Early this morning, the Brigitte Bardot, en route back to the Faroes from the Shetland Islands, came upon a large pod of pilot whales. The pilot whales surrounded the vessel, coming so close that the crew could reach out and touch them. Meanwhile, the Steve Irwin, positioned near the southern island of Suduroy at the time, began heading towards the same area to join the Brigitte Bardot, arriving just in time to see this remarkable sight.
From the helicopter, pilot Chris Aultman estimated that there were some 500 pilot whales from numerous pods surrounding a large area around the two Sea Shepherd ships. Dolphins and fin whales were seen breaching and spy-hopping in addition to the pilot whales. Several crewmembers were able to jump into the sea to film these wondrous cetaceans underwater, many of them coming within inches of the divers and their cameras. Aultman clocked a fin whale swimming at 22 knots as dolphins surfed in front of it.
Sea Shepherd also retrieved a large floating ghost net from the water and brought it onboard to ensure it would not cause harm to any further marine wildlife.
Sea Shepherd positioned their ships between the whales and the Faroe Islands and monitored the movement of the whales ready to intervene with acoustic devices if necessary to persuade them to divert away from the cruel and lethal shores of the Faroes.
Alexis Lum of Canada found himself underwater as a mother and her calf swam in a circle around them. “I could have reached out and touched that calf, it was so close and the way the whales looked us in the eye, like they were trying to communicate with us,” he said.
American crewmember Crystal Galbraith said, “I was amazed at how friendly they were, not afraid of us at all, and so intensely curious. How anyone could greet this friendliness with such horrific violence is unimaginable.”
The Sea Shepherd ships are staying with the pilot whales throughout the night. “We are like aquatic shepherds guarding our flock,” said Captain Paul Watson. “We need to keep them away from the vicious hooks and knives of the Faroese butchers.”