Dangerous ideas

(First posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007)

It’s the 1970s. Drugs, sex and rock and roll. And dangerous ideas. One of them is the concept that man may not have a free hand to do what he wants with the world’s resources.

Australia’s last whaling station at Albany, Western Australia, is hunting sperm whales in the Southern Ocean. Whaling has been going on since before European settlement. The local crews of the whale chaser ships have standing in the community. They’re the good guys. They go out each day and take a crop from the ocean. They bring money into the town. More than 100 people work in whaling, one of the biggest industries in town.

In other parts of the world, opposition to whaling grows. The industry has a history of overexploitation, hunting whales, such as the blue whale, to the point of extinction.

A bunch of activists decide to take the fight to the point of the harpoons. They are led Australian Jonny Lewis, Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and by Canadia Bob Hunter, co-founder of Greenpeace. Bob and his wife Bobbi arrive in Sydney in mid 1977 to be met by Australian Jonny Lewis, a photographer, who has formed a group called the Whale and Dolphin Coalition. The Australians want whaling stopped now. They don’t want to wait for the political agenda to be changed.

The catalyst for the direct action planned is a Frenchman called Jean Paul Fortom Gouin. He’s got money and he wants to save the whales. Jean Paul puts up the money to bring the two Canadians, veterans of the Greenpeace campaign in the Northern Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet, to Australia. Jean Paul’s strategy is hit Australia hard. Get them to stop whaling and use Australia as a launch point to stop whaling in the rest of the world, a domino effect.

Bob Hunter pioneered the tactic of using rubber Zodiac boats to place people between the harpoon guns and the whales — human shields. This is what’s planned for the three whale chaser ships of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia. The key difference between the Soviet fleet and the Australian operation is that the Albany whaling is shore based; they return their catch to land each day. This means that the activists won’t have to scour the ocean to find the whalers.

The Hunters, Jonny Lewis and his architect friend Tom Barber, start gathering equipment and plan the campaign. First they have to get everyone and the gear, including Zodiacs and outboard engines, across to the other side of Australia.


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