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December 17, 2017

Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Growing up on the Haitian island of Ile-a-Vache, Exerre Dieunest used to hate going to school in the rainy season. It was bad enough that there were no buses, but there were also no roads. He walked two hours each way from Kay Kok, and when the paths turned to deep mud, he could hardly manage the trek.

It’s different for kids today. Kay Kok now has a school, “and it’s thanks to tourism,” says Mr. Dieunest. Tourists came, saw the need, established a foundation, and funded the building of a school. Tourist donations also helped expand a local orphanage.

Ile-a-Vache residents see great potential in hospitality, but when the central government tried to launch a major tourism plan here in 2014, it sparked protests from locals who feared a land-grab. The tourism ministry has since achieved buy-in from much of the community, but now it faces another challenge: Keeping the confidence of investors as Haitian democracy teeters on the brink.

Recommended: Where does Haiti stand three years after its 7.0 earthquake?

Just over five years ago, Haiti looked relatively ripe for investment. Crime was low, there was a reprieve from anti-government demonstrations, and democratic institutions seemed to be functioning better than ever. Haitian and foreign leaders said Haiti was stable, and ready to grow.

That’s when a 7.0 earthquake struck the country, killing tens of thousands of people.

Today, Haiti is rebuilding, still mired in the poverty people had hoped to escape before the earthquake, and now trying to avoid a massive political upheaval – one that could scare off the very investors who could help the country develop. 

The prime minister was deposed in December, and on January 12 most legislators’ terms expire – with no one to replace them due to a failure to hold elections. Popular protests against President Michel Martelly have grown, along with fears he will rule by decree – unless Parliament approves on Monday an agreement reached Sunday night between President Martelly and opposition leaders.  

Ile-a-Vache feels far from the tumult of the capital, but its struggles may exemplify Haiti’s challenges in democracy and development. 

TRUST AND DEVELOPMENT

Ile-a-Vache is a 16-square mile jewel of an island, with rolling hills, paths connecting sweet cottages on a candy-colored bit of Caribbean Sea. But its residents – roughly 15,000 farmers and fishermen – say the government has continuously left them in the dark, literally, with no electricity or roads. Health care and potable water aren’t delivered by the government, and tourism remains at a trickle.

But this might change.

After the 2010 earthquake, a government came in with the motto, “Haiti is Open for Business.” The government wooed investors – with massive tax breaks and supportive infrastructure supplied by foreign aid – to take part in an industrial park and capital city hotels. They drew up plans for massive tourism developments, including one on Ile-a-Vache complete with roads, an airport, a port, a marina, 1,000 hotel rooms, and an 18-hole golf course.

The island was finally getting attention, but residents weren’t happy. In early 2014, protesters took to the newly carved roads. A presidential decree declared the island a tourism development zone, property of the government. Waterfront residents were driven from their homes without compensation and roadside dwellers lost fruit trees vital for their livelihoods. Riot police appeared on the island to back up the few officers already there.

But when the tourism minister met with community leaders, gave checks to those robbed of their land, and implemented projects for the community – like drinking wells, a community center, and subsidized community cafeterias – many residents began to show support for the government’s tourism plans, in spite of lingering fears.

An elderly islander named Myltha Boulot says there is no knowing whether or not the government will take her land, but when it comes to tourism: “That’s another thing entirely. If tourists come, they’ll give jobs to the poorest men and women, so people can survive.”

Yet now, if locals don’t block the tourism plan, would-be investors might.

Haiti has peaks and valleys of instability, says Mark Schneider, a long-time Haiti-watcher and senior vice president of the International Crisis Group. “I think we’re at a point close to a peak,” Mr. Schneider says, prior to Sunday’s agreement.  That is, if there is no executive-legislative agreement, Martelly might rule by decree, causing more protests, and possibly violence, Schneider says. In which case, “there’s no way for investors to tell their boards or financial backers that the situation is on its way to being resolved and they can go back to expanded plans for development.”

Pamela Cox, who was the World Bank’s vice president for Latin American and the Caribbean at the time of the earthquake, says when nascent democratic institutions fumble, everyone gets spooked.

“Any time there’s huge political uncertainty, it scares investors away,” Ms. Cox says, especially in countries like Haiti, where there’s a lack of domestic trust in the government, and likely civil unrest.

In the coming days, Haiti’s political leaders will signal to investors and constituents whether or not their country is on solid ground.

