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Antarctica, 2008 News Archives
Her power and beauty is nature in its purest state...

Latest Antarctic News | Important Disclaimer

This section will host some of the important news about Antarctica and will come from many of the online news services and RSS news feeds. This is just a sampling and will not include every news breaking event. If our readers find articles they feel should be listed here, please email us the URL of the news headline and we will consider posting it here.

Cruise ship strikes ice, stranded on Antarctic coast
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- A cruise ship carrying 122 people was stranded Thursday on the coast of Antarctica after striking ice, officials said.

Mariano Memolli of the Argentina Antarctic Directorate told Argentina's TodoNoticias (TN) Television a naval boat and plane were dispatched to evacuate the passengers of the Ushuaia as a precaution.

The ship, carrying 89 passengers and 33 crew members, was losing fuel and taking on water but was not in danger of sinking, Television C5N reported.

Adm. Daniel Martin, head of the naval base in Ushuaia, Argentina, where a call for help was received from the ship, said the passengers were "in a perfect state of health," and were awaiting the arrival of the Atlantic Dream, a nearby cruise ship, C5N said.

"The weather conditions are not the best" where the ship is, he said. "There are regular winds in the zone with violent gusts." But he said the ship is protected because it is in a strait, and the weather would not affect the arrival of the rescue plane.

The Panamanian-flagged Ushuaia was located about 186 miles (300 kilometers) southwest of Argentina's Marambio naval base in Antarctica.

Source: CNN, Updated 5:54 p.m. EST, Thu December 4, 2008

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New rifts form on Antarctic ice shelf
(CNN) -- Scientists have identified new rifts on an Antarctic ice shelf that could lead to it breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula, the European Space Agency said.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf, a large sheet of floating ice south of South America, is connected to two Antarctic islands by a strip of ice. That ice "bridge" has lost about 2,000 square kilometers (about 772 square miles) this year, the ESA said.

A satellite image captured November 26 shows new rifts on the ice shelf that make it dangerously close to breaking away from the strip of ice -- and the islands to which it's connected, the ESA said.

Scientists first spotted rifts in the ice shelf in late February, and they noticed further deterioration the following week. The period marks the end of the South Pole summer and is the time when such events are most likely, said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Before the new rifts were spotted this week, the last cracks were noticed July 21.

"These new rifts, which have joined previously existing rifts on the ice shelf, threaten to break up the chunk of ice located beneath the 21 July date, which would cause the bridge to lose its stabilization and collapse," said Angelika Humbert, a scientist from Germany's Muenster University who spotted the cracks with Matthias Braun of the University of Bonn.

Wilkins is the size of the state of Connecticut or about half the area of Scotland. It is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened.

If the ice shelf breaks away from the peninsula, it will not cause a rise in sea level, because it is already floating, scientists say.

Scambos said the ice shelf is not on the path of the increasingly popular tourist ships that travel from South America to Antarctica. But some plants and animals may have to adapt to the collapse.

The ice shelf had been stable for most of the past century before it began retreating in the 1990s.

Several ice shelves -- Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and Jones -- have collapsed in the past three decades, the British Antarctic Survey said.

Scientists say the western Antarctic peninsula -- the piece of the continent that stretches toward South America -- has warmed more than any other place on Earth over the past 50 years, rising by 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Source: CNN, Updated 6:09 a.m. EST, Sat November 29, 2008


Data pins polar warming blame on humans
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Scientists think they have uncovered conclusive proof that human activity is responsible for rising temperatures in both polar regions.

Research carried out at the Climatic Research Unit at the UK's University of East Anglia (UEA) demonstrates for the first time that anthropogenic climate change is responsible for warming at the Arctic and Antarctic.

Previous studies have observed rises in temperature at both poles, but none, until now, have formally attributed the cause to human activity.

Using up-to-date gridded data sets, scientists led by the UEA observed mean land surface temperatures in the Arctic over a 100 year period. For the Antarctic the observation period was shorter -- 50 years -- as there is no station data available before 1945.

They then applied an average simulated response using two models. The first examined natural forcings -- events like solar cycles and volcanic activity which can affect temperatures.

The second model simulated natural combined with anthropogenic forcings -- which included greenhouse gases, stratospheric ozone depletion and sulphate aerosol.

Scientists discovered that the observed changes in Arctic and Antarctic temperatures are not consistent with internal climate variability or natural climate drivers alone.

One of the report authors, Dr Alexey Karpechko told CNN: "In both cases the accelerations are not consistent with natural forcing, which means that natural forcing alone cannot produce such a warming. So in a sense, we can say conclusively that this [warming trend at the poles] is due to human influence."

The paper "Attribution of polar warming to human influence" is published in the science journal Nature Geoscience.

The Antarctic data is of particular interest given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 notes that anthropogenic climate change had been detected in every continent except Antarctica.

This new data appears to demonstrate that man-made warming is indeed happening on the continent as well.

The report may go some way towards silencing climate skeptics who point to evidence that most of Antarctica has been cooling for some time.

"There is strong warming in the Antarctic peninsula," Karpechko said. "But for several decades there has been a slight cooling of the rest of the continent. This slight cooling is due to circulation changes which are partly caused by ozone depletion.

"This is why there has been a bit of confusion as to what is happening in Antarctica. But we expect a recovery of the ozone layer in the future. We may also expect that the Antarctic warming trends will emerge more clearly."

Commenting on the study conducted by the UEA, Professor David Vaughan, a Glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey told CNN: "This is exactly the sort of study we need. The poles are extremely important in the climate change debate and the rapid warming in the Arctic is one of the icons."

Professor Vaughan, who is studying the patches of warming happening in Antarctica, concedes that the cooling that's occurred in the past 30 to 50 years is "a little perplexing". But he agrees with Dr Karpechko over the effects of the ozone hole.

"The likelihood is that over the next century the ozone hole will be substantially reduced," Professor Vaughan said, "And it may mean that the Antarctic warming becomes much more apparent in that period."

