Hey Whale Wars warriors. Welcome to episode four! I’m writing this in a coffee shop right now, and I’ve just had a very good omen: A real-life Sea Shepherd is here!!
And I say “omen” because it’s a sign that I don’t have to rewrite the intro I used for my Minicap, which was about how episode 4 is a bottle episode because it’s largely confined to just one boat. I was fine with it, but I just don’t feel like doing it. You can still read it if you want.
*Actually, I don’t know for sure if she’s a Sea Shepherd. She’s wearing a Sea Shepherd t-shirt. She’s talking with some guy and from what I’ve eavesdropped, they’re talking about TV production, so maybe she just worked on Whale Wars. Maybe she’s just a fan of the show. Maybe she got the t-shirt from a thrift store.
I don’t have very high standards for my omens.
Before we get into the episode this week, we have some loose ends to tie up from episode 3. Remember how the helicopter was potentially about to meet disaster? The pilot, Chris Aultman, decided to fly the fifty or so miles from the Bob Barker to the Steve Irwin in a heavy fog. And while he was in flight, his radio stopped working, AND the Irwin moved from its original position? It was a scary moment for Chris and the Animal Planet camera guy.
“Why does it smell like asparagus in my helicopter? Oh right, because you peed”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!
Well, Chris flies around for a while until he eventually finds the Steve Irwin and lands safely.
Are your balls sufficiently blue, Whale Wars-iors? Mine are.
Maybe it really was a life-threatening situation. Maybe “life threatening” just looks different in real life than it does in the movies, where something like this wouldn’t be resolved in two minutes with no visible complications. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I don’t know. I’ve never been around helicopters.
Also, you know what? Chris Aultman kinda reminds me of Wild Bill. Yee-haw.
To start, we get a brief update on the overall situation from where it was last week. The starboard engine on the Gojira is still acting up. They’re trying to fix it. Captain Lockhart is hoping the repairs will take days, not weeks. We still get no explanation for what caused the problem.
Theory: Locky wanted to see if you could do a wheelie with a boat
The Steve Irwin, meanwhile, is still tailed by one of the Yushin Maru’s, having failed to elude it last week. With no Gojira, the Steve Irwin’s aging engines aren’t robust enough to outrun the whalers. And that’s about all we’ll hear from them this week.
Thus, it’s all up to the Bob Barker to find the mothership of the whaling fleet. To do that it must a) elude its own Yushin Maru tail ship, the #2, and b) find the Nisshin Maru, wherever it is out there.
The crew of the Bob Barker meets to go over their plans.
Sea Shepherd has a white guy with dreds? What were the chances?
(By the way, I have no idea why Sea Shepherd/Animal Planet keeps presenting this scenario to us as if we’ve never seen it before. The whalers have been sending ships to tail Sea Shepherd for over a year now, and the entire time it’s been the same narrative: “Sea Shepherd has to get away from the tail ships and then find the rest of the fleet”. But every week when they go over what the episode’s gonna be about, they’ll say, “Hey! I’ll bet we should get away from those Yushin Maru’s before we go looking for the Nisshin.” Like it’s the first time they’ve ever dealt with a tail ship.
We don’t need this explained to us any more. AND I’M SICK OF REPEATING IT).
Sooooooo, here are the steps of the plan:
Step 1. The Barker will sail behind an iceberg and do the ol’ “launch the small boats from cover” routine, so the whalers won’t know they’re coming.
Step 2. The whalers will forget they have radar on the Yushin Maru #2 and not see the small boats or the Bob Barker. They will also forget Sea Shepherd has used this tactic pretty much every year.
Step 3. Using the element of “surprise” the small boats will harass the Yushin Maru #2 with their standard compliment of non-lethal weaponry.
Step 4. None of those things will go wrong.
Step 5. This will hopefully slow down the Yushin #2 long enough for the Bob Barker to get out of radar range, so it can then hunt the Nisshin undetected.
Step 6. Step Six is the craziest step yet. The small boats will be finished harassing the Yushin Maru #2 once the Bob Barker is at least twenty miles away. This means the small boats will have to be left alone for a period, in open ocean.
SIDE NOTE: Small boats that are dependent on big boats aren’t really supposed to be left alone in a treacherous and inhospitable ocean. But whatever.
“That plan’s just crazy enough to get several of our crew members killed!”
Two pieces of information are helpfully included here, in a way that is not foreshadowing whatsoever:
-When one of the small boat captains, Pottsie, is wondering whether it’s safe for the Barker to leave him and his crew alone in open water, he remembers that the only times small boats have had to operate independently was when when something went wrong.
