Tag Archives: Antarctic

Bainbridge mom proud of her anti-whaling efforts

Izumi Stephens, the Bainbridge Island woman who traveled to the Antarctic to defend whales against Japanese whalers, has ridden an emotional roller-coaster during her first 40 days at sea.

Izumi Stephens

One thing Izumi has learned is that the sight of a humpback whale can lift her spirits, she told me today by satellite phone from the Southern Ocean.

A native of Japan, this single mom signed on with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a translator. She is serving aboard the Steve Irwin, which is part of a three-vessel anti-whaling fleet in pursuit of four Japanese whaling ships. (Check out previous descriptions of Izumi in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 31 and Water Ways Nov. 1.)

The Steve Irwin left Hobart, Australia, on Dec. 2. Izumi was at sea about three weeks — having survived a bout of severe sea sickness as well as homesickness — when she spotted a massive humpback whale off the side of the ship.

“Before I saw a whale, I was desperately wanting to see my daughter and go back home, and I wanted to touch my dogs,” she told me. “Then I saw a whale, and I think my determination and motivation and everything caught up with me.”

She still misses her children, her friends and her community, she says, but seeing that first whale reminded her why she had joined the battle in the first place.

“I’m doing this for the whales and our future and our community,” she told me, “and I’m so proud.”

Spending weeks at sea is an experience like nothing she has ever faced before, Izumi said. She takes her turn at mopping floors, washing dishes and cleaning toilets. She has used her language skills on only a few occasions — mostly to speak to Japanese reporters covering the story and updating Sea Shepherd’s new Japanese-language website.

Watching whales swimming in the ocean has brought real meaning to the anti-whaling campaign, she said. A day or two after that first sighting, Sea Shepherd faced its first encounter with the Japanese whaling fleet.
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Passion for whales links woman to Sea Shepherd

A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Izumi Stephens

A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.

If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet, often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front, behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.

Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar attacks.

Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson frequently returns to this region.
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Amusing Monday: Google goes beyond the streets

Last week, Google announced a new “Street View” from Antarctica, a seemingly remote and desolate place. Is there nowhere left to hide?

Two new Street Views allow you a glimpse of a colony of penguins as well as a scenic vista of Half Moon Island, one of the Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean.

Penguins on Half Moon Island, from Google Street View

Now, Street View images are available on all seven continents, bragged Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering for Google Earth and Maps.

Several bloggers were quick to point out that Antarctica has no streets to view, so the name is completely out of context.
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Massive Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctic continues to break up

Icebergs have begun to “calve” from the northern section of the Wilkins ice shelf in the Antarctic, indicating that the massive chunk of ice has become unstable, the European Space Agency is reporting today. (Go to ESA News.)

<i>The demise of an ice bridge that connected Charcot and Latady Islands has destabilized the front of the Wilkins ice shelf. The margins of the collapsed ice bridge are shown in white.</i><br><small>Satellite image courtesy of ESA</small>
The demise of an ice bridge that connected Charcot and Latady Islands has destabilized the front of the Wilkins ice shelf. The margins of the collapsed ice bridge are shown in white. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Satellite photo courtesy of ESA

Three weeks ago, a connecting ice bridge collapsed between the Antarctic mainland and Charcot Island. As a result of that collapse, rifts have widened and new cracks have formed.

“The retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind,” David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey said in the new release. “Eight separate ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have shown signs of retreat over the last few decades. There is little doubt that these changes are the result of atmospheric warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been the most rapid in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Dr Angelika Humbert of the Institute of Geophysics at Münster University said the future of the ice remains uncertain.

“We are not sure if a new stable ice front will now form between Latady Island, Petrie Ice Rises and Dorsey Island,” she said. “If the connection to Latady Island is lost, the projected loss of 3,370 square kilometers of ice might be greater — though we have no indication that this will happen in the near future.”

Reuters reports on the story.

Meanwhile, in another Reuters story, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted as saying tourism must be limited to protect the fragile Antarctic region.

“We have submitted a resolution that would place limits on landings from ships carrying large number of tourists,” she said at a joint session of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council. “We have also proposed new requirements for lifeboats on tour ships to make sure they can keep passengers alive until rescue comes.”

She continued, “With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins ice shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet, and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis.”