Climate modeling might not convince everyone that warming is taking place, but as Professor Vaughan points out: "Simulations are built around physical principles and an understanding of the physical world".

Climate modeling is a relatively new area of expertise but Professor Vaughan said that the UEA is widely recognized as one of the world leaders in this field.

As previous IPCC reports have pointed out, the effects of warming at the poles are already being felt by indigenous polar species and communities. This new report is confirmation of the culpability of humans in contributing to these rising temperatures.

"I'm afraid that there will always be people that don't believe that we are making all these changes," Dr Karpechko said.

"Some people are waiting for the science to say that a particular heat wave is caused by humans. But attributing specific effects to human activities is much more difficult than attributing global changes. I don't know if we should wait for that because it will be too late.

"I see from the data that there is warming. This is really frightening."

Source: CNN, Updated 4:13 p.m. EDT, Thu October 30, 2008


Antarctic flights could help reveal what drives climate change
(CNN) -- A team of scientists will use a World War II-era plane to explore one of the last uncharted regions of Earth, in hopes of learning more about climate change.

The four-year effort, which kicks off in December, aims to unveil what lies beneath the thick Antarctic ice sheet known as the Aurora and Wilkes Subglacial Basins -- an area about half the size of the United States.

Martin Siegert of Edinburgh University in Scotland says the basins are home to mountains, valleys and lakes covered in ice that is rapidly melting into the ocean.

"The satellite observations tell us the ice is losing mass at this moment, and we really do need to understand that," Siegert said. "We need to comprehend why the ice sheet is responding in this way."

Siegert will be joined on the expedition by colleagues from the University of Texas at Austin and the Australian Antarctic Division.

According to the University of Texas, Antarctic ice cores have revealed aspects of the Earth's climate dating back 800,000 years.

About 1 million years ago, research shows, the Earth's climate changed in a way that caused ice ages to come and go more rapidly than before. Scientists have long wondered what caused the shift.

The Australian researchers plan to search for sites to drill new ice cores to reveal data older than 1 million years. The chemistry of the ice may help the researchers understand the climate.

The researchers will take three sets of flights out of Australia's Casey Station in an upgraded Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

Though Casey Station belongs to Australia, it is on the Windmill Islands and is "perched on the edge of the massive Antarctic ice cap," according to the Australian Antarctic Division. Casey is 2,410 miles (3,880 kilometers) due south of Perth, southwest Australia.

The team chose the DC-3 because it offers greater fuel efficiency than heavy cargo planes and better range than lighter planes.

The DC-3 first hit the skies in 1935 and is credited with making passenger airlines profitable. Its military version, the C-47, also proved useful in transporting troops and cargo during World War II, according to Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

"We're getting much more science done with less oil using this old airframe with modern engines," said Don Blankenship, a research scientist at the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics.

Added Siegert, "This is quite a robust aircraft. It's been used in Antarctica quite often."

Previous attempts to research the area covered only about 40 percent of the ice sheet. Those efforts stopped in the 1970s, Siegert said.

"I guess everyone thought we'd return one day," he said. "I don't think anybody realized it would take us 30 years."

The research can resume now, he said, because the Australians built an airstrip near Casey that they can use for the project, he said.

As they fly over the area, the researchers will use high-resolution radar and other instruments to measure the thickness of the ice and the composition, density and texture of the rocks beneath it.

In addition to helping researchers analyze past climate change, the project will also help them forecast sea level changes.

"The data that we collect should provide a lot more detail of what caused past climate shifts, why there appears to be more ice loss from glaciers at present, and give us real clues to what may happen in the coming decades," Siegert said.

It will take three Antarctic summers to chart the areas, beginning in December with the eastern section. The eastern area is believed to have the thickest ice on the continent -- perhaps up to 3 miles thick.

The next flights will be in 2009-2010 and in 2010-2011.

Funding for the project comes from Britain's Natural Environmental Research Council, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Australian Antarctic Division and UT-Austin.

Source: CNN, Updated 3:24 p.m. EDT, Wed October 29, 2008


Climate changing 'faster, stronger, sooner'
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted according to a new World Wildlife Fund report.

Bringing together some of the most recent scientific reports and data, "Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner" reveals that global warming is accelerating more rapidly than the predictions made in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.

One of the most concerning aspects of recent data is evidence that, in some places, the Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice 30 years ahead of current IPCC predictions.

Summer sea ice is now forecasted to completely disappear in the summer months sometime between 2013 and 2040 -- something which hasn't happened for over a million years.

The report's author, geoscientist Dr Tina Tin told CNN: "Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than everybody had been expecting. Why? Well, maybe it's because the positive feedback mechanisms have kicked in much quicker than we have been able to quantify."

Positive feedback mechanisms amplify changes occurring in the climate. In the case of the Arctic region there is a sort of vicious circle of warming occurring. White ice sheets perform an important function in moderating global temperature by reflecting heat from the sun back into space. But they have begun to melt as the earth has warmed. The result is more dark sea water which absorbs heat, which in turn warms the earth more and encourages further melting.

Globally, sea levels are now expected to rise more than double the IPCC's most recent forecast of 0.59 meters before the end of the century. This will put millions of people in coastal regions at risk.

World food production is also feeling the heat as yields of wheat, maize and barley had dwindled in recent months.

In Europe, ecosystems in the North and Baltic Sea are believed to be experiencing their warmest temperatures since records began. And the Mediterranean is likely to experience an increased frequency of droughts.

The WWF report also highlights a 2007 study conducted by the British Antarctic Survey. "Widespread acceleration of tidewater glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula" concluded that floating tide-water glaciers on the peninsula are losing ice faster and making a greater contribution to global sea level rise than was previously thought.

Earlier this month, the WWF highlighted the impact that global warming is likely to have on Antarctic penguin colonies.

According to Dr Tin, more Antarctic data is due to be published next year when the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research publish their findings.

