Saturday, February 4, 2012

In For The Long Haul

When watching the Olympics, marathons aren't half as exciting as sprints - due to their protracted length and the fact that little seems to happen during them.
That pretty much sums up the current state-of-play in the Southern Ocean. Both sides in the Antarctic whaling conflict are dragging out a marathon pursuit. Leader Paul Watson says Sea Shepherd's two ships have covered more than 5000 nautical miles as some of the Japanese fleet's ships tail them, while others are on the run.
Steve Irwin and Yushin Maru No.2
play Antarctic cat-and-mouse
The chase has moved along the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory and through the Ross Sea to waters off Marie Byrd Land, about midway between NZ and South America, and now back towards the Ross Sea.
Steve Irwin and Bob Barker are being tailed by two Japanese harpoon ships, alternating with the fleet's security ship Shonan Maru No.2. The faster Japanese vessels are able to warn the factory ship Nisshin Maru of Sea Shepherd's location, allowing it to steer clear.
A plan by BB to again shake off its pursuer inside the territorial waters of Australia's Macquarie Island had to be abandoned when the Sea Shepherd ship was forced away by severe weather. And this week's weather has been no better: "It's been horrendous!" Paul Watson says on the positive side, they've been chasing NM continuously and, more importantly, they've been keeping the refuelling vessel Sun Laurel on the run to keep it from NM. Sea Shepherd is within helicopter and drone range of SL...and NM needs to fuel soon. "This entire fleet has been on the run for over a month and a half, burning lots of fuel and catching very few whales."
However Sea Shepherd is still handicapped by the loss of its fast scout vessel Brigitte Bardot, undergoing storm damage repairs in Western Australia. "Without BrBt, we can't close the gap on NM, but we can keep the fleet running."
Tokyo's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) does not comment on the movements of the whaling fleet, but has not released any limp-dick whinging press releases of late.

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