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Ady Gil Facing Long Odds For Survival After Japanese Strike (UPDATED)

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Go ahead and call today’s collision between a Japanese whaling vessel and the Sea Shepherd Ady Gil a best case scenario.

Of all the possible ways it could have happened, shearing off the front 8-feet of the sleek vessel was probably the one that gave it the best shot at survival. Had the Shonan Maru No.2 split the Gil closer to the middle or even backside, there might zero leftover to ponder salvaging — not to mention the increased danger that would have befallen the crew.

As it is, the inflicted rhinoplasty may have bought Ady Gil Captain Pete Bethune some time to figure out how to recover his ship. If there’s a bright side to this, it’s that the ship’s two powerful 540hp engines and electronics appear to have been left relatively unscathed. Granted, as the Sea Shepherd have repeatedly said the boat is taking on water, there’s no way of knowing if that alone has already ruined the gear on board.

Even if we assume that the Ady Gil is still afloat and in one piece with the exception of its nose, there are a bunch of forces at work that might cause her to be scuttled. One, yesterday’s incident took place in relatively calm seas. Since this area of the world is known for wickedly unpredictable weather, any change for the worse in ocean swells might quickly swamp the vessel and flood through the open hole. If that doesn’t happen, Bethune still needs to figure out a.) a way to plug the hole in the front and b.) how to tow her home. As Paul Watson mentioned yesterday after the incident, the Sea Shepherd are committed to remaining engaged against the Japanese whaling fleet — so that leaves support from either the MV Steve Irwin or MV Bob Barker out the question. (Or not: Good to see the SS taking care of one of their own. Check out the updates below)

More likely would be for either an Australian or New Zealand vessel to lend a hand. Also a possibility would be support from the French research base the SS visited a few weeks back — though it’s anyone’s guess if they have the capability to assist. In any case, it would be several days before any vessel could be on site, a grim prospect with regards to the weather mentioned earlier.

The last scenario would be for Bethune to somehow plug the hole and, should the engines continue working, slowly glide back to a safe port or sheltered bay off the Antarctic coast.

Either way, the odds are stacked against the Ady Gil. We’re just glad everyone is safe — and that the best case scenario is the one we’re talking about today rather than something more tragic.

[UPDATE] The crew of the world record-breaking speed boat were currently salvaging all the diesel, lest it spill into the Antarctic waters. Swift said they were planning to winch the front of the severed bow onto the Bob Barker, and tow the stricken vessel to port, and repairs, in Hobart, Australia, or to New Zealand. via TVNZ.co.nz

[UPDATE #2] Looks like things are getting grim:

“They basically stayed up for 36 hours alongside the Ady Gil retrieving as much as they could,” said Locky Maclean, first mate of the Steve Irwin anti-whaling ship. “The central hull is flooded. The nose of the vessel, the front four-and-a-half metres (15 feet) has sunk.” Maclean said the Bob Barker, another anti-whaling ship operated by the Sea Shepherd group, had tried and failed to tow the two million US dollar craft from the area. “She can’t tow it forward because there’s no front of the boat, if they start towing it frontwards it’ll just fill with water,” he said. “They’re trying to tow it backwards and it’s proving very, very difficult and there’s still water coming in. “So at the moment they’re getting all of the fuel, the batteries, the oil and all those types of things pumped out of the Ady Gil as quickly as possible to ensure that if they do have to abandon the vessel because it sinks there won’t be anything inside to cause any pollution.”

via AFP

[UPDATE #3] She’s gone.

More pics of the damage below:

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