If you’ve ever tried shampooing with a garden hose while standing on a rocking chair during an earthquake then you know what it’s like taking a shower at sea on the Farley Mowat, Sea Shepherd’s former flagship. The Farley is a 60 year old merchant marine ship acquired by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society about ten years ago and I just returned from what may very well be her last mission.

The Farley Mowat at the edge of Antarctica. From left to right – Connis (Bos from Scotland) Christian (zodiac crew from Holland) Tim (filmmaker from USA). Photo c/o Tim Gorski.  

Brought on board as film director for the “radical” organisation, my job was to document this year’s campaign against the illegal Japanese whaling operation. Since 1986, there has been an international moratorium on whaling; however, the Japanese continue to use a loophole that allows them to hunt and slaughter whales for so-called “research.”

What are they researching? I don’t really know. If they’re trying to discover what’s killing off the world’s whales all they need do is look in the mirror. This year they planned to kill nearly a thousand. Much, if not all, of the hunted whale meat winds up in restaurants or in dog and cat food on supermarket shelves.

I joined Sea Shepherd because I have a lot of respect for organisations that actually take action against crimes against nature, those brave enough to stand up against the status quo and represent the species that have no voice in human politics, those willing to go to great lengths and put their lives on the line to make a difference.

Sea Shepherd picks up where groups like Greenpeace leave off; protests and banner waving have their place in the world but we are here to enforce the law through direct action. And that’s exactly what we did in the Southern Ocean.

Fin Whales running from the Keiko Maru (Japanese spotter ship) in the Ross Sea. Photo c/o: Tim Gorski 

The Farley set sail from Melbourne in December, 2006 with a crew of 31 representing a dozen or more countries; some were experienced seamen, some not, but all were educated men and women with a common passion for the issue. Our new sister ship, the Robert Hunter, also set sail in December to meet us in the Ross Sea.

We moored together in the deep turquoise waters of the Southern Ocean (one of the harshest environments on the planet) amongst menacing icebergs and lazy seals, clumsy albatross and bickering penguins, to transfer key personnel and construct a steel helicopter deck on the new ship.

The crews worked feverishly for two days before the ships separated and the search resumed. We knew the fleet (a factory ship, a spotter vessel, and four harpoon ships) would be in the sanctuary in the Ross Sea… somewhere. But two more weeks of searching with two ships and a helicopter proved fruitless. We covered over one thousand square miles without a single ship on our radar.

Tomorrow: the Farley Mowat loses two crew members in the icy waters of the Ross Sea.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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