Literature: Heller’s Whale Warriors

minkeHot off the press—literally—is Peter Heller’s new book, The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals (Free Press, 2007). Whew. Quite a subtitle. I heard Heller read from the book earlier this week at the Boulder Bookstore, and I’m currently sitting in Amante Coffee, drinking an Americano and devouring my signed copy.

In 2005, Heller joined the crew of the Farley Mowat on a 51-day pursuit of Japanese whalers hunting endangered species in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Farley Mowat is the flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which makes it an eco-pirate ship of sorts. It’s painted a stealthy black and flies a Jolly Roger. The captain, a certain radical environmental enforcer named Paul Watson, has sunk eight whaling ships to the bottom of the ocean and isn’t bothered by the fact that the ships they’ll be pursuing could T-bone the Farley in seconds. The Whale Warriors tells the story of Heller’s tenure aboard this ship as it clashes with the Japanese whaling fleet. But it’s also a story that explores the fate of our oceans and looks closely at the motives and personalities of the people who are fighting to preserve them.

Heller is a contributing editor at Outside and National Geographic Adventure. He’s written some other books. He’s good. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to run campaigns against the Japanese whaling fleet during the austral summer, and I had my first encounter with this organization last year while I was working in communications at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Outfitted with a new ship, they had called in because they were in the Ross Sea area, trying to locate the Japanese ships. Of course, I would have been fired for offering any information, but I began tracking their progress. Heller’s book is insightful and well written, giving me all of the details (and more) that I wish I had last year as I sat in a communications box listening to crackling radio conversations.

Another Americano, please…

(photograph above is of a minke whale that I photographed frolicking just off the Ross Sea ice edge)

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One response to “Literature: Heller’s Whale Warriors

  1. I agree with this author. This is an outstanding book, one you can only get if the author, like Heller, is brave enough to go along for a ride, in the frozen waves of Antarctica.

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