Odyssey of an eco-warrior

Published online: Jul 30, 2010 News

Having adventured enough for a while, Pete Bethune is settling into the quiet life of an author. And what a story he has to tell: the perils of a record-setting voyage around the world on his 78-foot biodiesel-fueled trihull Earthrace, then a year's stint with an anti-whaling organization that ended with Earthrace's sinking and Bethune's arrest in confrontations with a Japanese whaling ship.

"I'm a free man and I'm very happy indeed," says Bethune, 45, who spoke with Soundings from his home in Auckland, New Zealand, after his release from a Japanese prison. The Kiwi environmentalist spent 24 days confined to a cabin on the 172-foot whaler Shonan Maru 2, then four months behind bars.

On July 7, a Japanese judge ordered a two-year suspended sentence and five years probation for Bethune. Two days later he was deported.

"If I do anything naughty, they'll lock me up for two years," he says. "If I keep my nose clean, they'll leave me alone."

Bethune had faced up to 15 years in prison on charges of assault, illegal possession of a knife, destruction of property, obstruction of business and trespassing.