When you’re peacefully mining or ratting deep in your own space, surrounded by friendlies watching intelligence channels and calling neutrals, it’s easy to feel almost safe in null sec. Surely, nothing big enough to threaten a Rorqual or Thanatos could simply sneak up on you, least of all surrounded by your allies! This illusion of safety is exactly what the Whalers rely on, and what they aim to shatter in the enemies of the Imperium.
The brainchild of Elron Hoover and Maddy Zabbara, the Whalers are a covert-ops-focused group dedicated to hunting the bigger, juicier targets that a normal roam couldn’t touch. They often operate deep in hostile space, far beyond the normal range of the Imperium’s roaming fleets. The Whalers make an effort to be accessible, making use of their experience as FCs for Bomber’s Bar, deploying not from behind enemy lines but from homeland staging bases, and being open to anyone who can fit a covert ops cloak on their ship.
The Whalers are a new group to the Imperium, but they aren’t new pilots, and it’s not a new method. Bomber’s Bar is a successful wormholing gank crew. When he decided to move on from Bomber’s Bar, Maddy Zabbara, one of the principles of the Whalers, was looking for a new home port. “I ended up leaving BB and after meeting some goons at Eve Vegas, I joined the ‘evil empire’ and have felt very at home since.” Elron Hoover, who had already joined Goonswarm Federation and missed the old style fleets, came up with the idea that they could be done with just Goons.
Bringing with them the institutional knowledge of how to run black ops raids and roams deep in hostile space, and with the limited resources that can be accessed in wormholes, Elron and Maddy are able to take both experienced and new pilots with them on their whaling operations. In fact, this openness and accessibility is a tremendous asset for the Imperium, as it can be a first step into black ops—and unlike many other blops fleets, it does not require a high skilled account to get into. Whaling needs DPS as much as it needs bridgers and hunters, so anyone who can get into a torpedo-fit stealth bomber is encouraged to join. Other more experienced players may have the skills necessary to fly the hunting and bridging ships, but don’t have the freedom to deploy behind enemy lines. Because the Whalers always deploy from Imperium staging, there’s no need to permanently transfer out. While whaling fleets do last longer than average, with most coming in around three hours long, the slow pace leads to a more relaxed atmosphere which facilitates learning and communication.
Hunting the Red Whale
“No secrets, we are always looking for Carriers and Rorquals.” The Whalers don’t always get a big whale, but they’re always looking for one. As fleets go on in length, the bar may gradually lower to start including Orcas, faction battleships, and faction cruisers – but the main target is always the blubber from a big juicy Rorqual. “The real White Whale is a Super, until we get one,” says Maddy. Loaded with torpedo stealth bombers, tackle, and deploying via black ops cynos, the Whalers can put an incredible amount of damage on a target in a short amount of time.
One example of a beautiful kill came when an Orca was caught barely 10 meters out of tether distance from an Athanor. “We dropped on a moon mining fleet that was all tethered up,” Maddy recounts. “We dropped the fleet in on their Athanor with that whole mining fleet there and melted that Orca, made his friends watch. It was a picture perfect drop.” After the Orca died the fleet starbursted and was gone before the enemy could even achieve a lock.
While other fleets are limited by range, the use of covert ops cynos and wormholes allows the Whalers to hit targets deep in hostile space. Recently, a Whaler fleet was present to welcome Horde ratters to their new homes in Geminate – and to remind them that they are never truly safe, even nestled in the warm embrace of a blue donut.
Update: Since time of writing, the Whalers recently bagged a Rorqual and Vindicator plus odds and ends for 8 billion ISK destroyed with losses of a mere 300 million ISK. This represents the first, but certainly not the last, Rorqual kill in the group’s short history with the Imperium.
Man the Harpoons!
“Our success comes from the support of other coalition SIGs, and hopefully with this unofficial group, more pilots can train up for forward deployment,” says Elron Hoover. This focus on flexible, casual fleets that are accessible to everyone ensures that the Whalers are not only a crew for hunting, but an opportunity for the Imperium’s pilots to improve in their skills and understanding of the game. For others, it’s an opportunity to pad the killboard with big game, or just to harvest salt.
The Whalers run fleets most days of the week in the USTZ early evening or late afternoon, with fleets usually lasting about three hours. Any Imperium pilot with a covert ops cloaking-capable ship is welcome. Information on fits and fleet compositions is available on the forums and on Jabber. If you’re interested in joining the neverending hunt for the great red whale, there’s no better way than to sign on with the Whalers.