Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) unveiled their new ship the SSS Sam Simon in Hobart, Tasmania yesterday. The story behind how it was acquired appeared to throw down the gauntlet to Japanese whalers.
It has been no secret that SSCS was acquiring a new ship for their ninth campaign to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. It was also no secret that the ship was purchased for Sea Shepherd by philanthropist and developer of the animated comedy series The Simpsons -- Sam Simon.
What was a secret -- until yesterday that is, was the type of ship the SSS Sam Simon would be and where she would be purchased from. But the reason for the blackout soon became clear once details about the purchase were revealed by Andrew Darby of Hobart's The Age newspaper:
In a stunt that may upset Tokyo" Darby wrote, "Sea Shepherd whaling activists have bought a $2 million Japanese government ship to turn against its whalers. The 56-meter ship was purchased through a third-party US company from its berth next to the whaling fleet in Japan, the activists said.
"Throughout the sale, the Japanese government was unaware that it was doing business with Sea Shepherd," new skipper Locky MacLean told Darby on Monday.
And as if to rub salt in the wounds, Sea Shepherd even had the Japanese crew deliver it to Australia where they proudly posed for photographs beside the ship (and unknowingly), beside the activist group's chief engineer.
In a press release issued yesterday, Sea Shepherd said:
The vessel, retired from service by the Japanese Government in 2010, has since been laid up in Shimonoseki, Japan, alongside the very ships Sea Shepherd will confront this season.
Originally built as Seifu Maru in 1993 by IHI shipyard in Tokyo, to a high standard with no expense spared by the Japanese Government, the ice-strengthened steel vessel was operated by the Maizuru Meteorogical Observatory, a department of the Japan Meteorological Agency, out of Kyoto Prefecture.
Locky Maclean added:
After months of secrecy, it is such a great feeling to finally be able to fly the Sea Shepherd flag from the main mast, and yes, Sea Shepherd now owns a real Japanese research ship!
They even painted the word 'research' on the side of the ship for good measure, along with all of the Sea Shepherd accoutrements of course.
The SSS Sam Simon will leave for the Southern Ocean next week.
Photo: Carolina A Castro / Sea Shepherd
As the new ship in an armada of four, the Sam Simon will join the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker and the Brigitte Bardot on Sea Shepherd's ninth Antarctic campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance.
For now, the ship will be open for public tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Hobart, before departing for the Southern Ocean next week.
News of the ship's unveiling followed more good news from Sea Shepherd's Founder and Captain. Earlier in December Watson announced, "It has been a long journey from Germany to where I am now" [but] "the deck of the Steve Irwin is again under my feet."
Seven months after Germany detained Watson in Frankfurt, the activist leader rejoined his crew to Captain the Steve Irwin throughout this year's anti-whaling campaign. Watson was arrested last May in Germany for extradition to Costa Rica on a decade-old warrant and left Germany after learning that Japan had also filed an extradition request.
Now, who's ready for Whale Wars: Season Nine?
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