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NOTE: This is part one of a two-part finale. Part two will be up same time tomorrow.
It’s been a long anti-whaling season for Captain Pete Bethune. The whalers destroyed his ship, but he refused to quit. Still, he’s had to wait five weeks for a chance to get his revenge. That’s thirty-five days of waiting, planning, and writing angry poetry in his diary. And it all comes down to this…
This episode starts out in the wee hours of the morning. The cameras have to use night vision. The whole thing has the feel of that other marine mammal rescue documentary, The Cove. It’s early, but the entire Sea Shepherd crew is abuzz with activity.
I’ve launched the Delta boat so many times, I could do it blindfolded! [crash, shattered femur]
The mission? To get Captain Pete Bethune aboard one of the whaling vessels. They will be sneaking up to the Japanese ship using a jet ski, which I did not know they possessed.
“Seriously. Hold on to me and stop air guitaring. I don’t want to have to fish you out of the ocean AGAIN.“
Everyone bids their friend Pete goodbye with plenty of bravado. One of them says, “See you in Japan!” Bethune and a crew member are off!
In a talking-head, another crew member gives some of the standard Sea Shepherd boilerplate about how dedicated Bethune is, how he would give his life for the whales, etc. etc. This crew member’s name is Vincent Burke. This is only interesting because he’s that guy with the long hair and the beard who’s been on the bridge of the Steve Irwin all season but whom we haven’t actually met. Which is too bad, because, Jesus, look at his nose:
“My nose swells up whenever whales are in trouble…look!”
On the bridge, everyone waits to hear from the jet ski. It’s tense. Then, there’s a loud racket that sounds like radio static. They scramble. Admiral Watson asks, “Is he on board?”
Then they cut to “Three Days Earlier.”
We’re back to where we were at the end of last week’s episode. After the huge dust-up, the Steve Irwin had managed to plant itself right behind the Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, so that the whalers couldn’t process any more kills. Sea Shepherd was content to stay right behind the factory ship for the rest of the season. Now, though, it looks like the Nisshin Maru is leading them right into a storm.
While that’s happening, Pete Bethune goes below deck to look at new footage of the Nisshin Maru that was shot from the helicopter. This is so he can figure out how best to board the Nisshin.
“I’m thinking if you teleport me here…are you saying we don’t have a teleporter, or that they don’t exist? Which is it?”
Here’s my favorite actual quote from the exchange: “They got these things sticking out here…those are to keep us from getting on board the boat.”
Chris Aultman, the helicopter pilot and our resident Doubting Thomas, says he thinks this will be really hard to pull off, as there’s really only one small part of the stern where the anti-personnel spikes are spaced far enough apart that a guy could climb through.
Bethune is way more optimistic. He thinks that not only can he get onboard, he can do it without the whalers even realizing it! All they have to do is shoot for a time of day when nothing else is happening, like the middle of the night.
Back above decks, the storm is getting bad. It appeared so suddenly they didn’t prepare for it, and now the Nisshin Maru is slipping away.
The huge ocean swells have slowed down the other Sea Shepherd ship, the Bob Barker, too, so much that it’s fallen two miles behind. They’ve also lost sight of all the other whaling ships in the area, and can’t find them on radar.
Pete Bethune puts things into perspective. He thinks this is a make-or-break moment for the whalers. If they lose Sea Shepherd in the storm, they’ll continue whaling and have a good year. If they don’t, Sea Shepherd wins. But now that they’ve lost visibility with the whalers, who knows?
Admiral Watson calls the Bob Barker to see if they can still see the whalers. For the first time in, like, ever, Watson gets frustrated with one of his crew members and snaps at him. Usually Animal Planet portrays him as a mixture of the devotion of Gandhi and the sound managerial techniques of Jack Welch.
A short time later, the Nisshin Maru reappears in the mist, so all appears to be well. Then, the Steve Irwin gets an odd phone call, from someone at the Fuji Television Network. They claim that in the last fight, Sea Shepherd injured three of the whalers, specifically, “acid splash chemical injuries to the eyes and face.” They want Admiral Watson’s response.
I can’t imagine Admiral Watson being sympathetic to whalers under any circumstances, so obviously here he thinks they’re lying. He hasn’t seen any pictures, so how does he know it even happened? Also, the whalers threw concussions grenades and sprayed them with hoses, so who’s really the asshole, Fuji Television Network? I thought so.
