By Dan Satherley
Anti-whaling activist Paul Watson has told how his fellow Sea Shepherd activists narrowly avoided death during Friday's devastating tsunami.
Seven members of the notorious environmental organisation are currently based in Otsuchi, Japan, trying to stop dolphin and porpoise hunters.
"We did not know for over 40 hours if they were alive or dead," Mr Watson wrote on the Sea Shepherd website.
"Thanks to quick thinking and an understanding of the situation they were in, the Sea Shepherd crew headed for high ground when they saw the waters receding."
Water in the harbour water went out and flooded back in several times, giving the team enough evidence a serious wave was on its way.
"They made it, despite the fact that from the time of the quake until the tsunami struck was no more than eight minutes."
The team's leader, Scott West, said the quake was "like nothing I have ever experienced".
"Apocalyptic movie sets are nothing compared to the destruction we found… Otsuchi was a fairly large town. It is now all but gone. Between the quake damage, tsunami, and fires, there is nothing left."
The team had to abandon their vehicles and trudge through debris, rubble and past dead bodies before they found help.
"Our crew will never forget what they saw that day and they will never forget the good people they met and with whom they now share a rare bond, united by experiences beyond the comprehension of people who were not there," says Mr Watson.
Mr West is thankful for the assistance they received from the local Japanese, many of whose homes and livelihoods had just been washed away.
"I cannot begin to describe the amount of kindness and generosity shown to us this day. It confirms my beliefs that Japanese people are warm and kind."
A poem Mr Watson wrote and posted on Facebook came under fire from some quarters. In it he wrote of Roman god Neptune angrily smiting the ocean floor, and the sea's 'fearful wrath'.
Websites such as blog Japan Probe interpreted this as "attributing the Tohoku earthquake to divine punishment", a charge Watson vigorously denies.
"It was not about divine retribution to Japan, it was about the vanity of humankind and the fact that nature does not discriminate," he wrote on his Facebook post, in response to criticism from a supporter, who subsequently apologised.
"For those who say this is karma, all I can say is that you do not understand the concept of karma," wrote Mr Watson.
He backed up this view on the Sea Shepherd website.
"I have heard many people say that Japan’s tragedy is karma. People who say such things do not understand the concept of karma. This earthquake struck Japan purely on the basis of geography and geology.
"Japan deserves and will continue to receive the support of the good people of the world in response to this tragedy, for it was a tragedy that has taken the lives of a great many people, and disrupted the lives of a great many more."