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The Sea Shepherds hunt down a pirate trawler

Posted July 30, 2015 into Awesome by John Birmingham

I enjoyed this long piece from The New York Times about the Sea Sherpherds hunting a rogue fishing trawler through some of the worst seas in the world. They chased this thing over thousands of nautical miles in the Southern Oceans, eventually driving it under the waves.

From the Times:

On its second day of prowling for the Thunder last December, the Barker spotted its prey. Appearing first as a red blip on an otherwise barren radar monitor, the vessel was moving slowly, at 6 knots, and heading against the tide of floating icebergs, some the size of tall buildings.

Captain Hammarstedt sailed within 400 feet of the Thunder before reaching for a reference binder — an Interpol “mug shots” guide featuring silhouettes of illegal fishing vessels. He radioed the Thunder’s officers, most of them Spaniards or Chileans. Speaking through a translator, he warned that the Thunder was banned from fishing in those waters and would be stopped.

The Thunder responded: “No, no, no. Negative, negative. You have no authority to arrest this vessel. You have no authority to arrest this vessel. We are going to continue sailing, we are going to continue sailing but you have no authority to arrest this ship, over.”

“We do have authority,” the Bob Barker said. “We have reported your location to Interpol and to the Australian police.”

The poachers replied, “O.K., O.K., you can send our location, but you can’t board this ship, you can’t come in or arrest us.”

The Thunder’s crew, which had been working on its aft deck, abruptly disappeared inside. The ship (a trawler that had been converted to do other types of deep-sea fishing) soon doubled its speed and made a run for it, the Barker close behind. They were in a stretch of Antarctic sea called the Banzare Bank, known among mariners as “The Shadowlands” because it is among the planet’s most remote and inhospitable waters, nearly a two-week journey to the nearest major port.

On that first night of the chase, Dec. 17, Captain Hammarstedt made a note in his ship’s log: “Bob Barker will maintain hot pursuit and report on the F/V Thunder’s position to Interpol.”

The Barker’s Captain Hammarstedt, 30, a baby-faced Swede, was respected by his crew for his seafaring skills and calm under fire. A decade of antiwhaling work had exposed him to a fair share of angry storms and violent confrontations. Still, he worried as he prepared to follow the Thunder into a huge low-pressure zone.

As the wider, heavier Thunder held firm over the next two days in the storm, the Bob Barker swayed back and forth, listing 40 degrees as it was battered by 50-foot waves. Below deck, fuel sloshed in the Barker’s tanks, splashing through ceiling crevices and filling the ship with diesel fumes. In the galley, a plastic drum tethered to the wall broke free, coating the floor in vegetable oil that bled into the cabins below. Half the crew was seasick. “It was like working on an elevator that suddenly dropped and climbed six stories every 10 seconds,” Captain Hammarstedt recalled.

Emerging on the other side of the storm, the ships settled into several days of radio silence. As much a battle of wills, this endurance race was also a test of fuel capacities. While the Barker never left the Thunder’s trail, the Sam Simon split off several times to resupply. Each time the two vessels moved close enough to connect a refuel hose, the Thunder turned 180 degrees and sped toward them, wedging between them to disrupt the effort.

_____

It'll take a while to read. But if you like rip roaring sea tales, like I do, it's a good option for lunchtime, or the train ride home this arvo. The NYT's website has some cool embedded video too.

It's all here.

38 Responses to ‘The Sea Shepherds hunt down a pirate trawler’

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted July 30, 2015
Hmm, conflicted. A: I'm glad Someone is out in the ugly Southern ocean chasing Toothfish Poachers. B: I'm disappointed it isn't deemed sufficiently important for National Governments to spend actual real $ to do it. C: Sea Sheopard are the biggest bunch of self-appointed amateur vigilante asshats south of the Tex/Mex border. They routinely over-simplify extremely complicated issues. They are driven by intuition not science. They are more interested in publicity than ecology. They are the Eco-equivalent of a wealthy wanker in his beamer cursing out the bus full of proles.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 30, 2015
While I pretty much agree with your points about Sea Shepherd (other than the last one), I'd argue those are not unambiguously negative things and in fact are at the crux between being pure and being effective. Don't have time to do the topic justice right now though.
I've been a fan for years, in a sense I resemble those remarks :)

NBlob would have you know...