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Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Easter Island's Demise May Have Surprising New Explanation

The downfall of Easter Island may have had more to do with preexisting environmental conditions than degradation by humans, according to a new study of the remote speck of land made famous by its enormous stone-head statues.

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, was first settled around A.D. 1200, and Europeans landed on its shores in 1722. The circumstances surrounding the collapse of the indigenous population of Rapa Nui are hotly debated both in academia and popular culture. Scientist and author Jared Diamond argued in his 2005 book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” (Viking Press) that prior to European contact, the indigenous people of the island degraded the environment to the extent that they could no longer thrive.

The new study suggests that Easter Island’s people were, indeed, suffering before Europeans came along. The story of their downfall, however, may be less about environmental degradation than the pre-existing environmental constraints of the 63-square-mile (163 square kilometers) isle. [Image Gallery: The Walking Statues of Easter Island]

“The results of our research were really quite surprising to me,” said study co-author Thegn Ladefoged, an anthropologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “Indeed, in the past, we’ve published articles about how there was little evidence for pre-European-contact societal collapse.” 

Collapse of civilization?

The new study challenged Ladefoged and his colleagues’ view. Changes on Easter Island have been well documented, archaeologically. Over time, elite dwellings were destroyed, inland agricultural fields were abandoned, and people took refuge in caves and began manufacturing more and more spear points made out of volcanic glass called obsidian, perhaps suggesting a period of war and upheaval. 

The problem with pinning down the island’s history, according to the researchers, is that the dates of all these events and abandonments remain murky. Going into the study, the researchers expected to find that most of the disaster occurred after Europeans arrived, Ladefoged told Live Science.

To clarify the timeline, the researchers analyzed more than 400 obsidian tools and chipped-off obsidian flakes from six sites scattered around the island, focusing in particular on three with good information on climate and soil chemistry.

Obsidian absorbs water when exposed to air. By measuring the amount of water absorption in the surfaces of the obsidian tools and flakes, the research team was able to gauge how long those surfaces have been exposed, thus revealing when the tools were made. A greater number of tools from a certain time period indicates heavier human use of that area during that time. [History’s 10 Most Overlooked Mysteries]

Natural challenges

The obsidian dates varied widely across the sites. Site 1, on the northwestern coast of the island, saw a steady increase in use between about 1220 and 1650, with a fast decline starting after 1650 — long before Europeans arrived on the island.

Site 2, an interior mountainside site, saw a rapid increase in land use between about 1200 and 1300, a slower increase until about 1480, and then constant use until a decline that started between 1705 and 1710, also before European contact. By the time Europeans came along, coastal Site 1 was at about 54 percent of its peak land use, and mountainous Site 2 was at only about 60 percent.

Site 3 told a different story. This near-coastal area saw a slow increase in human activity between 1250 and 1500, and then a faster increase until about 1690, after which settlement remained fairly constant until after European contact. In fact, the decline in use of this site didn’t begin until 1850 or later, the researchers found.

The differing climates of the sites may explain the uneven decline, the researchers said. Site 1 is in the rain shadow of the volcano Ma’unga Terevaka, making it prone to droughts. Site 2 is wetter, but its soil fertility is low. Site 3, the longest-lasting spot, is both rainy and fertile.

What this means is that the people of Easter Island may have been struggling against natural environmental barriers to success, rather than degrading the environment themselves, the researchers reported Monday (Jan. 5) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It is clear that people were reacting to regional environmental variation on the island before they were devastated by the introduction of European diseases and other historic processes,” Ladefoged said. The next step, he said, would be to take a detailed look at the archaeological remnants of dwellings on the island over time to better understand how humans and the environment interacted.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Easter Island's Demise May Have Surprising New Explanation

European Probe Survived Comet Landing with Luck and Great Design

Europe’s Rosetta mission pulled off the first-ever soft landing on a comet Wednesday thanks to a lot of great engineering and hard work — along with a healthy dose of luck, mission scientists say.

Rosetta’s Philae lander successfully touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko early Wednesday morning (Nov. 12), more than 300 million miles (483 million kilometers) from Earth. But Philae’s anchoring harpoons didn’t fire as planned, and the 220-lb. (100 kilograms) probe bounced off the comet twice before settling onto its icy surface for good.

Philae survived the dramatic landing intact, however, and is already gathering a variety of data about the 2.5-mile-wide (4 km) Comet 67P. [Rosetta Comet Landing: Complete Coverage]

“We were very, very lucky yesterday — so much luck,” Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, said during a news conference Thursday. 

