3 cheers for Sea Shepherd and all on the Steve Irwin
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Odessey For The Whales:
20,000 Miles, 68 Crew Members, And 83 Days At Sea For The Whales In The Southern Ocean
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society
Our arrival back in Melbourne marks the conclusion of our 2007-2008
voyages to the Southern Ocean, which began on December 5, 2007.
The Steve Irwin covered a total of 20,090 nautical miles (37,205
kilometers) and made 3 return trips from Melbourne, Australia to the
coast of Antarctica in 3½ months. In total, the ship was at sea for 83
days between December 5, 2007 and March 15, 2008.
20,090 miles is only 1,590 miles short of circumnavigating the globe
at the Equator (21,600 miles).
It was an epic voyage and an extremely effective campaign. We
accomplished more than we thought we would, engaged in numerous
confrontations with the Japanese whalers, and exposed the issue of
illegal Japanese whaling to the entire world--especially in Japan where
for the first time Japanese whaling was a frequent news topic in the
It was a long, arduous, and complex voyage involving international
organizational logistics and fundraising going back to February 2007,
directly after the return of the last campaign from Antarctica.
A total of 68 individuals from 12 different nations participated in
the 3 voyages this season. 33% of the crew members were women. 16% of
the crew members participated in all 3 voyages.
The hardcore 16% include: Captain Paul Watson, 1st Officer Peter
Brown, 2nd Officer Peter Hammarstedt, Quartermasters Mal Holland and
Shannon Mann, Engineers Charles Hutchins, Willie Houtman, and Jessica
Gartlan, Cooks Zin Rain and Amber Paarman, and Deckhand Benjamin Potts.
Simon Houtman was also the only media person to go out on all 3 voyages.
The crew came from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, the
Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, Spain,
and Japan. 33 crew members—2 short of half the crew--were Australian.
As is usual with any large group of people, there were a few who were
disappointed, a few who were side-tracked by trivialities, and a very
few troublemakers. But overall, all 3 crews were instrumental in the
overall success of the campaign as a whole.
Captain Paul Watson has cited a few individuals as exemplary and
expressed his special recognition for services and courage above and
beyond that expected of them.
The people on the crew so recognized are:
From the Galley Crew: Chief Cook Zin Rain from Australia and
2nd Cook Amber Paarman from South Africa. There is no doubt that the
hardest working crew on the ship are the cooks, and to serve 3 vegan
meals a day on schedule in constantly changing sea conditions takes
discipline and determination. Both of these women performed an
incredible job in the Steve Irwin’s galley, and they did so with a
positive attitude and without complaints. Both women also served for all
3 voyages. Nicola Paris from Australia served as the 3rd cook with
distinction on the 3rd voyage.
From the Engine Room Crew: Without engineers, the ship would
go absolutely nowhere, and this year was especially daunting with the
breakdown of one of the main engines on the first voyage and the
destruction of a main engine turbo charger on the 2nd voyage. The
engineers made repairs twice in record time, thus buying more time to
defend the whales at sea. Maintenance of the machinery on the Steve
Irwin requires a high level of professionalism and mechanical skill.
Thanks to the following crewmembers, the Steve Irwin had a first class,
first rate engine room crew: Chief Engineer Charles Hutchins of Great
Britain, and Engineers Willie Houtman from New Zealand, Stephen Sikes
from the United States, and Jessica Gartlan and Stephen Bennett, both
From the Bridge Crew: Three different watches navigated the
ship through stormy seas and through a maze of icebergs constantly
chasing the Japanese fleet. 1st Officer Peter Brown of the USA and 2nd
Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden both did an excellent job. Of the
Quartermasters, Mal Holland from Australia stands apart for his skills
and his courage during close action with the Japanese ships. And the
other Quartermasters who did their jobs with dedication were Shannon
Mann from Canada (who along with Mal served on all 3 voyages) Mihirangi
from Australia (who became an expert on ice conditions), Nigel Mattison
from New Zealand, Jeff Hansen from Australia (who was very intuitive
about finding whaling ships), Leila Von Stein from the USA (whose
Russian helped us in communicating with Toothfish longliners), Carly
McDermott, from Australia, and Kim McCoy from the USA (who is also the
Executive Director of Sea Shepherd).
From the Deck Crew: A very special recognition to Dan Bebawi
from Great Britain for taking over the deck department on the 3rd voyage
and cleaning up the problems from the 2 previous voyages. He did an
The deck crew were the most numerous of the all, and Sea Shepherd
appreciates the efforts of all who served on deck, with special
commendations to Peter Bradley of Australia for his excellent rope work
and also serving as a paramedic, Riccy Jamieson of Australia as Bosun’s
Mate for the first 2 voyages, Robert Garcia, Rob Longstaff, Aaron
Barnes, and Paul Martin of Australia, and Ian Martin of Great Britain.
