The sea was rough and cold. It wasn’t so rough they couldn’t launch the dinghies and since the whalers had begun to hunt down a pack of Minke whales, that’s what they did. Brian sat in the lead boat with his bolt cutters, if they couldn’t stop the whaling ship from unleashing its harpoons they would try to cut the connecting lines that helped to pull the stricken whales back to the ship.
There were three of them in the dinghy: Brian (English), Sean (Dutch) and Robbie (Canadian). They knew how to handle the boat in a choppy sea and they wore dry suits, flotation vests and cycle style helmets. The sea spray still stung their eyes and the wind numbed their faces so they didn’t plan on taking their own sweet time.
They were too late to stop the firing of the first harpoon. It had found it’s target and the Penthrite grenade had exploded. Sean steered the boat in close to the side of the whaler. It was an early Spring afternoon and heavy petrol blue-grey clouds pressed down, meeting the sea as the horizon moved up in swells. Brian was tied by a waist harness to the dinghy and was able to kneel against the side as they closed in on the ship.
The dying whale was only about 50 metres away, Brian had to cut the carbon fibre line quickly but as he manoeuvred the cutter’s open jaw around it a sailor on the whaling ship was leaning over the side holding a long metal pole. It must have been the handle of one of the large gaffs they used for moving chunks of whale carcass around. ‘And I smacked him real good’; that’s how he described it later to his fellow whalers. Good was not a word that Brian would have used to describe the incident but there you go, there are always two sides to a story. Robbie said, “If it hadn’t been for the helmet, he’d probably have been a goner”. The gaff handle smashed down onto his helmet, down the side of his face and onto his shoulder. Concussion, fractured cheek and collarbone, displaced cornea in left eye, cheek splayed open like an overripe pomegranate. Brian fell back into the dinghy and Robbie steered back to the mother ship. It was just another David and Goliath incident where the pay out was on the favourite.