A space-age powerboat which holds the round-the-world record sped off from Australia on Tuesday on a mission to harass Japanese whaling ships in Antarctic seas.
The futuristic tri-hulled “Ady Gil” left the Tasmanian state capital Hobart, a port official said.
The kevlar-and-carbon craft will join up with about 40 militant anti-whalers aboard the “Steve Irwin”, which left Western Australia on Monday, in seas south of Australia.
The Ady Gil, a wave-piercing boat formerly known as “Earthrace”, jetted round the world in just under 61 days last year, beating the previous record by two weeks.
The craft has been bankrolled by the Hollywood businessman of the same name to help the anti-whalers, who claim to have saved hundreds of animals by confronting the Japanese ships in recent years.
In an increasingly bitter campaign, activists have boarded a whaling ship and hurled stink bombs and rancid butter at the fishermen, while accusing the Japanese of warding them off by using ear-piercing sonic weapons.
Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands on Monday urged restraint on both sides.
The Steve Irwin, with a crew of 41, expects to reach the Japanese ships in eight to 10 days and aims to stay in Antarctic waters for around three months.
During their five-month hunt last season, the Japanese fleet caught 679 minke whales and one fin whale — below the planned haul of between 765 and 935 whales, Japan’s fisheries agency said.