Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fly My Pretties

Fishing these days is a hi-tech business. So is whaling.
Toys for the boys...
So too is anti-whaling activities.
This year, Sea Shepherd's campaign Operation Divine Wind is armed with long-range drones that can seek out the whalers' mothership. The drones were donated by an environmentally-active US company, Bayshore Recycling of New Jersey.! The best present SS could get was locating the factory ship Nisshin Maru on Christmas Day, with the help of their new eye-in-the-sky. It was found 800km off W.Australia’s SW coast, due W of Perth, after a tip-off from fishermen.
The drones also showed elements of the Japanese beefed-up security. Men heavily protected by dark paramilitary uniforms were pictured crouching behind screens on the whalers' security ship Shonan Maru 2. Anti-boarding nets and spikes were also seen.
Once the pursuit began, three Japanese harpoon ships crowded Steve Irwin, to allow NM to escape. But that tactic won't work now because the drones, one each aboard Steve Irwin and Bob Barker, can easily track NM and relay its position back to the SS ships (they probably have a greater range than the SS helicopter, but their light build makes them more susceptible to the Antarctic weather, so shouldn't be regarded as a miracle coup de grace).
But to illustrate just how unforgiving the Southern Ocean can be, last Thursday the Brigette Bardot's hull was cracked by a 6m 'rogue wave' slamming into its port side, and SI had to divert to its rescue. BrBt also suffered severe damage to one of its pontoons (it's the sort of incident that I raised doubts about, back in May 2011). This leaves only the BB now tailing the Japanese fleet, as BrBt limps back to Fremantle escorted by SI.
The Japanese whaling fleet is expected to start taking the first of more than 900 whales it plans to kill in the Southern Ocean this season, later this week.

Update: the crippled BrBt and escort SI are struggling northward through another storm towards Australia. The seas are growing rougher and the winds are increasing, with a great deal of pressure on BrBt's damaged pontoon. As a precaution, the ten crew are wearing their survival suits. They hope to reach Fremantle by mid-week. And - as overkill - the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru 2 continues to tail the pair. Dunno what the nasty Nippons think a seriously damaged ship is gonna do to 'em...!

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