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
Now with a new afterword by the author, the tenth-anniversary edition of Peter Heller’s “swashbuckling adventure” (Publishers Weekly) takes us on a hair-raising journey aboard a whale saving pirate ship with a vigilante crew whose mission is to stop illegal Japanese whaling in the stormy seas of Antarctica.
The Whale Warriors is an adventure story set in the far reaches of the globe. For two months in 2005, journalist Peter Heller was aboard the Farley Mowat as it stalked its prey—a Japanese whaling fleet—through the storms and ice of Antarctica. The little ship is black, flies under a jolly roger, and carries members of the Sea Shepherd Society, a radical environmental group who are willing to die to stop illegal whale hunting.
Heller recreates a nail-biting showdown when Captain Watson and his crew attempt to deliberately ram an enormous Japanese whaling ship, trying to tear open its hull with a steel blade called a “Can Opener.” In thirty-five-foot seas, a deadly game of Antarctic chicken begins. But while the ships are far from rescue, the world is watching. Japan threatens to send down defense aircraft and warships, Australia appeals for calm, New Zealand dispatches military surveillance aircraft, the US Office of Naval Intelligence issues a piracy warning, and international media begin to track the developing whale war.
As Heller describes the slow, rusting, old Norwegian trawler Farley Mowat and the fast, new six ship whaling fleet of the Japanese, we also learn about the crisis of our oceans, which are on the verge of total ecosystem collapse. The exploitation of endangered whales is emblematic of an over-exploitation of the seas that is now entering its desperate denouement with our own survival in the balance. “A swift kick to any remaining complacency about the plight of our oceans” (National Geographic Adventure), The Whale Warriors is “two parts high seas swashbuckle and one part inconvenient truth” (Surfer).
About the Author
Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer and long-time contributor to NPR. He is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure and the author of Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado. He can be reached at PeterHeller.net.