the beginning

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sea Shepherd Unveils the Ady Gil

Sea Shepherd Renames the Earthrace Vessel in Honor of Benefactor
Los Angeles, CA- At a fundraising event in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 17th, 2009, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society unveiled their newest ocean defense vessel: the Ady Gil. The vessel, previously known as the Earthrace, is a fast, futuristic looking trimaran that recently set the world record for global circumnavigation. The vessel renaming reflects the ship’s benefactor, Ady Gil, who helped acquire the vessel.

Sea Shepherd is currently preparing for it’s 6th Whale Defense Campaign Operation Waltzing Matilda. The campaign will launch from Australia in early December with Sea Shepherd’s flagship Steve Irwin, which will be accompanied to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by the new Ady Gil. Together, the ships and the volunteer crew will intervene in illegal Japanese whaling in Antarctica.

Due to its speed capabilities, up to 50 knots, Captain Paul Watson (Sea Shepherd President and Founder) intends to use the Ady Gil to intercept and physically block the harpoon ships from illegally slaughtering whales.

Says Captain Watson, “We’re very excited that the Ady Gil will be joining the Steve Irwin in Antarctica this campaign. With these two ships, we will mount the most ambitious and aggressive effort to date to obstruct the slaughter of the whales in the Southern Ocean.”

Says Chuck Swift, Deputy CEO in charge of ship’s operations, “The Ady Gil gives us the speed necessary to catch and stay with the Japanese whaling fleet. We are very optimistic that with these two ships, and some other surprises, we will shut down whaling in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.”

Captain's blogs

Below are the few blogs Pete was allowed to post from the Ady Gil at the start of the campaign:

Captain’s Blogs thanks to Acer Computers

Captains Blog 7.  The fluffy fifties

"This is not the furious fifties", I say to Laurens, who's busy scoffing his breakfast, "its the fluffy fifties.   Laurens finishes his mouthful and looks around the horizon.  Its a crystal blue sky, and the wind is a gentle  15-20 knots on our stern, giving a nice rolling 3m swell up our bum.  And the barometer is firmly planted at  1000 hPa.  About as good as you can expect here really. 

When we left Hobart our latitude was around 42 degrees, then as we headed south we passed through what are  commonly referred to as the roaring forties, and now the furious fifties.  By tomorrow, we'll be into the  screaming sixties.  That's not to say they are always roaring, furious and screaming, but they often are.   Although not today by the looks of things.

"You wanna be careful what you say", Laurens finally answers me.  "This Ocean can be treacherous."  How the  Dutchman learnt a word like "treacherous" is beyond me.  Let along the other 5 languages the Dutch all seem to  know. 

He's been an interesting crewman young Laurens.  I wasn't so keen on taking him initially.  He arrived on  the boat a few days before we were to leave, and I hate big voyages with people I haven't had on the boat  before. But he's turned out to be awesome.  The best thing about him is he is always so damned happy.  I've  never seen him without a smile on his face.  Not that you want everyone on your boat running around with valium  grins.  You need a mix of people really.  But having someone who's always happy certainly lifts the team when  things are not going well.  And for sure we'll have a few tough days ahead.

By late afternoon the barometer suddenly starts sinking. There was a depression showing on the forecast,  although I'd thought we were going to clear most of it.  "Down to 980 now" says Laurens, who has suddenly taken  an intertest in the baromoter. I look out the starboard window, and the gentle 3m rolling swell has morphed into  angry 4m waves on the beam. Winds increase over the next hour to at least 40 knots, and soon the waves are  towering above us. 

"Oh check this wave out", I say to Laurens, who is perched in the Navigators seat beside me.  There are white  wind trails up the face of it, and on top there's about 3m of foam thrashing around.  Rather than being like a  wall, its more like a mountain, with a peak only 30 or so metres long.  It passes ahead of us with a whoosh.   Five minutes later and one of these monsters lines us up.  I turn the boat to port, hoping to take a little of  the wave on the stern.  There's a sudden smack as the wave engulfes us.  It flicks us round and lifts up the  starboat outrigger, then unceremoniously dumps it back down.  We slide off the back face, and the wave races  away.