Bouncing off a comet

Philae’s first bounce off 67P was a big one, sending the lander about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) above the comet’s surface, Ulamec said. Philae eventually came down again 1 hour and 50 minutes later, likely about 0.6 miles away from the original landing site. (The team still isn’t sure exactly where the lander ended up.)

But the probe was nearly lost to space. It rebounded off 67P’s surface at 0.85 mph (1.37 km/h); with a bounce of about 1 mph (1 km/h), Philae would have escaped the comet’s minuscule gravity altogether, said Peter Schultz, a geoscientist at Brown University in Rhode Island. (Schultz has worked on three different NASA missions to comets and asteroids but is not part of the Rosetta team.)

To put those numbers in perspective: The escape velocity at Earth’s surface is about 25,000 mph (40,230 km/h).

The second bounce lasted just 7 minutes and featured a rebound speed of 0.067 mph (0.11 km/h), Ulamec said. When it was over, Philae was oriented nearly vertically on the comet’s surface, with one of its three landing legs apparently dangling into empty space. But the probe came through its ordeal in good shape and ready to collect data, which surprised Schultz. [Best Close Encounters of the Comet Kind]

“I’m actually flabbergasted,” he told Space.com. “Somehow, the German gods were looking [over the mission].”

Good engineering certainly helped as well. As Philae spiraled down toward the comet, it did have enough kinetic energy to escape back into space, said Mark Hofstadter, deputy principal investigator for MIRO (Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter). However, shock absorbers in Philae’s legs absorbed and converted to heat much of that energy when the probe hit the surface the first time, he noted.

“Plus, a little energy was absorbed by the surface the lander hit (maybe crushing some rocks),” Hofstadter, who’s based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com via email. “So knowing that even a tiny amount of energy was dissipated means that the lander would not have enough energy to escape again.”

Indeed, the Philae team built some redundancy into the lander, allowing it to cope with a variety of different situations and parameters on Comet 67P, Ulamec said.

“The harpoons did not work, but the landing gear worked very nicely,” he said.

And Schultz was quick to praise the Rosetta team and its multiple accomplishments. (This past August, the Rosetta mothership caught 67P after a 10-year chase and became the first spacecraft ever to enter orbit around a comet.)

Schultz observed that the Rosetta mission was conceived and developed more than 20 years ago, when researchers knew far less about comets than they do today.

“It’s remarkable that this has worked so well,” he said. “And this is why it’s always worth it to dare, and to explore. That’s the big lesson for me.”

Lots of science to come

With the probe in its current precarious position, the mission team is hesistant to try firing the anchoring harpoons again or use Philae’s drilling instrument, which can collect samples from more than 8 inches (20 centimeters) beneath the comet’s surface, Ulamec said.

But Philae is already well into its “first science sequence” phase, or FSS, using its 10 different instruments to get a first taste of the comet. The FSS will last until Philae’s primary batteries run out — perhaps two to three days after touchdown, mission officials have said.

The plan also calls for Philae to keep studying Comet 67P over the long term, using batteries that will be recharged by solar cells aboard the lander. This second phase was envisioned to last a maximum of three months or so, but expectations may have to be recalibrated downward after the double-bounce landing; Philae is only getting about 1.5 hours of sunlight per day in its current location, while the intended landing site offered 6 to 7 hours per day, the lander’s handlers say.

Regardless, Philae should still manage to collect a great deal of interesting data, mission team members say. The lander’s scientific gear is designed to study the composition and structure of Comet 67P in great detail. For example, one instrument employs radio waves to probe the interior of the comet’s nucleus, while another identifies complex organic molecules on the surface.

“This is real comet geology now,” Schultz said. “I think it’s going to be a spectacular mission.”

Comets are icy remnants left over from the solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago, so observations made by Philae and the Rosetta mothership should shed light on the conditions prevalent when Earth and the other planets were taking shape, mission officials have said.

The Rosetta orbiter will continue studying Comet 67P through at least December 2015, observing how the comet changes as it gets closer and closer to the sun. (67P’s closest approach will come in August 2015, when it zooms within 1.25 Earth-sun distances of our star.)

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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500-Year-Old Traces of Monster Hawaii Tsunami Discovered

A powerful earthquake in Alaska sent towering waves up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall crashing down on Hawaii about 500 years ago, leaving behind fragments of coral, mollusk shells and coarse beach sand in a sinkhole located on the island of Kauai, new research finds.

