Whale wars

Whale wars

We heard on the news last night that the confrontation between Japanese whaling boats and protesters had resulted in a collision and the possible loss of the ‘Ady Gil’ This very unusual boat was in Nelson half a year ago, when she was known as ‘Earthrace’.

Earthrace in Nelson April 09

The incident is being described by one side as “attempted murder”.  I would reserve my opinion on that headline.  Many environment groups have very publicly severed their ties with Paul Watson of the ‘Sea Shepherd’, labelling him as as “eco-terrorist” because of his violent tactics. For example, this Guardian item on the incident presents quite a different view.  But there is no doubt that the collision is generating plenty of exposure for  the Sea Shepherd campaign, so they will be no doubt counting this as a success.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs, the damaged boat is a very interesting vessel indeed. It is a ‘wavepiercing’ trimaran, designed to go through waves rather than over them.  It’s designed to cope with up to 7m of water on top of the windscreen as it passes through the waves.  It has a top speed of around 40 knots and runs on biofuel.  You can read more about it, its design and various missions here.  Quite how it will manage with more than two meters removed from its bow remains to be seen.  No more ‘wave piercing’, I guess!

On a related topic, NIWA are about to send down their research vessel ‘Tangaroa’ to Antarctic waters to carry out ‘non-lethal whale research’.  One of their aims, explained by research leader Rob Murdoch the other day, is to demonstrate that much or all of the information required for successful management of whale stocks can be obtained without killing any whales.  Nice one!  (And very well presented for the media – it’s good to see science getting such exposure!  NIWA really do have their PR act together now.)  You can read more about this here, for example, or here.

Postscript 8 Jan 2010:  we heard on this evening’s news that the ‘Ady Gil’ had sunk, with each side blaming the other.

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