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The founders of Greenpeace

 

In October, 1969 the US Atomic Energy Commission exploded a nuclear bomb on the tiny island of Amchitka, located near Alaska, in one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world.

Many feared the blast would result in an earthquake. Five years earlier, a quake that killed 115 Alaskans had sent waves crashing on to the beaches as far away as Japan.

On the day of the blast, 10,000 protestors blocked the major US-Canadian border crossing, unfurling a banner that read: "Don't Make a Wave. It's Your Fault if Our Fault Goes". The US ignored the protests, and promptly announced plans for another test in 1971.

In 1970, the Don't Make A Wave Committee was established; its sole objective was to stop the second test. The committee's founders and first members included:

Paul Cote, a law student at the University of British Columbia
Jim Bohlen, a former deep-sea diver and radar operator in the US Navy
Irving Stowe, a Quaker and Yale-educated lawyer
Patrick Moore, ecology student at the University of British Columbia
Bill Darnell, a social worker

Darnell came up with the dynamic combination of words to bound together the group's concern for the planet and opposition to nuclear arms. The committee was renamed Greenpeace.

The group organised a boat, the Phyllis Cormack, and set sail to Amchitka to "bear witness" (a Quaker tradition of silent protest) to the nuclear test. On board were: The Vega crew

Captain John Cormack, the boat's owner
Jim Bohlen, Greenpeace
Bill Darnell, Greenpeace
Patrick Moore, Greenpeace
Dr Lyle Thurston, medical practitioner
Dave Birmingham, engineer
Terry Simmons, cultural geographer
Richard Fineberg, political science teacher
Robert Hunter, journalist
Ben Metcalfe, journalist
Bob Cummings, journalist
Bob Keziere, photographer

Stowe, who suffered from sea-sickness, stayed on shore to coordinate political pressure. Cote stayed behind too, because he was about to represent Canada in an Olympic sailing race.

The Amchitka voyage established the group's name in Canada. Greenpeace's next journey spread their reputation across the world.

In 1972, Greenpeace boarded the Vega, bound for France's nuclear testing site at Moruroa Atoll. Ben Metcalfe, now chair of the Greenpeace Foundation, chose the following crew:

Nigel Ingram, ex-Royal Navy
Roger Haddleton, ex-Royal Navy
Grant Davidson, a good cook

The Vega's owner David McTaggart vyed with Metcalfe for command of the boat. A Canadian living in New Zealand, McTaggart knew nothing of the original voyage to Amchitka. However the successful businessman and champion athlete later become Greenpeace's leader.

 

 


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