I recognize that it takes all sorts to make up the folks who constitute the animal rights movement. Among them are the celebrated heroes and villains and those who go about their work unsung but live forever in the hearts of the animals they’ve helped. Each one is unique – yes, that’s a cliché – but some (to mangle a phrase) are more unique than others. One such activist who is truly unique is Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Fund.

Watson, a much admired figure in the animal rights movement and a hugely popular speaker at conferences, is someone who displays courage and tenacity in spades. There’s a fine line between genius and insanity, however. I can’t help but wonder, after reading Peter Heller’s The Whale Warriors, that Watson personifies more than anyone I know all of these qualities and is not only in full control of them but also has them focused on saving the planet. If I ever found myself in a life-threatening disaster I’d want to have the Captain by my side. It’s difficult to think of a better compliment to make about someone than that. Here’s what Heller makes of him after the Farley Mowat has a stand off with the Japanese whaling factory, Nisshin Maru.

No doubt now—Watson is surely an anti-Ahab. More bearish, more charming, but just as terrifying in his fearlessness, and in his willingness to sacrifice everything, including our lives—to save the whale.

Heller recounts his time on the Farley Mowat in the Antarctica as 2005 turns into 2006. The Sea Shepherd’s mission is to stop the Japanese whalers. Heller goes along for the ride and vividly portrays the journey taken.

I stared at the throbbing green blips on the main radar screen. Was it possible? Had Watson found, in hundreds of thousands of square miles of Southern Ocean, his prey? It was against all odds. Even with the informer on board the [Greenpeace] Esperanza. Even with the storm that could now be veiling his approach from the unwary Japanese. I looked at Watson in his exposure suit and began to pull on my own dry suit. Watson turned to Cornelissen. “Wake all hands,” he said.

I know I’d be useless under the command of Captain Paul Watson but I vicariously enjoyed the experience with grateful thanks to Peter Heller’s The Whale Warriors.

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