Posts Tagged ‘writing book review’

Review – Sydney Morning Herald (March 2008)

February 23, 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald 21 March 2008

Reviewer Bruce Elder said: “Given that whaling seems to be an eternally controversial issue it is a huge compliment to ex-journalist Chris Pash that he has managed to find an objective middle path in this engrossing story of the first Greenpeace campaign in Australia, which resulted in the closing of the country’s last whaling station in Albany, Western Australia.”

The Last Whale is published by Fremantle Press.

Elder said: “This is an important story but lacks any sense of Moby Dick-like romance because, by 1977 when the protests occurred, whales were hunted with sonar and planes and killed with 55-kilogram harpoons driven by 185 grams of gunpowder.”

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Chasing Whaling SHips from Sea Level

February 19, 2010
(First Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007)

King George Sound, Albany, Western Australia. Copyright 2007 Jonny lewis

By Chris Pash
The Last Whale

Jonny Lewis was drowning in the raw beauty and power of the Southern Ocean. Initially, he couldn’t speak as he looked out across King George Sound, Western Australia, to the horizon. The immensity of that body of water overwhelmed him.

“We went out there?” Jonny said eventually. He couldn’t believe that thirty years ago he and his friends took an open boat south to the end of the world.

This was the first look he’d had since 1977 when he launched an outboard powered inflatable from Middleton Beach, Albany, at the start a 17 hour duel with a whale ship.

He turned to me and said: “We were mad.” The sea looked like it could swallow a 16 ft Zodiac inflatable in a moment and leave no trace.

I see this view every year when visiting Albany for Christmas and often think of Jonny and his friends in 1977. I expressed what I’d always thought. “It’s not something I would ever have done,” I said. “You guys were out there, on the edge, mad and magical at the same time.”

“I don’t think we even considered that,” Jonny said pointing to the ocean. “We were on a roll, bouncing off and egging on one another … we didn’t think.”

In 1977 Jonny Lewis and his crew formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition (later to morph into Greenpeace Australia) in Sydney to take direct action against Australia’s last whaling station run by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company.

A key figure was Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, nicknamed the Phantom, who bankrolled the campaign and brought Canadian Bob Hunter, Greenpeace founder, to Australia to lend his expertise honed in the North Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet.

They opened the campaign in Albany on August 28, 1977. A few days later Jonny and Jean-Paul trailed one of three whale chasers, the Cheynes II, captained by Kase Van Der Gaag, across the Southern Ocean.

“That was an historic day,” Jonny said. “It was the first time anyone had kept one-third of the Australian whaling fleet from its work.”

The campaign ran for several weeks with Jonny, Jean-Paul, Bob Hunter and others taking the Zodiacs out up to 30 nautical miles to act as human shields for the sperm whales. There were two close calls with harpoons but no injuries.

“It’s incredible that we consistently went out so far to sea,” Jonny said later. “It felt, looking over the Sound and beyond, overwhelmingly beautiful and dangerous.”

Jonny returned to Albany in November 2007 to attend an event at Middleton Beach. Jonny stood with Kase Van Der Gaag and Paddy Hart, Australia’s remaining former whaling ship captains, to protest Japan’s plans to take 50 humpback whales.

For Jonny the return to Albany was about meeting Kase. “Kase is deep and feels deeply. I also sense his sadness. It’s everyone’s sadness, a kind of ‘life’ sadness about what we’ve done to the planet, the whales and one another.”

Kase left whaling soon after Jonny and his friends ended their direct action campaign in 1977. He worked in the north west of Western Australia on tug boats. Today Kase speaks against whaling. “I owe it to the whales, the whales I killed.”

Today Kase feels like he’s in the presence of God when he sees a whale.

Jonny: “If only the Japanese whalers had similar feelings.”

For Kase the argument against whaling isn’t about numbers. It doesn’t matter that there may or may not be thousands of whales in the ocean. It’s the inhumanity. Kase: “There’s no such thing as a clean kill. They die hard.”

Jonny was taken with Albany and its current day green outlook. I took him to the old whaling station, now called Whale World, which closed in November 1978, where we met writer Tim Winton for a photographic session with The Australian newspaper. On the way back to town we stopped at the wind farm and then the headland to take in King George Sound.

“The town has this ‘brasserie’ feel, sophisticated eating and drinking,” Jonny said. “I felt proud of our accomplishments all those years ago. Thirty years ago I remember slinking along through Albany. Not so to-day.”

Jonny loved the wind farm built in 2001 to supply 75% of the city’s power. Jonny’s friend, Tom Barber, who had two close calls with harpoons in 1977, went on to build the world’s first commercial wind farm in California. I took a photo of Jonny to send to Two Harpoon Tom in the USA.

Steve Pontin, local writer and marketing guru for the city council, later sent Jonny photographs of dolphins at play at Sand Patch near Albany. Jonny: “They are my greatest souvenir. Dolphins are the reason I became interested in whales before we went to Albany in 1977.”

© Copyright 2007 Chris Pash. All Rights Reserved.

Review – The Age

February 19, 2010

(First Posted Saturday, October 25, 2008)

Fiona Capp in The Age newspaper today (Saturday, 25th October, 2008) reviews The Last Whale by noting that few issues raise such emotion as whaling.

However, the author, Chris Pash, doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the anti-whaling case.

‘By telling the story of the final years of the industry in Australia from both the whalers’ and the protesters’ perspectives, he (Chris Pash) captures the shift in public mood that made whaling morally unacceptable,’ Capp writes.

She says the book includes intriguing characters, both whalers and anti-whaling protesters, who carry the emotional freight of the story. One such character is Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, a Frenchman known among anti-whaling activists as The Phantom. He financed the direct action against Australia’s last whaling station in 1977.

The Last Whale follows the lives of the whalers who operated the last whaling station in the English-speaking world and the activisits who tried to stop them. Chris Pash was a young reporter at the local newspaper, the Albany Advertiser, during the direct action against the whalers, the first campaign by Greenpeace in Australia.

The last whale harpooned by Australians was a female sperm whale off Albany, Western Australia on November 20, 1978. The whaling station closed the next day. The 30 year anniversary of the closure will be marked on November 21, 2008, at the whaling station, now a musem called Whale World.

Listen to the radio interview with Chris Pash or watch the video clip with archival material.

The Last Whale by Chris Pash was published October 2008 by Fremantle Press and is available in all good book stores in Australia.

Sunday Times (Perth)

February 19, 2010

(First Posted  Tuesday, October 21, 2008)

STM, the magazine of the Sunday Times newspaper in Perth, WA, on October 19, 2008, devoted five pages to the story of the last whaling station in the English-speaking world and the 30th anniversary next month of Australia harpooning its last whale.

Chris Pash, author of the book The Last Whale , was quoted as saying: ‘It’s a universal story about change. It’s a story about a town that was a lagging and slow to move. It was stuck at the bottom of the world, and whaling should have ended, but it went unnoticed. The protests were a very confronting way for that change. I don’t think Albany has come to terms with the idea of being the last whaling station in Australia and the birthplace of Greenpeace in Australia.’

The Last Whale, a narrative nonfiction book which tells the story of the last whaling station through the eyes of both the whalers and a group of anti-whaling protesters, was released this month by Fremantle Press

The whaling station at Albany, Western Australia, closed on November 21, 1978. The last whale, a female sperm whale, was harpooned on November 20, 1978.

The Last Whale Launch

February 17, 2010

The Launch of THE LAST WHALE at Sprung Writers Festival 2008

Last Whale author Chris Pash and Steve Shallhorn, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Sept 2008

Review – Hunter turned protector

February 3, 2010

(First Posted Monday, September 29, 2008)

The Adelaide Review says The Last Whale by Chris Pash is the story of crazy young activists in 1977 risking their lives in rubber dinghies, duelling with steel whaling ships and placing themselves between whales and explosive harpoons.

The article by Ian Williams says: “Pash is non-judgemental in his portrayal of the key characters involved in the emotionally charged campaign, delivering a narrative style that gives equal weight to both whalers and protesters. He spent months tracking down the former adversaries to piece together the action and provide an insight into their experiences and motivations.”