Environmentalists again clashed with Japanese whalers in the Antarctic Ocean on Tuesday with Greenpeace activists failing in a risky attempt to prevent the fleet's factory ship from refueling.
The protesters were drenched with freezing water from Japanese hoses as they piloted an inflatable boat between the factory ship Nisshin Maru and supply ship Oriental Bluebird, a Greenpeace spokesman said from a ship trailing the Japanese fleet.
"They've gone ahead with refueling now," Greenpeace spokesman Dave Walsh told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
"It was too dangerous for us to continue blocking them because they were pushing their two ships together, which was quite a dangerous maneuver with people sitting between on a boat," he added.
Pictures released by Greenpeace showed the crew of the two whaling ships directing water hoses at the tiny inflatable as it navigated the narrow gap between them.
After delaying the refueling, the Greenpeace activists went back to documenting whale meat being transferred into Oriental Bluebird.
The Greenpeace ship has been shadowing the Nisshin Maru for the past 11 days.
Militant anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reported its ship the Steve Irwin — which had two crew detained for three days last week by the Japanese after they clamored aboard a harpoon boat — is about a day away from the fleet.
Japan asked Australia to take legal action over the boarding when the Sea Shepherd crew return to Australia to refuel, Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Meeting in Tokyo with visiting Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura also asked for Australia's cooperation to prevent "these sorts of dangerous actions from occurring again," it said.
While noting the Sea Shepherd ship was not registered in Australia, Crean responded the Australian Federal Police were investigating the case and would consider how to respond.
The Japanese fleet has a quota to kill 935 minkes and 50 fin whales during its annual so-called scientific whaling hunt in the southern hemisphere summer months.