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Here we have something incredibly rare in the reality TV landscape: an episode about something that actually matters. Nobody dies on Hogan Knows Best. But this week on Whale Wars, the Sea Shepherds undertake a search-and-rescue operation to look for some Norwegian sailors who have gone missing in the Antarctic Ocean.
The worst possible outcome of Hogan Knows Best is, what, Brooke’s album tanks? The worst possible outcome of this episode is that people actually fucking die. Let’s see how I handle it, shall we?
This probably won’t be funny.
So, like we saw at the end of last week, the Steve Irwin has received a call from the New Zealand navy about a distress beacon activated off the Antarctic coast. The Irwin is the only vessel in the area. Remember, this is a part of the world where going outside can literally kill you, so there’s no question Sea Shepherd will put aside their anti-whaling activities and participate in the rescue mission. It’s a life-or-death scenario.
The beacon is attached to a Norwegian yacht named the Berserk, with a five-man crew. Nobody knows why the Berserk has called for help, but most likely it’s the weather. A huge storm hit the Southern Ocean right before the beacon went off. This storm is so bad it turned away a New Zealand rescue ship. And the Irwin has to get through this storm to reach the Berserk’s last known location.
Which they do, enduring the ocean sprays that freeze the instant they hit the deck and avoiding the treacherous ice growlers everywhere, the kind that sink ships. The captain of the Berserk is a Norwegian named Jarle Andehoy, an experienced sailor and adventure-seeker who’s seen this kind of weather before. But the Berserker is only about a quarter the size of the Steve Irwin, so the Sea Shepherd crew can only wonder how it fared in such awful weather.
Once they’re through the storm, it’s time to begin the search. The helicopter is dispatched. It travels to the spot where the beacon was activated, and there are no signs of a ship anywhere. It begins a methodical search of the nearby ocean and coast, but its pilot, Chris Aultman, gets more and more worried.
Back on the Irwin, the crew scans the horizon with binoculars for any human activity. They spot a Zodiac boat in the water. It’s empty and shot to shit. They fear the worst, but when they radio it in, they learn that the New Zealand rescue ship lost some small boats in the storm, and they confirm that the Zodiac is theirs, not the Berserk’s. The search continues.
Chris Aultman gets a tip on where to look next. The Berserk dropped off couple of its crewmembers for a journey to the South Pole on motorbikes. Apparently they embarked before the storm hit the Berserk, and now they’ve made it to an American research station. They think that the remaining three crew members might have taken refuge from the storm in a coastal shelter called Shackleton’s Hut. Aultman travels there, lands, and inspects the area, but it’s vacant.
Now it’s about sixty hours since the distress beacon went off. Aultman makes one last sweep of the ocean. He spots an orange life raft in the water. Once again, it’s empty. The Irwin picks it up and confirms that it belonged to the Berserk. The search is called off.
This week’s Whale Wars ends with some footage shot by the Berserk’s crew themselves. It shows the two motorbike adventurers preparing to leave, saying goodbye to the three crewmembers who have now been declared dead. It’s a pretty damn grim note to end on. The Sea Shepherds will be back to fighting the whalers next week, but for now they reflect on this interlude and remember that disaster could happen to them as well.
And that’s that. Check back Monday for the full recap. I did a little research and found out that Animal Planet left out some interesting information about the Berserk crew that changes the story a little bit. Again, it won’t be very funny, but hopefully it’ll be a good read.