A BANGALOW man watched helplessly as a large Japanese whaling ship ran over a much smaller anti-whaling vessel just metres away from him in remote Antarctic waters.
Southern Cross University marine science student Benjamin Potts (pictured left), 30, is on board the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling ship Bob Barker and spoke to The Northern Star yesterday via satellite phone.
The Bob Barker arrived in the area on Wednesday afternoon about an hour before the Japanese whalers’ ship the Shonan Maru 2 collided with the 24-metre carbon-fibre Sea Shepherd trimaran Ady Gil.
Mr Potts said his vessel had been pursuing a Japanese factory ship, which he described as a ‘floating abattoir’, when they found the Ady Gil.
“They (the Ady Gil) tried to slow the factory ship down and then they came back towards usbecause they were running out of fuel,” he said.
“They were dead in the water, trying to conserve fuel, when aJapanese security ship changed course and started coming straight towards them.”
Mr Potts did not think the Japanese ship would actually ram the Ady Gil, so when it did he was inutter shock.
“There was nothing we could do. It started coming straight towards the Ady Gil and spraying water cannons while all the guys were on the deck,” he said.
“The security vessel turned straight into it (the Ady Gil) and ran them down.
“The guys were holding on for dear life while their vessel was cut in half.”
Mr Potts said the six Ady Gil crew would all be dead if they were not on the deck waving at him and his friends on board the Bob Barker.
“I was worried about the safety of my crewmates,” he said.
“The area that got cut in half was the sleeping quarters, so it was lucky they’d come up to wave to us.
“They are lucky to be alive. It shows they (the Japanese whalers) have a complete disregard for human life.”
Mr Potts helped rescue the Ady Gil crew, who were yesterday with him on board the Bob Barker.
They spent Wednesday night and most of yesterday trying to salvage what was left of the damaged boat.
“The Ady Gil is basically a fibreglass, lightweight race boat,” he said.
“The ship that ran over it is a 2000-tonne metal ship. It sliced through it like a knife through butter.”
Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson said it would be impossible to save the Ady Gil, worth $2 million.
Mr Potts, who also made headlines a year ago when he jumped aboard a Japanese whaling ship, said he would stay in the icy waters until the Japanese whaling season ended.
“It is a war, and it has been for a long time,” he said. “We’re fighting to protect endangered species and uphold both international conservation laws and Australian law.
“It’s a military force the Japanese have sent down here.”
Mr Potts also would not rule out climbing aboard one of the ships if the opportunity presented itself again.
“It’s always an option,” he said.