When they review footage of the attack, Sea Shepherd discovers something interesting. Remember those whalers with that unidentified gun attached to a backpack? Sea Shepherd actually got footage of the whalers firing that weapon and having the wind blow its white powdery stuff right back into their faces.
I don’t think it’s apparent from one still, but that is what it looks like. And so: douche chillllllll.
If this is what caused those “facial burns”—and really, who knows for sure—and they’re blaming it on Sea Shepherd acid, then that literally the stupidest PR strategy I’ve ever seen. That’s like 2005 FEMA-bad.
While all this is going on, Bethune continues his planning for boarding the whaling ship. One of the items on his list is preparing an invoice for the damages to the Adi Gil.
My favorite is how he clearly doesn’t know who to bill, so he just puts the entire city of Tokyo.
He also talks about the lasting effects he hopes his boarding will have. The Japanese think of Sea Shepherd as a bunch of nutcases, he says, so maybe if he can directly appeal to the Japanese public, the mood will change. “He” being the guy who’s going to illegally board a Japanese ship with an invoice for the city of Tokyo.
By now the storm has passed now, and some whales have appeared. This time it’s a pod of orcas.
The show switches to nature documentary-mode for a minute. If you don’t care about nature shit, feel free to skip ahead, but I do, so let’s take a look…
First off, this pod of whales is going after a seal. They’re doing something called “sky hopping,” which means they surface their heads out of the water and look above the surface for prey:
Whales: pretty fucking cool
When the whales go back underwater, the seal somehow thinks they’ve disappeared, and decides to jump in himself, and thus becomes their dinner. Idiot.
This is all a fun diversion, because the whalers don’t hunt orcas. As we all know, orcas are also called “killer whales,” because they hunt other whales. That actually makes them “competition” for the whalers, Animal Planet says. What do you know, that reminds me of a story…
Back in the day, there used to be an orca off the coast of Australia nicknamed “Old Tom.” Old Tom would actually help the local whalers catch other whales, and in return the whalers would give him the tongues. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Tom_%28killer_whale%29. Isn’t that disturbing, though? The idea of manipulating a whale into helping you kill other whales just stuck with me that way.
Originally I wasn’t going to mention Old Tom in the recaps because he’s not really relevant, but whatever. Melville included a shit-ton of unnecessary factual information in Moby Dick, so I make no apologies.
OK, nature shit’s over. Back to the recap.
The calm seas have let the Bob Barker catch up to the Irwin and the Nisshin Maru. Looking good.
But then the two harpoon ships in the fleet suddenly turn south, away from everyone else. They synchonize it, so does that mean they’re resuming the hunt? Could be. They worry the harpoon ships will return with fresh kills and sneak past the Irwin to load onto the Nisshin Maru.
So here, one of the engineers introduces a plan he’s been working on—a way to shut down the factory ship for good. What if they could flood the Nisshin Maru’s engine? All they’d need to do is fire their water cannon into its exhaust pipes. (That is, if the pipes lead directly into the engine…they don’t know for sure).
Admiral Watson likes the plan, so with the two harpoon ships out of the area, he greenlights it. Now it’s up to the water cannon team, whose names are Brent, Gustav, and Nicola.
They launch the helicopter. Chris Aultman guides the Steve Irwin towards the Nisshin Maru.
Gosh, I hope the whalers aren’t thinking the same thing. That would suck for Sea Shepherd.
For now, the whalers aim their cannons on the Irwin’s own cannon team, while also spraying the Irwin down.
One of the Sea Shepherd crew members doesn’t want to get wet, so he tries to come inside, and Admiral Watson has to yell at him for letting water inside the bridge. I liked that.
And what do you know, they nail the exhaust pipe!
But it was only for a few seconds, so they don’t get enough water in to affect the Nisshin Maru at all. It’s still going full speed. Sea Shepherd resignedly pulls back and resumes their earlier position so they can think up more ideas.
They want to disable the Nisshin Maru completely, which is really difficult being that the Nisshin weighs 8,000 tons. It’s pretty much the Death Star. But they think that, like the Death Star, the Nisshin Maru has to have a weak spot. Maybe it’s the slipway? They decide to try to launch some butyric acid onto it, so that way any kills the whalers try to pull onboard will be contaminated.
