Kiwi sailor and environmentalist Peter Bethune was involved in a battle with Japanese whaling ships as things hot up in the Southern Ocean. His bio-diesel vessel Ady Gil was engaged in a confrontation with the Shonan Maru 2, bodyguard to the Japanese whaling ships. Crew from the so-called "research ships" said they were harassed by the Ady Gil yesterday with sonic lasers.
The activists said that the Japanese had tried to destroy the Steve Irwin's helicopter using a high pressure water canon and aimed a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) "a sonic weapon" at the helecopter pilot. Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd said "The Ady Gil came in to help us and yes, they did use photonic disrupters. But they're not harmful, we use them to confuse the harpooners, we fire these at them and they can't see" he said.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has commissioned Ady Gil to operate in Antarctic waters under a New Zealand flag, alongside the Dutch-registered Steve Irwin. Able to do 90 kmp the Ady Gil is hoping to physically block the Japanese harpoons from killing the whales. With a crew of 5, there are four New Zealanders and one Dutch citizen on board.
On Christmas Eve 2009 Captain Paul Watson, sent the following message:
Shonan Maru 2, Shonan Maru 2, this is the whale conservation and whale protection ship Steve Irwin. This is a message from the captain and crew of the Steve Irwin to the Captain and crew of the Shonan Maru 2.
As much as the rest of the world enjoys Christmas dinner with friends and family in the comfort of their homes, our two crews are in the heavy seas of the Southern Ocean intent on two opposing missions. You, to protect the whalers from us, and we, to protect the whales from you.
We may be enemies, but on this day, perhaps we can stop and reflect that despite our opposition on the high seas, we are all human beings and all of us would rather be somewhere else if not for our duties and responsibilities.
Therefore we on the Steve Irwin would like to express our best wishes for your safety and health. We share the dangers of this unfortunate conflict in these remote and hostile seas and for that reason we share many of the same concerns. We wish you all the best for this Christmas day and we share with you the hope that no one is harmed over the next few months as we each pursue our objectives, duties and responsibilities.
The message was translated and read in Japanese over the VHF radio channel 16. Not surprising then, the crew of the Shonan Maru 2 did not respond.