The quake, likely a magnitude 9.0, sent the mighty waves toward Hawaii sometime between 1425 and 1665, the study found. It’s possible that another large Alaskan earthquake could trigger a comparable tsunami on Hawaii’s shores in the future, experts said.

The tsunami was at least three times the size of the damaging 1946 tsunami, which was driven by an 8.6-magnitude earthquake off the Aleutian Islands. Mammoth tsunamis, like the one described in the study, are rare, and likely happen once every thousand years. There’s a 0.1 percent chance it could happen in any given year, the same probability that northeastern Japan had for the 9.0-magnitude 2011 Tohoku earthquake and related tsunami, said Gerald Fryer, a geophysicist at the pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, who was not involved in the study. [Waves of Destruction: History’s 8 Biggest Tsunamis]

Results of the study have already prompted Honolulu officials to revise their tsunami evacuation maps, Fryer said. The new maps, which will affect nearly 1 million people who live in Honolulu County, would include more than twice the area of evacuation in some areas, Fryer said in a statement. County officials hope to distribute the new maps by the end of 2014, Fryer said.

“You’re going to have great earthquakes on planet Earth, and you’re going to have great tsunamis,” said the study’s lead researcher, Rhett Butler, a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “People have to at least appreciate that the possibility is there.”

Evidence of the colossal tsunami surfaced in the late 1990s during the excavation of the Makauwahi sinkhole, a collapsed limestone cave on the south coast of Kauai. About 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the surface, study researcher David Burney found a bounty of old debris that must have come from the ocean.

Curiously, the sinkhole’s mouth is 328 feet (100 m) away from the present-day shore, and 23 feet (7 m) above sea level, suggesting the enormous quantities of corals and shells were probably carried there by a gigantic wave, Burney, a paleoecologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, said. But he needed more evidence to back up his claim.

Tsunami surge

The debris remained a mystery until the 2011 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. The earthquake triggered a rapid surge of water that stood 128 feet (39 m) above sea level and pummeled the Japanese coast. Soon after, researchers revisited Hawaii’s tsunami evacuation maps. The maps are largely based on the 1946 tsunami, which caused water to rise 8 feet (2.5 m) up the side of the Makauwahi sinkhole.

“[The Japan earthquake] was bigger than almost any seismologist thought possible,” Butler said. “Seeing [on live TV] the devastation it caused, I began to wonder, did we get it right in Hawaii? Are our evacuation zones the correct size?”

Butler and his colleagues assembled a wave model to predict how a tsunami might flood Kauai’s coastline. They simulated earthquakes ranging between magnitudes 9.0 and 9.6 along the Aleutian-Alaska subduction zone, a 2,113-mile-long (3,400 kilometers) ocean trench where the Pacific tectonic plate slips under the North American plate.

In the aftermath of a large earthquake, the eastern Aleutians’ distinctive geography could send a large tsunami toward Hawaii, the researchers found. In fact, a magnitude- 9.0 earthquake in just the right spot could easily direct water levels of 26 to 30 feet (8 to 9 m) high toward Kauai, carrying debris into the Makauwahi sinkhole, they found. [Photos: Tsunami Debris & Trash on Hawaii’s Beaches]

The researchers also looked for tsunami evidence in other places. Radiocarbon dating showed that the marine deposits in the sinkhole, on Sedanka Island off the coast of Alaska and along the west coasts of Canada and the United States all date back to the same time period, and may have come from the same tsunami.

“[The researchers] stitched together geological evidence, anthropological information as well as geophysical modeling to put together this story that is tantalizing for a geologist, but it’s frightening for people in Hawaii,” Robert Witter, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, who was not involved in the study, said in the statement.

More evidence is needed to determine whether the deposits came from the same tsunami, Witter said. For instance, radiocarbon dating, which the study researchers relied on, only gives a rough time estimate. It’s possible that multiple tsunamis between 350 and 575 years ago deposited the debris at the three locations, he said.

But the sinkhole debris may be evidence enough that a huge tsunami hit Hawaii hundreds of years ago, he added. “An important next thing to do is to look for evidence for tsunamis elsewhere in the Hawaiian island chain,” Witter said.

Researchers will likely find more evidence of the giant tsunami, Fryer added. “I’ve seen the deposit, ” Fryer said. “I’m absolutely convinced it’s a tsunami, and it had to be a monster tsunami.”