-And then, the Barker captain tells Pottsie that he and his crew’s lives are way more important than anything else. Better not let Paul Watson hear you saying that!
So to sum up steps 1-6, the small boats will keep the Yushin at bay while the Barker escapes, and if it escapes, they will reunite with the Barker, all while not dying in the ocean.
That was the first part of the plan. Meaning, I have more Sea Shepherd plan to describe. Goddamn it.
Step 7. If the Barker does manage to escape, they’re not just going to let the Yushin Maru #2 leave the area. Oh no. Figuring the Yushin Maru #2 will return to the rest of the whaling fleet after losing the Sea Shepherds, Pottsie and his crew will be attaching a tracking device to the Yushin.
Here’s a shot of the tracking device on the hull of the Yushin Maru #2. My screengrabs suck and in this shot the camera lens was being sprayed with water, but, the tracking device is the gray square in the middle.
Are all tracking devices this big in real life? Or do people really have those tiny ones like they use in the James Bond movies?
Step 8. The whalers will forget that there aren’t supposed to be giant magnets on their hull. They will also have to not know what a tracking device is.
Step 9. The small boat will not be chopped into bits by the propeller they will be directly on top of.
And that is the plan. Sure, maybe part of it could go wrong. Maybe all of it could go wrong. Maybe part of the plan requires that the whalers be pretty inept…so inept you’d think they would never be able to operate their enormous whaling fleet successfully.
But at least they have a plan. Where’s YOUR plan?
Now it’s time to launch the boats for their mission.
Everyone goes outside and, because it’s Antarctica, it’s freezing cold outside. Negative 35 degrees, probably Fahrenheit because I think you would be dead if it was -35 Celsius. It’s also starting to snow.
In other words, while it was already a risky proposition to send the inexperienced crew of a bunch of small boats to operate independently out in the Southern Ocean, when you throw in shitty weather you’re pretty much 100% guaranteed someone will die.
Let’s meet some of the candidates!
Pottsie is captaining one boat. His navigator will be Michael May. He will be attaching the magnetic tracking device to the Yushin Maru #2‘s hull, meaning he will have to dangle himself over the edge of the small boat while it’s going full speed.
He is 21 years old and thus the most easily convinced to do things
The captain of the other small boat is a guy named Ben, and who cares, because they don’t have enough time to tell us anything about him.
Ben “Faceless Sea Shepherd Drone” Idontknowhislastname
And his navigator is a guy named Gary, whom I also don’t care about other than for the fact that something kinda funny happens with him later:
Gary, who has a wife, a child, and fucked up priorities
Looking out over the treacherous ocean, Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Bob Barker decides, why not, they’ll go ahead with the mission.
The boats leave the Bob Barker without any problems. (Miracle!) They get in position behind the iceberg. While they wait for the Yushin Maru #2 to approach, they wonder if they should have picked a bigger iceberg to hide behind.
“Wait, were we supposed to pick a big iceberg or a small one? Why didn’t we plan for this?”
Back on the Barker, Captain Alex looks over the scene and remarks that things are “too good to be true”. I assume he’s commenting on the action unfolding right now, but since it hasn’t started yet maybe he’s referring to something else. I have no idea. I’ve been looking for a way to characterize Alex this season, and I think I’ll go with either a) medically insane or b) he is a Manchurian Candidate, brainwashed by the whalers since birth and about to fulfill his lifelong deep-cover mission bring Sea Shepherd down from the inside.
Finally, the Yushin Maru #2 approaches. Pottsie radios the Barker to tell them the attack is commencing. The criminally underutilized First Mate Peter answers, and this next exchange had me laughing out loud:
PETER: This is Peter.
POTTSIE: The eagle has nested!
PETER: Um…“The eagle has nested”…?
Not making this up. That was Peter’s exact tone of voice.
Next time just say, “the ship is here”, Pottsie
The small boats close in on the Yushin Maru #2. Pottsie’s boat closes in first and gets into position so Michael May can attach the tracking device. He gets soaked with a spray of water, but he does get the tracker on there successfully.
Then it’s Ben’s boat’s turn. They will be trying out a new toy in their arsenal (of toys). The Shepherd’s Crook:
Awwwww isn’t that name cute?
The idea here is, a metal hook is attached to a prop fouler line. The small boats will pull up alongside the whaling ships and hook the Shepherd’s Crook onto their railings. The prop fouler line will drift behind the whaling ship, and when the whaling ship makes a turn, the line will theoretically fuck up its propeller.
Seems a little more accurate than the “throw a rope into the ocean and hope a ship runs over it” strategy
Ben pulls his boat up alongside the Yushin Maru #2, Gary hooks the Crook onto the railing, and it’s a success! Meaning the hook DID attach to the railing, not that it fucked up the whaling ship, which it will not.
Pottsie’s crew makes another pass. They hook a Crook onto the Yushin #2 and then start launching smoke bombs and flares into its netting.
Which is downright rude
Ben’s boat makes a second pass. They’re going to try another Crook, just to make real sure the whaling ship would be disabled if Shepherd’s Crooks worked worked.
They pull up alongside. They attach their Shepherd’s Crook. They pull away.
And the rope does not detach from their boat. They are now tethered to the whaling ship, and it ain’t slowing down.
As the whalers look on and laugh, the crew of the small boat tries furiously to detach themselves from the prop fouler line. They do manage to detach themselves safely, but Ben worries their pontoon might be ruptured. Nevertheless, his crew goes ahead celebrates the fact that they uncut themselves.
Back on the Barker, the bridge crew measures the distance they’ve put between themselves and the Yushin Maru #2, and they discover they’ve gotten away. Like, really, really away, because they are now seventy miles away from the Yushin and the small boats when they only needed to be about twenty.
“Twenty, seventy, what’s the difference? Now let’s go collect our one small boat!”
They share the good news with Paul Watson. And now, it’s time for the last phase of the plan, which is for the small boats to rendezvous with the Bob Barker seventy miles away.
But it turns out the pontoon on Ben’s boat really is cracked. Frigid water is gushing onboard.
Pottsie and Ben stop their boats to figure out what to do. Knowing the Barker is so far away, they’re not sure whether to press onward and risk flooding their boat, or stay put so the Barker can come pick them up, probably allowing the Yushin Maru #2 to find them.
So if we’re keeping score at home…prop foulers that have damaged whaling ships: 0; 4, prop foulers that have inadvertently damaged a Sea Shepherd ship: 2
The small boat crews are starting to feel the cold. It turns out that when the small boats are running along at full speed and you’re holding on for dear life, you’re expending a lot of energy and keeping yourself warm. But when the boat’s not moving, the cold gets to you.
Pottsie calls the Barker to ask for a pickup. Captain Alex is not thrilled with the news. Peter tries to cheer him up, reminding him that the Yushin might not be around when they get back to the staging area, but Alex is too concerned with finding the crew to think about the mission much.
They figure the journey back to the small boats will take them four or five hours. The Barker’s medical officer, Thomas Reinertson, worries about the small boat crew developing hypothermia.
Guess who just lost his medical license by appearing on camera!
Through Reinertson we learn about the symptoms of hypothermia: you get really cold and you die.
Also, you lose feeling in your extremities, your heart beats irregularly, and your brain gets affected so that your decision-making worsens, but those first two are the big ones.
Some of these symptoms are beginning to be observed in the crew. Mikey in particular, whose undergarments were soaked when he attached the tracking device, is looking a little threadbare.
Captain Alex calls Paul Watson to give him the news. Paul Watson grits his teeth and tells them the safety of the small boat crews is most important, but it pains him to do it.
It reminded me of that part in Temple of Doom when Mola Ram throws his own guy off the collapsed bridge-ladder to try and knock Indy off, and the guy gets eaten by crocodiles
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Temple of Doom is the best one.
So now, the crew must sit and wait.
“Well, I guess we better cannibalize someone. Not it!”
Night is approaching and the Bob Barker is still about four hours away from the small boats. Everyone tries to stay warm.
Mikey is fading fast. They have wrapped him in a thermal blanket to keep him warm, and he nods off. Which is apparently really bad if you have hypothermia, but nobody thinks to wake him up.
Gary, the affable husband and father, reflects on his decision to volunteer for the small boat. Namely, he wonders what the fuck he was thinking, because he has a wife and kid he’s responsible for.
Pottsie realizes Mikey hasn’t moved in a while. Now he remembers the thing about not letting potentially hypothermic people go to sleep.
At least they already have the body bag
As didgeridoo production music swells, the Animal Planet camera batteries go dead.
Did you notice the Animal Planet title for this week’s episode? “The Devil’s Icebox”? That makes no sense. I’m pretty sure you can’t have ice in hell, Animal Planet.
Anyway, thanks for reading, friends! No Whale Wars this Friday, but the show is back July 8th. Apparently it’s going to be a crazy episode because an unknown Japanese ship shows up in the area to stir shit up. Be there