Reading Harpoon while Saving Whales
David Nickarz (3rd Engineer)
It's now 56 days into our mission to stop the pirate whaling of the Japanese government in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. We left Hobart about 8 days ago now, after a short break to refuel and re-provision.
We have now returned to the whale sanctuary. This refuge had been established by several nations in the early 1990's as a place whales could live and feed, unmolested by humanity. Whalers ignored the establishment of this sanctuary and continued their commercial slaughter under the lie of scientific whaling. They resorted to this lie because a moratorium on commercial whaling was established in 1986.
After almost finishing Andrew Darby's book Harpoon, I'm given a sense of history of the holocaust that humanity has inflicted upon the great whales of the world. Whalers have started with the largest of the whales-the Blue whale and chased it to the ends of the earth, and to the edge of extinction. The Right whale was the 'right' whale to kill, not because of their size, but because they happen to float when you kill them. There is no great mystery to the names given to the great whales--in fact some of them are down right ignorant.
The Sperm whale was given its name because, as Farley Mowat puts it in his book, Sea of Slaughter, "some idiot thought that the large sack of oil in its head was full of sperm".
The Minke whale was named after a German named Mincke, who accompanied Svend Foyn, a 19th century sealer (often called the father of industrial whaling). He developed both a ship fast enough to catch the quicker whales and the grenade-tipped harpoon which is still used today. The other name for a Minke whale is Piked whale-not much better.
I propose we change the name to something vastly more dignified than after a seal clubber or the method of slaughter.
All this history brings me back to my role on this ship. I sit here day after day in this engine room-watching dials, cleaning up and feeding oil into engines. After 53 days and more than 100 four hour shifts, I can say that it's wearing me down.
I am encouraged to know that I am part of an effort that could see the end to Antarctic whaling-just as the generation before me saw the end of whaling in Australia and the introduction of a ban on commercial whaling world-wide.
As we approach the fleet of whale killers, I have a greater sense of history and my place in it thanks in part to Andrew Darby's book Harpoon.