To me, Whale Wars isn’t really about tragedy, but this week’s episode has the trappings of some old-school Greek theater. Let’s start with irony and hubris. This week’s episode begins with this shot:
That’s Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd founder. Those are flags representing all the whaling ships he has sunk over the years. Animal Planet doesn’t really delve into this, but a brief Wikipedia search will tell you, for instance that those two blue-and-red flags used to belong to some Icelandic whaling ships. They were sunk, and Watson and the gang took full responsibility.
So, what do we make of this? Naval vessels do the same thing, painting flags on to symbolize how many enemy ships they’ve taken out. Is Watson going for some kind of pseudo-military look to highlight how badass Sea Shepherd is? Or, is he just going for a simpler intimidation tactic? “Hey, fuckos. Want your ship painted on here next?”
Either way, flaunting your prowess is a surefire way to get a divine retribution smackdown. How does Sea Shepherd not know that? This is the result of a lack of a classical education.
When we last left off, Captain Bethune and the Adi Gil had just successfully fucked with the flagship of the whaling fleet, the Nisshin Maru. This has slowed the Nisshin down and prevented them from killing any whales.
Captain Bethune flashes a “thumbs up,” the international sign for success.
It’s faster than any ship on either side of the conflict. This victory has the Sea Shepherds dreaming big: it could be the weapon they need to end whaling FOREVER.
Mission accomplished! victory!
But, this maneuver has left the Adi Gil without of fuel. They have to withdraw so their comrades in the Bob Barker can resume pursuit.
(They’re out of fuel because earlier Captain Bethune forgot to gas up when he was supposed to, but let’s let him have his moment in the sun).
The whalers look on. They are not amused over this loss of face. A humiliation!
Note: I couldn’t find a picture of an actual whaler
The Japanese slowly surround the idling Adi Gil. To disengage, they’ll have to run a gauntlet. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?
The situation. (Animal Planet sure has some really shitty graphic design, right? Ha!)
The Adi dodges the first two harpoon ships. They wave goodbye to the Bob Barker.
Sorry for the Sasquatch-sighting quality of this pic, ran out of time
But a Bob Barker spotter notices one of the remaining harpoon ships has changed course. The Shonan Maru 2 is headed straight for the Adi Gil!
But the crew of the Adi Gil is unconcerned, even as their “collision warning” alarm blares.
Really! Animal Planet edited it so there’s a shot of them mocking the whalers RIGHT BEFORE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
The Bob Barker watches the harpoon ship get closer.
Yup. The whalers went there. They fucking went there!
By the way, this was a particularly dickish move on the whalers’ part—running over a boat and then hosing down the crew? Shit:
Over on the Bob Barker, the crew springs into action. All hands on deck! First Mate Peter tries to hail the Adi Gil. No reply. Then he tries the Shonan Maru 2. Again, no reply, even though the Japanese are legally obligated to respond.
Captain Watson orders that a small boat be launched to look for survivors. At this point they don’t even know if anyone survived the collision.
While the small boat approaches the Adi Gil, the Shonan Maru 2 finally gets around to replying to the Bob Barker. They offer to assist, but Peter turns them down.
Peter seems to be the one reacting strongest to the situation. He’s irate, but clear-headed, already thinking about the ramifications of the Japanese doing this.
Ohhhhhhh, I’m gonna have your job, shithead, and then fire myself to bring whaling to an end
“Throwing rotten butter is one thing,” he says. “Sinking a ship is totally different.” Sea Shepherd would never do that to one of the whalers, right?
That’s what I thought.
Captain Swift of the Bob Barker also offers his reaction:
“I thought I was prepared for everything but, uh, I guess I wasn’t prepared for this.”
So, here’s the shape the Adi Gil is in, closeup:
The front of the ship holds the crew quarters, so if anyone was in there, they’re goners.
At last the small boat reaches the Adi Gil. To their relief, everyone is safe. They get the Adi Crew back onboard the Bob Barker. Nobody was injured except for an Animal Planet cameraman, a guy named Simeon. But nothing too serious. Everyone is relieved to see each other.
