By Elaine B
Whale Wars has been Animal Planet’s most watched series ever – and given that those statistics come from the network that brought us the drama of Meerkat Manor, that is saying a lot about the environmental fervor in this country. And it must be green fervor, because until the incredible drama of the final episode, the series did not live up to its hype, missing some promising moments to give us a deeper look at the crew members that agreed to be featured, the state of the whales themselves, even a bit of footage from Japan, where citizens might comment on how they feel about their whale meat consumption.
But instead, in the second to last episode, we are treated to the onboard training of yet another crew in the art of getting the inflatable boats in the water. We also meet the new crew, one of whom makes the comment that, “Whales are more important to the Earth than people are.” This is a thought many viewers might take exception with.
We also get to see a few sweet moments between new crew member (and Sea Shepherd employee) Amber and her boyfriend, first mate Peter, before Capt. Watson decides it is time to repeat what worked best earlier in the season (is there a theme here?) – yet another boarding of a Japanese vessel. This time he suggests that the women go and present the Japanese with a warrant on behalf of the U.N. Charter for Nature. There will be no women on the whaling ship, Watson reasons, so they will have even less of an idea of what to do with the girls.
Watson gets his volunteers, but the boarding goes nowhere. The two boats – one holding the girls and their warrant and the other the camera crew – are launched too slowly by the inexperienced crew. By the time they are in the water, the whaler is out of sight. Meanwhile, the crew of the boat with the cameras on board does exactly what the earlier crew did a few episodes back: ignores the order to keep in contact with the Steve Irwin. With bad weather threatening the mission, Watson aborts it. When the girls return, Shannon is lying on the deck of their inflatable boat, unable to move her legs after a bad fall. The doctor thinks she may have broken her pelvis, a dangerous injury when they are so far from a hospital. Still, it must not have been that bad since she is able to move around within a few days.
Topside, the crew is searching for the Nisshin Maru, the flagship of the Japanese fleet. This is the ship, which takes the whales from the smaller vessels and processes the meat for shipping back to Japan. If the Sea Shepherds can shut it down, they can stop the hunt. But as they close in, they lose power and are adrift in the dark. It is a dangerous moment, one that closes the second-to-last episode and leads off in the season finale where (finally!) the Sea Shepherds and the series’ impatient viewers get to see some action.
The Drama Of The Finale – Finally!
Once the Steve Irwin generators are up and running, the vessel tracks down the Nisshin Maru and begins their assault with stinky acid and slip bombs. The crew has clearly been training for this moment as most of the bombs seem to hit home (Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns take note – there may be some potential QBs on board), and break on impact.
The attack is so successful that the Steve Irwin makes another pass so the crew can lob more bombs. But the whalers have had enough and begin to fight back with flash bombs (these make a loud noise and are used to disperse crowds) and tear gas. Meanwhile, a very feminine voice is coming from the Nisshun (so much for no women on the whaler) warning their attackers not to board.
Sometime during the confrontation, Watson may have been shot. The Japanese dispute this and actually release videos of their coast guard lobbing the canisters. None of the men carry guns. However, Watson and the Sea Shepherds allege that it was not a Japanese official who fired at him, but more likely one of the whaler’s crew shooting through a porthole below deck. Fortunately, Watson was wearing a bulletproof vest and what looks like a bullet fragment was stuck in it.
At this point, the Steve Irwin is running low on fuel and heads home.
Watching their actions, it didn’t seem that the Sea Shepherds had done very much during their season hunting the hunters. But by the Japanese own estimates, the Sea Shepherds saved up to 500 whales – something Watson calls, “Real results for our interventions.”
So what would give them better results? May I suggest:
– A better-trained crew. Take a day to train close to port. Teach everyone to raise and lower those boats under circumstances where you can head back to port if the newbies fall in or break something that needs to get fixed.
– Better weapons. Don’t rely on strong throwing arms. Get a few catapults, or better yet trebuchets, on board. With a bit of practice, these can be just as accurate as throwing arms, and you can toss bigger bombs that way.
– A second ship to give them more fuel.
– Somali Pirates. This is not such a far out idea. These guys can take down massive cruise ships and oil tankers. Imagine how easily they could board and disable a whaler. Given the focus of the world police on the pirate strongholds, following their diaspora, the Sea Shepherd organization may be able to recruit them on the cheap for the next whaling season. If so, I will be watching.