Dolphin defenders have a close call while in Iwate monitoring port activity

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:


IWATE–Save Japan Dolphins founder Ric O’Barry and Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson spent two frantic
days trying to reach six missing volunteers.
“Brian Barnes, one of our volunteers,”
O’Barry told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “was monitoring the Dall’s porpoise
hunts in Iwate Prefecture, near the epicenter of the quake. He was
with Sea Shepherd volunteers Scott West, Mike Vos, Tarah Millen,
Carisa Webster, and Marley Daviduk.”

Reported West, when the six were finally able to connect
with O’Barry and Watson on March 13, “The day started out as normal
as can be when you are working on exposing and stopping the largest
cetacean slaughter on the planet. The six of us headed into town to
check to see if any of the harpoon boats had gone out in the windy
conditions. Two had.”
West knew immediately that the earthquake was unusually
strong. “I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a number of
years. This was like nothing I have ever experienced,” West said.
“The vehicles were hopping around and it was difficult to stand. I
suggested we leave and no one needed coaxing. The police, who had
taken up a post at the only place we could pass, were frantically
motioning for everyone to get through the gates in the tsunami wall.
We knew about a small road that hugs the coast heading south out of
town, from which we can see the porpoise processing area. We went
there,” West continued. “It was not long before the water drained
from the harbor and then rapidly rose right up to inundate all of
the areas on the water side of the wall. It drained again, this
time almost down to the mud. Then the returning water pushed past,
rose even faster, and topped the wall. It kept rising up the
hillsides, filling the valleys and crevices beyond. Several times
this happened and all the while aftershocks were happening.”
Summarized O’Barry, “They watched in horror as the tides
receded and then came back with such velocity that the city was
submerged. When it ended, they descended into absolute turmoil. By
all accounts, it was apocalyptic. At one point they spent hours
trying to save a woman they were never able to reach. Floating on a
piece of debris in the harbor, she was too far out and they didn’t
have rope or any other equipment. The two teams then ‘borrowed’ an
abandoned fire truck, called for authorities and used the loud
speaker to call out to boats in the distance. At one point, two
boats came close, but then abandoned the effort. She floated off,
out of sight. We pray one of the boats found her. It was impossible
to drive, so the teams opted to walk to Tono, roughly 30 miles away.
Locals, in the midst of their own nightmares, went out of their way
to help, offering food, shelter, and complete compassion.”
Agreed West, “I cannot begin to describe the amount of
kindness and generosity shown to us this day. It confirms my beliefs
that Japanese people are warm and kind. The activities of the
dolphin molesters in Taiji and the porpoise molesters of Iwate are
aberrations and absolutely not the rule.
“Speaking of Taiji,” West said, “we learned today that the
tsunami hit there too. The fishing boats took to sea to ride out the
wave. No thought was given to the dolphins trapped in pens in the
harbor. Six times the water receded and returned, but did not flood
the town. Six times, the captive dolphins were smashed against the
rocks. At least 24 dolphins perished.”
The Thoku Chih earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster
hit while the Japanese whaling fleet was en route back to port in the
Miyagi area, after ending the Antarctic “research” whaling season
early because of Sea Shepherd pursuit.
“Due to the whalers’ early retreat,” blogged Watson, “the
Japanese Nisshin Maru factory ship arrived in Tokyo Bay a month
earlier than normal, on March 21. Japanese authorities immediately
commandeered the ship to deliver aid to northern Japan. The Nisshin
Maru will be taking kerosene, charcoal, instant noodles, rice,
and other supplies to the northern coastal communities hit hardest by
the tsunami. Bringing aid and comfort to the victims of this
disaster is a far more positive role for the Nisshin Maru than
slaughtering whales in the Southern Ocean, which is where the fleet
would still be if not for the Sea Shepherds.”

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