The Whale Warriors - The Whale Warriors: Whaling in the...

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The Whale Warriors: Whaling in the Antarctic Seas Would you give your life for a whale? For a determined crew on a tiny ship at the bottom of the world, the answer is easy. By Peter Heller Photo by Paul Taggart COMMITTED TO THE CORE : Joel Capolongo (far right) and other members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society prepare to confront the 8,000-ton Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru. National Geographic Adventure by Peter Heller, May 2006 What woke me at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning was the bow of the ship plunging off a steep wave and smashing into the trough. The hull shuddered like a living animal, and when the next roller lifted the stern, I could hear the prop pitching out of the water, beating the air with a juddering moan that shivered the ribs of the 180-foot (55-meter) converted North Sea trawler. We were 200 miles (322 kilometers) off the Adélie Coast, Antarctica, in a force 8 gale. The storm had been building since the previous morning. I lay in the dark and breathed. Something was different. I listened to the deep throb of the diesel engine two decks below and the turbulent sloshing against my bolted porthole, and felt a quickening in the ship. Fifteen days before, we had left Melbourne, Australia, and headed due south on the Farley Mowat, the flagship of the radical environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The mission of her captain, Paul Watson, and his 43- member, all-volunteer crew was to hunt down and stop the Japanese whaling fleet from engaging in what they considered illegal commercial whaling. Watson had said before the trip, "We will nonviolently intervene." But judging by the preparations conducted over the past week, it seemed he was readying for a full-scale attack. I dressed quickly, grabbed a dry suit and a life jacket, and ran up three lurching flights of narrow stairs to the bridge. Dawn. Or what passed for it in the never night of Antarctic summer. A murky gloom of wind-tortured fog mingled with blowing snow and spray. White eruptions tore off the tops of the waves and streamed their shoulders in long streaks of foam. The sea was chaos. When I had gone to sleep four hours earlier, the swells were 20 feet (6 meters) high and building. Now monsters over 30 feet (9 meters) rolled under the stern and pitched the bow wildly into a featureless sky. The timberwork of the bridge groaned and creaked. The wind battered the thick windows and ripped past the superstructure with a buffeted keening. Watson, 55, with thick, nearly white hair and beard, wide cheekbones, and packing some extra weight underneath his
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exposure suit, sat in the high captain's chair, on the starboard side of the bridge, looking alternately at a radar screen over his head and at the sea. He has a gentle, watchful demeanor. Like a polar bear. Alex Cornelissen, 38, his Dutch first officer, was in the center at the helm, trying to run with the waves. Cornelissen looks too thin to go anyplace cold, and his hair is buzzed to a near stubble. "Good timing," Cornelissen said to me with the tightening of his mouth that is his smile. "Two ships on the radar. The closest
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The Whale Warriors - The Whale Warriors: Whaling in the...

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