Scheduled for release in spring 2009 the "Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment" is expected to reveal more evidence of damaging climate effects on the continent.

While Dr Tin says that it is true that parts of the Antarctic are not warming or perhaps even cooling, the Western Antarctic Peninsula has experienced some of the most rapid increases in warming.

"Over the past 50 years, it has warmed more than four times faster than the average rate of Earth's overall warming," Dr Tin said.

But Dr Tin remains unsure whether this most recent climate data represents the beginning of a tipping point. "We think there are possibly tipping points ahead and some scientists, in terms of the Arctic sea ice, think we have probably gone past the tipping point. But it's very difficult to get a strong handle on," she said.

Nevertheless, she describes her report as a "sobering overview" which "comes at a critical time during the political negotiations of the European Union's climate and energy package".

Newly elected Vice Chair of the IPCC and climate scientist, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele endorsed the WWF publication. "It is clear that climate change is already having a greater impact than most scientists had anticipated, so it's vital that international mitigation and adaptation responses become swifter and more ambitious," van Ypersele said.

Source: CNN, Updated 12:55 p.m. EDT, Mon October 20, 2008


Ozone hole grows in 2008
(CNN) -- The ozone hole over Antarctica in 2008 is larger in both size and ozone loss than last year, but not as large as in 2006, the European Space Agency said Tuesday.

The hole is a thinning area in the ozone layer over Antarctica and the size of the hole varies every year depending on weather conditions.

This year, the size of the thinned area reached about 27 million square kilometers (10.4 million square miles), compared to 25 million square kilometers (9.65 million square miles) in 2007.

In 2006, the hole was a record 29 million square kilometers (11.2 million square miles), larger than North America, the ESA said.

The ESA announced its results based on information from German and Dutch researchers who analyzed satellite data.

Depletion of ozone is caused by extreme cold temperatures at high altitude and the presence of ozone-destroying gases, such as chlorine and bromine, in the atmosphere, the ESA said.

Those gases originate from man-made products like chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were phased out under a global agreement two decades ago but continue to linger in the atmosphere.

Ozone is a protective atmospheric layer found at an altitude of about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles).

It acts as a sunlight filter, shielding life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays that put humans at greater risk of skin cancer and cataracts and harm marine life, the agency said.

Source: CNN, Updated 11:37 a.m. EDT, Tue October 7, 2008

Related Information


Pilot makes first night-goggle Antarctic flight
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A U.S. Air Force pilot has landed a plane in Antarctica in the dark for the first time using night-vision goggles, a feat that could lead to more supply flights to scientific bases in the frozen continent during its dark winter months, officials said Friday.

The C-17 Globemaster cargo airplane landed in a driving snowstorm on the 10-kilometer (six mile) ice runway at the U.S. Antarctic research center at McMurdo Station, after months of practice runs by pilots using the goggles.

The Air Force plane took off from Christchurch, New Zealand, and flew nearly six hours before landing Thursday night. It returned to Christchurch early Friday.

Air Force Lt. Col. Jim McGann said the airplane's own lights -- reflecting off of traffic cones -- allowed it to land without electrical runway lights that are too hard to maintain in the frozen environment. Watch video from the landing

McGann told New Zealand's national radio that the breakthrough flight could mean year-round supply flights for U.S. and New Zealand science bases on the ice.

Traditionally, the onset of the southern hemisphere winter in Antarctica ends flights to the frozen continent for six months as the sun sinks below the horizon.

"At the moment, we make that last trip in February and then don't come back until August," McGann said. "If we can go in and out a couple of times a month, we can go and get people out or drop more people off."

The head of the New Zealand government's Antarctic research body, Lou Sanson, told The Associated Press that the flight was a technological achievement that would allow the U.S. Air Force to operate virtually around-the-clock on the harshest continent on Earth.

"I think the most significant advantage is medical evacuation," he said.

At least three major medical evacuations have been carried out from Antarctic bases in recent years, including an emergency flight for a U.S. doctor at the South Pole who had developed breast cancer.

Sanson said the night-flight breakthrough also opens new opportunities for research.

"If we look ahead 10 years, it may offer important new opportunities for winter science, be it the study of sea life growth or emperor penguins in winter -- it gives the ability to put scientists into there for a short time rather than the whole winter," he said.

Source: CNN, Updated 10:00 p.m. EDT, Fri September 12, 2008


4,500-year-old ice shelf breaks away
TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- A chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic, another dramatic indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier, scientists said Wednesday.

Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario, told The Associated Press that the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf separated in early August and the 19-square-mile shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean.

"The Markham Ice Shelf was a big surprise because it suddenly disappeared. We went under cloud for a bit during our research and when the weather cleared up, all of a sudden there was no more ice shelf. It was a shocking event that underscores the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Muller.

Muller also said that two large sections of ice detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, shrinking that ice feature by 47 square miles -- or 60 percent -- and that the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has also continued to break up, losing an additional eight square miles.

Muller reported last month that seven square miles of the 170-square-mile and 130-feet-thick Ward Hunt shelf had broken off.

This comes on the heels of unusual cracks in a northern Greenland glacier, rapid melting of a southern Greenland glacier, and a near record loss for Arctic sea ice this summer. And earlier this year a 160-square mile chunk of an Antarctic ice shelf disintegrated.

"Reduced sea ice conditions and unusually high air temperatures have facilitated the ice shelf losses this summer," said Luke Copland, director of the Laboratory for Cryospheric Research at the University of Ottawa. "And extensive new cracks across remaining parts of the largest remaining ice shelf, the Ward Hunt, mean that it will continue to disintegrate in the coming years."

Formed by accumulating snow and freezing meltwater, ice shelves are large platforms of thick, ancient sea ice that float on the ocean's surface but are connected to land.

Ellesmere Island was once entirely ringed by a single enormous ice shelf that broke up in the early 1900s. All that is left today are the four much smaller shelves that together cover little more than 299 square miles.