Oh, wait, apparently they forgot Captain Bethune. He’s still onboard the Adi Gil.
Remember, the Adi Gil is his own personal vessel. He’s spent four years building it, and mortgaged his house to 95% of its value. At this point Animal Planet gives us a montage of what they think is going on inside Captain Bethune’s head. Basically this:
Good times! Bad times! Whales! Crash.
So, they have to send out another small boat to pick Captain Bethune up, and to survey the damage.
They’re missing 3-4 meters of hull, and many holds are filled with water. i.e. fucked
Now then. Once they know everyone is safe, how does Sea Shepherd react to this grievous wrong? Do they go on a Bronson-like rampage of terror, trying to send the whole whaling fleet to the bottom of the ocean?
They fire up the spin machine.
All hands on deck! Man the sat phones!
The message: “Those dickish dicks ran us over on purpose because we were winning and then they sprayed us with a hose. Oh, and save the whales.”
Even Anderson Cooper takes notice.
An independent sailing analyst weighs in.
The footage, he says, indicates the Japanese should have given way to Sea Shepherd, but there was bad seamanship on both sides.
Then Japan fires back with their side of the story. Not surprisingly, they do not accept responsibility. Here’s basically what they said:
“These eco-nuts are constantly attacking us! How can you expect us not to run them over!”
The Shonin Maru 2 releases their own footage of the accident, but it’s a little odd.
How did that guy manage to stay on the boat!
There’s a voiceover included with the footage, from one of the Shonan Maru 2 crewmembers. He calmly remarks that the Adi Gil ran right out in front of them and it’s not their fault, AS THEY’RE RUNNING OVER IT!
To me, that means one of two things: one, they are approaching Trump-like levels of dickishness by being unaffected by a shipwreck happening right in front of them. Or two, they intended to run over the Adi and had a guy on the scene to provide some instant spin. I’m inclined to go with the latter, which would be some cold-blooded Karl Rove shit if that’s what happens.
But before the second-to-last commercial break, Animal Planet returns to a tearful Captain Bethune to remind you of the human side of this accident/attack/tragedy/awesome ratings boon. He’s just lost his boat, and basically his fortune. “What’s it going to take to get those whalers to stop?” he moans. “Is someone gonna have to die down here?”
Where are you, Jiminy Cricket?
At last, the members of Sea Shepherd begin to move on. They have to figure out what to do with the wrecked Adi Gil. They decide to tow it to a nearby research station to see if they can salvage any of it, but before they do that, they siphon the gas out.
Oh, Sea Shepherd. Even your shipwrecks are environmentally responsible!
Below decks, Captain Bethune tries to cheer up his crew-without-a-ship. He actually gives one of the more level-headed takes on the events. He thinks the Japanese knew the Adi was the most threatening Sea Shepherd vessel, and they wanted just to scrape the Adi’s hull as a threat but they miscalculated it. Maybe?
“That’s what friends are foooooooor,” Rod Steward might as well be singing
But privately, Captain Bethune is still clearly distraught.
He tries to sleep, on a child’s sleeping bag, with an Animal Planet camera in his face
The next morning, Sea Shepherd realizes the Adi Gil has taken on too much water. It’s unsalvageable. Swift and Watson graciously let Bethune decide whether to cut it loose or keep towing it.
Bethune tells them: get the whalers.
So, Swift and First Mate Peter devise a new plan to re-discover the fleet, which has slipped away during the commotion. Except for the hated Shonin Maru 2. It remains on the horizon, tracking their movements. They cut the Adi free, and it sinks to the bottom, but Animal Planet didn’t show it.
What will happen to Bethune, the captain without a ship? Will he slowly waste away with nothing to do? Or will the loss of his ship drive him insane and compel him to do something completely nuts?
It’s the second one. He was already pretty nuts.
But until then, I remain your faithful observer to the wars about the whales.
Saint Clare of Assisi