Looks like the Sea Shepherd have been hiding at least one high-tech weapon from the public.
The organization behind Japan’s whaling program (The Institute of Cetacean Research) released their version of this morning’s conflict with the Sea Shepherd and, as expected, claim that they were the ones attacked. From the release,
At past 1500JST a helicopter took off from the Steve Irwin deck and started circling above the Shonan Maru No. 2. After that, the Steve Irwin changed course and started approaching toward the Japanese vessel. To avoid any dangerous actions by the Steve Irwin, the Japanese vessel continued to maintain its pursuit position behind the Steve Irwin. At this time, the Shonan Maru 2 broadcasted a warning message through a long range acoustic device (LRAD). The Japanese vessel also made use of its water cannons as a preventive measure to make the Steve Irwin desist from any further approaching and harassment.
Obviously, this pretty much conflicts with what Watson said on his blog — but here’s the interesting part:
After that, at around 1600JST, the Steve Irwin deployed from its stern a rope with buoys aimed at the propeller and rudder of the Shonan Maru No. 2. Immediately after that, what appeared to be a green laser device was shot from the Steve Irwin deck against the Shonan Maru No. 2. Neither injuries to the Japanese crew nor damage to the Shonan Maru No. 2 resulted from the Steve Irwin attack.
The Sea Shepherd have a laser ray?! (Well, it’s probably more something like this…)
The Japanese go on to say that given the distance between the two vessels (over 600ft), they can only conclude that the Irwin has a high-powered “laser ray device” that is “extremely dangerous” and “can produce blindness if irradiated to the naked eye.”
If the laser is in fact a Class 2M, like the one I believe the SS are using, the Japanese don’t have much to worry about if they don’t stare at it for long periods of time. Unfortunately, it does become hazardous if viewed through binoculars. I personally think the Sea Shepherd are trying to annoy the crew of the Japanese ship more than blind them — but it’s a potentially dangerous new tactic. It’s safe to say “Laser Safety Goggles” have just been added to everyone’s Christmas lists.
[UPDATE: Paul Watson's latest blog post confirms use of "photonic laser" to warn Japanese whalers that they were coming to close to the stern of the Steve Irwin. Full details here.]