Friday, February 22, 2019

Whale Wars - Enemy In Their Grasp PT2

Credit: Sea Shepherd
Nisshin Maru flees the Steve Irwin in the icy Arctic Ocean

With the rough sea and the harrowing task of getting the boat into the ocean, somehow they get flipped over, dumping all on board into the freezing water.

Captain Paul Watson must decide to follow the Nisshin Maru into the path of ice or go down around and hope the Japanese whaling ship and its crew don’t double back to continue whaling.

Watson decides he would rather go around and possibly lose them rather than possibly damaging the Steve Irwin vessel and losing the opportunity to stop their whaling for the entire whaling season.

After the helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman flies 5 trips – 9 hours flying during a 19-hour day, Aultman has to stop and rest. He is exhausted.

Captain Watson is now afraid that he has also lost his eyes in the sky. Without Aultman in the air, the Steve Irwin and crew may lose the Nisshin Maru altogether.

But Watson knows he can’t tell a Aultman he must continue to fly if Aultman feels he has to rest. The toughest part of all is the impending reality that the Nisshin Maru is slipping through the ice and out of their sight.

There has to be some way to help them track the Nisshin Maru. There is. If the Steve irwin can't keep up with the Nisshin Maru heading through the ice at 12 to 13 knots, there is another option.

Right now, the Bob Barker is following the Sun Laurel, the alleged refueling ship of the Japanese whaling fleet. Now it's time to see if this is indeed the case.

The crew from the Bob Barker decide to take a huge risk and send out a small motor boat to place a tracking device on the Sun Laurel. They will attempt this during the dark, night hours.

They know lives are at risk. But, once again, saving the whales from harpoons and even more important, from extinction is why they are here.

Suddenly, they flashback three years ago to a terrifying moment when a handful of crew in a small motor boat are lowered into the ocean along the ship.

Click here to read Whale Wars - Enemy In Their Grasp PT 1

With the rough sea and the harrowing task of getting the boat into the ocean, somehow they get flipped over, dumping all onboard into the freezing water.

There's a mad dash to keep all eyes on every crew member until they can be drawn out of the water and placed safely back on the ship.

Luckily all walk away with little to no injuries. This accident three years ago all took place during the day time hours.

Now, they are attempting a similar feat at night. The tension is building as the crew are in the small motor boat and are now being lowered into the water.

Suddenly, there is a sound, a bump and a shout. It's pitch black.

Everyone is okay. The boat is intact. They continue to lower the boat and soon enough the small crew in the motor boat are on their way, headed toward the Sun Laurel.

In hand, the motor boat crew has a tracking device. But can they get close enough without being detected and without anyone getting hurt?

Minutes pass by. There's no word. There's no radio contact. Did the small boat make it? Were the crew in the small boat able to get close enough to attach the tracking device to the Sun Laurel?

More time goes by. How long have they been gone? Can anyone hear anything? As the concern grows for this small team, they hear on the radio that all has gone as planned.

The tracking device is in place. The crew are heading back to get onboard the Bob Barker once again.

Soon enough, the light of day fills the sky. The crew of the Steve Irwin continue to grow tense. They begin to wonder if there is any way to find the Nisshin Maru.

Finally, after about 4 hours of sleep, the helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman is seen stirring and walking slowly with a warm cup of java or tea.

Aultman feels confident that the Nisshin Maru can not have gone too far. He feels certain that he can get back in the sky onboard the helicopter to track down the Japanes whaling factory ship in no time at all.

But, as always, things don't go as planned.

Four hours into the search and Aultman has no site of the Nisshin Maru. What Aultman thought would be easy to locate turns out to be anything but simple.

Aultman sees nothing but icebergs and ocean water in every direction he can search.

The crew, fearing they might lose site of the Nisshin Maru are now growing frustrated and even feeling defeated.

Their fear has now come true. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘should haves’ are the comments shared from one Sea Shepherd crew member to another.

What if Aultman had flown just another hour to keep track of the Nisshin Maru? Could Aultman have gotten up after only 3 hours rest to get back in the sky to track down the factory ship?

Everyone could probably use some sleep. Overall, the timing wasn't turning out to be in their favor.

But the reality is that Aultman is the sole helicopter pilot. Keeping the helicopter available for the Sea Shepherd fleet is vital.

Aultman is back onboard and now in Captain Watson’s office. Aultman tells Watson that with the number of hours he flew the day before, he had to take at least a 4-hour break.

But Watson and even Aultman know that all of their work, their time trying to find the NIsshin Maru has been for nothing. They have no idea where the ship is. The Japanese whaling will continue for now.

Aultman is done. He has completed as much flying time as he can offer. Personal circumstances are calling for him to head back home. It's not the best or even a good time to leave. But it never is.

Aultman has stayed through Phase One of the whaling campaign. He will leave Phase Two in the hands of those onboard the Bob Barker, the Steve Irwin and the Gojira.

For Aultman, it's time to say farewell. But Captain Watson has a special request. Watson asks Aultman if he can fly just one more time before he heads home.

Captain Watson tells Aultman that a faithful supporter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a man who dedicated a good portion of his life to end Japanese whaling has passed away.

Watson asks Aultman if he will make one last trip, find a large iceberg, land and place this man's ashes on an iceberg looking out into the Arctic Ocean.

Aultman accepts this final mission without hesitation.

Before long, Aultman lands the helicopter and steps out with the box of this man’s remains.

He places the box on the iceberg, with the front of the box looking out into the Arctic Ocean. The view is breathless.

Just as powerful as the waves are on the Arctic Ocean, so are the emotions and the memories he has experienced that now overwhelm Aultman.

What was meant to be his last flight becomes the flight that helps Chris Aultman realize he must continue to be the Sea Shepherd’s eyes.

Aultman will continue on during Phase Two of the campaign.

Aultman decides he will change his personal plans and do what he knows must be done. He will fly as many flights and as often as is possible to do his part to end Japanese whaling.

Is there hope in finding the Japanese whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru? Will the Gojira's engine be repaired in time to help support Phase Two of this year's campaign against Japanese whaling? Did the Bob Barker place a tracking device on the Sun Laurel, the vessel that is indeed the Japanese whaling fleet's refueling ship?

Tune in Friday, July 29 to Animal Planet at 9:00pm eastern, for the next episode of Whale Wars entitled, "Battle Stations."

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