Martin Jeffries of the U.S. National Science Foundation and University of Alaska Fairbanks said in a statement Tuesday that the summer's ice shelf loss is equivalent to over three times the area of Manhattan, totaling 82 square miles -- losses that have reduced Arctic Ocean ice cover to its second-biggest retreat since satellite measurements began 30 years ago.

"These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present," said Muller.

During the last century, when ice shelves would break off, thick sea ice would eventually reform in their place.

"But today, warmer temperatures and a changing climate means there's no hope for regrowth. A scary scenario," said Muller.

The loss of these ice shelves means that rare ecosystems that depend on them are on the brink of extinction, said Warwick Vincent, director of Laval University's Centre for Northern Studies and a researcher in the program ArcticNet.

"The Markham Ice Shelf had half the biomass for the entire Canadian Arctic Ice Shelf ecosystem as a habitat for cold, tolerant microbial life; algae that sit on top of the ice shelf and photosynthesis like plants would. Now that it's disappeared, we're looking at ecosystems on the verge of extinction,' said Muller.

Along with decimating ecosystems, drifting ice shelves and warmer temperatures that will cause further melting ice pose a hazard to populated shipping routes in the Arctic region -- a phenomenon that Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems to welcome.

Harper announced last week that he plans to expand exploration of the region's known oil and mineral deposits, a possibility that has become more evident as a result of melting sea ice. It is the burning of oil and other fossil fuels that scientists say is the chief cause of manmade warming and melting ice.

Harper also said Canada would toughen reporting requirements for ships entering its waters in the Far North, where some of those territorial claims are disputed by the United States and other countries.

Source: CNN, Updated 10:04 p.m. EDT, Wed September 3, 2008


Rare fossil discovered in Antarctic
(CNN) -- A new fossil discovery provides evidence that the Antarctic continent was once much warmer than today and may have been able to sustain life.

The fossils (ostracods) were discovered in the Dry Valleys of the East Antarctic region. They were found in an ancient lake -- 14 million years old -- and are exceptionally well preserved.

Dr. Mark Williams from the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester said: "This is a rare occurrence in the fossil record -- but it is the first of its kind from the whole Antarctic continent.

"The fossils show that there has been a substantial and very intense cooling of the Antarctic climate after this time interval that is important for tracking the development of the Antarctic icesheet -- a key factor in understanding the effects of global warming."

A team of international scientists from the University of Leicester, North Dakota State University, the British Geological Survey, Queen Mary University of London, and Boston University made the discovery. Their findings were published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Source: CNN, Updated 10:50 a.m. EDT, Thu July 24, 2008

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Greenpeace: Japanese ship's crew stole whale meat
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Greenpeace filed a criminal complaint with Japanese prosecutors Thursday, accusing whaling-ship crew members of stealing whale meat from a hunting trip.

The environmental group said "large-scale embezzlement" was allowed as an "open secret" by the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan. The body oversees Japanese whale hunts, which are done in the name of "scientific" research.

The institute has previously accused Greenpeace and other organizations of "harassment" for interfering with Japanese whaling voyages.

The environmental group said that 12 members of a one whaling ship sent out at least 47 boxes of whale meat after they returned to a Tokyo port.

At the press conference, Greenpeace showed one box that it said contained about 52 pounds (23.5 kilograms) of salted whale belly meat worth up to $3,000.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency said that there is a long-standing custom of giving small amounts of whale meat to crew members as a "souvenir." It said it will investigate to determine whether embezzlement is taking place.

Junichi Hoshikawa, the executive director of Greenpeace in Japan, said at a press conference that the embezzlement of whale meat "will hurt Japan's credibility and trust, which is already shaky under so-called 'scientific' research whaling."

In the early 1980s, the International Whaling Commission determined that there should be a moratorium on commercial whale hunting. Whaling is allowed under international law when done for scientific reasons, which Japan cites as the legal basis for its hunts.

The country's annual hunt kills up to 1,000 whales a year. Many in the international community say such hunts amount to needless slaughter. Critics say that Japan's research is actually a pretext for retrieving whale meat to be sold in markets and restaurants.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups have waged a long battle against Japan's whaling activities.

This year's 101-day hunt was dogged by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessels. The Japanese whaling fleet caught 551 minke whales -- more than a third less than its goal of 850.

"This year's mission was disrupted intensively by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, who use violent means for disturbance," Hajime Ishikawa, the head of Japan's whaling mission, said last month.

"Putting aside our own safety, their action put their own lives in danger ... Therefore, we had to stop whaling a total of 31 days."

The Web site for Sea Shepherd, a hardline conservation group, called the operation a "huge success."

Greenpeace also claimed success interfering in the Japanese whale hunt.

"Greenpeace played a significant part in nearly halving the amount of whales killed this season," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan's whales campaigner. "However, 551 whales is still over a hundred more than Japan took three years ago ... This blatantly commercial whale hunt must end immediately."

In March, Japanese whalers and anti-whaling activists clashed in waters near Antarctica.

Sea Shepherd founder Capt. Paul Watson told CNN that two of his crew members were injured when crew members on the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru threw flash grenades aboard his ship, the Steve Irwin.

Watson also said he took a bullet to the chest while wearing a Kevlar vest. "We don't know where that bullet came from," he told CNN.

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, which runs the Japanese whaling ships, denied firing any shots.

"No one shot Paul Watson. His claim that we shot at him and he has the bullet that was stopped by his bullet-proof vest is more fiction for articles by the Australian media," said Minoru Morimoto, the director general of the institute, in a news release on its Web site.

The institute said it threw seven "sound balls," which it described as "harmless" explosive devices, after people aboard the Sea Shepherd threw bottles of butyric acid -- an acid found in rotten butter -- at the Nisshin Maru.

The Japanese Coast Guard had also given "clear and loud warnings to the Sea Shepherd vessel during two passes," the institute said. It did not describe the type of warnings.

The institute said it was "disappointed that more serious means were required today for defending its research vessels in the Antarctic."

