Blinded by the spray from fire hoses, Australian Greenpeace protester Mikey Rosato clings to a dead whale harpooned by Japanese whalers.
As Japan slammed the actions of protesters as “piracy” and demanded they stop interrupting its Southern Ocean hunt, Mr Rosato, originally from Adelaide, yesterday gave a graphic first-hand account of the whalers at work.
For more than three hours on Thursday, Mr Rosato and another protester followed a harpoon boat as it hunted a pod of three whales through pack ice in Australia’s territorial Antarctic waters.
He had earlier watched hunters harpoon a minke whale. It was wounded but not killed by the explosive projectile and the Japanese eventually shot it twice with a rifle to end its misery.
Mr Rosato said that when a second whale was harpooned just 10m from his high-speed inflatable boat, he had leapt on to the mammal in a bid to comfort it.
“I also wanted to show the crew of that hunting ship that I’m not afraid of their harpoons or their hoses,” he said, from on board the Greenpeace boat Arctic Sunrise.
Mr Rosato said his actions had surprised the whalers at first, but they soon reacted, using hoses and steel cables to try to dislodge him.
“I had a fire hose in my face and they dropped some wire cables down on me again and again,” he said.
Luck gave the protester an escape route when a small iceberg floated by and Mr Rosato jumped on to it.
“When I stepped off, (the harpoon boat crew) were all laughing and they had a look of cockiness and smugness, as if they were saying ‘we won, we killed the whale’,” he said.
The 33-year-old said he had no ill feeling towards the men crewing the boats.
But, he said, their actions were “brutal”.
Japan aims to kill 935 minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales this season under it what it calls a research program.