Well shit. For most of this season, Sea Shepherd has been forced to contend not with the Japanese whalers, but with a series of blunders, mishaps, and disasters. They lost the Adi Gil. Their helicopter is out of commission, as are two of their small speed boats. They’ve lost track of the Japanese. They’ve had problems with the water supply, problems with the engines, problems with the oil. It turns out Captain Swift isn’t very good. Several crew members have gotten pissy with each other.
Even some whales have died.
But today it looks like Sea Shepherd aaaaaalmost has its shit together enough to kick (annoy) some whaler ASS.
Let’s do this.
As we ended last episode, they were faced with their biggest challenge yet: a huge storm approaching the Bob Barker right after their resupply at the Kerguellen Islands. But it’s not as simple as just sailing around it. All season long a Japanese reconnaissance ship, the Shonan Maru 2, has been trailing the Bob Barker, relaying their coordinates back to the fleet and keeping Sea Shepherd from finding them. Captain Swift has a CHOICE! Sail away from the storm, and probably run into the Japanese recon ship. Or…head straight though this storm, where the Japanese won’t follow them. He chooses storm.
Your basic Millennium Falcon-into-the-asteroid-field scenario.
Question for the more sailing-savvy among you: is this retarded?
It looks like the storm is pretty rough. Huge waves are tilting the ship up to 45-degree, so everyone has to hold on for dear life while being splashed with freezing water. There’s even some water bursting THROUGH the hull!
But at least they have a few vegans holding their 40-ton ship together
But that’s all that happens with this incident. After the credits, it looks like the worst of the storm has passed without much incident, (although the deck looks like an ice rink now). Tons of shit has been shifted around, lots of it’s broken, but they’re basically fine. More importantly, no sign of the reconnaissance ship. Now, where’s that whaling fleet?
They last saw the fleet a month ago, when the Shonan Maru 2 ran over the Adi Gil. During the commotion the Japanese mothership, the Nisshin Maru, slipped away. The Antarctic Ocean is enormous, so Sea Shepherd really has no idea where they are. They have to think like the whalers.
Um, I was told stroking my chin help you think? What are YOU looking at?
But here Animal Planet edits it down way too much, so the scene kinda played out like this:
NARRATOR: The Antarctic Ocean is, like, a billion square miles. It’s fucking huge. Now Sea Shepherd faces the impossible: finding a tiny fleet in all that business.
PETER: [looks at map for five seconds] I bet they’re here. [points to map]
CAPTAIN SWIFT: Sure, OK. Set course for here!
Come to think of it, the storm sequence played out the same way…
NARRATOR: The Bob Barker is in the middle of a storm. It’s fucking huge. It could literally kill all of them plus our own camera people, who are just doing their job, and whose views do not necessarily represent those of Sea Shepherd.
NARRATOR: The storm has passed.
Let’s check in with the other ship, the Steve Irwin. They’re pulling into Fremantle, Australia. There are only six weeks left in the whaling season, and time is precious, so Paul Watson has given them only two days to get the chopper fixed.
While they’re making the repairs, one of the former Adi Gil crew members, who’d planned to go home at this point, reconsiders. It is this man:
Captain Pete Bethune, who can survive on only whale’s milk and rage
Bethune and Watson sit down to discuss. Watson wants Bethune to travel around Australia and New Zealand and be their media guy. They don’t usually get media coordination during whaling season, so it would be invaluable.
Bah! Bethune isn’t a man of words, he’s a man of action! He has a plan: to board one of the Japanese whaling ships. Or, not really a plan, more like a goal. He has no idea how he’d actually do it. But they’ll figure that out, probably.
Paul Watson briefly thinks it over. In the end, a revenge-obsessed Sea Shepherd volunteering to disrupting the Japanese fleet in spite of the inevitable prison sentence is just too much for a (visibly aroused) Watson to pass up. Bethune will stay.
Oh, also, by “disrupting the fleet,” they mean Bethune’s going to try to arrest the captain of the Shonan Maru 2 for destroying the Adi Gil, and try to bill him for the damage. He’s not going to, like, go Rambo on them.
Back on the Bob Barker, they’ve arrived at the Antarctic ice edge, which is supposed to be a hotbed for whales. Captain Swift orders radio silence, lest any whalers intercept their communications. Everyone’s going a little nuts. They want to find the whalers so bad, they’re starting to see things.
