If last week’s episode of Whale Wars kinda sorta fit into the Greek drama format, this week’s episode is more like a Charles Bronson movie. (With a dash of Three Stooges, of course). The title Animal Planet used is literally “Revenge Is Mine”! How do they get away with this show?
But before we jump into what happened, I thought I’d provide a little bit of bonus material on the good people at Sea Shepherd. They just can’t seem to stay out of the news.
Whaling season only lasts three months of the year. Ever wonder what the Sea Shepherd people do during the other nine?
Apparently our friend First Mate Peter has been on a very special mission lately. Last Monday, (July 19th), a New Zealand news site reported that Peter has been hanging out on the Danish Faeroe Islands, where he INFILTRATED a group of people who slaughtered 236 pilot whales, so he could document it:
How did he gain the trust of the whale killers? We may never know
Because, of course he did. Cults are year-round commitments.
(Have we established Sea Shepherd is a cult? Because it’s a cult).
Now then, on to this week’s tale of REVENGE. There have been a few developments in the wake of last week’s sinking of the Adi Gil. Sea Shepherd has called the police to request the captain of the Shonan Maru 2 be arrested. He was not, and hasn’t been since, and Sea Shepherd is flabbergasted.
Then, remember how Sea Shepherd couldn’t do anything to salvage the Adi Gil, so they had to cut it loose to sink? Well, the Japanese have pulled the dick move to end all dick moves: they have released a press release accusing Sea Shepherd of POLLUTING!!!!!!
Oh my god, what’s more dick than that?! Destroying someone’s ship, then accusing them of hurting the environment for letting oil leak into the ocean, ALL WHILE YOU’VE BEEN WHALING.
The gang can’t believe it. They don’t think anyone will take it seriously, and Animal Planet takes care to remind you that Sea Shepherd did, in fact, pump all the fuel out of the Adi before setting it adrift. But they’re clearly unhappy. Paul Watson complains about a double standard. If Sea Shepherd had sunk a Japanese ship, the Australian navy would be on the spot to arrest them.
(Not that he’d know anything about the consequences of sinking whaling ships or anything).
For the time being, though, the Shonan Maru 2 is still hanging around the Bob Barker. The main factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, escaped during the melee that sunk the Adi. While the Shonan 2 is on their tail, the Bob Barker can’t find the Nisshin Maru because the Shonan 2 will just relay Sea Shepherd’s coordinates on to the factory ship. This way, the whalers can always stay one step ahead of them.
You can’t see it, but the Japanese are saying in semaphore “Hey Sea Shepherd, this whale steak tastes reeeeeeeally good!”
Captain Bethune seethes. “If they really want to start a fight…bring it on!”
Or, “Continue to bring it on!” he also could have said, since, you know, the fight has already resulted in the total destruction of his ship and livelihood. With that, we get the opening credits.
But the season the whalers haven’t run into the other Sea Shepherd vessel, the Steve Irwin, making the Irwin Sea Shepherd’s best chance to find the Nisshin Maru. The Irwin is a couple hundred miles away, so for the time being, all the Bob Barker can do is chug along and wait it out.
Let’s jump over to the Steve Irwin. Captain Watson decides to launch Sea Shepherd’s reconnaissance helicopter. We haven’t had any helicopter action lately, but it’s their key to finding the whalers because it increases visibility by a couple hundred miles. It’s also a constant source of drama, because helicopters are pretty fragile, and this environment isn’t exactly hospitable.
(Earlier this year the Japanese tried to spray the helicopter with their firehoses, but Sea Shepherd just managed to get it back into the hangar in time).
The pilot is Chris Aultman. He’s a humorless gearhead kind of guy. Have you ever done some kind of thrill-seeking activity, like skydiving, just for fun? Chris is kind of like a skydiving instructor. He loves skydiving, and he does it every day, but the only way he can make a living at it is by dealing with noobs like you all day, and you don’t pay attention, and you don’t take it seriously, because you haven’t seen what can happen when a sky dive goes wrong.
Chris “God damn it, the hangar is for helicopter personnel only!” Aultman
I’ve missed Chris.
And whaddya know? He’s found something! Two dark shapes on the horizon. Possibly the factory ship. Full speed ahead!
Everyone starts to get ready for a fight. Only, when Chris gets closer to the shapes, he realizes it isn’t the whalers. It’s…these things…
I REALLY hope it’s some kind of weird whale-shaped decoy placed by the whalers
But no. Chris explains it’s an iceberg that’s flipped over. That green stuff is algae. I had no idea that’s what icebergs look like on the bottom!
Chris is chagrined about the false alarm. He explains a little the trials of being a spotter pilot. “You get your hopes up, and your eyes, they start playin’ tricks on ya.” Time to keep looking.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Bob Barker gets increasingly frustrated with the Shonan Maru 2 following them. Captain Swift decides to call a meeting. No, it’s not to let everyone have a chance to vent their frustrations and go around the room talking about whales. He is looking for a volunteer…to board the Shonan Maru 2.
