Two Tales of Saving Whales

Book Reviews by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Two books are being released this month which cover the same subject from different points of view. Both books are the work of professional writers, and both books are superbly fascinating, captivating, and educational.  Of course, being that I am a protagonist in both stories, I am inclined to be somewhat biased, but as a participant, I am also in a position to judge the accuracy of the stories, at least in those places where I play a part.

The two books are: The Whale Warriors - The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet's Largest Mammals, by Peter Heller, and Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling, by Andrew Darby. The two provide unique perspectives and actually compliment each other extraordinarily well.

Both authors have one thing in common: they are professional journalists. Colorado-based Peter Heller crewed on board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat for the 2005-2006 Antarctic campaign as a correspondent for National Geographic Adventure magazine. Tasmanian Andrew Darby has for years watched and reported the controversies over whaling as a journalist for the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

Darby gives insight into the politics of whaling-backroom deals between the Japanese government and the International Whaling Commission. He provides an overview of the history of modern whaling and brings the story all the way to the May 2007 meeting of the IWC in Anchorage, Alaska. Harpooned is well written, meticulously researched, and at the same time wonderfully entertaining, the trinity of virtues that together make a great story.

The Whale Warriors is more focused, down and dirty, and emotional-an incredible adventure story. Whereas Darby remained on land, Heller spent two months with my crew and me in the harsh, remote, cold waters off the coast of Antarctica. Heller's account is gritty, revealing, and sometimes judgmental, but it is a rollicking wild adventure that follows on the heels of Heller's riveting account of the campaign published in the pages of National Geographic Adventure in 2006. Robyn Williams, presenter of the Science Show in Australia, describes Darby's book as "a vivid, supremely well informed account of splendid animals in jeopardy, immensely readable-and timely."

Darby and I share the same publisher. The Australian edition of my book, Ocean Warrior, was also published by Allen & Unwin. American publisher Simon & Shuster published Heller's book, which features the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat on the cover.

Hampton Sides, the author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder contributed the following to the jacket of Heller's book:

"Indifferent to expense, hardship, or personal peril, Peter Heller has once again gone to the ends of the earth to give us a roistering good adventure narrative. In Captain Paul Watson, he has found an outrageous character of the high seas, a kind of modern anti-Ahab, Fearless, irascible, and immune to the concept of compromise, this spirited eco-vigilante is as refreshing on the page as he is feared and dreaded among the world's illegal whale poachers. Like its protagonist, Heller's tale moves along at full ramming speed."

Yes, yes, it makes my crew and me look good, but its not all kissy-face, as Peter Heller also casts a critical eye on our methods and organization. I appreciate that. All stories have a complexity of elements, some positive and some negative. The good guys are never completely perfect, and the bad guys are never completely evil. Heller reveals our flaws, and he highlights our virtues. In all honesty, however, Sea Shepherd is presented much more sympathetically in both books than the whalers. But then again, how do you present vicious criminal whale killers in a positive light? To do so would be to stretch the bounds of credibility to absurd lengths.

Harpoon has been released in Australia, and The Whale Warriors is being released this month in the United States. My compliments to both authors. I know them both personally, and as a writer myself, I offer my most sincere praise for their ability to tell this complex story, each in their own unique way. As a result, our campaigns to save whales in the Southern Oceans will be enshrined in conservation history, and much of that history will be preserved in the pages of these two books.

Read a review of Whale Warriors in the Malibu Times at: