A Dangerous Pursuit through a Maze of Ice

The Steve Irwin makes its way through pack ice with the Yushin Maru No. 3 in the distance. Photo: Billy Danger

For three stressful days, the Sea Shepherd ship, Steve Irwin, has been leading the Japanese harpoon vessel, Yushin Maru No. 3, deeper into the pack ice of the northeast part of the Ross Sea.

“In order to close in on the Nisshin Maru, we must lose the tail of the Yushin Maru No. 3,” said Captain Paul Watson. “It is difficult because the Japanese hunting and killing ships are faster and more maneuverable than we are. So far we have had two skirmishes with the whalers in the last two days. Giacomo Giorgi (30) of Italy was injured slightly when he was struck in the hip with a long pole by one of the whalers.”

The crew on the three Sea Shepherd inflatable boats hit the Yushin Maru No. 3 with rotten butter and red paint. They also managed to temporarily obstruct the harpoon vessel. Unfortunately, the small boats could not slow down the harpoon vessel enough for the Steve Irwin to get away. The Yushin Maru No. 3 has been smashing through ice floes in an effort to keep on the tail of the Steve Irwin but does not seem to have suffered any damage. A couple of seasons ago, the same Yushin Maru No. 3 sustained damage in the ice and had to head to Indonesia for repairs to their propeller.

“We have been seriously handicapped by not having our scout vessel, the Brigitte Bardot,” said Captain Watson. “When we return next season we will do so with two scout vessels plus the two larger ships. Last year we were able to find them, close in on them and block them, forcing them to return to Japan. This year we can find them but we can’t close in enough to block them without a scout ship. Due to the generous donations from people all over the world who donated money to help the victims of the tsunami and earthquake of last March, the money was made available to send the Cetacean Death Star back to the Southern Ocean. I guess we can label this season’s campaign as “’The Empire Strikes Back.’”

The Yushin Maru No. 3 breaks its way through pack ice to keep up with the Steve Irwin. Photo: Billy Danger

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