After the Farley Mowat recovered two lost crew members with the help of their sworn enemy, it was back to the business of chasing down the Nisshin Maru…
The chase resumed, but the storm worsened. The Nisshin Maru blasted through the weather leaving our two ships in her wake. We all watched her disappear in the fog.
Again we were forced to turn north and head to port. This time it was critical. But as luck would have it, on 12 February we met up with the whalers again. This time the Hunter happened upon the spotter vessel chasing a pod of whales. The prop fowling operation was a success. Now boxed in by the Hunter and the Farley and crippled by the prop fowlers, the crew of the Kaiko Maru had no choice but to halt their hunting operation.
The Hunter is rammed by the Kaiko Maru. Photo c/o Jon Kane.
Twice they rammed the Hunter (see above) attempting an escape, but to no avail. It was a very successful day for Sea Shepherd and a promising one for a particular pod of whales.
The long journey home was glum at first; while we did shut down the fleet for a few days, there was an overwhelming sense that the job was unfinished. We had left the Kaiko Maru somewhat incapacitated but not completely crippled; it was discouraging. Although we did our best, the reality was that the Japanese were going to continue to kill.
Both ships were sailing north again when word came of a fire on board the Nisshin Maru. It was 15 February and we were over a thousand miles away. The factory ship was ablaze, and while I wished no physical harm to the crew, I must admit I was elated that she was out of commission.
Did we cause the fire on the Nisshin Maru? Directly? No, absolutely not. Contrary to Japanese media sources there is no way we could have physically started that fire. Indirectly… maybe. Did the crew aboard the Nisshin Maru make mistakes because we stressed them out? Possibly.
The truth is her captain and crew were breaking international laws against commercial whaling (under the guise of research) in a protected Australian/New Zealand whale sanctuary. Sea Shepherd is undoubtedly the only organisation committed to protecting the region. Over 100 crew members from the Japanese vessel were evacuated in the end. One young man died.
The ship burned uncontrollably for over a week threatening a pristine ecosystem and a nearby penguin breeding ground. Now it appears the ship is limping back to Japan after only reaching half its quota.