The study was published Oct. 3 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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500-Year-Old Traces of Monster Hawaii Tsunami Discovered

Inside Sailing’s Biggest Race

I haven’t peed in six hours, and my only option for relief is a precariously small carbon-fiber bowl, known to everyone on board as “the head.” It sits near the rear of the 65-foot racing yacht between three carbon-fiber walls, a precaution to ensure that sailors don’t slip off their perch in treacherous seas. But it’s exposed to the rear of the boat, an area housing other necessities the crew might need during my rushed encounter with the head.

Around 1am, Ralphie, a 51-year-old veteran sailor who has raced in the America’s Cup, catches me enviously watching others relieve themselves off the back of the boat. (As the only girl on board, such freedoms do not come so easily.) “The girls I used to race with would just pull their pants around their ankles and hang off the back,” Ralphie says with I shrug.

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Were I braver, I’d attempt this balancing act and delight in exposing my bum to the breeze and ocean spray. Instead, I sneak down to the head.

It was a calm June evening, and I was on breezy overnight jaunt from Newport, Rhode Island to Oyster Bay, Long Island with Team Alvimedica. Today (Saturday), the 10-man Alvimedica crew will undertake a rather more daunting task—with no confused female journalists in sight—when they compete in the triennial Volvo Ocean Race, sailing’s biggest offshore race and the most time-consuming single sporting event in the world (it takes around nine months to complete).

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Alvimedica are one of seven teams crossing the starting line in Alicante, Spain, embarking on the first of nine legs in the race: a 6,487 nautical mile, roughly 30 day journey to Cape Town, South Africa. (The teams rest for roughly a week at each port). The race will be complete in April, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The winner is determined not by total elapsed time but by a series of point, allowing teams to challenge for victory if they are forced out of one or more legs.

The Volvo Ocean Race began in 1973, known then as the Whitbread. It was a luxury sport then, as it is now, but with more emphasis on the luxuries afforded the sailors: wine, meat, cooks, and copious amounts of fresh water.

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Today’s teams survive on rehydrated food, protein bars, and desalinated water. In 2014, circumnavigating the globe is still tough, but there are technological luxuries too, in the form of state of the art GPS devices and weather predicting systems. But this can make the race more about the art of sailing. Because as Ralphie explains to me, “every team has identical software and identical weather.”

In years past, teams have piloted yachts with different design elements, but this year the Volvo Ocean Race is requiring all seven teams to race in identically designed, 65-foot boats. To the non-sailor, it seems a brutal journey; the cabins look like submarines, with a small berthing area where crewmembers sleep in netted bunks during four-hour shift.

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“A huge part of this race is about team chemistry and co-existing for 25 days or longer at a time,” says Charlie Enright, the 29-year-old skipper of Team Alvimedica. “There’s nowhere to run or hide if you have problems. Everyone in the boat is rowing in the same direction and better not drill holes in it.”

Enright and his 25-year-old teammate Mark Towill, who met in 2007 on the set of Roy Disney’s Morning Light, a documentary film about a group of young sailors racing from Southern California to Hawaii, worked together to raise money to compete in the Volvo race, ultimately convincing a Turkish medical supply manufacturer—Alvimedica—to be their sponsor.

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As the team manager, Towill’s job is to constantly monitor the speed of the boat and communicate that information to the skipper and navigator. “I’m always thinking about performance and how to go faster, faster, faster,” he says.

But speed and navigation are far from my mind. I’m onboard for a single evening—calm waters and a temperate climate—and it isn’t long before I am obsessing with sleeping and peeing.

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“Once you get locked into the watch system, day and night become irrelevant,” Towill tells me. “But you never get four hours of sleep. Anytime we have to put up the sail or tack or do any maneuvering, it requires all hands on deck. And it can take an hour just to tack. Plus you still have to find time to eat, clean, go to the bathroom and all that stuff.”

Around 3am, my spindly legs are beginning to ache from balancing on deck, as we heel with each tack. I had hoped to defy the four-hour watch system and stay up to see the sunrise, but I’m fantasizing about retiring to my claustrophobic netted bunk.

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Cradled in the hull, the Ambien is unnecessary, as I drift off to the muffled “whoosh” sound of the boat darting through the water like a large fish. The seas are calm, no waves violently knocking the hull, as they inevitably will during long stretches of the race. Indeed, in 2006 a Dutch sailor died during the race after, as the New York Times described it at the time, “a frantic and harrowing struggle against low visibility and treacherous waves.”

