Image Source: Screen capture taken from ICR/AP video

Image Source: Screen capture taken from ICR/AP video

Taking part in anti-whaling activities can be extremely dangerous work, as those in the Sea Shepherd crew recently found out.

The Ady Gil—a New Zealand based ship that joined Sea Shepherd last year—was rammed by Japan’s Shonan Maru vessel, near Commonwealth Bay. The clash tore 10 feet (3 meters) of the Ady Gil’s bow off their ship, causing them to take on water. Six of their crew members were safely transferred to another ship in the Sea Shepherd crew; one of which appeared to suffer two cracked ribs, though the others were fine. The Ady Gil’s captain remained on the ship to see what could be salvaged. According to Locky Maclean, first mate aboard the Ady Gil:

“The original prognostic was that it was sinking, but at this point it is flooded with water but it seems to still have a bit of buoyancy.” … “They [the Ady Gil] were stopped dead in the water when the incident occurred. When they realized that the Shonan Maru was aiming right for them, they tried to go into reverse to get the bow out of the way but it was too late. The Shonan Maru made a course correction and plowed directly into the front end of the boat.”

Although minor crashes have happened before, this particular one would be the most serious in the past several years. Normally, tactics between the Sea Shepherd crew and Japan involve throwing stink bombs, blasting water cannons, chases and diversions. This time around, they’ve been using more dangerous “weapons”, such as dangling ropes to entangle a ship’s rudder and propeller, and the use of military sound equipment known as LRAD.

The Ady Gil is a high-tech speedboat that resembles a stealth bomber. Formerly known as Earthrace, it traveled around the world in 2008, on biofuel, in the span of 2 months. Named after a millionaire who donated the money for the ship, the Ady Gil was supposed to be used to intercept and block Japanese harpoon vessels. It would seem, however, that they are in for a lot more than they bargained for.

Video footage of the ramming incident was viewed by Glenn Inwood, a New Zealand-based spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR). The ICR is the government-linked organization that allows Japan to carry out their whaling activities. Unfortunately for the Ady Gil, Inwood claims that their boat was moving toward the whaler right before the incident:

“The Shonan Maru steams to port [left] to avoid a collision. I guess they, the Ady Gil, miscalculated. Sea Shepherd claims that the Shonan Maru has rammed the Ady Gil and cut it in half—its claim is just not vindicated by the video.”

If you’re wondering how the Japanese are holding up: none of them were injured by the collision. Their Fisheries Agency is also checking into the details about the clash. Oh, and there’s one other interesting detail. Spokesman, Toshinori Uoya, states that for security reasons, details of the fleet’s composition, the number of whales it hopes to take and the number of crew members are not being released to the public. That sounds a bit fishy to me, especially for a whaling fleet that is believed to use “scientific research” as a cover up for doing commercial whaling, which is illegal.

There is also one other surprise for those that may have not seen the latest episodes of Whale Wars: the ship that rescued the Ady Gil crew was not the Steve Irwin, it was their third and latest acquired ship—the 1,200-ton Bob Barker. Yes, the ship was named after the former host of “The Price is Right” game show. Why? Barker has long been known as an animal rights activist and he met Paul Watson (founder of Sea Shepherd and captain of the Steve Irwin crew) through a fellow activist. According to Barker, who claimed to be “genuinely proud” to be associated with Sea Shepherd, their meeting went something like this:

“He said he thought he could put the Japanese whaling fleet out of business if he had $5 million. I said ‘I think you do have the skills to do that, and I have $5 million, so let’s get it on,’ so that’s what we did.”

You can follow the activities and adventures of the Sea Shepherd crew through the hit TV show Whale Wars, which is on Animal Planet every Friday night. Video footage of the crash is available to watch here.