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January 09, 2010

Green Pirates in a Seagoing Prius

Once upon a time, there was an alternative fuels (biodiesel) vehicle named Earthrace. She was a 78-foot wave-piercing trimaran made out of carbon fiber. She was created to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat while making an environmental statement. The way-cool vertical fins at the stern are engine air intakes.

After that project, she was seconded to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which could be described as a Green Peace splinter group. She was refitted with Kevlar wrapped around the carbon-fiber hull, and was equipped with speakers capable of 9,000 watts to disrupt whaling operations. She was re-christened Ady Gil, after a Sea Shepherd sponsor. Her mission was to join Sea Shepherd's 2009-2010 anti-whaling effort and physically block the harpooning of whales.

The Japanese whaling fleet was not unprepared. Their company included the Shonan Maru 2, which is described as a "security and utility" vessel. For two days, the Ady Gil had prevented the whaling fleet from taking a single whale. The Ady Gil had announced their intention to ram the stern (disabling the rudder) of any ship that harpooned a whale. Also, the Ady Gil was towing a rope while sailing close to whaling ships in hopes of fouling the propellers. Finally, series of maneuvers culminated in the Shonan Maru2 ramming the Ady Gil. In the photo at right you can see the Ady Gil under the Shonan Maru.

There's always at least two sides to a story. Japan's Cetacean Research Institute, which supports the whaling for research purposes (I guess it's for their own good), claims that their vessel was attacked by the Ady Gil. The Ady Gil was flying a pirate's flag, and had the skull-and-crossbones painted on the hull.

One crewmember of the Ady Gil suffered broken ribs in the collision. The violence was limited to the collision; there was no shooting. Another Sea Shepherd vessel attempted to tow the Ady Gil to port, but the carbon-fiber trimaran was lost enroute.

Here's a video of the ramming, you may want to mute your speakers - language not appropriate for young audiences.

Here we have activists and industry engaging in acts of war on the open ocean. National governments once held a monopoly on the legitimate use of organized violence. What makes this interesting to me is it's another indication of the diminishing hegemony of nation-states.

The true believers in the Sea Shepherd vessels are no different from their fellow travelers in other conflicts who are willing to be martyred for their cause. The industry, with shadow support from government, is the true seat of power.

Finally, it must be said that this represents another round in the geek Pirates vs Ninja internet meme (Pirates=Sea Shepherd, Ninja=Japanese security vessel). (also)


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