Malcolm sees there’s something funny about the ocean…it looks like there’s wake…from a ship…
Weird, they think. Then, there’s a burst of static on the radio. Peter remembers back to the first confrontation they had with the whalers. Right before they spotted them, there was ALSO a burst of static. They must be close by.
And the next morning, they find this:
Yup: whale guts
Here Animal Planet recaps how the Nisshin Maru processes dead whales for “scientific research” and then processes them into meat for the market, but you know about that already. Animal Planet also gives some more background on how awesome whales are, for no real reason beyond getting you hate the whalers. Whale pods are like tiny societies, and every whale has a role.
For instance this is the whale Dave Eggers
They also give an overview of a time-honored whaler tactic—they harpoon the calves first so the mothers will stay near the surface looking for them, making the mothers easy to harpoon also.
Yaaaay! Back to Australia.
They’ve flown in an expert helicopter engineer who’s diagnosed the problem. Something was loose so, there ya go. Now it’s time to test it out. They take ‘er up, and she’s airworthy. After they resupply and fix their broken Delta boat, they’re good to go.
As they head out, some Australians follow them holding signs of encouragement:
They couldn’t fit their acrostic for A-N-I-M-A-L P-L-A-N-E-T but they so wanted to
2,500 miles south of Australia, the Bob Barker still hasn’t found anything. And then…jackpot! A crew member spots a ship off in the distance: it’s the Nisshin Maru!
They wake Captain Swift to give him the news. He comes to the deck, sees for himself, and quips “Well, looks like the price IS right!” And it gets a laugh!
But there’s still the matter of the Nisshin Maru being faster than the Bob Barker. Luckily, one of the engineers has made some adjustments to the engine, and now the Barker can travel one knot faster than the Nisshin. So, that’s good.
Swift orders them to prepare the small boat. Ready the prop fouler, stink bombs, and smoke grenades. (When did they get smoke grenades?)
He calls Watson and is told just to keep on the stern of the Nisshin Maru. That way, they think, the Japanese can’t load any whales onto the ship.
Meanwhile, the officers of the Steve Irwin sit down to figure out how they’ll get Bethune onto a whaling ship. The Japanese fleet has hung high nets all around their ships, so you can’t climb onto the ships. So instead, Bethune has an idea. He will…
Yes, you read that right. Ho-ly shit.
Everyone discusses how they’d actually do this. How high does the chopper need to be? Where on the ship should Bethune try to land? Can Bethune even pull this off? He has at least parachuted before, but only for fun, never trying to land from a helicopter onto a moving, hostile freaking ship.
Bethune is getting excited, and Paul Watson is in favor of it, but the pilot, ex-Marine Chris Aultman, has reservations. While he tries to voice his objections, everyone else just keeps pitching ideas for how to do it, and he’s getting frustrated.
In a talking-head, we learn why he feels this way. It’s because “the helicopter isn’t an offensive tool.” It’s not SUPPOSED to be used this way. Plus, he has no idea whether this is even possible. But there’s only one way to find out: take the helicopter above the Steve Irwin and try some practice jumps. That’s the only way Aultman will go along with it. Bethune is cool with that.
And so am I.
Back on the Bob Barker, they continue to close in on the Nisshin Maru, when another Japanese ship appears—it’s one of the three harpoon ships, all of which are named Yushin Maru and designated 1, 2 or 3.
This one is coming straight for the Barker.
This is only two out of five total ships. They decide they should probably figure out where the other three are. Someone spots a third blip on the radar. Another harpoon ship. Then the final harpoon ship shows up. All close in on the Barker.
Night approaches. At this time of year that means three hours of pitch-black darkness. Not very pleasant with three enemy ships out there after you.
Suddenly, a bright light appears. Peter thinks the Japanese are doing this so the Barker can’t see what the fleet is doing.
Peter takes a moment to recall how the Japanese have changed tactics over the years. It used to be they would flee at the sight of Sea Shepherd. Then last year they began approaching Sea Shepherd, unafraid. And this year they wrecked the Adi. So there’s no telling what they’re planning now. (And there was that whaler with the mysterious gun who showed up when a Delta boat approached earlier this year).
