Generally seafarers and “tree huggers” are usually on opposite sides of the social spectrum. One usually being a lofty idealist, and the other being a pragmatic realist. To see the both come together, as they do in the television show Whale Wars, is a bit of a guilty pleasure. As I write this, I am at sea and hear that Whale Wars: The Second Season is hitting the airways of Animal Planet, and I am actually looking forward to it when I get home.
The first season introduces us to the small ship, MV Steve Irwin, named after the famed “Crocodile Hunter” star and charismatic animal lover. The vessel and its crew are on a mission to find and disrupt any and all whale hunting activities by a large Japanese fleet, in the expansive waters of the Antarctic. The vessel, and the organization behind it, Sea Shepherd Society, is led by famed environmentalist and co founder of the Greenpeace movement, Paul Watson. An interesting character, somewhat enigmatic in the show, but undeniably resourceful and calculating, perhaps traits learned from being at sea for quite some time.
The crew, from various nationalities, are, from what I can tell, strictly volunteers with no seagoing backgrounds, and judging by some of the actions of the officers, they lack the beneficial background as well. Most of the crew though, seem to be vegan and somewhat free spirits, which on a ship at sea, for 6 weeks at a time, would be most interesting to see sustained, although the producers don’t follow this angle.
The show revolves principally on the interactions above the water line, although, there is a brief reference to the engine room with an untimely black out (like there is a good time for those), and late in the season, a cylinder valve drops. That destroys the turbo on one of the engines, and the vessel is force to retreat and make repairs, requiring some major funding and interesting fund raising sources. I though I had problems generating Purchase Orders through my company’s purchasing system!
The heart of the show, like most “reality TV” is the drama between the principal characters; the deck officers, the bosun and deckhands, the doctor, the cook, the captain. Hell, those people usually produce enough drama to rival Coronation Street on a regular ship, never mind that most of them are greenhorns with a penchant to correct the world’s ills. Therein lays the fun of the show. Of course, the show being on a ship in sometimes rough seas in the Antarctic, certainly adds quite an interesting visual setting for the average land “blubber” viewers (pardon the pun).
No matter what your politics are, Whale Wars is a well made TV show that I enjoyed watching. Filmed in I a stark, darkened and cold tone, it is skilfully edited into a fluid format that easily relays the ultimate goal of the series, and that is to raise awareness of the Sea Sheppard Society and its endeavors. One gets the feeling that the Japanese, and their orderly and hierarchical culture, are a bit overwhelmed by these environmentalists and their tactics.