Battleship Antarctica

Film Review by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

I finally got a chance to view the documentary Battleship Antarctica and it was indeed an educational experience.

This is a documentary about the Greenpeace voyage to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2006 and 2007. I highly recommend it.

The documentary answered a question that has been nagging me for years. Why does Greenpeace refuse to work in cooperation with Sea Shepherd?

The answer was delivered quite plainly in this film. Quite simply they hate us and they expressed that hatred in no uncertain terms underscored with some very colourful expletives.

This documentary exposed many of the contradictions that have disillusioned so many with Greenpeace.

From a cook bragging about the 700 kilos of meat in the freezer of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza to the Captain confessing his irresponsible fathering of three children scattered he knows not where, to their refusal to accept the coordinates of the Japanese fleet from Sea Shepherd because, well, because Sea Shepherd gave it to them.

The documentary plays like a soap opera with a crew who seem more involved in a voyage of self realization and an adventure cruise than in the actual mission to defend and protect whales.

Throughout the documentary, Sea Shepherd appears as the force of confrontation with the Japanese whalers and the object of contempt by the Greenpeace crew. Sea Shepherd remains mysterious and portrayed as both effective and the real opposition to Japanese whaling as the Greenpeace crew deliberately refuse to cooperate with Sea Shepherd's request to work together to oppose whaling.

Whereas Greenpeace fruitlessly searches for the fleet despite the fact that Sea Shepherd has provided them with the coordinates, the Sea Shepherd crew are depicted as being everywhere the Japanese are - harassing them, chasing them and shutting down their whaling operations.

In one segment of the documentary Sara Holden, the Greenpeace media director contemptuously informs the film maker that she is in charge and in control although she worries about the way the film will be edited and as it turns out - with justification.

This film does not portray Greenpeace in a very good light although it does portray Greenpeace in a very accurate light.

Greenpeacers in the film seem to be obsessed with this old Quaker tradition of "bearing witness."

In fact it was amusing for me to listen to Karli Thomas say how Greenpeace had has this philosophy of bearing witness since 1971 (Before she was born) and how this philosophy of non-violence was the foundation of the values that Greenpeace stands for and that is the reason they cannot cooperate with Sea Shepherd.

I was there at the founding of Greenpeace as a co-founder and I participated in every single Greenpeace campaign from 1971 until 1977 and not once during that time did I ever hear of this thing called "bearing witness."

It is a revisionist philosophy of course and one that smacks of cowardice more than righteousness. Bearing witness to violence does not stop violence, it merely transforms an activist into an inactive spectator of brutality.

I cannot imagine walking down a street and seeing a woman being raped without intervening. I cannot imagine watching a child being molested without interfering. I cannot see myself bearing witness to a kitten or a puppy being kicked and stomped on the sidewalk without doing something to stop the violence and I cannot imagine taking pictures of dying whales and watching as the harpoons plunge into the backside of whales leaving them rolling in their own blood on the surface and doing --- nothing, except bearing witness.

What kind of new agey, sewagy, perverse logic is that?

Spending millions of dollars to voyage to the Southern Oceans to watch whales die is not progressive, positive or admirable in any way that I can fathom.

What I saw in that documentary was a boatload of hypocritical cowards sporting a holier than thou attitude that they, and they alone are the saviours of the whales and the planet.

A boatload of cussing, smoking, meat eating, whining irresponsible men and women who have found a comfortable niche to occupy and unlike Sea Shepherd volunteers, these people get paid to be ocean posers, making whale snuff flicks and pretending to save whales when in actual fact they only "bear witness" to the death of whales.

Since the day I left Greenpeace in June 1977, I have not seen a whale die. When Sea Shepherd arrives, the killing of whales stops, and even more noteworthy is the fact that in our entire history we have never injured a single person. That in my book is the definition of non-violent intervention - the saving of lives without causing harm.

By contrast Greenpeace perpetuates violence by allowing the deaths of the whales. With Sea Shepherd - no one (whales included) dies and no one is hurt!

In the documentary, Greenpeace seems more concerned with the accident on the Nisshin Maru and the death of a whaler than they do for the deaths of thousands of whales. They actually shed tears for a whaler they do not know and did not see die yet not a tear is shed for the whales they witnessed dying.

I think the message of the documentary was summed up near the end when Emily Hunter, the daughter of Greenpeace founder Robert Hunter radioed the Esperanza from the bridge of the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter to say how ashamed she was of the Greenpeacers on the ship and informed them that they were simply a sham.

They did not answer - after all, there was not much they could say.

All they could do was bear witness to her words.