A lot has changed in the more than 40 years since Greenpeace started out in Vancouver. From a small group of people with a driving passion for the environment, we've grown into a worldwide movement.

Working in 'digital campaigns' as I do - a job which couldn't even have been conceived of when that first Greenpeace crew set out to protest US nuclear testing in 1971 - it's easy sometimes to feel like we're operating in a completely different world now. Not today.

As I joined the group of staff from the Greenpeace office heading down to Princes Wharf in Auckland to see off the SV Friendship, SV Shearwater and the Greenpeace sponsored SV Vega as they joined the Oil Free Seas Flotilla, the sense of history was palpable. The connection to that first Greenpeace sailing and all those that have happened since then could not have been clearer.

 

We were there to support the Oil Free Seas Flotilla and the Greenpeace participants in it and as we stood on the wharf, listening to the speeches, we witnessed a scene that was completely a part of the modern environmental movement and yet entirely in keeping with everything that Greenpeace has always been about, and a long proud history of protest at sea in Aotearoa.

As people recorded clips of Maria Tyrrell to post on youtube, we could have been standing there listening to her father the late Captain Alan Tyrrell of the frigate Otago which sailed in protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa in 1973.

As photos of Daniel Mares, the skipper of the SV Vega talking about going to sea to "bear witness", where being being posted to Facebook he could have been talking about the time he took the SV Vega out to demonstrate against Petrobras drilling in the Raukumara Basin or years before in the Pacific against French nuclear testing.

As I live tweeted quotes from Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid, who announced today that she will join the SV Tiama in Wellington along with Jeanette Fitzsimons,  we could have been there on the very same wharf with her when she was a deckhand on the original Rainbow Warrior.

 

George Armstrong of the original Peace Squadron spoke passionately about the history of peaceful protest in New Zealand. Dayle Takitimu of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, took to the stage and said "We don't believe corporations have mana over the environment". We've been here before.

This time around the flotilla is heading out to confront Anadarko, a Texan oil giant who was involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster and who is planning to start risky deep sea oil drilling 110 nautical miles west of Raglan. The threat may be different but the commitment to protecting New Zealand has not changed. I was struck by how often people in the crowd spoke of the energy, commitment and excitement of the launch in terms of the many historic victories this organisations has won over the years.

The SV Friendship, SV Shearwater and the Greenpeace sponsored SV Vega join the flotilla

 

The work that I do daily as part of Greenpeace NZ is a big departure from the actions of our founders in 1971, the same can be said for a lot of people in the office here in 2013 but the ethos, values and the commitment to non-violent direct action of the whole organisation and the movement we're part of have not changed one bit.

As 30 brave people remain detianed in Russia for taking part in a peaceful protest against extreme frontier drilling, you would expect many organisations to back away from taking action against Anadarko's reckless plans. Not Greenpeace. Threats to the natural world keep coming up but whether it's nuclear testing or shark-finning, Gazprom in the Arctic, Petrobras off the east coast or Anadarko off the west, it was clear today that there will always be someone there to take a stand. The Oil Free Seas Flotilla are going to sea to represent all of us but as Steve Abel announced on behalf of Greenpeace, there will be a 'Banners on the Beach' day of action on west coast beaches on Saturday November 23rd to show solidarity with the flotilla.

Keep an eye on http://oilfreeseasflotilla.org.nz, the flotilla facebook page and twitter for more details as they come out.