By the way, as far as the “is Sea Shepherd making a difference?” debate goes, I guess this is a sign that they are. The Japanese are clearly devoting time and resources to them. They’re not fucking around with Sea Shepherd any more. At this point, on their radar they learn the fifth Japanese ship, the Shonan Maru 2, has arrived. This is the craziest ship of the fleet. It killed the Adi.
Aaaaaaand, we’ll go back to the Steve Irwin. They’re getting ready to see if you can parachute from a helicopter onto a moving ship.
They’ve not to let Bethune be the first to try it. Instead, it’s a guy named Josh Gunn, the engineer who fixed the helicopter back in Australia. He’s more experienced, but they don’t specify how.
Here are some more details about how insanely difficult this is: Aultman take the chopper three THOUSAND feet in the air. It’s dangerously windy. The helipad, where Josh will try to land, is thirty feet wide. If Josh misses, he will fall three stories into the deadly cold water.
Plus you don’t want to land on these, I bet
But really, Jesus Christ, just look at it what Josh is dealing with:
This isn’t from a cameraman–they attached a camera TO Josh. See that tiny ship-shaped object? That’s what he’s aiming for.
And here is the mood of the Sea Shepherd crew as they watch Josh get ready to jump:
What did you expect? It’s Sea Shepherd
No, you know what, this needs another photo:
This dipshit brought cereal
So, Josh jumps.
He aims for the ship, but he seems pretty far off target:
But wouldn’t you know it…
But, wait a minute. Josh didn’t parachute straight down onto the ship…he swooped out away from it and glided down, like a plane landing on a runway. How is this comparable to what Bethune’s supposed to do? If he did it this way with the Japanese ship, he’d smack into the side of the nets!
Eh, it’s probably fine. There should be no problems with it. They’re confident.
The next morning, the Barker catches up to the Nisshin Maru and plants itself directly behind it, with the other Japanese ships still on their tail.
Here’s how close they are. This is from inside the Barker
Here are some more stats on the gravity of the situation: the four Japanese ships are 200 feet long, very maneuverable, faster than the Barker, and my personal favorite, about fifty years newer.
Then the Nisshin Maru slows down and turns. Uh oh. It makes a slow, tight circuit, forcing the Barker also to slow down and make a circle…thereby letting the rest of the fleet catch up.
The Shonan Maru 2 and the three Yushin Maru‘s to close in, water cannons are blasting. It looks like they’re going to pull up alongside the Barker, but they actually cut ACROSS the Barker’s path!
Let the dick-waving commence!
The rest of the harpoon ships follow suit. Soon, all four Japanese ships have the Barker surrounded…
It’s an organized response to Sea Shepherd. While the ships are encircling, the Barker can’t speed up to harass the Nisshin Maru. That might let the Nisshin escape.
Sea Shepherd won’t allow that to happen. Captain Swift decides to wait until a gap in the Japanese formation and try to speed through. It works!
But the Yushin Maru 3 pulls up alongside them.
The Sea Shepherds hurl a couple stink bombs. But then…
Yeah, that’s the Yushin Maru 3 getting dangerously close
And, uh, then…
Yeah, that’s the whalers side-swiping Sea Shepherd
Which led to this…
Yeah, that’s water gushing through the hull. Water from the motherfucking ocean
Motherfuckin’ whalers did it AGAIN!
I’m pretty sure it happened how Animal Planet said it happened, too…I mean, it’s possible Sea Shepherd caused the accident and made it look like the Japanese were at fault, but it looked like the Japanese sped up, approached the Barker, and closed in on them.
I thought back in season one, when Paul Watson was “shot,” that Sea Shepherd fabricated the whole thing, but I don’t know how you fake TWO shipwrecks. How are the Japanese getting away with this?
Either way, I can’t WAIT to see how Sea Shepherd reacts. Papa Watson hasn’t even joined the rumble yet, and here’s what he said in the “Next Time on Whale Wars” segment:
“It’s always good for the other side to think you’re unpredictable. Even if they think you’re suicidal, that’s fine too.”
That’s all for this week. Sweet god in heaven.
Hugs, whales, and kisses,
Saint Clare of Assisi
Whenever Animal Planet shows the Bob Barker’s radar screen, they blur part of the readout, like this:
Does someone know why? I’d assume it’s something to do with identifying the ship, and they’re blurring to avoid tipping off the Japanese or whoever. But I have no idea.
If you give the answer I will…uh…put your name in my next recap? That’s all I got.