Some of these posers are simply hysterical, especially the ones who say we have no respect for life and then they say they can’t wait until we get killed. Or they say they don’t know anything about ships themselves but their brother has a girlfriend with a father in the Navy and he says we’re full of crap.
Of course the Navy is in the business of killing whales and dolphins, and we are in the business of saving them, so I expect some level of hostility from the Navy but then again the Navy accuses the Army of incompetence, and the Army accuses the Air Force of incompetence, and the Air Force accuses the Navy of incompetence, so the general impression is one of universal incompetence in the military.
The Whale Wars forum reminds me of what Senator Phil Gramm of Texas said recently when as an advisor to the McCain campaign he declared that America had become a “nation of whiners.”
And the bottom line is I don’t care a damn about any of the opinions voiced against the show, against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, or against myself. We are getting our message out and most importantly we are winning this war against the Japanese whalers. I am only writing this at the bequest of some of our supporters who requested that I do so.
If some people don’t like our tactics then I say - tough! If some people take issue with my strategies then I say – tough! If some people think me and my crew are incompetent, I don’t care and if some people think we are terrorists than I say – arrest me or shut the hell up, because if I was a terrorist, I would be in jail.
When it comes to the sea, there is no shortage of know-it-alls and self-appointed experts. It’s easy to sit in judgment from the comfort of a couch with a remote in one’s hand. It’s easy to fire off ad hominem attacks to make up for the fact that those who do, actually do and those who can’t sit back and whine and bitch about those who do.
I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best:
It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt
For those who whine that I am incompetent as a ship’s captain all I can say is okay, you’re entitled to your opinion. As a ship’s captain, I don’t have to answer to every armchair whiner with a brew in his hand and some Cheetos in the other. I answer to myself. I am aware of my responsibilities and my abilities. I also know that I have commanded more voyages to the Southern Ocean and the coast of Antarctica than Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen combined. I have extensive ice navigation experience and I have commanded some 300 voyages in excess of a thousand miles each including weathering typhoons, hurricanes, and heavy traffic lanes. And most importantly I have never caused a single injury, never had a single crewmember sustain a serious injury, never lost a ship, never grounded a ship, never had an oil spill, and I’ve never been convicted of a single felony anywhere in the world.
Any second rate sailor can take an icebreaker into thick ice and survive. It takes skill to take a non-ice class vessel into the ice and bring her out safely again. The Japanese harpoon ship the Yushin Maru #2 smashed their propeller in the same ice we were in and had to retreat to Indonesia for repairs. The Japanese whaling fleet has also lost three crewmembers and experienced two major fires, whereas we have not had a single serious accident.
My great, great Uncle, a famous poet in the Klondike once said, “talk is cheap, it takes money to buy whiskey.”
In other words, produce the evidence to back the accusations or else you’re nothing more than a two-bit gossipmonger grousing over the picket fence to some other loser who validates himself by spewing ignorance like vomit onto his tie. On the sea we call such self-appointed experts “t’ween deck lawyers” not fit to lick leftovers from the scuppers.
I am of course not the first mariner to be condemned by armchair explorers and Monday morning quarterbacks. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was declared incompetent by dozens of critics ranging from academics to mariners who questioned his abilities. Sir Ernest Shackleton also suffered such fools. The vicious gossip that swirled jealously around Horatio Nelson suggested that he was also incompetent as a fighting sailor with questionable morals and John Paul Jones, the founder of the United States Navy was once condemned for not having the skills to command a ship of war. Yes, talk is indeed cheap.
The simple test of incompetence is in the field, in the midst of battle, the mettle of a person is tested in conflict, and adversity and the harsh fires of reality sit in judgment of ones abilities, courage, and skills.
For those who question the ability of my crew, I would suggest that they know nothing about any of them. I have the most courageous of crew and for those who suggest that I am unconcerned for their welfare and their lives all I can say is bugger off, you have no idea about what I am concerned with or not.
I have had over 4,000 crew serve under me without one of them being lost at sea, killed, or injured. That is a test of competence. Have we had whiners? Yes, there are always whiners on any crew, but even the whiners returned to port safe and sound with a story to tell their grandkids.
My first officer Peter Brown has commanded his own ships without any incidents. He also infiltrated and reported on the Taliban in Afghanistan as a reporter, and has survived war, disasters, and has had more adventures in his life than a hundred other men. How he is sometimes depicted on television is not the measure of Peter Brown and quite frankly those critics who ridicule him would most likely cry like babies if they ever found themselves in the midst of some of the adventures that Mr. Brown has experienced. And to top it all off, Peter has an incredible sense of humor in the face of adversity.