I sleep so soundly that I can’t fathom how the crew manages to sleep on land after each 25-day leg. Still, after nearly a month at sea, I imagine they are eager to recharge, ready for interaction with the outside world. But readjusting isn’t always that simple.

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“It’s strange when you get back to land after being in such a small place with such a small group of people, all focused on the same thing,” says Towill. “You feel like you have what you need. Then you get to land and there’s a million people standing around, handing you beers. It’s pretty overwhelming.”

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Danish Police Arrest Sea Shepherd Team Trying to Stop Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter

The Royal Danish Navy arrested 14 volunteers from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Saturday for trying to intervene in the slaughter of 33 pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, a protectorate of Denmark.

A team of six Sea Shepherd volunteers spotted a pod of pilot whales from shore on Sandoy Island in the remote North Atlantic archipelago on Saturday and alerted Sea Shepherd’s small flotilla of boats, which has been patrolling the icy waters for nearly three months. Sea Shepherd has been trying to stop the annual Faroese whale hunt known as ;grindadráp, or grind.

During the grind, islanders drive pilot whales and dolphins into shallow bays, where the animals are butchered to the cheers of locals watching from shore.

On Saturday, Sea Shepherd volunteers arrived at the beach where the whales were spotted before the whalers could reach the site. The Royal Danish Navy immediately dispatched a helicopter and high-speed inflatable boats to the island and arrested the six land-based volunteers who had waded into the water to protect the whales as well as eight crew members aboard three Sea Shepherd vessels. The boats and all camera and video equipment were confiscated, according to Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson.

“There is a new law in the islands that says unauthorized people must stay at least one mile away from the grind,” said Watson in a phone interview. “Our attorney advised us to say we were only there as observers, but we said, ‘Absolutely not.’ We aren’t there to observe. We’re there to try and stop the killing.”

Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling campaign in the Faroes, dubbed “Operation GrindStop 2014,” deploys drones and live video feeds to document the slaughter while land- and sea-based volunteers attempt to drive the whales away from their would-be killers. (The Faroe Islands campaign is funded in part by the Skoll Foundation, part of the Jeff Skoll Group, which includes Participant Media, TakePart’s parent company.)

The 14 volunteers have been released and their possessions returned, except for the data cards in their photography equipment. The land-based team of six are scheduled to appear in court on Monday, while the eight sea-based crew members will not have a hearing until Sept. 25.

According to Sea Shepherd, the government wants to hold the vessels as evidence until then.

One of the boats is a 40-foot Zodiac, the BS Sheen, donated by actor Charlie Sheen.

“The Faroese whalers brutally slaughtered an entire pod of 33 pilot whales today,” Sheen said in a statement. “I am proud that a vessel bearing my name was there and did all it could to try to stop this atrocity.”

Denmark, he added, “is complicit in the killing.”

Watson noted that Denmark’s defense of the whalers violates its commitment as a European Union member to oppose whaling.

“One good thing is that this gives us concrete evidence of the Danish navy and police supporting the grind,” said Watson. “The Faroes are not part of the EU, but they are a Danish protectorate. They get EU subsidies through Denmark. This now gives us a case to take to the European Parliament for a complaint.”

Despite the whale slaughter and the arrests, Watson said this season has been a success for Sea Shepherd and the whales.

“It was inevitable that they’d have a whale kill, but we managed to stop them for the past 85 days,” he said.

Watson said Sea Shepherd diverted 270 whales from the islands over the summer.

;In 2010, whalers killed 964 whales, and last year the number rose to 1,360. This season’s toll has only been the 33 pilot whales, along with five beached beaked whales that were slaughtered by islanders.

“Many Danes continue to argue that Denmark is not a whaling nation,” Watson wrote on his Facebook page. “The actions of the Danish Navy and the Danish police demonstrate that Denmark is very much a whaling nation.”

Related stories on TakePart:

Sea Shepherd to Deploy Drones to Stop Massive Whale Slaughter

The Drone War That Is Helping Save the World’s Wildlife

SeaWorld Gives Up Fight to Keep Trainers in the Water With Killer Whales

The Dolphin-Killing Season Is About to Begin in Japan; Here’s What You Can Do About It

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Danish Police Arrest Sea Shepherd Team Trying to Stop Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter