PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 3:23am

'Brigitte Bardot' heats up anti-whaling battle


Bonny Schoonakker has worked as a journalist in South Africa, Europe and, now, Asia, reporting on war and peace, and everything in between, for more than 30 years. Despite being in newspapers for an uncomfortable length of time, he feels he still has a lot to learn and cannot shake off the suspicion that you are only as good as your next story, no matter how good your last one. However, he does know that truth is a lie’s best cover, and remains constantly on the alert.

Ending the year by looking forward to what the new one may bring, allow me to offer the prospect of Brigitte Bardot in action once more, if only for the headlines this may generate.

Ironically enough, considering the passions aroused by Bardot in my grandparents' generation, this confrontation will unfold in the frigid realms of the Southern Ocean, to which Japanese whalers and environmentalists in the Sea Shepherd movement are speeding towards even as you read this.

One of the vessels in Sea Shepherd's fleet of four is named the Brigitte Bardot, in honour of the former actress' concern for animal welfare, but also a sign of the publicity-seeking tendencies of the group's charismatic founder, Paul Watson, the "Julian Assange of the high seas".

Actually, I am a fan of Watson's crusades, at least as they are depicted on the Discovery channel, in which the mentalists take on the whalers' water cannons armed with nothing more than their bravado. If this carries on, someone is going to get hurt. It's unlikely to be Watson, who seldom ventures off the bridge of his flagship, the Steve Irwin. However, if he does find himself in harm's way, at least he will have a convincing excuse for not appearing in court to answer the trumped-up charges that await him in Costa Rica.

If any Sea Shepherd vessel is going to get within range of the whalers' countermeasures and harpoons, it is going to be the Brigitte Bardot. It was originally named the Gojira (Japanese for "Godzilla") to replace another ship that sank in a collision, but the copyright holders to the Japanese monster's name objected, and Sea Shepherd quickly obliged - in a capitulation that may have caught the attention of other branches of the Japanese establishment.

Watson then proposed naming it after the woman he took seal-spotting off Canada in 1977, and she readily agreed, referring to him as "the captain of my heart" in her letter of consent.

If the vessel comes to grief in the manner of its predecessor, the world's media will go to town with endless coverage of "Brigitte Bardot destroyed in Antarctica". Global publicity guaranteed. But as the fleet sails out for its annual circus, you do wonder what are the aims and which are its means.

Alex Lo is on leave


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