Confrontation Crew: Special thanks go to the front line crew,
the ones who engaged the Japanese whalers by boarding the Yusshin Maru
No. 2 and harassing the Nisshin Maru. Benjamin Potts of Australia and
Giles Lane of Great Britain courageously volunteered to board the
Japanese harpoon vessel, Yusshin Maru No. 2, where they were held for 3
days before being released. Special thanks also for the skill and
courage of our confrontation crew, for standing their ground in the face
of grenade attacks and shots fired from the Nisshin Maru, including
Laurens De Groot of the Netherlands and Ralph Lowe and Alex Wallman of
Australia. Special recognition goes to 2nd Officer Peter Hammarstedt for
being the officer in charge of the confrontation crew.
Specialist Categories: Helicopter pilot Chris Aultman of the
USA did an incredibly outstanding job flying in very adverse weather
conditions. His participation made a great difference to the success of
the overall mission. Also deserving of recognition is Brad Axiak of
Australia, our helicopter technician and mechanic who had to service our
helicopter in less than ideal circumstances.
In waters so far from land and engaged in dangerous activities, it is
always great to have a good doctor onboard, and we had an excellent
Medical Officer with Dr. David Page, who during the course of the voyage
had to deal with an officer with a broken thumb and a crew member with a
fractured pelvis in addition to bruises suffered during confrontations.
Keeping the ship connected to the outside world is the job of
Communications Officer, and the Steve Irwin was lucky to have one of the
best computer and electronic whiz kids around in the personage of
self-confessed nerd and trekkie Tod Emko of the United States,
affectionately known as "Sulu" by the bridge watches.
The one person whose name cannot be released is also the most
courageous crewmember of all. We refer to her as Yoko (not her real
name). Yoko was our only Japanese crewmember, and she took a great risk
in participating. She acted as our translator and did numerous
interviews with the Japanese media without divulging her identity.
We would like to acknowledge also the dedicated crew from Animal
Planet that documented the entire campaign for a 6-part series. They
were Robert Case, Nicole Henrich, Jesse Dowd, David Bollinger, Keith
Worthington, Charles Howard Ashley Dunn, Ann Aucote, Simon Wearne,
Simeon Houtman, and Sam O’Reilly.
Photographers Ferne Millen, Chantal Henderson, Joie Botkin, Noah
Hannibal, and Ling-san Mark, all from Australia, covered the campaign
photographically. Noah stood with the confrontation crew and caught the
incoming grenades on camera.
And last, but certainly not least, were our support crew manning the
phones at our headquarters in Friday Harbor--Allison Lance and Alex
Earl. Because of the various time and date differences, they had to be
available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their service was essential.
And to our "special friends" who know exactly who they are, thank you
for making this campaign the success it has been.
No Navy can survive without resources, and that holds true for the
Whales’ Navy as well. For this we thank our dedicated "honorary crew" of
international supporters, who provided us with the means to fuel and
prepare our ship to carry our crew down to the Southern Ocean. The
stronger our support base, the more effective we have become, and that
is evident in the fact that each year, our efforts become more and more
As we keep the pressure on, refuse to back down and surrender to the
pressure being brought to bear against us, and continue to return to the
Southern Ocean year after year, we will end the crime of whaling in the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
As the Governator of California once said, "I’ll be back."
Sea Shepherd will be ready to return to the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary in December 2008 if needed, to once again represent the right
of our clients--the whales--to live without fear of the illegal
atrocities of the Japanese whaling fleet.
Overview from Some of the Crew:
Even after covering twenty thousand six-hundred miles on an
eighty-three day epic expedition at the bottom of the world, I’m just
starting to realize the enormous impact that a committed group of
thirty-some-odd volunteers on board one single ship can have. For
five-and-a-half weeks, not a single whale was killed, which translates
to more than five hundred whales saved. And for me, every one of those
lives saved is a victory.
