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Wetass Hall Of Fame: Howard Hall…

January 31, 2006

Every once in a while you come across someone whom you’d happily trade lives with. Howard Hall, probably the best underwater cinematographer ever, is one of them. He’s been in the business for decades, he’s made award-winning films (both standard and IMAX), he’s written books, and if it’s interesting he’s dived there. Just a few minutes on his website will reveal an incredible life. And just like the old Saturday Evening Post, TWC will every once in a while (in other words when I feel like it, or I remember) bring you one of his amazing tales. First up is an account of Hall’s 1979 confrontation with the Japanese fishermen of Iki Island, who were about to murder 1000 dolphins trapped in a Bay (in the belief that doing so would help local tuna stocks). Here’s an excerpt:

An angry fisherman approached and put his spear to my throat. I didn’t need to understand Japanese to know that he wanted me to put my cameras away. I did so. Then another fishermen came up to me with a spear. He placed it in my hand and gestured toward the dolphins lying on the beach. I understood this gesture too. Was I with them or was I against them? They demanded a demonstration. I looked around. I was alone on the beach with a hundred angry fishermen. Hardy was still across the bay with the first two angry men. I had no idea where Dexter was. I had entirely forgotten about him. The fisherman gave me a slight shove. I grinned at him and shrugged my shoulders doing my best to act nonchalant. Then I turned and walked down to the beach where a dolphin lay wrapped in a net. I could see the dolphin looking at me. Its skin was dry and cracked, but its eye was moist and alive. The air was filled with the sound of dolphins whistling as they lay on the beach, their skins burning and cracking under the morning sun. I could feel the eyes of a hundred fishermen behind me. My mouth was bone dry as adrenaline rushed through my system. My knees threatened to fold beneath me. What is the right thing to do here, I wondered. Can the murder of a sentient being be justified even if its death is absolutely inevitable? Even if that death may help save the lives of thousands of its kind? I whispered to the dolphin, “I’m sorry my friend, but you’re already gone.” Then I raised the spear.

Pretty gripping, huh? And heartbreaking. Read the whole story here, but make sure you have a strong stomach because the pictures feature oceans of dolphin blood. Here are some slightly more pleasant ones from Hall’s undersea journey…

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