Earthrace: the new weapon against whaling
Once famous as the fastest powerboat to circumnavigate the globe, the Earthrace has been transformed into a marine conservation warrior.
Anti-whaling is a new line of work for skipper Pete Bethune and he knows lives could be lost.
“We're not going down there to throw stink bombs, we're going down there to disrupt Japanese whalers and there will certainly be some risks involved and hopefully we will come back in one piece,” says Bethune.
The strategies Earthrace will use to fight the whalers are being kept a secret, but the crew says it won't be used as a confrontational vessel like the Steve Irwin, but as more of a secret weapon.
“It will make us a lot more flexible so the strategic options open quite a bit to have a second vessel there,” says Bill Watson of Sea Shepherd.
And while the boat isn't harpoon-proof - it has been strengthened with half a tonne of Kevlar to protect it from ice.
The black paint on the boat is part carbon and makes the vessel virtually invisible to other ships radar systems - allowing the crew to ‘sneak’ up on the Japanese.
Use of the powerboat means for the first time the conservation group will be able to keep up with the harpoon hunters.
“They will find it very hard to shoot the whales in the first place and they'll find it very hard to bring them in their vessels,” said Bethune.
Six volunteers will crew the mission to Antarctica, expecting seas up to 12 metres high as well the whalers' fury.
Watson says they are determined this will be the first year the Japanese will see a financial loss from whaling in Antarctica.
“What we want to do is make as much as an economic dent as we can and if we can prevent them from taking any whales - that's what we want to do”.
The Earthrace leaves for the battle zone in December.