whalers clash in cool waters - 9th Feb 2007
Two protesters spent seven hours
lost in the icy waters of the Antarctic, at one
point lashing their damaged boat to an iceberg
after a dramatic clash with a Japanese whaling
with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society finally
tracked down the Japanese fleet near the Ross
Sea early on Friday, after spending weeks scouring
the frigid waters, intent on disrupting Japan's
annual whale hunt.
hours, teams of activists in high speed inflatable
rubber boats began their campaign of harassment,
setting off smoke bombs and hurling foul-smelling
substances at the whalers, and attempting to seal
holes that drain water and blood from the ships.
Australian protester Karl Neilsen, of Perth, and
American John Gravois, quickly found themselves
in a life-threatening situation when their small
craft collided with the massive hull of one whaling
said they had been trying to foul the propeller
of the vessel with a net, but got too close.
moments their boat was taking on water, the weight
of it preventing them from keeping up with the
other crafts in the protest fleet.
in fog, and in freezing conditions, the men reached
for their radio but it failed to work.
Shepherd activists and the whalers called a temporary
truce and began a desperate search for the pair,
fearing they could die from the cold if they were
not found quickly.
hours later, as they were hauled safely aboard
the Sea Shepherd's flagship Farley Mowat, the
men clearly knew how lucky they were to be alive.
was not so much a matter of not being found, it's
how long it's going to take because you can only
stay out on those conditions for a certain amount
of time before the cold really starts doing some
detrimental things," Neilsen, 29, told ABC
did what we could do and pulled out the safety
blankets, huddled together and kept warm."
they not been wearing survival suits designed
for sub-zero temperatures they would almost certainly
24, of Los Angeles, credited Neilsen with taking
charge as they tried not to panic, alone and shrouded
in fog, without any form of communication.
told how they lassoed an iceberg at one point
to ensure they stayed protected from the wind,
but Neilsen said the shelter was temporary, with
the sea tearing them away from their mooring.
Farley Mowat finally found the pair at 3.56pm
New Zealand time (1356 AEDT), seven hours after
they found us it was a feeling of the most extreme
relief that you can imagine," Gravois said.
protest ship's captain, Paul Watson, said the
niceties with the whalers did not last long.
said he'd thanked the Japanese for their assistance
in the search, and then told them: "Now it's
back to business," Fairfax reported.
New Zealand government denied it had given the
protesters the coordinates of the Japanese fleet,
which plans to harpoon up to 935 minke whales
and 10 fin whales under what it calls a scientific
research program this year.
Guardian newspaper reported speculation that someone
in the New Zealand government had leaked the location
to Sea Shepherd activists.
spokesman for Conservation Minister Chris Carter
denied the claim, saying Carter had previously
refused to divulge the information - gleaned from
regular air force flights over the Antarctic -
for fear of dangerous confrontations like the
one that happened on Friday.
latest incident is reminiscent of Japan's last
hunt a year ago, when a protest ship and a whaling
continues to claim its hunt is for scientific
purposes but admits whale meat from the catch
ends up on restaurant tables.
New Zealand and other countries have lobbied at
the International Whaling Commission to end the