It is hard to feel unalloyed sympathy for the skipper and crew of the Ady Gil, the high-tech trimaran turned protest boat, which collided with the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru in Antarctic waters on Wednesday.
The boat, which operates under the colours of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, sailed south in a noble cause - to protest against Japan's grotesque and wholesale slaughter of magnificent mammals on the transparently false pretext that they are conducting scientific research.
But many would wonder at the wisdom of taking a 13-tonne carbon fibre vessel into such waters. And many more will wonder at the tactics of the owner-skipper Pete Bethune in engaging with the whaler.
A full investigation is some time away, but experts who looked at footage of the incident seem to agree that the Ady Gil is not blameless and may be mainly, if not entirely, to blame for what occurred. Even the most hardened opponents of whaling may consider that protest that endangers lives and destroys a $2.5-million boat bought mainly with sponsors' money is foolhardy and intemperate.
That said, the incident should serve as a reminder to Japan and other whaling nations that most of the world holds their bloody activities in contempt. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's ship Tangaroa leaves next month for a six-week voyage to conduct non-lethal research on whales that will prove the emptiness of Japan's claims.
In the meantime, our Government, while not approving of the Ady Gil's actions, should use the incident to reiterate our opposition to this butchery.