The International Whaling Commission will meet in Chile next month to discuss reaching an agreement on whale conservation rules.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Fisheries Agency have lobbied a dozen members of the whaling commission, making their case to officials from Angola, Eritrea, the Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Palau, Micronesia, Cambodia, Laos and Vanuatu.

Source: CNN, updated 9:20 a.m. EDT, Thu May 15, 2008


Anti-whaling groups claim partial victory
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Anti-whaling groups have claimed partial victory in their attempts to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt in Antarctic waters.

Dogged by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessels during the 101-day hunt, the Japanese whaling fleet caught 551 minke whales during its recently completed hunt -- more than a third less than its goal of 850.

"This year's mission was disrupted intensively by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, who use violent means for disturbance," Hajime Ishikawa, the head of Japan's whaling mission, said Tuesday.

"Putting aside our own safety, their action put their own lives in danger ... Therefore, we had to stop whaling a total of 31 days."

The Web site for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a hardline conservation group, called the operation a "huge success," and the proclamation comes ahead of a key International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile this June. The commission is meeting to discuss reaching an agreement on whale conservation rules.

In March, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Fisheries Agency lobbied a dozen members of the whaling commission, making their case to officials from Angola, Eritrea, the Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Palau, Micronesia, Cambodia, Laos and Vanuatu.

Sea Shepherd uses its boats to interfere with whaling and fishing boats, and its efforts have included ramming a Portuguese whaler, the Sierra, in 1979, according to the group's Web site.

In the early 1980s, the International Whaling Commission determined that there should be a moratorium on commercial whale hunting. Whaling is allowed under international law when done for scientific reasons, which Japan cites as the legal basis for its hunts.

The country's annual hunt kills up to 1,000 whales a year -- the fisheries agency insists it wants "sustainable whaling."

Many in the international community -- particularly Australia -- believe that such hunts amount to needless slaughter. Critics say that Japan's research is actually a pretext for retrieving whale meat to be sold in markets and restaurants.

Greenpeace also claimed success interfering in the Japanese whale hunt.

"Greenpeace played a significant part in nearly halving the amount of whales killed this season," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan's whales campaigner. "However, 551 whales is still over a hundred more than Japan took three years ago ... This blatantly commercial whale hunt must end immediately."

The head of Japan's whaling operation promised to press on.

"The biggest achievement of this mission was to complete the mission without giving into the disruption by anti-whaling groups," Ishikawa said.

Source: CNN, updated 4:04 a.m. EDT, Wed April 16, 2008

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Green groups call for Antarctic shipping restrictions
Australia (ABC Online) -- Environmental campaigners are calling for tighter restrictions on shipping around Antarctica in order to prevent damage to its unique ecosystems.

More tourists than ever before are visiting Antarctica and some are in ships not designed for the harsh conditions.

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition is asking the International Maritime Organisation to strengthen its rules.

The Coalition and its allies want ships that use heavy oil and fuel banned from Antarctic waters.

They want to see tighter restrictions on the discharge of sewage and grey water, and a requirement that all vessels entering the region are strengthened to withstand icy conditions.

Source: ABC Online, Posted Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:00pm AEDT


Antarctica’s environmental risks
London, Surrey, UK (asap News) -- There are more and more visitors going to Antarctica, many arriving on cruise ships. A leading expert says that the southern pole continent is facing environmental threats from tourism that operates unchecked.

Aside from environmental factors, there are safety concerns as well. Alan Hemmings, speaking from Wellington, New Zealand, says that the huge cruise ships sailing the Antarctic Sea are at risk, with crews unfamiliar with the conditions making the possibility of an accident possible.

Using the Golden Princess Cruise liner as an example, Hemmings says that if there was an accident, "It just beggars belief that, even if they got these people to shore after a sinking, there would be any way to take care of them all." He also noted that while the 210-metre cruise ship returned without incident, the Golden Princess has no ice protection on its hull. "There are those of us who think this should be absolutely required," he added.

On the environmental side, Hemmings points out the Norwegian cruise ship that spilled 750 litres of diesel fuel into the sea when it ran ashore last February.

Source: asap News, Posted April 4, 2008 by Rosie Vaughan-Jones


Penguins Helped and Hurt by Changing Climate
NPR - USA, by Daniel Zwerdling

Listen Now [7 min 6 sec] -- All Things Considered, March 31, 2008. We take off by helicopter from America's main research base in Antarctica toward Cape Royds, where exactly 100 years ago, in 1908, scientists started studying the local penguin colony. It takes only 20 minutes to get there, but it's one of the most spectacular trips of my life. The Earth is blinding white in every direction. We pass a white wall of mountains off to the left and, on the right, an active volcano with steam curling out of the vent.

Then the helicopter drops us in a small clearing. We climb a snowy ridge, and there at the top are thousands of noisy penguins. They're crowded together on a mound of black volcanic rock, and they're squawking and cooing their hearts out.

These penguins are called Adelies. They look like emperors, which were showcased in the hit movie March of the Penguins. Only Adelies aren't as big — they barely come up to my thighs. Most are milling around; some are flopped on their stomachs on nests which they make out of stones. There are fuzzy chicks that look like toys.

Our guide is David Ainley, one of the most respected penguin researchers in the world. He says he loves studying Adelie penguins, partly because they're so out there. Literally.

"There's no bushes here; they don't dig burrows. They just sit out here in full view and they don't really care if we're around. They have no secrets," Ainley says.

It's surprising to hear him talk this way, because researchers don't usually ascribe human emotions to animals. But when Ainley talks about these penguins, it sounds like he's talking about friends.

"Penguins have no self-doubt," Ainley says, adding sheepishly: "Which I have lots of, for myself."

Ainley has a thick white mane and a white mustache which spreads across his rugged face. He seems more comfortable with penguins than people. He's been studying penguins over the past 40 years, and he says he's still amazed what Adelies can do. As we're chatting, penguins are filing past us like a line of wind-up dolls. They're heading to the sea, a couple hundred yards away, and they're leaping in, headfirst.

