It’s clear from a newly released tribal report that the five Makah Indians who illegally killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca last September were the seaborne equivalent of Keystone Kops. Not only did they apparently violate every applicable federal and tribal law--for which they face criminal charges--they botched their poaching so badly that the whale suffered for nearly 10 hours before it finally died.
This was the gang that couldn’t harpoon straight. The five wannabe whalers sank four harpoons into the creature without killing it. They also shot it no fewer than 16 times with a .460 Magnum rifle. But they couldn’t hit its brain stem, which would have killed it outright.
They had started out with a more powerful rifle, a formidable .577 caliber weapon that had quickly killed another gray whale in the Makah tribe’s legal 1999 hunt. But they accidentally dropped it overboard.
When the Coast Guard caught up with the fiasco and stopped the torture, the whalers asked for permission to return to shore for more ammunition.