in Kulturkampf

Whale War Drones

Thought: take the crew out. Harden the nose. Aim at ramming speed for the factory ship, and you’d have a motorized trireme. You would also become a real, honest-to-godz pirate. While I certainly agree with the desire to stop whaling fleets from killing the great cetaceans, at times I have questioned the tactics of the whale wars. Let me be specific about that word, “tactics.”

For I have never questioned Captain Watson or his resolve, but “Whale Wars” has mostly been a misnomer. He and his crew could have used a genuine US Navy combat commander at times. Protip: if you lose sight of the Japanese factory boat, don’t stand around to hold a bitch session. Spread your assets across its most likely vectors. Continue the mission. Hold the action review later. Spend the off-season training/gaming these scenarios.

Accomplish your mission.

Of course, I make room for the effects of “reality programming” on source material. At times, however, even I have wondered whether the Captain and crew were as invested in accomplishing the mission as they were in collision mechanics. According to the AP, the Captain is now on the lam from Germany:

The founder of environmental group Sea Shepherd vowed Tuesday to continue disrupting Japan’s whaling fleet when it heads for the southern oceans this winter, despite authorities in at least three countries seeking his arrest.

Paul Watson, 61, was detained in Germany in May on a Costa Rican extradition warrant that accused him of endangering the crew of a fishing vessel in 2002.

About ten days ago the Canadian, who sees himself as an advocate for whales, sharks and other marine animals, skipped bail after learning that Japan, too, was seeking his extradition from Germany. is confirming the story on their front page. But even as a celebrity fugitive, the Captain is no pirate. He is a dedicated, professional activist who appreciates a terrific technology. Watching a television series that is in many ways about him, I have detected a steep learning curve; but the Captain definitely is learning. Indeed, he has reinvented the entire history of 20th Century naval war doctrine by leapfrogging to the technologies of the 21st — a lesson for drone hysterics.

From last December’s coverage at

Either way, the drones clearly have the potential to provide significant added value to Sea Shepherd’s efforts; in particular, now that Major Problem Number One has apparently been solved, they can prove a great aid in Major Problem Number Two: Staying with the fleet. While the rest of the whalers are apparently shadowing one of Watson’s vessels, the factory ship Nisshin Maru has seemingly begun a sprint for safety. That was what it did to us on numerous occasions, but Watson is confident the drones give him an unassailable advantage: “This is going to be a long hard pursuit,” he said, “but thanks to these drones, we now have an advantage we have never had before — eyes in the sky.”

A crew can potentially fly an entire armada of drones at one time using iPads, providing live intelligence to the “combat command center” in the whale “warship.” According to the Captain, the trick to winning whale wars is finding, and staying with, the whaling fleet; a fleet of drones can find the whalers and stay with them better than any boat, and at less risk.

I’m sure the whales appreciate not being slaughtered. And isn’t that the mission?

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