That means it’s time for another Delta boat mission! Captain Bethune leads the Delta along with two other crew members. Sea Shepherd is also launching its other small boat, the Hunter, to try, once again, to ruin the Nisshin Maru’s propeller. But earlier this season the Nisshin Maru’s propeller chewed through their best prop fouler, the five-inch-thick, steel-reinforced one, as if it were Red Vines, so I don’t know why they even bother with this any more.
The boats are launched without any problems and speed off towards the Nisshin. They decide to separate so they can split the streams from the Nisshin’s hoses.
The Hunter speeds in front of the Nisshin and launches its prop fouler. They time it right, and it looks like it might have a chance at working…
This is the last we hear about this. Animal Planet doesn’t even bother mentioning it didn’t work.
Now it’s the Delta’s turn. They speed right up behind the Nisshin and launch the butyric acid from close range, not worried at all by the water cannon spray hitting their ship.
Look how close they get to this mother!
Bethune fires a shot from his spud gun, and it’s a direct hit on the slipway. They speed around for another shot, and he hits again. And again. And again. They have so thoroughly blanketed the slipway with butyric acid, the Bob Barker crew can smell it hundreds of yards away.
Oh, and you can still see those paint splotches on the Nisshin Maru’s hull, which I also thought would just wash off in the rain…
I continually find myself astonished when something they did actually works
So the Hunter small boat returns to the Bob Barker and all is well. But the Delta, meanwhile, seems to be running into some mechanical troubles. It’s dead in the water, because both the engines are shot.
“You guys thought I was sooooo dumb for bringing a book.”
On the Irwin Admiral Watson once again reacts poorly. He must not be getting enough sleep and/or media attention.
There’s something fun here worth pausing over…remember earlier, when the Delta crew was scoffing at the Nisshin Maru‘s water cannons not being worth shit? I think those cannons are exactly the reason why the boat is stalled now. Animal Planet only indicates that the engines got flooded, not why, so I that has to be the reason, right?
Anyway, with the Delta boat dead in the water, the other whaling ship in the area, the Shonan Maru 2, increases speed. They’re heading right towards it. Visions of the Adi Gil disaster flash before Pete Bethune’s eyes.
With the Shonan 2 approaching, the Steve Irwin has to drop pursuit of the factory ship and return for the Delta, but the Bob Barker manages to take the place of the Irwin behind the factory ship, so it’s not a total disaster.
The Irwin gets to the Delta boat first and tries to toss a throwing line out to them. The Delta’s just far enough away to make it difficult, and Admiral Watson goes out onto the deck to yell at his crew some.
Eventually they manage to throw the line to the Delta and haul it in, well before the Shonan 2 can cause any trouble. But Bethune views the incident as that much more motivation to board the sumbitch one way or another.
Let’s get back to that storyline, shall we? Betune and Chris Aultman discuss when to have the mission take place. Bethune wants it to be in the middle of the night to get the element of surprise, but Aultman worries about what will happen if Bethune goes into the water. The helicopter is useless without visibility, so he’d have to wait hours before rescuing Bethune. Basically this way Bethune’s dead if they screw up.
The guys seem to be at an impasse.
But later Bethune gathers everyone to go over his plan, and it surprisingly very detailed, with four pages of notes. I was expecting something more like this:
PETE’S REVENGE PLAN
Step 1: get on boat
Step 2: Take Care of Business
Step 3: Focus on something else, now that whaling has ENDED FOREVER!
So Chris Aultman is placated. Even impressed. “That plan was one of the most well-thought-out plans I’ve ever seen…with Sea Shepherd, anyway,” he says.
That night, a few hours before the boarding mission is to commence, Bethune calls an all-crew meeting to go over what he hopes will come of this stunt—the Japanese people getting to hear another side of the whaling debate—and takes the time to thank everyone for including him. It’s clear everyone loves him.
If I fail, I die. But if I succeed…I get a lifetime supply of activist ass.
Damn it! I really wanted this week to be the one. But once again, they managed to squeeze in an episode before the big one.
See you tomorrow!
Saint Clare of Assisi