Thanks to the support of people around the world, we were able to
accomplish what the worlds’ governments could not--a stop to the
spilling of cetacean blood in the Antarctic. And all we had to do was
board a ship, throw some rotten butter, get fired on (or in the case of
Captain Watson, get shot), and not cede one-square-inch of the Southern
Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the whale killers. Heading back to Melbourne
for the third time this whaling season, I am overjoyed knowing that we
did everything that we could, with the resources that we had, to save
Peter Hammarstedt, 2nd Officer, Stockholm, Sweden
After nearly four months and three trips to the southern ocean from
Melbourne, we are finally finishing up this year’s Antarctic Whale
Defense Campaign. I have participated in many campaigns over the years,
and I feel we might have actually turned the corner on this one, and the
Japanese might not be back… a real victory for the whales. They spent
millions of dollars for what? They did not get their self-imposed
quotas, and the SSCS ship Steve Irwin hounded the fleet constantly for
the entire hunting season. With information from past years and
positions updated from tracking information, we kept them on the run
each and every day we could remain on station. In spite of engine
problems on the first two voyages south and limited fuel, we succeeded
on many fronts. Captain Watson’s hostage scheme was brilliant. Not only
was the boarding of two crew members justified because of an Australian
high court ruling, but the story also made front page news around the
After returning to Melbourne, the engines were repaired and funds
were generously donated to continue our efforts. Many new and
enthusiastic crew arrived for the final assault. This time we pursued
and chased the Japanese whaling ship thousands of miles through the
Antarctica Whale Sanctuary, virtually stopping the hunt. No whales were
killed for weeks while we hounded the Japanese whalers.
With fuel running low, and the season coming to an end, the Captain
initiated a final assault on the Japanese factory ship with rotten
butter, adding to their misery. Our success can be measured by the level
of frustration shown by the normally subdued Japanese. Flash-bang
grenades were thrown, and ultimately a gunshot was fired, striking the
Captain in the chest initiating another round of press coverage. Even
the oft silent Japanese press has shown increasing interest… this all
adds to an end of the bloody outdated whale slaughter… All in all a very
1st Officer Peter Brown Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
The odds were stacked against us. One ship and a crew of 33 people up
against 8 ships of the ruthless Japanese whaling fleet. Yet we took the
support of thousands worldwide who want an end to the inhumane slaughter
of the gentle giants. I am an Australian citizen onboard the Australian
icon M/Y Steve Irwin that has had concussion grenades thrown at it by
armed Japanese Coast Guard Officers in Australian waters, and still my
government does nothing. We are down here doing the work that the
Australian people want, that my government is too gutless to carry out.
The WWII soldiers would be rolling over in their graves in disgust! The
beauty of Antarctica makes me see how imperative it is that we protect
it. Antarctica is possibly just far enough away that we can leave it
alone! It’s one of the last places on earth like this, and we must make
a stand. And make a stand we did! We chased and scattered the fleet in
all directions until we came upon the mother ship. With each pass of the
Nisshin Maru, we were all warned of tear gas and flash-bang grenades,
yet we did not for one second hesitate in going back outside to stand
out in defiance of what these ruthless cetacean murderers are doing. It
is this stand that has frustrated the whalers so much that they have
made a critical error that might just see them stay out of the Whale
Sanctuary for good.
Quartermaster Jeff Hansen Fremantle, Western Australia
Comments on Article
am writing to express my deepest gratitude and admiration for the
Captain and all crew members of the Steve Irwin, as well as all in the
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, for your stupendous and heroic
expedition, and deeper, your indomitable fighting spirit and purity of
After the shooting incident, we have a brand new ball game, with very
different rules. I am totally confident in that not only will Sea
Shepherd set these new rules, you will also use them to the best
advantage on behalf of the whales.
I used to take some pride in that my last 5 Compassion for Animals
Road Expeditions (CARE-tours) by car have averaged 30,000 km through
some 40 states in about 5 months each. But this, compared to to your
high-seas exploits, is like a breeze to a storm. For one thing, I never
get sea sick on land.
If I can be of help to you, just ask.
Anthony Marr on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 7:59 PM
of all....welcome home!
The eyes of the world have been on you for a quite some time and
those of us who have followed your journey from afar, are relieved and
grateful that you have returned safely to shore. The attempt at your
life has confirmed what is already known; that the Japanese whalers and
their financial backers will stop at nothing to secure their blood lust.
You have fiercely thwarted their every effort and have gained support
from many around the globe.
Were is not for the hard work, dedication and never ending will of
yourself and your crew (both on the sea and on land), the days of the
great whales would be numbered. As it is, their freedom has been secured
for yet another season. For that I am truly grateful. You have the fiery
will, power and determination to do what I so desperately wish I could;
to put my words and beliefs into life-changing action. I have had the
pleasure of 'converting' several Greenpeace supporters and hope to make
a life-long habit of it!
The seal campaign is not far off and you have my support for as long
as you need it and want it. I send you my thanks, and on behalf of those
who have been blessed to have you as their champion, I thank you from
the bottom of my heart.
Much admiration and respect
SEA SHEPHERD SIREN on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 8:00 PM
to all of you from the bottom of my heart. You are all my heroes.
Liz on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 8:01 PM
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