Posted July 30, 2015
Anti sea-Shepard lit is very very interesting. X% Anti-Green Y% Pro-whaling Z% I didn't buy into the cult of Paul Watson. I have a different take. He's playing Big Boy's Games in very serious waters. Without due regard for the people & situation. He (allegedly) acts as an admiral, in the turtleneck of a volunteer, democratic, process. The loss of the Andy Gil was unacceptable & not entirely the Japanese fault. There's a very good reason one uses tugs when in proximity.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 30, 2015
I really agree. Still, they are out there doing stuff proper governments should be doing. The bad stuff isn't unambiguously bad, though I accept some things are serious, and there's some very good stuff.
Look any ship-to-ship dealing in the Southern Ocean is feakishly insane. But the whalers shouldn't be there. That doesn't justify everything you might try doing to stop them, but I'm prepared give the Sea Shepherds a lot of benefit of the doubt.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted July 30, 2015

Pick an issue that you feel Very strongly about. Whaling, deforestation, Coal Seam Gas, whatever. Just how much "unorthodox" action would you consider appropriate? Would you implement a Shoot-To-Kill policy to protect the last 4 Northern White Rhino from Ivory poachers?

Even if the volunteers are more than willing to lay down their lives for the whales, (I believe) the leaders of that organisation bear a responsibility to not put them into a situation where that is an option.

Rumours circulate that the Andy Gil was short fuelled and provisioned, as if she was never expected to make it back. Other rumours suggest she had significant cracking in 2 bulkheads documented before her last voyage. She wasn't built to last, she was built for fast. Would it be unreasonable to conclude she was always meant to be run down by the Nishan Maru? Remarkable coincidence they had 3 camera coverage of the incident. If it ever comes out that this was the plan Cap'n Paul should be fkn keelhauled for putting crew in that position.

Just my humble opinion.


damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 30, 2015
Knowing something of Watson's history, you certainly can't put that past him. I'd doubt it was a concrete plan from the outset, but certainly a possible tactical contingency or something. The captain blamed Watson (and the namesake owner sued him) for not salvaging it (he'd have had to break off the chase, after all).

Look we're all on a roller coaster maintained by madmen. It's extraordinary we've avoided fiery oblivion for so long. The changes to ocean temperature and acidity in coming decades will most likely be a greater challenge to all marine life than mechanised predation. I don't have kids, and sometimes feel sorry for those who do for much these reasons.

I'm often struck by the contrast between the whaling crew on the ship that held a couple of Sea Shepherd boarders in detention for several weeks a few years back now - who thought they could show the protesters how they were normal, gentle people just doing their work and that this would change their minds - with an old bugger at the Taiji dolphin drive who was bothered enough by some westerner filming to spend hours just shouting incomprehensibly at him, taking photos of the cameraman himself. There are multiple collisions of world views, nothing is homogenous, everyone's perspective has to be evaluated on its own merits.

So while I think of Watson as morally disconnected and chaotic, I still like the organisation he started and many of the people making it work. That Hammerstedt chap seems pretty grounded (not the first time the name has come up in a pretty darn impressive context). He's still pretty young... what kind of leader do you think he'll make when he's Watson's age?

Rhino has opinions thus...

Posted July 31, 2015
NBob, " Would you implement a Shoot-To-Kill policy to protect the last 4 Northern White Rhino from Ivory poachers?"

Now you are talking. All Rhino lives matter.

Sweet Jane Says swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 31, 2015
It should be shoot to kill any hunter in order to protect a species that drops below a healthy population for its natural environment. We have 7 billion people on this planet. Nature has grown weary of humanity.

J.

damian mumbles...

Posted July 31, 2015
Missed responding to this bit:

"Would you implement a Shoot-To-Kill policy to protect the last 4 Northern White Rhino from Ivory poachers?"

<font color="#333333">I would probably prefer more nuanced ROE than that, but ultimately sure, maybe, if it helps. I know this is probably supposed to be an in-principle thing, with the principle being that any human life should outweigh any animal life. I'm not sure about that one. I know if some bugger hurt my dog I'd be pretty keen to make sure he doesn't think about doing it again, right up to eye-for-an-eye-tooth-for-a-tooth stuff. I don't think our legal system should let me, and certainly I agree objectively that I shouldn't, but that has nothing to do with any putative relative value of their lives. Ultimately I don't think an in-principle categorical works for this, in either direction (I'm not a vegetarian for instance). I don't think humans are intrinsically "better" than other animals or that they have some sort of natural right to do whatever they like, but I don't really believe in any kind of "natural" rights, so it just means that whatever actions humans take is among a large set of messy, ethically complex issues that mostly are situationally dependent. </font><font color="#333333">
</font>
Happy to consider calm and reasoned arguments either way, but ultimately it's not that I'm a fence-sitter and I really am not simply indecisive here, I just really don't think the categoricals represent truth. Truth isn't abstract enough to be a categorical.

