RAFFI KHATCHADOURIAN
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UPDATE: NEPTUNE'S NAVY
Published: 11/17/2009
Paul Watson at sea
In a few months, Paul Watson and members of his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are scheduled to set sail from Australia to the Southern Ocean, off the coast of Antarctica, to harass the Japanese whaling fleet during its annual hunt there. In 2007, I wrote about a similar expedition that Watson had commanded, and about his evolution as an activist and eco-provocateur. Since then, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been busy generating more mischief, and attracting more publicity, ridicule, and ire. With the help of Animal Planet, the cable network, Watson has turned his annual trips to the Southern Ocean into a successful reality show, called, "Whale Wars." The show has achieved enough notoriety to be parodied on "South Park," which aired an episode earlier this year, titled, "Whale Whores." (The artists of "South Park" depicted Watson as a man of immense girth -- his belly sagging far below the confines of his shirt -- and as a sea captain who proclaims, "Yeah, we're badass," but who ultimately is killed by a Japanese harpoon.) More damaging than the satire, perhaps, was the Canadian government's confiscation of one of Watson's ships -- the MV Farley Mowat -- during a Sea Shepherd campaign conducted last year to interfere with the hunting of seals. At the time, Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Loyola Hearn, called Watson and his crew "a bunch of money-sucking manipulators," and Watson responded by calling the seizure "an act of war." This spring, when the Canadian government put up the Farley Mowat for sale, Watson warned potential buyers, "You don't steal a ship from a pirate without repercussions." But it is unlikely that he will do anything about the loss of that old and rusting vessel, as it was virtually unseaworthy, and he has long wanted to get rid of it. Just recently, Watson announced a new addition to his fleet: a black trimaran speedboat that looks like it was stolen from the set of Batman. (See video above.) The ship, named the Ady Gil, after the Hollywood mogul who in large measure paid for it, reportedly cost $1.5 million dollars, and holds a world record for circumnavigating the globe (sixty days, twenty-three hours, forty-nine minutes). Apparently, it is difficult to detect by radar, travels up to fifty knots, and can even dive through large waves, rather than pass over them. Watson's crew fortified the Ady Gil with a ton of kevlar armor. How it will survive in a confrontation with the flagship of the Japanese fleet, the eight-thousand-ton Nisshin Maru, remains to be seen.