"They are good examples of how we all should live. They're the epitome of the word dauntless," Ainley says.

These Adelies dive up to 400 feet, dodging giant ice floes the size of cars which bash around in the surf. Some of the penguins are already coming back, shooting straight out of the water like a circus trick. Ainley says they can leap nine or ten feet, popping out of the water like corks.

Finding Answers

Scientists say penguins are providing some of the first clues of how global warming is changing the planet. And Ainley has come up with evidence by asking very basic questions: Is this penguin colony growing or shrinking? Are the penguins finding plenty of fish to eat or are they hungry? To get the answers, Ainley arms himself with a syringe loaded with tiny computer identification chips. Then he and his colleagues grab a penguin and hoist it like a squirming dog.

"We put them under our arm and hold them tightly. They're extremely strong. They're very aggressive, and they're very territorial," Ainley says. "And they definitely aren't used to being touched ... They don't even want to be touched by another penguin."

Still, the researchers inject a chip in every angry penguin's shoulder. Then they take a computerized scale, which looks like a rubber mat, and they place it on the path so the penguins cross it. This system lets Ainley track all kinds of information. For instance, what time does each penguin go fishing and when does it come back? How much weight does the penguin gain or lose?

An Unpredictable Future

Scientists have been doing similar studies in other parts of Antarctica. They've plotted their findings against the climate. The results are striking. During the past few decades, as climate patterns in some parts of the continent have changed dramatically, Adelies in some regions have almost disappeared. Their numbers have plunged 80 percent. But the Adelies where Ainley does his research are doing better than ever.

"These penguins are definitely being helped by climate change," Ainley says.

Ainley and other researchers think they know why. Most types of penguins go fishing only in open water, so they're all competing with each other to find food. But Adelies catch their fish by diving deep under the ice. In fact, they're just about the only penguin that can physically do that. So, when there's plenty of ice over the sea, Adelies hardly have any competition and they can get all the food they want.

Now the changing climate is shaking things up. In some areas where most of the ice has melted, Adelies can't survive. But Cape Royds used to have too much ice, and now it has just the right amount. So penguins here are doing great.

Ainley says here's the moral: Global warming is making life unpredictable. Early this year, he was studying another penguin colony, and a glacier was melting.

"There were huge rivers running off this glacier, running through the penguin colony, and the rivers were engulfing these penguin nests. And the penguins just kept collecting rocks to try to make their nests bigger, raise them up out of the water. And for many of them, they couldn't collect rocks fast enough. And so their eggs were just washed away," Ainley says.

"I thought it was really unfair, that humans a long way away were oblivious to what they're doing to the Earth, to these penguins' home," he adds, looking over his shoulder at the Adelies waddling by.

Ainley's radio crackles, and we get word that our helicopter is arriving soon. We make our way toward the landing site. But Ainley will return soon — he's coming back to Cape Royds next season, to kick off another hundred years of learning from the penguins.

Source: NPR, Posted March 31, 2008
Produced by Peter Breslow


Massive ice shelf on verge of breakup
(CNN) -- Some 220 square miles of ice has collapsed in Antarctica and an ice shelf about seven times the size of Manhattan is "hanging by a thread," the British Antarctic Survey said Tuesday, blaming global warming.

"We are in for a lot more events like this," said professor Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Scambos alerted the British Antarctic Survey after he noticed part of the Wilkins ice shelf disintegrating on February 28, when he was looking at NASA satellite images.

Late February marks the end of summer at the South Pole and is the time when such events are most likely, he said.

"The amazing thing was, we saw it within hours of it beginning, in between the morning and the afternoon pictures of that day," Scambos said of the large chunk that broke away on February 28.

The Wilkins ice shelf lost about 6 percent of its surface a decade ago, the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement on its Web site

Another 220 square miles -- including the chunk that Scambos spotted -- had splintered from the ice shelf as of March 8, the group said.

"As of mid-March, only a narrow strip of shelf ice was protecting several thousand kilometers of potential further breakup," the group said.

Scambos' center put the size of the threatened shelf at about 5,282 square miles, comparable to the state of Connecticut, or about half the area of Scotland.

Once Scambos called the British Antarctic Survey, the group sent an aircraft on a reconnaissance mission to examine the extent of the breakout.

"We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage," said Jim Elliott, according to the group's Web site.

"Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion," he said.

"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened," David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey said, according to the Web site.

"I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread -- we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."

But with Antarctica's summer ending, Scambos said the "unusual show is over for this season."

Ice shelves are floating ice sheets attached to the coast. Because they are already floating, their collapse does not have any effect on sea levels, according to the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey.

Scambos said the ice shelf is not currently on the path of the increasingly popular tourist ships that travel from South America to Antarctica. But some plants and animals may have to adapt to the collapse.

"Wildlife will be impacted, but they are pretty adept at dealing with a topsy-turvy world," he said. "The ecosystem is pretty resilient."

Several ice shelves -- Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and Jones -- have collapsed in the past three decades, the British Antarctic Survey said.

Larsen B, a 1,254-square-mile ice shelf, comparable in size to the U.S. state of Rhode Island, collapsed in 2002, the group said.

Scientists say the western Antarctic peninsula -- the piece of the continent that stretches toward South America -- has warmed more than any other place on Earth over the past 50 years, rising by 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Scambos said the poles will be the leading edge of what's happening in the rest of the world as global warming continues.

"Even though they seem far away, changes in the polar regions could have an impact on both hemispheres, with sea level rise and changes in climate patterns," he said.

News of the Wilkins ice shelf's impending breakup came less than two weeks after the United Nations Environment Program reported that the world's glaciers are melting away and that they show "record" losses.

"Data from close to 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled," the UNEP said March 16.

The most severe glacial shrinking occurred in Europe, with Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier, UNEP said. That glacier thinned by about 10 feet in 2006, compared with less than a foot the year before, it said.