NBlob reckons...

Posted July 31, 2015

"Truth isn't abstract enough to be categorical." Going to need time to digest that.

My analogy (which SJS happily bumbled into) is; if you are prepared to commit the Most anti-social act IE killing someone to achieve your ends then you are on are morally equal to Daich, Shining Path, Red September, MILF, FARC et al.

Non-state entities are fascinating to me. As flawed as it may be the spectrum of governmental action from Mugabe & Qadaffi to the most "enlightened" democratically elected government, reach decisions through A Process. Tax this, invade them, each Governmental decision is made and acted upon with at least the fig leaf of In The National Interest. I fully admit all of the many flaws of the government process, one of my favourite memes is the curse of the bright young thing. However compare that to Non State Actors; Corporations, Not For Profits, Insurgencies, Havocs Cricket club etc they all make decisions based on a gestalt of a different type.

Hyper-global-mega-corp.PLC return on investment to share holders.

Medicine Sans Frontier wants to end suffering.

Daish wants to establish a right & proper nation state.

Havoc's Cricket club wants to cultivate more financial members & win silverware.

Some of these aims are legitimate, some less so, but How they make decisions fascinates me.

Paul Watson uses, or at least used, the iChing. Fkn.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted July 31, 2015
I'm not happy with the word "truth" there, I just couldn't think of a better one earlier (still can't really). I guess my point is that I think abstract principles will let you down, perhaps not always or even most of the time; but they will let you down. Check the Wikipedia page for the Trolley Problem and the "fat man" variant.
To be clear I think the philosophy problem around can be solved, it's all in the details. My point is that this stuff follows; it doesn't lead - it is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Practical ethics are complex, messy and driven more bt empirical (a posteriori) observation than rational (a priori) principle.

NBlob mutters...

Posted July 31, 2015

To my mind you've just described a key difference between professionals & yahoos.

Professionals look ahead, consider consequences, plan contingencies and weigh ethical considerations before engaging.

Yahoos set a broad mission statement & charge, making it up as they go along.

The latter is acceptable for a fishing weekend with your mates on the Pine River, not so flash when in the southern ocean.

insomniac reckons...

Posted July 31, 2015
Rhino flesh tastes just like bacon, only better

damian mutters...

Posted July 31, 2015
That distinction is appealing, but it falls down a bit for me exactly because science comes into your yahoo category.

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted July 31, 2015
Insomniac - I got yer bacon right here. Come get some.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted August 1, 2015
@ Mr D. Science? Which branch? My understanding of scientific method involved; construct a hypothesis that meet known facts, design experiment to test hypothesis with as few variables as possible, conduct experiment, peer- reviewed publish, others redo experiment to confirm / knockdown hypothesis. Rinse & repeat.

damian reckons...

Posted August 1, 2015
Just a placeholder - IOU a coherent response to this thread, had too busy a week and in fact too busy a Saturday, to do so now. I've had a couple of goes, but the cognac is fighting against the coherence thing. On the plus side, I seem to be winning at community building and I'm pretty happy about that (cue champagne AND cognac).

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted August 1, 2015
No huhu comrade I aapear to have been waylaid by Miss Margarita and her jolly fried cider in pints.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 2, 2015
Hmm, sobriety fail.

damian reckons...

Posted August 2, 2015
Doug's Seafood Cafe in Sandgate does a lovely bacon and egg sandwich, which is my personal favorite next day cure. Must have been all the Stellas between the champagne and cognac.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted July 30, 2015

The story is a great example of long form journalism which I feared was disappearing, glad to see it in the NYT and not some blog. (no offence JB). Really gripping read. Makes me missrecall the Mencken quote "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag and begin hunting pirates". (sic)

I wonder about some of the details "In March, the Thunder was stripped of its registration by Nigeria and became officially stateless, which meant that marine authorities from any country could board and arrest its crew" is this true? or is it more a its the law since who ever can enforce it makes the law.

Have to ask why anyone would pay money for Chilean sea bass when it is possibly sourced by the likes of ships like the Thunder.

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted July 30, 2015
A: because people don't care. They still believe the ocean is some magic puddin of bottomless resource. B: because it is often labelled as other than CSB.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted July 30, 2015
Surely the $$$ price tag must prompt questions about its origin?

NBlob mumbles...

Posted July 30, 2015
Deep long lining is actually a pretty cheap way to fish, the product is a firm white flesh, low in oil, high recovery rate. Exactly what people want. It's unfortunate for the poor old Patagonian tooth fish that they are slow growing, late maturing and live in (relatively) easily found & targeted shoals. If they were from the North Atlantic they'd have been fished to extinction 40 years ago.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted July 31, 2015
1st sentence should have included Deep Water fish trawl & Danish seine netting.

