Like many, I'd been eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Sea Shepherd's latest vessel for its upcoming 'Zero Tolerance' anti-whaling Southern Ocean campaign. Well, after months of speculation and anticipation, the Sam Simon was wheeled out last week in Hobart, Tasmania...and ironically, she's been under the nasty Nippons' noses all along!
Her 56m hull painted bright white with a classic Sea Shepherd logo on her sides, and displaying a large S on her tall black smokestack, Sam Simon has clearly received several months of careful preparation.
Now, here's the irony: originally she was the Seifu Maru, built in 1993 to a high standard, with no expense spared by the Japanese Govt. The ice-strengthened vessel was run by the Maizuru Meteorogical Observatory, part of the Japan Meteorological Agency. She retired from service in 2010, and has been laid up in Shimonoseki, right beside the whaling fleet!
Sam Simon is the second SS vessel to have an association with whaling: Bob Barker was launched in 1950 as the Norwegian whaler Pol XIV. (Last week while in Wellington, I was escorted around BB to see first-hand the campaign prep...)
Earlier in the month SS issued a statement saying it would confront the whalers off the coast of Japan and apparently they believed it. Their Coast Guard mobilised and they went to a great deal of expense and effort to sneak quietly out of port. Of course SS had no intention of heading north at all: it was all part of 'the game'. They await them in the south, but long before they reach the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Meanwhile Steve Irwin (with escapee Capt.Paul Watson aboard) is 'somewhere at sea'...last Saturday Watson sent this:
"Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:16 AM
@SeaShepherd Update from @CaptPaulWatson- ReTweet RT
Finally the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru began moving today but is still in the Inland Sea of Japan and at least four weeks from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sam Simon is giving tours to school children in Hobart, Tasmania. Bob Barker is conducting public tours in Wellington, NZ and Brigitte Bardot is hosting public tours in Auckland, NZ. Steve Irwin is at sea patiently waiting for the whalers to make their way towards us. This year's campaign is very much a waiting game, but the good news is that every day they delay in getting down to the Southern Ocean is a day that the whales need not fear their harpoons. The film crew on Steve Irwin filmed a pod of sperm whales and we have had numerous visits from dolphins and albatross."
This is certainly looking good for the whales. Not only are there four ships in SS's navy, but the whalers have left more than a month later than usual...