Funny thing about going to places rather than just reading about them is that by just walking around one can learn that which one should perhaps have known but never came across en la vie virtuelle.
Take for example the fine vessel pictured below -- which one can come across if one takes a walk around Sydney's breathtakingly glitzy Darling Harbour. With its shark teeth bow and camouflage paint job, it fits right in with the French fountain display, the graphic laser and 3-D light shows playing across all the buildings at night, the casino and every ersatz high brow, demeaning and incredibly high-priced tourist trap one can imagine.
The S.S. Sam Simon is the fourth and most recent addition to the Antarctic expedition fleet of the Sea Shepherd Society. That one would see this vessel berthed in Australian harbor should not surprise one. After all it was the Australian government that filed the successful International Court of Justice case against Japan's JARPA II Southern Ocean research whaling program.
What is surprising for a dweller of the northern hemisphere is where the Sam Simon is berthed: the pier of Australia's National Maritime Museum. To the right of the Sam Simon is the stern, for example, of the retired H.M.A.S. Vampire, the last of Australia's big gun warships and a part of the Museum's permanent collection.
It is not as though the relationship between an official Australian national museum and Sea Shepherd is a secret (Link). Nevertheless is is freakish that one buys the ticket to tour an ostensibly piratical vessel at the ticket booth of the museum built to commemorate Australia's water-borne heritage.
Australian sympathies as regards the killing of cetaceans are on display at the Museum. It is hosting not one but two exhibitions on whales, while in its little theater the Museum is running a National Geographic produced documentary on dolphins.
Do not call it overkill.
The other facet of the story I did not know -- and which shows either Sea Shepherd's delicious sense of irony, its appreciation for fine ship engineering, or both -- is that the Sam Simon was built in IHI shipyards for the Japanese government. Completed in 1993, it was christened the Seifu Maru (清風丸) and was -- and this is where the irony gets thick -- a scientific research vessel under the control of the Japan Meteorological Agency. It was decommissioned in 2010, bought in a private sale and reemerged on the oceans as the Sam Simon in 2012.
So in the Sam Simon we have a Japanese scientific research vessel, once used for actual research (in a curiously brief 17 year career) careening round the southern ocean pursuing and impeding the actions of the vessels of Japan's highly subsidized and completely bogus research whaling program.
Looking upon the Sam Simon, embraced and celebrated by the organization tasked with preserving Australia's ocean-going lore, and upon the bottomless punchbowl party of the Australian economy of the last 20 years, turbo-charged as it has been by China's voracious demand for Australia's minerals and hydrocarbons, one senses that whatever Abe Shinzo & Company's plans may be for a union of maritime democracies to resist Chinese expansionism in the Western Pacific, getting Australia on board is going to be a daunting, if not a futile, task.
Which illuminates the scary stupidity of the Abe Cabinet's not telling Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa to just shut his mouth about a restart of a reformed JARPA II and its not telling Minister Amari Akira to stop dribbling the ball and just shoot for the goal in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.
Later - And in the more immediate future, Abe-san should not be stupid and offer Soryu-class submarines (Link) at a discount "because we're friends." Make the offer to Mr. Abbott at full retail price; it's all Chinese money anyway.