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GhostSwirv asserts...

Posted July 30, 2015

Gripping read JB, just with your grab from the article - no time right now to get into the full story, will do later, but I was struck by the visceral feel of the environment the ships were in ... Shadowlands with icebergs as big as tall buildings.

Would make a great film ... like a cross between

GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted July 30, 2015

Ummm, don't know what happened there ... however the story of the two ships stalking each other reads like a cross between The Perfect Storm and The Bedford Incident.

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Sweet Jane Says would have you know...

Posted July 30, 2015
The Sea Shepherds broke from Greenpeace to take a more active and involved approach to environmentalism. The Shepherds are what Green Peace once was. I cheer for them during each of their dangerous voyages. They are true rainbow warriors and I'm glad their efforts are made public on the nature channels and in print. It would strengthen the group if more people were like Bob Barker and donated to the cause of conservation. Their names would truly live-on for the causes that these mostly young crews undertake.

J.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted July 31, 2015

True Rainbow Warriors?

Self aggrandising Media whores.

Greenpeace, an organisation I have other difficulties with, at least has a No Harm, passive resistance policy. Watson & crew have no such policy. They charge about, with no clue, only being seen to be protecting the cutsey Disney-eyed critters. "Whale Wars" was not a documentary, it was as confected as any prime time sitcom.

Heyzeus Christos this chaps my butt.

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Halwes mutters...

Posted July 30, 2015
I've spent many years on the water in many locations around Australia and I reckon the ocean might be nearly ratshit. The fish volumes due to factory ships and trawling are way down where I am. You can get a feed still but it's much harder than 20 years ago. An analysis of the beach sand in this country must surely show high levels of plastic. The gulf flow brings us tonnes of plastic and ghost nets from Asia every year. The beaches at Cape Arnhem are covered with plastic bottles with Asian writing on them, millions of old thongs and medical waste. If you then take into account the acidification projections I think we've stuffed it.

Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted July 30, 2015
I think you'll find Sea Sick paints grim picture. Good news everybody, we are alright and kids probably as well after us. At some point soon there after there will be no recovery.
http://alannamitchell.com/books/

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted July 30, 2015
Am liking the dazzle camo on the Barker. Shades of WWII corvette there.

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted July 31, 2015
I'm surprised someone hasn't "disappeared" them at sea yet.

Sweet Jane Says mutters...

Posted July 31, 2015
Wiki-up The Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand. It caused a global backlash against France and mourning around the world for the sleeping victims. When people disappear they sometimes continue to exist as martyrs. Environmentalists will quickly need to choose the path of the revolutionary or insurgent in the next two decades.

NBlob mutters...

Posted July 31, 2015

Pfft Global Backlash. nuthin nowhere. Nice histerical revisionism. Show me where France suffered anything more serious that a stern Tutt tutting ? exports-unaffected, no sanctions, not even a UN condemnation.

The hero of that story was the NZ beat cop. Not the lentil-munchers who didn't even post a watch. Poor seamanship will always result in "terrible & unforseen tragedies."

Rhino mutters...

Posted July 31, 2015
Jane - is that before or after the population bomb apocalypse postulated in the 60's? Or maybe the global cooling apocalypse postulated in the 70's?
Why is it always "20 years out"?
Oh, wait, I know. It's the BOOGEMAN!

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 1, 2015
Forgive Mr Rhino sir, but your politics may be veiling your knowledge. The Club of Rome remarkably accurately forecast population growth & more importantly shifts in consumption, what they didn't forecast was the rapid uptake of synthetic nitrogenous fertilisers, broad scale (& problematic) use of fungicides & herbicides, which resulted in a (one time only) many-fold increase in Agri-production, which to date has semi kept up with pop growth. Ditto oil production, the conclusion to the report said " We're screwed unless remarkable new fields are located & radical developments in extraction technology are made." In the following 20 years due to advances in geoscience we/they detected considerable new resources & they doubled the depth & horizontal drilling techniques which accessed previously unobtainable oil + refining technology increased yield, or more accurately decreased waste. Saying they got it wrong is a bit like criticising a coach for playing the wrong quarterback, on Monday morning after the game results are in.n

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted July 31, 2015
Oh, and I always love it when there is a call to action to be "rebels and insurgents" by people that don't/won't own guns.
You could do what my football line coach would say after an ineffectual block, "Whattya gonna do, hit em wit your purse?"
About as effective.

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