"Do you still get scared at sea", Laurens asks shortly afterwards. The smile has gone.  "Yeah I do.  I'm nervous now", I reply slowly.  "No two waves are ever the same.  They all differ in some way.   We're only ever one wave away from being flipped upside down.  And while I've been in seas much bigger than  this, the oceans are unforgiving.  If you don't treat them with respect, they will bite you."
"That was a big wave back there though eh"?

I look over at Laurens, who remains serious.  "Yeah that was a good wave alright.  It was a bit like we were irrelevant though.  It just came crashing through  and we had almost no impact on it at all.  It just smashed right past us.'  we sit in silence for a few minutes.  "But you wanna know the best thing?  We are the only people who will ever get to see that wave."  Laurnes nods his head slowly and his smile returns.

Captains Blog 6.  Wet bum.

The water looks cold and uninviting.  The waves are a good 3m in height, and we're stopped somewhere in the roaring forties, with a mission to troubleshoot the steering system.  Everything seems OK, with the exception of the starboard outrigger, which we haven't inspected yet.  The trouble is getting there is not so easy, and to then do the inspection, you're gona end up getting wet, as the constant waves come crashing past us.

I look at Jimmy.  Maybe I should send him out. He's a tough little bugger, and would handle it OK.  ALthough I might end up having to go myself anyway, depending on what the problem is.  So I decide to go myself.  The good thing with doing the crap jobs like this, is the crew respect you for it.  I'll be asking this bunch of lads to do some dangerous jobs over the next few months, and they'll be more inclined to follow orders if they know I'm  willing to do the same job as well.

So I pull off my black ski pants and scarper out on the rope, and abseil down the outrigger.  I bury my head in the circular hatch, and am just adjusting to the light when a wave comes shooting right up my bum.  Its a cold blast enough to make me wish I had sent Jimmy afterall.  I can also hear the lads all laughing at me from the back deck.  What respect I have from them eh! 

The good news is the hydraulic arm has actually come off from the tillar arm.  So the ram has been moving OK, but the rudder has been just flapping in the breeze. The rudder on the other outrigger has been doing all the steering.  The bolts and washers are all there, and just the nut is missing. 

"Grab us an M24 nut will ya", I yell at Jason.  He scarpers off to do some digging in our collection of nuts and bolts.  Its half an hour later and the rudder is all back together.  Its a quick and dirty though.  The nut is not a nylok, not is it stainless.  So it'll corode quickly in the harsh salt environment.  But it does keep us on our way to Antarctica, and we'll do a proper repair at a later date.

Captain's Blog 5.  Where are you off to?

"There's something wrong with the autopiliot".  Jason is trying to whisper, but he's not so good at it.  I drag myself out of bed and look at the clock on the engine controls.  3am.  Bugger. Jumping into the drivers seat, the autopiliot has the error "rudder angle not adjusting", which means the system is trying to turn the rudder, but seeing no change in the rudder angle.  I've seen this error before, but the trouble is it can be caused by many things.  Cancelling the error, I turn the steering wheel manually, and Ady Gil starts a slow turn to port, and back towards Antarctica. 

"What's wrong?", says Jason with concern.  "Well, I reckon the hydraulics are all OK, so its probably a problem with the electronics.  We'll just steer her manually overnight, and hopefully fix things in the morning." 

Steering this big boat manually is a challenge though.  The big waves picking us up skew the stern to starboard, and then back to port as we fall aff the back.  The trick is to anticipate the waves, and adjust before you're too far off course.  Jason slowly gets the hang of it, now running off the compass for his bearing, and I slumber back to my little scratcher.  I scored a bottom bunk tonight which is always nice. 

Captain's Blog 4.  A long night

There's a slight diesel smell wafting down into the helm.  It's 11:30pm, nearly the end of my shift.  The smell  has been there for some time actually, and gradually its been getting stronger. It's nothing I'd kidded myself  initially. For the last three years, we'd run Earthrace almost exclusively on biodiesel, and so the smell of  diesel in here is realatively new for me.  Eventually I convince myself the smell tonight is from more than just  when we refuelled a few days back.  I wander into the galley and lift the hatch, and to my horror, there's  several centimetres of diesel sloshiing round on top of the tank.

I scurry back in to the sleeping quarters, where Jason is lying asleep.  His mouth is partly open and there's a  contented look on his face.  I rock his shoulder a few times, "Jason, I need you to drive for a bit bro".  His  contented grin is replaced with a scowl, and his eyes open with a "where the xxxx am I look".  He finally nods  and starts his ritual for getting up, while I hurry back to the galley to start the clean up. 

