Peter Willcox, Captain for Greenpeace for over 30 years shares some of his most dramatic stories. In 1985, for example, French spies blew up his ship as it sat peacefully in dock. A photographer was killed, and the vessel sank. The ship, the Rainbow Warrior, was on its way to French Polynesia, where the Greenpeace crew planned to protest nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Russian special forces seized a Greenpeace ship in the Arctic Circle in September 2013. It was there to protest Russian oil drilling. They rappelled from helicopters onto the ship and showed their weapons before locking the captain and his crew inside the cabins. The intruders looked around, pillaged the crew’s booze, and started drinking. What began as a terrifying attack slowly turned into a rowdy encounter with intoxicated Russian commandos. Then followed a four-day tow back to shore, an arrest on charges of piracy, and a hard time in one of Europe’s oldest prisons.
Greenpeace has been using dramatic, nonviolent actions in pursuit of its environmentalist mission since the 1970s. The situation in the Arctic three years ago was no different. The activists’ goal was to hang a banner near the steel sides of a Russian oil rig to protest the country’s drilling practices. So-called “banner actions” aren’t Willcox’s protest of choice: He prefers missions that are more straightforward like the time he chained himself to a harpoon gun.
Peter Willcox is author of Greenpeace Captain: My Adventures in Protecting the Future of Our Planet.
Photo by Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace