To open Week 9 of our ten-episode season, the Gojira has just come upon the Nisshin Maru. It’s the mothership of the Japanese whaling fleet. If Sea Shepherd prevents it from loading whale carcasses onto its slipway, all whaling operations will come to a halt and the campaign will be over.
Sea Shepherd has been trying to find the Nisshin Maru for the entire campaign. They actually did find it earlier in the season but then lost it a couple hours later because the helicopter pilot needed to take a nap. For me, that makes the second time they find it a little less climactic. “Hey, we re-found it!” Doesn’t really pop.
Regardless, the Nisshin Maru is in sight and the big attack can begin. Hopefully it’ll be exciting, like a Death Star battle in Star Wars. And not boring. Let’s see what we get…
The Gojira pulls up on the Nisshin Maru to take a closer look, and realizes the whalers have just made a kill and are now processing the whale meat. Captain Lockhart notices the Nisshin doesn’t have any protective netting over the flensing deck, where the meat’s being processed, so the Gojira crew will try to launch foul butyric acid onto the deck and hopefully ruin the whale meat. The Gojira runs out in front of the Nisshin, aims the spud gun, and fires, mortar-style. It’s a really difficult shot, since the Gojira is about 45 tons and the Nisshin Maru is about 8,000, meaning the Nisshin is way higher above sea level, so that the Gojira can’t even see the flensing deck, but eventually, one of the bottles lands.
The Bob Barker is about forty miles away and closing in, but the Steve Irwin is 1,500 miles away in Wellington, New Zealand for a refuel. Captain Watson realizes that ice conditions where the Nisshin Maru is located are the worst they’ve been in years, and since the Gojira is only made of fiberglass, it wouldn’t be able to follow the whalers if they retreated into an ice field. It’s extra important the bigger, sturdier Sea Shepherd ships get to the area in time. While they’re en route, the Gojira has to keep the whalers away from the ice. And to do that…they fire red paint at it. Not like, red paint that could also can blow things up. Just red paint. The now paint-splattered Nisshin Maru shrugs and heads for the ice fields.
So now the Gojira’s gonna have to break out Old Unreliable, the prop fouler. The Sea Shepherds have changed their prop-fouling tactics this year. Used to be they would cut across the whaling ship’s path and release the fouler behind them, but now they sail directly in front of the whalers, release the fouler and let it go down the center-line of the ship. But this time, the result’s the same as it always is, and the Nisshin Maru continues on its way. The ice is on the horizon. Locky has one card left to play, and that is to combine all the ropes and chains they have onboard, including the anchor chain and the mooring lines, into a Super Fouler. They release the Super Fouler, it goes under the Nisshin Maru, and the show cuts to commercial.
And even their best shot was a miss. The Nisshin now ventures into the ice field, shoving off the huge ice growlers with no effort. The Bob Barker is still hours away, and at first Captain Lockhart tries to navigate the Gojira through the ice, but the ice density and the waning sunlight make it very difficult. He spots a clear channel of water that would let them loop around and intercept the Nisshin in the middle of the field. It might be their last chance. They reach the intercept point and stop the engines to wait. The Nisshin appears. It’s headed straight for him! (Probably not, but that’s how the show’s edited anyway).
The Gojira crew launches some flares in the Nisshin Maru’s general direction—one even lands on the deck—and eventually the whalers veer off and sail past them. Both sides have claimed the other was at fault for this near-collision, but for now. Then, as the Nisshin Maru recedes into the distance, the Bob Barker arrives and takes over pursuit. Not long after, one of the Yushin harpoon ships arrives in the area. This is what the Sea Shepherds were dreading—the harpoon ships are more agile than the Nisshin and could keep the Barker at a distance.
Better call Paul. Watson tells them to keep on the Nisshin Maru, and it looks like for now the Yushin is going a little bit slower than the Bob Barker, so it likely won’t pose a threat. While the Barker continues to tail the Nisshin, a pod of sperm whales shows up. Sperm whales aren’t a target of the whalers in the Southern Ocean, but they’re still almost extinct, the show tells us. In the interlude, the Sea Shepherds remind us why they’re doing this. The peace doesn’t last long, though. The Yushin Maru #3 picks up speed and is headed right for the Barker. Last season the Yushin and the Barker collided with each other. (It’s not clear who was at fault for it, and the courts don’t seem to either have enough evidence or care enough to blame someone). Is it going to happen again?!
This is where the effectiveness of the Sea Shepherds’ tactics is called into question. Apparently two years ago, when the Steve Irwin was also on the Nisshin Maru’s tail, all three harpoon ships managed to push past and deposit a whale onto the slipway. Which is exactly what tailing the Nisshin Maru is supposed to prevent. And now, the Yushin Maru #3 isn’t trying to ram the Bob Barker, it’s just making a dry run to the slipway to prove it can do the same thing. The Sea Shepherds look shaken, then sad. They say they’ll still stop a whale from being transferred onto the mothership, but you do wonder how doable that is.
To read last week’s recap while you wait, click here.