Eventually I trace the problem to the back fuel tank lid, which is an aluminium disk about the size of a  frisbie.  It isn't seating right onto the top of the tank, and diesel is sloshing through a narrow gap.  Our  tanks are so full though, that if I take the lid right off to repair it, I'll have a mountain of fuel suddenly  sloshing around.  In the end I tighten things up as best I can, and then sponge up the remaining diesel.  It's  not perfect, and the galley will stink of diesel for some time yet, but at least the flow will be stemmed. In a  few days when we've burned a bit more fuel, I'll ge the lads to do a proper repair, I say to myself.

I wander back into the helm, where Jason is tweaking the autopilot.  "Man I feel crap", he says slowly.
"Yeah me too", I reply in dusgust. Diesel is all over my arms, and my clothes wreak of the stuff.  The fruit and  vegetables in the galley will all stink of the fumes now as well. Here's me heading out for what we hope is a  few months, with no shower on board, and on the first night at sea I'm already covered in crap.  Not a good start.

Captain's Blog 3. last

It's a stiff breeze rollicking up the Port Of Hobart as we say our final goodbyes to people on the dock. 
"You be careful down there", says Pam, who's been a bit like our Mum over the last two weeks here. "And make sure you all come back in one piece."  It's a sentiment expressed by many.  There are certainly risks in the campaign.  We are taking a small boat into the most treacherous waters on earth. There's the roaring forties, furious fifties and screaming sixties to deal with.  And that's before we deal with any ice. 

This boat has never been in ice before, but it's certainly well proven in big seas.  What worries me more are the Whalers. Or Scientists should I say. Actually I've decided I'll call them Scientitsts from now on.  Which is a total farce of course.  The only science going on down there is how many steaks they can eek out of each carcass. But what the "Scientists" will do to us remains an unanswered question.  If the initial skirmishes between the Steve Irwin and the Shonun Maru II is anything to go by, the Scientists are ready for a fight this year...and they remain well funded from State support in terms of subsidies, as well as access to restricted military hardware.

At the end of it though the Scientists are just well payed employees doing a job. It does invovle the killing and butchering of whales, but it is still just a job. The team on Ady Gil on the other hand are volunteers giving up a piece of their lives to work on something they believe in.  We're all exteremely lucky to have this opportunity, and we will tolerate a lot of hardship in hopefully putting an end to the professors, Doctors and Lab Technicians, with their harpoons, knives, and butcher hooks.

A few minutes later and we ease away from the dock, and shortly after Hobart is fading in the background.  The crew are all busy outside and I'm alone in the helm pondering the voyage.  I'm not elated to be leaving.  Maybe relieved a little.  It's been a long wait here, and I wish we'd been down a week ago to support the Steve irwin. If anything though I'm nervous.  I'm worried we'll be a failure down there, and we'll come back with the Japanese Scientists laughing at us.  All we can do is our best though.  And hopefully it's good enough to make a difference.

Captain's Blog 2.  Japanese Spies

"How much did these dry suits cost", says Jimmy, as he squeezes into one of our new black Mustang combat suits? He looks well impressed.  He wriggles around for a few seconds, and then his head pops out the neck seal. He doesn't smile much young Jimmy.  And with his skinhead, he looks like he's about to rip someones head off.  It's a great bit of kit really.  Underneath we have these garments a bit like sleeping bags with arms and legs.  It was a company in UK called Weezle who generously donated them to us.  And on top the Mustang dry suit.

We finally get kitted up and wander outside.  We're cleaning the hull, plus there are two new zinc annodes to install on the driveshafts.  This also gives us one last chance to try all this great equipment before heading to Antarctica.

I look up on the dock, and there's the usual array of locals, and a few tourists off the cruise ship docked just in front of us.  But there's one guy who sticks out like a set of dog balls.  While there's a few other people around who look like they'd cook on a wok instead of a frypan, something about this guy just doesn't look right.  
"Hey Locchy", I say quietly to the young lad who's been helping us during his School holidays, "I want you to go and get a photo of that guy up there", and I motion towards the guy who is pretending not to look at us.  Jimmy by now has emerged in his gear, and the guy, on seeing him, raises his camera up and takes a bunch of shots of us, and then goes back to looking at the fishing vessel behind us.  Lochy, alias 007, climbs up the dock and wanders nonchanantly towards him.  Lochy lifts up the i-phone, and the man suddenly jumps into a van and reverses away, bumping over the gutter on the way.  007 grabs his push bike and disappears after him.

