I saw a whale get killed today. Sadly, these days this is not an uncommon scene for me.

I’m one of the two Greenpeace photographers on the Esperanza and the Arctic Sunrise, and as such I either go out in the inflatables or up in the helicopter to document the protests of the activists, and to put these images on the website or out to the media. So in the past few weeks I’ve seen a few whales be killed.

Whilst it hasn’t been pleasant to see any whale be killed, this killing today was particularly unpleasant. It died a horrible death.


Force 10 storm, encountered on voyage south in the Southern Ocean. 27.11.2005

The ‘Billy G’ boat had already gone out, and was following the Yushin Maru catcher ship. The ‘Orange’ boat, we have never settled on a name for it, was going also, and Hernan , videographer and I , went in that. We were a little slow is setting out, but the crew did a good job in getting us beside the catcher and the ‘Billy G’ relatively quickly, and without getting wet which is always nice. Odin drove us fast, but swerved the waves, only occasionally a little spray, but on the whole we stayed dry.

We reached the scene quickly, and immediately were in the midst of it all.. Alain, in the ‘Billy G’, tells us the harpoonist had been deliberately aiming the harpoon at their boat. Minutes later as we round the front of the catcher the harpoonist does indeed swivel on his green deck, pointing the ominous yellow harpoon with it’s black explosive tip in our direction. It is frightening. It is plain intimidation, but it works. I want to react, but don’t want to provoke the guy. I try to turn away, to look elsewhere, but it’s scary to not know what is happening behind you. Where to look, what to do? We radio the Esperanza, our ship, to tell them, perhaps subconsciously hoping that somehow this will be a guarantee of safety.

The ‘Billy G’ swerves and weaves in front of the catcher, the water hose going to try and block the vision of the harpoonist. Our boat stayed out to the starboard side. It’s hard at this point to try and shoot any stills or video images, the boat is bouncing around, thudding onto the waves, swerving, twisting, more thuds. To try and shoot through a telephoto lens is impossible, the camera jars into your face, your waterproof covers come off, get tangled, settings and buttons on the camera change as things nudge against them. And of course there is always the threat that a huge waves engulfs them.


Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza and her inflatables , and inflatables from the Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise try to hinder the transfer of a dead minke whale from theJapanese whaling fleet catcher ship Kyo Maru No.1 to the Nisshin Maru factory ship. Southern Ocean. 21.12.2005

It’s also impossible in the boats to judge times, to judge how long we’ve been out, or how many minutes there were between things happening. But it seemed that after only a few minutes of us arriving the Yushin Maru sighted a minke whale, and decided to go for it.