While the rest of the lucky sailing world were either lounging in cockpits on pre-prepared Christmas snacks or at home with the family on Christmas Day, there's not much Christmas aboard in the Southern Ocean where there is a David and Goliath clash going on between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese Whaling Fleet - with one difference. Sea Shephard is back with a nifty strategy - drones. (see footnote)
Peter Brown Launching Drone Nicole Montecalvo From Steve Irwin
The Sea Shepherd crew have emailed to say that they actually intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet on Christmas Day, a thousand miles north of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. This year they have three ships and 88 crew to attempt to stop the whaling.
Along with the well-known Steve Irwin this year are two other ships - Brigitte Bardot
The Sea Shepherd ship, Steve Irwin, deployed a drone to successfully locate and photograph the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru on December 24th. Once the pursuit began, three Japanese harpoon/security ships moved in on the Steve Irwin to shield the Nisshin Maru to allow it to escape.
This time however the Japanese tactic of tailing the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker will not work because the drones, one on the Steve Irwin and the other on the Bob Barker, can track and follow the Nisshin Maru and can relay the positions back to the Sea Shepherd ships.
'We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets for this campaign,' said Captain Paul Watson on board the Steve Irwin.
The drone named Nicole Montecalvo was donated to the Steve Irwin by Bayshore Recycling of New Jersey, and Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security, also of New Jersey.
Captain Watson having received reports from fishermen when the Japanese ship passed through the Lombok Strait waited south of the strait at a distance of 500 miles off the southwest coast of Western Australia. Sea Shepherd caught the whalers at 37 degrees South, far above the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
'The chase is on for the next 1000 miles,' said Quartermaster Eleanor Lister of Jersey (U.K.).
With the Steve Irwin taking up the resources of three of the Japanese ships the Bob Barker remains clear of a tail and the Brigitte Bardot is clear to scout out the factory ship, having superior speed to the harpoon vessels.
The Sea Shepherd crew have found the Japanese whaling fleet before a single whale has been killed.
'This is going to be a long hard pursuit from here to the coast of Antarctica,' said Captain Watson. 'But thanks to these drones, we now have an advantage we have never had before – eyes in the sky.'
About the drone:
A long-range drone is defined as an unmanned aerial vehicle that does not require human operation and can fly independently or be operated remotely. The drone named Nicole Montecalvo has assisted in locating Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean previously, and has assisted in operations against blue fin tuna poaching operations off the coast of Libya. The drone Nicole Montecalvo was delivered on board the vessel Steve Irwin by the Vessel Security Officer during transit to Antarctica while in search of the Japanese flagship, Nisshin Maru. For more information about the drone itself, please visit www.bayshorerecycling.com.
Jeffrey Milstein, Christopher Aultman and Paul Watson with Nicole Montecalvo - photo by Barbara Veiga
Brigitte Bardot has made a distress call after being damaged by a wave
The 'Brigitte Bardot' was chasing a Japanese whaling ship in six metre swells when a wave slammed into the port side of the vessel, cracking its hull.
The ship, which has a crew of ten, is 1,500 nautical miles south-west of Fremantle.
There are British, American, Australian, Canadian, Belgian and South Africans on board.
The skipper is confident the 'Brigitte Bardot' will stay afloat until help arrives despite the crack getting wider as seas continue to pound his ship.
Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson, who is on board the Sea Shepherd flagship the 'Steve Irwin', says he is fighting heavy seas to reach the distressed ship.
He expects to reach it early tomorrow morning.