It takes us another ten minutes getting the scuba gear ready, and we're just about to jump in the water, when 007 scampers back on the stern of Ady Gil.  He's panting, and it takes him a few seconds to catch his breath.  "I lost him a couple blocks away", he starts.  "But then when I was coming back, I spotted the same guy parked up over there by the toilter block. He's got a massive set of binoculars, and he's now got a camera lense about this big", and he holds his hands about half a metre apart. 

I sneak a glance over at the toilet block and sure enough, the van is parked there with just the corner showing. "Hey Larry", bring us a couple of flares will ya. Lets see what this flushes out."  Jimmy and I take three hand flares each, we get a few feet underwater, and we let them off, one after the other.  The flares look really cool underwater.  They initially splutter and cough, and then after a few seconds they roar into life, with a bright glow lighting up the particles in the water. 

It's a good 10 minutes later before we surface, and there's this hazy smoke all around us.  It looks suspicious for sure.  Larry and 007 are excited.  "It took about 5 minutes", Larry explains, "and then these two men appeared from nowhere, and reeled of photos until they realised I was also shooting them as well.  And they then disappeared around the corner."

It's unsurprising I guess.  Our presence here is hardly a secret, and if I was the Japanese, I'd have us under surveilance as well.  At the very least, it means it is costing them more money to run their operation.  Although if boy 007 can outsmart them, I'm not sure its money well spent.

Captain’s blog 1  Talking Japanese

"Why do you hate the Japanese", the reporter from Japan asks me earnestly. She's got a slight American accent, like many young Japanese therse days. We've been in port a few days now, and this is the fourth Jornalist who's taken the time to visit us.
"Look I don't hate the Japanese", I reply.  "I just hate the whalers. And the people who eat whale meat.  But if Japan continues to hunt whales, then it is possible that eventuially, most of the world will hate you."
She raises her eyebrows as though she doesn't believe me. 

"But if it is OK for you to eat kangaroo in Australia, why is it not OK for Japanese to eat whale meat." 
I've heard this argument, or versions of it at least, from a number of Japanese Reporters. And I roll off my usual reply.

"Well I'm not Australian for a start.  But even if I was there's a big difference between whale and kangaroo.  Firstly, there are millions of kangaroos in Australia, whereas there are only a few hundred thousand minke whales left.  The genetic diversity of kangaroos is assured because of their numbers, whereas the gene pool for whales is very small.  So every whale matters."

"Secondly, the kangaroos are on Australian soil, and it is up to Australians to manage them as best they can.  The whales on the other hand are in international waters.  Japan has no right to go stealing those whales. "

"Thirdly, when a kangaroo is killed, it does not have an explosive harpoon through its back and take 45 minutes to die. It is just wrong what your people are doing down there."  I finish and there is a long pause.  I can tell she already has her next question.  She's reading them off a list, like all the other Japanese Journalists.  They may as well just email me the questions, I think to myself. 

"What about our culture", she finally says slowy, as though she has me cornered.  "Japan has a long proud history of whaling, and it is part of who we are." 

I pause for a few seconds.  The repetitiveness of these questions makes them boring, but right now it is part of my job.

"Look, it was the Americans who encouraged you into whaling after World War II.  So its not like you've been whaling the high seas for centuries...and culture doesn't make it right anyway.  The Sudanese still practice circumcision of women, and they argue it is their culture, but it doesn't make it right.  For a long time the Americans had slavery as part of their cultre, but it doesn't make it right.  And right here in Tasmania, for a long time, it was acceptable to shoot Aboriginal people on your land. It was part of their culture.  But it doesn't make it right."

"Ummm.  One last question.  The whaling industry employs a lot of people.  What do you say to those people who would lose their jobs if whaling was to stop."  I'm wanting to say "they can get fucked."  Instead I roll off my usual, "well world war II employed a lot of people as well." 

She stands and shakes my hand.  "Thanks for your time", she says humbly, and wanders off down the dock. I'm not sure what she'll report.  I doubt the analogies will make it into the paper.  It's probably not what the Japanese want to hear.  But the fact that we're heading down to Antarctica to try and stop them certainly will...