off its tail.
An odd tactic for the fueler to try, as both Bob Barker and Steve Irwin are far superior sea vessels than the tanker and the rolling of the supply ship has to be uncomfortable for her crew.
They were over 300 miles N of the Antarctic Treaty Zone Boundary (60 degrees latitude) and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, as Sun Laurel wanders northward and eastward hoping to unload her cargo of heavy fuel for the factory ship Nisshin Maru and diesel fuel for the harpoon vessels. Tailing SS are Yushin Maru 1 and Yushin Maru 2 - both more than a day's steaming from the whaling grounds, and thus out of the whalekilling business.
SS's strategy now is to cut Nisshin Maru off from her supplies. BB and SI will be able to pursue SL longer than NM can survive without fuel. NM has four choices:
(1) attempt to refuel with SL - check.
(2) go to a distant port to refuel - check.
(3) find another tanker to refuel them and hope they're not discovered - check.
(4) end the whaling season early and return to Japan - checkmate.
Option (1) puts them into a direct confrontation with SS. Options (2) and (3) will cost them weeks of time. Option (4) is of course the endgame.
Gojira continues to hunt for Nisshin Maru and the whaler Yushin Maru 3. As long as these remain unlocated, the possibility exists that some whales may be killed...but it's clear that this season will be an abject disaster for Japanese "scientific whale research".

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