That screengrab doesn’t happen in this episode. It’s from Season One. I put it there because I want to forget about last week, Season Four episode 6. It is the shameful black sheep of the Season 4 family. Episode 6 was caught with an underage prostitute. It sold state secrets to China. It voted for McCain. Whatever works for you, let’s just never mention it again.
Because, it turns out, that’s exactly how episode 7 begins this week. No mention of the yacht Berserk or the effects the search for it had on Operation No Compromise. (Because there weren’t any!) So, going back to where we were at the end of episode FIVE…
We’re two months into Operation No Compromise. The Steve Irwin is continuing to search for the Nisshin Maru, but it’s just about out of fuel and will soon have to go back to New Zealand to gas up—by the way, this WAS part of the plan, it’s not like they massively fucked that up and forgot half their gas. I’ll give them SOME credit.
The Sea Shepherd helicopter pilot, Chirs Aultman, is nearing physical and mental exhaustion. This is his fifth straight campaign and he’s missed five Christmases with his family. He’s decided that when the Irwin gets back to port, he will go home for the rest of the season. Was THIS part of the plan, or, being the only helicopter pilot, is he depriving them of their most effective searching method with no forewarning? We don’t know. We’re not given that information for some reason.
So, it’s pretty important they find the Nisshin Maru before they turn back for refueling, because if they don’t, they’ll have to scour the entire Southern Ocean sans helicopter. And luckily, right before the opening credits, an anonymous tipster emails the Sea Shepherds the Nisshin Maru’s coordinates!
The tip comes when the Steve Irwin has about one day of fuel left before it has to turn back. Chris Aultman wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn begins his search. It’s a painstaking process. He covers thousands of square miles. It’s looking doubtful. But ten minutes before Chris has to return to the ship for the day, he manages to spot the Nisshin Maru on the horizon, along with one of the Yushin Maru harpoon ships. At long last, here’s the Sea Shepherds’ most hated enemy. Two months of searching finally pays off.
Paul Watson asks Chris to take a closer look at the Nisshin before coming back. When Chris gets overhead, he sees that a whale carcass is on the deck. The goal of Operation No Compromise was that not a single whale would be killed, and it looks like they’ve failed. Also, sending in the helicopter for a closer look was a pretty bad idea, because it’s tipped off the whalers to the Sea Shepherds’ presence. The Nisshin and its harpoon escort flee into a nearby ice field. Chris, astonished, watches them bust through ship-killing ice growlers like they were nothing.
The whalers are getting out of radar range. Paul Watson has a decision to make. Does he follow the whalers into the ice field or does he skirt around the it and try to catch the whalers when they emerge. Pretty easy call, right? When has crew safety and well-being ever influenced Commodore Watson? But, holy shit, he goes the safer route.
The Steve Irwin waits, but the whalers are now off radar. Ideally, the helicopter would continue to fly patrols out over the ice field so they’d know for sure where the whalers are, but night is approaching. Chris Aultman returns to the Steve Irwin. He’s been flying search missions for 19 straight hours and wants to go to sleep. In his opinion, it’s not safe for him to push himself beyond the limit. And no amount of Paul Watson passive-aggression will change his mind.
So while Chris rests, Sea Shepherd begins making arrangements for the Bob Barker to take the Steve Irwin’s place on the Nisshin Maru’s tail. (Provided the Irwin still knows where the Nisshin Maru is come next morning). Right now the Bob Barker is continuing to tail the whalers’ refueling vessel, the Sun Laurel, preventing the rest of the whalers from undertaking refuel operations. If the Barker were to abandon the Laurel and if the Nisshin Maru slipped away during the transfer to the Barker’s watch, basically Sea Shepherd would be back to square one: the entire whaling fleet would be operating unhindered. So they come up with a compromise: they’ll attach a tracking device to the Sun Laurel’s hull. That way they’ll still have the Laurel’s location as a fallback option. And somehow, the tracking device operation goes off without a hitch.
With the Barker heading towards the Irwin’s present location, all that’s left to do is send the helicopter up one last time to confirm the Nisshin Maru’s location before the Irwin heads back to port. Chris wakes up from a four-hour nap and heads back out over the ice field, but during his sleep the Nisshin Maru has slipped away. He’s failed the Sea Shepherds.
The Irwin heads back for port. In less than a day they’ve found and lost the ship they’ve been searching for the past two months. Spirits are low. The Irwin’s first mate, Mal, worries that the whalers won’t take Sea Shepherd seriously any more.
While on the way to New Zealand, Paul Watson calls Chris into his office for one last assignment. No, he’s not going to ask Chris to commit seppuku. A big Sea Shepherd donor has died, and he wanted his ashes to be laid to rest in Antarctica. Chris takes the helicopter to a nearby iceberg. When he finishes placing the urn in the snow, he decides he’ll stick around for the second leg, after all.
That’s the short version of it. Nothing that remarkable, really. Basically it’s a Wile E. Coyote cartoon stretched out over an hour. The whalers are juuuuuuust within reach, but surprise, they get away. Anvils. TNT. A railroad tunnel painted onto a rock that turns into a REAL railroad tunnel. Not the first time it’s happened to the Sea Shepherds. Won’t be the last. Full recap Monday.