Raid on the Killing Cove
Credit: Peter Carrette

October 22, 16:20 hours, Denver

At the law enforcement store I put the pile on the counter: black cargo pants, black watch cap, sweater, boots. My wife brings me a fistful of black shooting gloves.

"I'm not going to be doing any shooting," I tell her.

"You never know." Her recreation for years had been ninja training. This is how she thinks. "Anyway, you won't leave fingerprints."

The clerk had been watching with growing suspicion. "What department you with?" she asks.

"None. Hey, do you have tac vests that can hold a notebook?"

"They don't hold notebooks, they hold magazines."

"That'd work."

The clerk's eyes narrow. "Magazines for guns," she says.

"Oh."

She lets me buy the stuff. I am clearly too stupid to do any real civic damage. The guys in Boulder said they'd supply the face paint. I am amped. I am going on a commando mission to Japan.

"You get caught, you do time," a friend tells me just before I leave."Ninety-eight percent conviction rate. It's all about saving face."

Last fall I published a book about time I spent in Antarctica aboard an eco-pirate ship that chased and disrupted a Japanese whaling fleet. A renowned former National Geographic photographer named Louie Psihoyos picked up a copy, read it, and called me. He said that there was a hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, where a couple thousand dolphins and small whales are brutally killed every year. He said that the lagoon fills with blood on a daily basis. He was making a movie about it.

Louie said that in 10 days an international group of celebrities, surfers, and activists, led by the famous Australian surfer Dave Rastovich, were going to paddle surfboards into the lagoon and intervene, maybe even get arrested, to bring worldwide attention to the practice. Kelly Slater was coming, as was Hayden Panettiere, the invincible cheerleader from the TV show Heroes. Louie, who is 50 and lives in Boulder, planned to shoot the whole thing commando-style from the air, the water, the cliffs. All the filming had to be done in secret, as the cove was tarped off, razor wired, and heavily guarded. Louie had millions of dollars in backing from his diving and sailing buddy Jim Clark, the Silicon Valley whiz kid who founded Silicon Graphics and Netscape. He also got help from guys who used to work at George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic lab. They had used photos of the cove to fashion floating rocks that matched those of the bay. Inside were high-def cameras. Louie also had microphones disguised as leaves and sticks. He had divers and remote feeds. He had FLIR.

"FLIR?"

"Forward-looking infrared," Louie told me. "Military-grade thermal cameras. We can detect night patrols."

"Are you fucking with me?"

"You can paddle next to Slater, wear a pencil cam on your head, record the whole thing. Leaving in a week. You in?"

I thought about it, for three seconds. Two deeply held beliefs informed my decision: (A) I like dolphins. (B) When surfers and activists get together for a righteous cause, there's no better party.