For those of you new to Whale Wars, Sea Shepherd tried this out back in the first season. They got a couple crew members to jump onboard the Shonan Maru 2 and there was a big international kerfuffle about it because that’s illegal, etc etc. The whalers claimed claimed it was an act of piracy, while Sea Shepherd claimed they only wanted to hand-deliver a cease-and-desist letter. The Japanese and Australian governments had to get involved, and everyone not emotionally invested in the whaling wound up pretty annoyed. Obviously it was Captain Watson’s idea, and obviously it worked, because it got a ton of attention.
But this time, it’s not just about slowing down the whalers. It’s about slowing them down so the Bob Barker can escape! They’re gonna leave the boarding party to the mercy of the whalers!
Sounds like a job for…
No, no. Captain Bethune. It’s for Captain Bethune.
Everyone discusses the plan for a little bit. How would the Japanese react? Do they know what the laws about this are?
First Mate Peter lays it down: the maximum sentence under Japanese Law, for interfering with Japanese commerce, is five years in prison. Five years…in the Japanese gulag!
Now, who wants in? Somehow a lot of Sea Shepherd people volunteer!
Quack…quack…quack…quack, quack, QUACK, QUACK QUACK YEAH!
Captain Bethune even says he’s prepared to die. For the goddamn whales. We’ll see, bub.
Still, you gotta hand it to them. The Branch Davidians Sea Shepherds really are dedicated.
Back at the Steve Irwin, what do you know? Some whales show up!
This whale was getting a weird vibe from the Sea Shepherd people, I think. They were coming on too strong
Right here Animal Planet throws in some facts about humpback whales for some reason. I think it’s just because they had an opportunity to remind you how evil the Japanese are, because humpbacks are magnificent creatures, and endangered, and the whalers STILL kill fifty a year, the narrator says in an accusatory tone.
Nothing about the humpback’s legendary penis size, though.
Or maybe it’s to remind you how much Sea Shepherd loves the whales? That’d be helpful in an episode that’s all about revenge.
I bet that’s it. Some times all the action on the show makes you forget what brings Sea Shepherd down to the Antarctic in the first place, and what this fight is actually about.
“Everyone’s a critic,” Paul Watson says, choking up. “Everyone has a problem with what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, but we’re the only ones actually saving whales.”
The thing about anti-whaling folks is, they’re not doing it because they want to protect the environment. Most whale lovers have a similar story about the first time they got up close to a whale. They made eye contact with the whale, and had a “moment,” and they came to believe whales are intelligent beings. You see these stories all the time–it comes up with dolphin people, too. Whale and dolphins operate on a separate plane of existence from the other animals. Some people even think whales have evolved entire societies, with whale-languages, whale-art, whale-religion, etc.
I have no idea whether this is true, but it’s true to Paul Watson, and it’s how they became a cult.
Paul Watson also points out how this is a reminder of how easy it is to kill whales. If you can get this close to them without spooking them off, it’s no problem harpooning them.
(Which is actually true…the reason why species like the dodo went extinct is that they were isolated from humans for so long, by the time humans did show up they hadn’t evolved a flight response. Humans could just walk right up and bonk them on the head).
It was a nice moment with the whales, but the fight must go on.
Back on the Bob Barker, we finally learn what Sea Shepherd plans to do if they get someone onboard the Shonan Maru 2—they will arrest its captain for destroying the Adi Gil.
Captain Bethune looks over images of the Shonan Maru 2 to devise a boarding plan. As part of the whalers’ ongoing efforts to protect themselves from Sea Shepherd, the Shonan 2 has installed big nets and spikes to keep any boarding parties off. Bethune thinks he’s figured them out, though: he will get a leg over the nets and hack away at them with a knife.
Another Sea Shepherd crew member tries to explain that, if Bethune were to do that, it would be piracy because he would be literally destroying the whalers’ property. Bethune isn’t impressed. “Fine me,” he says. But the crew member patiently explains, no, it won’t be a fine. You will go to jail.
They cut away to a Bethune talking-head, where he says he came down here to stop wailing, and this is his personal business, so international piracy laws be damned!
Also, he can’t back out now, because then he’d look like a dipshit.
The Steve Irwin, meanwhile, wasn’t able to find the rest of the whaling fleet, even with the helicopter.
You start seeing those whaling ships everywhere, I’d imagine
But then, he hears something funny. The main rotor sounds weird. Rubbing? Groaning? The helicopter crew tries to figure it out. This is not a good sign.
Back on the Barker, Captain Bethune is actually having some doubts. The five-year prison stretch is pretty discouraging. He considers whether he could get arrested for the interfering-with-commerce thing, because the whalers claim they’re killing whales for research, not for commerce. But ultimately, he decides, to go for it.
