(First Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007)
Tom Barber had close calls with explosive head harpoons twice during the campaign against the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia, August/September 1977.
Tom, fellow Australians Jonny Lewis and Allan Simmons, Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and Bob Hunter, a Canadian and co-founder of Greenpeace, went up to 30 nautical miles into the Southern Ocean to run interference against the three whale chasing ships.
Tom and Jean-Paul made official complaints to the police about one incident.
In a written statement to Police, Tom Barber said: ” “We were about to cross behind the whale when we heard the thump of the harpoon discharge. The harpoon struck the whale near the centre of its back. The whale then put its tail in the air and then dived. The rope from the harpoon struck the water about four feet from our boat. Our boat was under power and drifting towards the area between the whale and the whale chaser. Our boat then crossed the rope between the chaser and the whale and our propeller became entangled in the rope. The rope lifted the motor on our boat and I had to release the pivot pin. The whale chaser was also bearing down on us.”
Jean-Paul said the harpoon “shot across our bow and the harpoon cable slapped the water a couple of yards (two metres) ahead of us”.