Source: CNN, updated 4:29 a.m. EDT, Wed March 26, 2008

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Grim photos released in battle over whaling
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australia's government on Thursday released graphic pictures of Japanese hunters harpooning whales and dragging the bleeding carcasses onto a ship near Antarctica, calling it evidence of "indiscriminate" slaughter.

Japan denied one of the photographs showed a mother and its calf being killed, and accused Australian officials and media of spreading propaganda that could damage ties between the two nations.

The images were the latest salvo in the new Australian government's stepped-up campaign against Japan's annual whale hunt, which resumed recently after being interrupted by environmental activists who chased the fleet through icy waters at the far south of the world.

The pictures were taken from the Oceanic Viking, an Australian customs service ship sent to monitor the hunt and collect evidence for a legal challenge the government wants to bring against Japan's claim that it kills whales only for scientific purposes.

"It is explicitly clear from these images that this is the indiscriminate killing of whales, where you have a whale and its calf killed in this way," Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett told reporters.

"To claim that this is in any way scientific is to continue the charade that has surrounded this issue from day one," he said.

The images include video footage of a harpoon being fired into a swimming whale, which writhes as it is hauled toward the ship. The whale eventually stops moving and lies still in bloodstained waters, the harpoon clearly visible piercing its body.

One picture shows two whales -- one far smaller than the other -- being dragged by ropes or cables up a ramp in the stern of a ship as blood dribbles down.

Hideki Moronuki, chief of the Japanese Fishing Agency's whaling section, denied the photograph depicted a baby whale.

"The fleet is engaged in random sampling, which means they are taking both large and small whales. This is not a parent and calf," Moronuki said in Tokyo.

He also accused Australian officials of getting dangerously close to Japan's whaling ships to take the pictures.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese government-affiliated organization that oversees the hunt, posted a statement on its Web site headlined: "Australian Customs Photos Mislead the Public."

"The Government of Australia photographs and the media reports have created a dangerous emotional propaganda that could cause serious damage to the relationship between our two countries," institute director Minoru Morimoto said in the statement.

Japan has staunchly defended its annual killing of more than 1,000 whales, conducted under a clause in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be hunted for scientific purposes.

Critics call the Japanese program a disguise for commercial whaling, which has been banned by the commission since 1986.

Japan had planned to kill up to 50 endangered humpback whales this season, but backed away after strong international condemnation. It has a quota to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales.

The whalers resumed their hunt in recent days after earlier being interrupted by ships sent by the Greenpeace environmentalist group and the militant activist group Sea Shepherd.

Two Sea Shepherd activists using a small boat got on board one of the harpoon ships in January and spent several days in detention before they were picked up by Australian customs officers. Greenpeace says it chased the fleet's whale processing ship out of the hunting grounds.

Both the Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace vessels later left Antarctic waters after running low on fuel and supplies.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's left-of-center Labor Party government replaced a conservative administration in November elections and has sought to burnish its environmental credentials on a number of fronts, such as quickly signing the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

In late December, the government announced it was sending a ship and plane to collect evidence for a case against Japan's whaling program before the International Court of Justice, the International Whaling Commission or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said the images released Thursday could be proof the Japanese program is a sham.

"We have got evidence of whaling being carried out in circumstances that we believe it should not be done," he told reporters.

Animal welfare groups expressed horror at the images.

"Japan's whaling is not just cruel, it's criminal," said Darren Kindleysides of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "The evidence is clear. It is time for Australia to take legal action to end this illegal, unnecessary and inhumane activity once and for all."

Source: CNN, POSTED 4:36 p.m. EST, Thu February 7, 2008


Japan resumes Antarctic whale hunt
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan has resumed whaling in the waters near Antarctica -- only days after groups hoping to stop it left the area, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told CNN on Friday.

The whale hunt resumed in the Southern Ocean on Thursday even as Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith arrived in Japan on a diplomatic visit. Australia opposes whaling, but Smith said the two nations "agree to disagree" on it.

"I regard the resumption of whaling in the last couple of days as disappointing," Smith said Friday.

"We would prefer if it hadn't occurred, but that's as a consequence of the Australian government having a strong view that whaling should cease."

Australian claims a section of the Southern Ocean as territorial waters, but that claim is not widely recognized.

Commercial whaling is banned in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary -- a protected area of 50 million square kilometers (19 million square miles) surrounding the continent of Antarctica.

But Japan is permitted to around 1,000 whales a year under international law because its whaling is considered to be scientific in nature. Anti-whaling groups view the whale hunters as poachers.

Japan has been hunting whales in the Antarctic and has a killing quota of almost 1,000 a year.

The whaling resumed after the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd activist groups ended their disruptions. A Greenpeace spokesman said the group figures it helped save at least 100 whales during the 15 days it interfered with whaling operations.

A Greenpeace ship left the area on Jan. 26 to return to port for refueling. The Sea Shepherd left due to low fuel as well.

Source: CNN, POSTED 5:58 a.m. EST, Fri February 1, 2008


Japanese whalers 'head to NZ waters'
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Japan's whaling fleet was heading toward New Zealand-controlled waters in Antarctica, in breach of an agreement that it would remain in Australian waters during this year's whale hunt, a minister said Friday.

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said the Japanese fleet was photographed by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion airplane during a routine surveillance flight for illegal fishers in the southern oceans.

Chadwick said the Japanese whalers were heading toward the Ross Sea, an area for which New Zealand has international search and rescue responsibility.

After slaughtering whales in New Zealand's Antarctic waters last year, Japan had agreed under an International Whaling Commission protocol to hunt in Australian waters, Chadwick said.

"But it looks like they're heading into our territory down there -- very remote, very dangerous, very hostile territory," she told New Zealand's National Radio.

Last year's southern ocean whale hunt by Japan ended early after it's whaling fleet factory ship, Nisshin Maru, was crippled by fire and one crew member killed in New Zealand's Ross Sea waters.

