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Sea Shepherd Submarine: Looking Back At A Unique Weapon Against Whaling

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Back in 1994, before the Sea Shepherd had their own television show or were as well-known as they are today, the anti-whaling group bought a Norwegian military submarine for $250,000.

Even then, Paul Watson and company were flirting with some high-tech options to fend off whalers.

The sub, built in 1988, was designed to infiltrate harbors and other small bodies of water. It ran on diesel, could dive to 300ft, and stay underwater for three days. According to a news report, Norway sold the vessel was sold to a private company which sold it to a Swedish Salvage company and eventually the Sea Shepherd. Paul Watson personally delivered the 27-foot sub via flatbed truck on a four-day trek from Southern California to Seattle. It was christened the “Mirage”.

The intent was to disguise the sub as a full-grown orca whale in an attempt to scare gray whales away from tribes hunting them in Neah Bay, Washington. San Francisco artist George Sumner was commissioned for the artwork. Captain Watson also considered adding hydrophonic speakers that could blast orca sounds as far as two miles away. Sounds of gray whales being attacked by orcas were also considered.

It was also about this time that the Canadian Navy caught wind of the sub purchase and made it known publicly that “no one at Sea Shepherd knew anything about operating a submarine and it was ridiculous for Sea Shepherd to acquire one.” This led to Paul Watson issuing the famous retort of, “Since World War II, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has boarded more ships, rammed more ships, engaged in more high seas confrontations and sunk more ships than the Canadian Navy. They are hardly in a position to presume to judge what we are competent or capable of doing.”

Oddly, the Sea Shepherd never did use the Mirage. It would journey with them on their flagship Whales Forever tightly secured in an on-deck cradle, but never saw action. Whether the risk of taking it out was just too great — or the operation too complex, is not known. It did bring some good press for the organization — which as we know they are masters of — but eventually was sold off in 1999.

To see a picture of the Sea Shepherd sub (and Paul Watson’s pretty hair), click here.

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