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The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals

by Peter Heller

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4165-3246-0
Publisher: Free Press

The author’s account of his December 2005 voyage with a radical captain and crew who risk their lives to halt the Japanese whale hunt off Antarctica.

Greenpeace may garner most of the headlines in the battle to save the whales, but the real commandos in this ongoing war sail for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose passionate volunteers aren’t content with passive resistance. In this stirring account, Heller (Hell or High Water, 2004, etc.) describes his two-month journey aboard the Sea Shepherd’s 180-foot converted trawler, Farley Mowat, and its running battle against a fleet of Japanese whalers. Capt. Paul Watson and his mostly vegan 43-member crew aren’t the shy retiring types. They fly the Jolly Roger from the ship’s mast, brew their own moonshine to celebrate New Year’s Eve in an Antarctic blizzard and exclude no strategy in their quest to save whales from slaughter by the persistent Japanese. Measures include everything from trying to entangle the whale ship’s propellers with steel cables to tossing foul stink bombs onboard to sicken their crews. The Farley Mowat also comes equipped with a steel-reinforced bow, used for ramming the much larger Japanese whalers head-on. Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace, tired of watching endangered whales die while the organization merely unfurled protest banners. Considered a “lunatic” and an “eco-terrorist” by his enemies (and possibly by some who’ll read this book), placed on the “piracy watch list” by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, his full-frontal assaults against both whaling and seal hunting have made him revered by his supporters and crew. Watson justifies his radical measures by pointing out that although commercial whaling has been officially banned by the UN Charter, the Japanese continue to ruthlessly kill hundreds of whales each year under the guise of “scientific research.” In fact, Heller argues, the whales are merely slaughtered for Japan’s fish markets, a crime made even more senseless by the fact that polls indicate the Japanese consumer doesn’t even like whale meat. In fact, the Japanese whaling industry loses money every year. Still, the Japanese whalers persist, refusing to back down in the face of mounting international pressure.

A convincing, passionate account that both educates and infuriates.