Anti-whaling vessel hit, damaged by rogue wave

While fighting heavy seas in pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet, the Sea Shepherd scout vessel Brigitte Bardot was struck by a rogue wave that has cracked the hull and severely damaged one of the pontoons on the vessel, the anti-whaling organization said early today.

Capt. Paul Watson, onboard the Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin, reports that they are fighting heavy seas to reach the position of the Brigitte Bardot some 240 miles to the southeast. It is expected to take twenty hours to reach the damaged vessel.

The Brigitte Bardot is 1,500 miles southwest of Fremantle, Western Australia.

The Brigitte Bardot captain, Jonathan Miles Renecle of South Africa, was pursuing the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru in six-meter swells when the wave slammed into the port side of the vessel cracking the hull. The crack has been getting wider as the seas continue to pound the vessel.

Captain Renecle is confident that the ship will stay afloat until the Steve Irwin arrives, the organization reported. The Brigitte Bardot has a crew of 10: three British, three American, one Australian, one Canadian, one Belgian and one South African.

The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker will continue in pursuit of the whaling fleet. The Steve Irwin will assist the Brigitte Bardot, first to see to the safety of the crew, and then to escort the vessel to Fremantle for repairs.

“This is disappointing but these are hostile seas and we have always been prepared for situations like this,” said Watson from the Steve Irwin. “Right now the safety of my crew on the Brigitte Bardot is our priority and we intend to reach the crew and then do what we can to save our ship.”

Watson is well-known in Costa Rica because of his opposition to shark finners. His encounter at sea with a Costa Rican shark fishing boat is documented in the film “Sharkwater.”

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