The Whale Warriors is a fantastic and important book, and remains one of my all-time favorites. It’s an adventure tale to rival any other for daring and lunacy, about a ship that flies the Jolly Roger, sailing the dangerous seas of international politics, with a crew willing to die for their beliefs. It’s an eloquent travelogue and celebration of nature at her grandest and most intimate, and an execration of our wanton destruction of the oceanic ecosystem. At its center lies the tragic torture and killing of the world’s most amazing animals - whales that carry some of the symbolic weight of Moby Dick - and a captain (Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd) who bears more than a slight resemblance to an anti-Ahab. In the ten years since The Whale Warriors was published, Sea Shepherd has become a major global force for conservation, in a battle whose stakes have only intensified. As Heller says in his new afterword, “If [Watson] was notorious when I first met him, he was legendary now.” With career-spanning coverage of life and sports on and in the water, with his role in The Cove (Heller was one of 5 surfers who paddled into the cove when a pod of pilot whales was being slaughtered and his footage can be seen in the movie), and with this masterful account of Watson and Sea Shepherd, Peter Heller has played a powerful role of his own in advocating for life in the seas.— Sara, Atlanta
For two months, Heller was aboard the vegan attack vessel as it stalked the Japanese whaling fleet through the howling gales and treacherous ice off the pristine Antarctic coast. The ship is all black, flies under a Jolly Roger, and is outfitted with a helicopter, fast assault Zodiacs, and a seven-foot blade attached to the bow, called the can opener.
As Watson and his crew see it, the plight of the whales is also about the larger crisis of the oceans and the eleventh hour of life as we know it on Earth. The exploitation of endangered whales is emblematic of a terrible overexploitation of the seas that is now entering its desperate denouement. The oceans may be easy to ignore because they are literally under the surface, but scientists believe that the world's oceans are on the verge of total ecosystem collapse. Our own survival is in the balance.
With Force 8 gales, monstrous seas, and a crew composed of professional gamblers, Earthfirst forest activists, champion equestrians, and ex-military, the action never stops. In the ice-choked water a swimmer has minutes to live. The Japanese factory ship is ten times the tonnage of the Farley. The sailors on board both ships know that there will be no rescue in this desolate part of the ocean. Watson presses his enemy while Japan threatens to send down defense aircraft and warships, Australia appeals for calm, New Zealand dispatches military surveillance aircraft, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence issues a piracy warning, and international media begin to track the developing whale war.
For the Sea Shepherds there is no compromise. If the charismatic, intelligent Great Whales cannot be saved, there is no hope for the rest of the planet. Watson aims his ship like a slow torpedo and gives the order: "Tell the crew, collision in two minutes." In 35-foot seas, it is a deadly game of Antarctic chicken in which the stakes cannot be higher.