Why? Because he’s got nothing better to do. They don’t have a job for him. He’s a captain without a ship.
He talks it over with Captain Swift. Swift gives his usual milquetoast “whatever you decide is fine with me” response, and agrees to get Sea Shepherd to cover Bethune’s legal fees, if there are any.
So they’re all set to do it. The next morning, everyone gets up to begin prepping for Bethune’s mission, only to discover another problem. While everyone slept, the Bob Barker sprung a leak in its fresh water tank.
“While everyone slept”? You mean you guys don’t know how to use goddamn shifts?!
They try to patch the leak up, but the damage has been done, and they have lost ninety (90) percent of their motherfucking fresh water supply. Because everyone was asleep.
THIS IS THE ENTIRE REASON WHY NAVAL SHIPS USE SHIFTS…gahhhhhh
And once again, thanks to entirely preventable problems, the mission is in jeopardy.
Tactfully, Animal Planet doesn’t go into how the leak happened. I take that to mean one of the crew fucked it up.
The Steve Irwin’s mechanical problems seem to have been fixed, though. The flight crew has been working for 24 straight hours to get the helicopter fixed, and it’s time for a test flight. Captain Watson decides to launch a small boat, just in case the chopper crashes and they have to rescue Chris.
(They also don’t explain what the mechanical problem was, but I’d guess this is because it’s just technical and jargon-y).
They get the chopper up in the air. Things seem OK. But then the groaning noise returns. An alarm goes off. They show a close-up of the helicopter dials that mean something is going wrong. And they cut to a commercial…
When they come back, Chris manages to get back to the helipad, but this bad news is even worse than the previous bad news. He tells Captain Watson the helicopter is grounded.
I have no experience in aviation or mechanics, but I have to think it’s just super risky in general for them to be using a helicopter down there. This is two out of three seasons now when they’ve had to shut it down.
The situation over at the Bob Barker isn’t much better. They’ve patched up the fresh water tank leak, but now they have to refill their water supply or head back to Tasmania. The way to do this is by melting down some small icebergs—the Adi Gil had to do this earlier in the year when Captain Bethune forgot to refill their water.
A small boat is launched, and a couple crew members get into some diving suits. They jump into the water, wrap some nets around an iceberg, and tow it back to the Bob Barker.
Unfortunately, the iceberg completely melts on the way back—just kidding!
Captain Swift carries some chunks back to the water tanks and pauses to give a word of encouragement to the cameras. “They might have better money and equipment, but we have passion and commitment.”
Also, we have some managerial problems, but those can be fixed! You can’t fix being evil, which is what the Japanese are.
At last, it’s time to launch Captain Bethune on the path of…irritation? They put him in the water and set him on his way. He cracks gallows humor jokes all the while, like “Come visit me in prison, OK?” The others do not laugh.
The Steve Irwin also finds itself dealing with the frustration of the campaign, but they can’t launch a boat like the Barker can. The helicopter is grounded, and Pilot Chris argues for going back to port so he can fix it. But that would take twenty days, and the other crew members think it would be better to sacrifice the helicopter and keep hunting without it.
Chris starts to get pissy. The other crew members point out that their main goal is to help out the whales, and they can’t lose that much time, but Chris senses he won’t have a role if there’s no helicopter. In a cutaway he lets it get personal: “It’s important for them to understand what it is that I do here, and if they’re not ready to accept that, then so be it.”
Erwin, the chief engineer, (who I think is Dutch), gets frustrated and leaves the bridge. “Rubbish,” he mutters. All the other crew members look over at Chris, speechless, and he just shakes his head as though he can’t believe how unreasonable everyone ELSE is being.
But back to the Bob Barker. The plan is in motion. Their strategy is, they will hide behind an iceberg, wait for the Shonan Maru 2 to pass by, and then pounce.
They’ve done this tons of times before. Somehow the Japanese keep falling for it
It works! They close in!
The Shonan Maru 2 starts up the defenses. The familiar water cannon, plus the LRAD, which is a high-frequency sound blaster meant to incapacitate people.
To discourage pirates, the LRAD emits a high-pitched pulsing sound, and not Strokes albums like I thought (ohhh, snap!)
The small boat gets closer. And closer.
A mysterious Japanese guy runs down to the lower decks. He’s got some kind of backpack on, and what looks like a…gun?
But Captain Bethune is undeterred. He orders the boat even closer. He climbs up on the prow…
THEY LEAVE IT THERE FOR THE NEXT EPISODE!!!
Man, this was old school Whale Wars. Enough with action and media manipulation, give me fuck-ups, internal bickering, and dangerous decision making. There should be plenty more of if next week…just try not to Google “Pete Bethune.” Unless you want spoilers.
Love and Whales,
Saint Clare of Assisi
UPDATE–I just found out this morning (July 26) that Australia, Japan, and New Zealand are considering investigating the crash that claimed the Adi Gil. The whalers might actually get their asses kicked on this one.