The professionalism of my crew is outstanding. My communications officer Luke Van Horn is the best I’ve ever seen. I would and I do trust my 2nd Mate Peter Hammarstedt without hesitation. My helicopter pilot Chris Aultman is a former United States Marine and I had never encountered a pilot with his ability when I was in the Coast Guard. He is a superb and courageous aviator. Jane Taylor served as a surface warfare officer in the United States Navy. My Chief Engineer Charles Hutchings is a fully licensed and experienced diesel engineer. And for myself I served with the Norwegian and Swedish merchant marine and with the Canadian Coast Guard.
I find it very amusing to hear the prattle of dinky sealing boat captains proclaiming from the tiny bridge of their little 65-foot longliners that I am not a “real” captain. Many of these grease pot skippers have never ventured more than a hundred miles offshore yet they make themselves feel superior because in their mind real captains plunder the sea and whore themselves out for money. They can’t comprehend someone like myself going to sea to save animals and not to kill them, and to do it for nothing is beyond their limited provincial imaginations.
What we do is dangerous, exceedingly dangerous, yet despite all the rabid accusations, we have never suffered an “incident” at sea.
When I served in the Norwegian merchant marine my ship lost three seamen to accidents. When I was in the Canadian Coast Guard I saw numerous injuries caused by incompetence. The Greenpeace Foundation which I co-founded has lost crew, had crew injured and has been convicted of numerous felony crimes, yet they have the audacity to accuse us of violence as they hang their wimpy protest banners and gather tens of millions of dollars to “save the whales” without even bothering to take their ships down to confront the whalers anymore.
There is no greater moral authority in history than Dr. Martin Luther King and he said that violence cannot be committed against a non-sentient object. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has a letter of support from the Dalai Lama, another esteemed advocate of non-violence. Yet the name-calling persists as people call us “violent” for trying to stop the horrific, violent killing of the whales by the Japanese whaling fleet.
Any accusations that Sea Shepherd is a violent organization cannot be backed by real evidence. Does Sea Shepherd destroy equipment used in illegal activities to kill whales and to poach fish? The answer is yes. Is this illegal or violent? The answer is no. If it were illegal we would be arrested. If it were violent someone would be hurt.
The whalers are trying to kill us yet they seem immune to criticism from those who accuse us of being violent. For those critics who deny that I was shot last season, all I can say is how do you explain that without leaving the bridge wing, a hole suddenly appears in my suit that was not there moments before? For those “experts” who say that I should have been knocked down by the bullet, they fail to understand that a spent bullet does not necessarily have the power to knock anyone down. The bullet was there, my chest was badly bruised, and the ship’s doctor attested to that fact. For those who believe otherwise, believe what you wish. The authorities chose to not investigate or to examine the bullet or my Kevlar vest. They cited lack of jurisdiction, although I suspect they did not want to risk finding the truth for fear of upsetting trade relations with Japan. I know the truth and I’m not inclined to live a lie so believe it or not – I don’t really care.
Any accusations that Sea Shepherd has not saved any whales are simply ludicrous. This year according to the Japanese whalers themselves, Sea Shepherd prevented the killing of 305 whales and 49 of the 50 Fin whales they targeted were in that number. Last year Sea Shepherd prevented the killing of some 484 whales including zero kills of Fin whales (53% of their quota) and another five hundred whales the year before that and 83 whales during the 2005/2006 campaign. In addition of course are the thousands of whales saved by our interventions against pirate whaling operations between 1979 and the present in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.
One of the common criticisms is that I spend too much time in my cabin leaving the navigation to my officers. This is of course not uncommon. Most Masters do not stand a watch but remain available when needed. My officers are competent, and when they need assistance I go to the bridge usually to navigate through dangerous ice conditions. This year I spent 12 hours straight on the wheel to push through the ice on one occasion. My cabin is also the ship’s command base with charts, computer access and references. I do in fact undertake most of my duties in the office from my cabin.
So I think I’ve addressed some of the petty grievances from the shoot-the-blog-from-the-dark, armchair warriors. Bottom line and simply put is that we save the lives of the whales without breaking the law and without causing injury to the whalers. If people have a problem with that, then to quote Rhett Butler, “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Find me a whale that has a problem with what we do and I’ll listen but for those of us fighting in the Whale Wars we have our sides, and our chosen side is with those gentle intelligent giants in opposition to their ruthless outlaw killers.
However I do understand that these opinion forums allow for the opportunity for those who do little to preach to those who do the most. The reason that hardly any of my past crew or most reputable activists are not participating in such forums is because we are busy actually doing something. This of course leaves the forums open to conquest by the hordes of whiners who descend like blog locusts in a feeding frenzy of negativity.
Discussion forums tend to be little more than petty venting rooms for frustrated unaccomplished people who live lives of quiet desperation and who, if they had any moral fiber at all, would be contributing to solving problems instead of critiquing the campaigns and accomplishments of others.
Whale Wars is a hit show. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is receiving incredible international support. We are making a difference, saving lives and shutting down illegal poaching activities. We are saving the lives of whales. That is what matters to us.