The fire left the ship drifting and without engine power for 10 days, prompting strong protests over potential oil and chemical spills or damage to nearby Antarctic penguin colonies.

Chadwick said it was not illegal for the Japanese ships to go into Ross Sea waters that fall under New Zealand jurisdiction but it would breach a protocol the whalers agreed to earlier.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the presence of the fleet anywhere near New Zealand's search and rescue area was cause for "grave concern."

"It's an area that's very difficult to access. If there are problems it's difficult to render assistance," she said.

Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for Japan's Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, said he was unable to confirm where the whaling fleet was going, adding that New Zealand "has no claim" on the Ross Sea area, which is international waters.

Anti-whaling groups Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace have ships trailing the fleet and have already clashed with it -- notably when two Sea Shepherd crew boarded a whaling vessel and were held by the Japanese crew until an Australian government vessel had them released.

On Tuesday Greenpeace environmentalists clashed with the whalers, with each sides accusing the other of dangerous tactics after Greenpeace activists failed to prevent the factory ship from refueling.

Japan plans to slaughter nearly 1,000 whales this year as part of its scientific whale research program, dismissed by opponents as a front for continuing commercial whaling banned by the IWC in 1986.

Clark said the number of whales Japan is harvesting "makes it clear that this is not about science."

"It's about maintaining whaling with the hope that some time in the future they could return to commercial whaling," she said.

Source: CNN, POSTED 3:07 a.m. EST, Fri January 25, 2008


Report: Australia steps into whaling standoff
(CNN) -- Australian authorities said Thursday that a customs vessel would pick up two activists currently aboard a Japanese whaler in Antarctic waters, news reports said.

The reports came as an anti-whaling group accused the crew of a Japanese vessel of kidnapping two activists who climbed on board the ship to try to stop its whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

The incident caused Japan to contact the Australian government to help arrange the return of the two activists, The Associated Press reported.

Australian citizen Benjamin Potts and British citizen Giles Lane -- both members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society -- came on board the Yushin Maru No. 2 on Tuesday.

They tried to deliver a letter saying the vessel was violating international law and Australian law by killing whales.

A video from Sea Shepherd shows the two men tied to the ship's railing at one point while Japanese fishermen pace back and forth in front of them.

"They were seized by the crew and assaulted," said Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.

"They're being held hostage, they've been kidnapped and the Japanese are trying to use them to try and extort an agreement out of us, which is to leave them alone ... which to me is a form of terrorism."

But the Japanese Fisheries Agency charged that the Sea Shepherd members were the terrorists.

The agency released pictures of broken bottles it claims the activists threw at the ship. It also showed a photo of the two men relaxing and drinking tea aboard the Yushin Maru.

Still, the image of the two men tied to the ship's railing is the one that has caused concern, leading to a call from the Australian government for the men's immediate release.

"For some time, for 10, 15 minutes, I understand, they were tied to a GPS mast," Tomohiko Taniguchi of Japan's Foreign Ministry told CNN. "The Japanese crew members feared that two crew members from Sea Shepherd might do something violent."

Potts and Lane boarded the vessel without permission, he said.

Watson countered the two boarded only after attempts to contact the ship by radio were unsuccessful.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said it spent most of Wednesday trying to get the men released, but that Sea Shepherd was not answering its phone calls. Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, told CNN it has not received a call from the Japanese government.

The impasse has led Tokyo to contact Australian authorities for assistance.

"It has become apparent that it will be impossible to hand the two trespassers back directly to Sea Shepherd, so our only option at this point is to make contact with another ship such as the customs vessel Australia dispatched," said Hideki Moronuki, a spokesman for the Japanese Fisheries Agency's whaling section, said in an AP report.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in an AP report that Canberra officials were considering the customs ship Oceanic Viking as a means of transferring the two activists.

Japan has been hunting whales in the Antarctic and apparently plans to kill as many as 1,000 this winter. The killings are allowed under international law because their main purpose is scientific.

"We regard them as poachers," Watson said.

Sea Shepherd claims Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research -- which is backing the operations -- has said it will release the two activists if Sea Shepherd agrees to stop interfering in its whaling operations. The group says it will not agree to that demand.

The Sea Shepherd vessel, the Steve Irwin, was no longer in sight or radar range of the Yushin Maru No. 2 on Wednesday, the group said in a statement.
"The good news is they haven't killed any whales for a week," Watson told CNN.

Source: CNN, POSTED 1:58 a.m. EST, Thu January 17, 2008


Japan whalers 'scattered and ran'
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Greenpeace said Monday it has disrupted the Japanese whale hunt off Antarctica by chasing the fleet's whale processing factory ship out of the whaling zone.

The six-vessel fleet "scattered and ran" early Saturday when it realized the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza was "heading toward them at high speed," Greenpeace expedition leader Karli Thomas told New Zealand's National Radio.

The fleet's three whale hunter vessels "can't operate without the (factory ship) Nisshin Maru there to process the kill," she added.

Greenpeace has pledged to take nonviolent action to try to stop the ships from killing whales, which in the past has led to activists in speed boats trying to put themselves between whales and Japanese harpoons, and once led to a ship collision.

A spokesman for Japan's whale hunt called Greenpeace's actions illegal and demanded it stop its disruptive actions.

"Greenpeace actions are illegal under international law (and) it's time the public stopped treating Greenpeace as heroes," Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research, in Tokyo, Japan, said Monday.

"It's time the public saw this fringe group for what they really are: environmental imperialists who are trying to dictate their morals to the world."

Japan dispatched its whaling fleet to the icy waters of Antarctica in November to kill about 1,000 whales under a program that Tokyo says is for scientific purposes, but which anti-whaling nations and activists say is a front for commercial whaling.

Under worldwide pressure, Japan last month abandoned its plan to include 50 humpback whales in this season's hunt -- the first major hunt of humpback whales since the 1960s. It still plans to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales.

Source: CNN, POSTED January 14, 2007 8:24 p.m. EST

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