SHONAN MARU No 1 and No 2.

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Shonan Maru No 1

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Shonan Maru No 2

These two former Japanese whaling ships were chartered by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the end of 2000 for a two-year whale research programme in the Southern and Antarctic Oceans.  The programme is known as S.O.W.E.R. which stands for Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research.

The vessels will only passively observe whales and will not chase them in any way. The programme will concentrate on sightings, photography and videotaping to develope accurate statistical records of actual whale numbers of various species. The programme will involve personnel and other support from New Zealand as well as other IWC members. The Japanese crew on board both vessels are very proud that this expedition is undertaken in full co-operation with other nations. The joint expedition leaders are New Zealand's Paul Ensor and Japan's Koji Matsuoka who lead an international team of scientists.

The vessels made their first port of call at Wellington on the 2nd of January, 2001 and the mail shown below has been postmarked there on the following day which was the first business day after the new year holiday. The vessels left Wellington on January 5th for a 60 day cruise which will end in Papeete in early March, 2001.

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SHONAN 1      2001 (January 3rd) cover posted in Wellington during port call.      Price US$5

Note: This cover shows at bottom left the markings of both ships.  "Shonan Maru No 2" actually has its own postmark as shown bottom left in black while the "Shonan Maru no 1" only has a ship's cachet as shown applied in red.  The large black cachet at top left is   for the current expedition to the Ross Sea and the Southern Ocean.

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SHONAN 2      2001 (January 3rd) cover posted in Wellington during port call.      Price US$5

Note: this cover has the New Zealand stamp incorrectly postmarked with the "Shonan Maru No 2" postmark as well as being postmarked with the Wellington New Zealand Post postmark.

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The above photo shows the office assistant on board "Shonan Maru no 2" postmarking mail in the ships radio room.

We have more photos taken during the vessels visit to Wellington.  These can be seen here.

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SHONAN 3      2001 (February 5th) Cover posted from Ross Dependency     Price US$5

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SHONAN 4      2001 (February 5th) Cover posted from Ross Dependency     Price US$5

Note: The above cover with a New Zealand whale stamp should have been postmarked Ross Dependency paquebot but has the ordinary Ross Dependency cancellation applied in error.

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