It was a wild idea but Captain Peter Bethune was insistent that he could pull it off.
How do you board a high speed whaling ship in total darkness in the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean?
And why would you want to do so?
The why was easy. The Shonan Maru #2 had deliberately rammed and destroyed Captain Bethune's ship Ady Gil on January 6th and almost killed six Sea Shepherd crewmembers.
There is no example in recent maritime history of a ship being rammed and sunk without any repercussions to the offending vessel.
Peter Bethune felt that he needed to board the Shonan Maru #2 to press his case that the skipper of the Shonan Maru #2 should be charged with the sinking of the Ady Gil and with attempted murder. Under New Zealand law, a New Zealand citizen is empowered to undertake a citizens arrest.
The how part was more difficult and in the opinion of some Sea Shepherd crew, it was impossible.
But at 0600 Hours (Perth time) this morning Captain Peter Bethune undertook the impossible mission and he succeeded.
Captain Bethune left the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin on a Jet Ski driven by Larry Routledge of Great Britain.
The Jet ski lay in wait for the Shonan Maru #2 to approach. With the Japanese vessel making 14 knots through the water, Larry Routledge maneuvered the jet ski into position under the anti-boarding spikes along the port side of the Shonan Maru #2.
Captain Bethune made the jump. He slipped and fell into the sea and was twirled about in the wake of the whaling ship. The jet ski picked him up for a 2nd attempt. This time he succeeded and clamored onboard the whaling ship without being noticed. Captain Bethune then calmly walked across the deck up the stairs to the next deck and then up the ladder to the monkey deck above the bridge. He then sat there for an hour and a half undetected as he waited for sunrise so that the Steve Irwin could launch it's helicopter to document his service of notice to the Captain of the Shonan Maru #2.
When the Sea Shepherd helicopter arrived, Captain Bethune calmly knocked on the bridge wing door. A crewmember opened the door and actually tried to shoo him away. When Captain Bethune did not move, the crewmember walked around him and looked over the side to see if there was a boat. Not seeing one, he looked bewildered as he walked past Captain Bethune, opened the door, re-entered the bridge and walked inside and closed the door. Captain Bethune then opened the door and entered the wheelhouse.
All communications with Captain Bethune ended at this point. The Shonan Maru #2 did respond to a Steve Irwin request to acknowledge if Pete Bethune was on board. They acknowledged that he was. There has been no communication since.
The Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker continue to pursue the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru eastward across the Southern Ocean. The ships are presently due south of Australia's Heard Island.
This incident occurred on Day 70 of Sea Shepherd's Operation Waltzing Matilda, which began when the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin departed from Fremantle on December 7th, 2009.