In 1971, motivation and vision to make the world greener and peaceful began. With the belief that anyone can make a difference, a group of 12 sailed from Vancouver, Canada on an old fishing boat they named, Phyllis Cormack. They were the founding activists of Greenpeace.
Their mission was to witness the devastating effects of United States’ nuclear tests on Amchitka, a small island on the west coast of Alaska, which was the last refuge for 3,000 beavers as well as a habitat for bald eagles and other wildlife.
Through the various obstacles they experienced on the old Phyllis Cormack ship before finally arriving in Alaska, their cross-ocean journey finally paid off when they amassed widespread public attention and support for the cause.
As voices rose and resonated against nuclear bomb trials in Amchitka, nuclear testing on the island ceased in the same year, while the island was declared a natural sanctuary for birds.
Now, Greenpeace is an international organisation that continues campaigning for global environmental protection. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Greenpeace has 2.8 million supporters worldwide with regional offices in 41 countries.
At the mention of Greenpeace, images of our iconic ships spring to mind for many people. For nearly 50 years we have been sailing the world’s oceans, protecting our planet and fighting for environmental justice.
With crews that come from all over the world and all walks of life, our ships are fundamental to our campaigns for carrying out scientific expeditions and taking action against environmental destruction.
The first and most famous of our ships, The Rainbow Warrior is an undisputed icon.
The first Rainbow Warrior was bombed in 1985 while campaigners protested nuclear testing in the Pacific. After 22 years of activity that included blocking coal ports and closing down destructive fishing operations, Rainbow Warrior II retired from Greenpeace life in 2011.
Our current ship, Rainbow Warrior III, was designed and built specifically for our use.
The newest Rainbow Warrior is as fast as many industrial vessels, with action boats that can be deployed in minutes – even in waves up to 3.5 meters high. Its helicopter landing pad means we can deploy a vital eye in the sky, enabling us to spot illegal fishing operations and shipments of illegal wood.
The ship can carry specialised equipment up to 8 tonnes in weight and designed so that scientists can work on board. By supporting original scientific research, we help build understanding of what is happening to our planet’s ecosystems.
The on-board satellite communications system – featuring a built-in satellite uplink – means the new Rainbow Warrior is able to stream live footage from the scene of environmental crimes direct to the world’s media.
Vitally, the third Rainbow Warrior is as environmentally-friendly as possible for a ship of its type,
sailing primarily under wind power. Its 55m-high A-Frame mast system can carry far more sail than a conventional mast of the same size. The Warrior does have electric drive engines to help out when the weather isn’t suitable, but these are also built with sustainability in mind.
The Rainbow Warrior remains to this day a symbol of non-violent direct action and a beacon of hope.
Designed as an icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise has witnessed the wonders of the coldest places on Earth. Having a rounded hull with no keel, the ship lifts out of ice instead of being crushed by it.
The Arctic Sunrise has been part of the Greenpeace fleet since 1995 and its first trip to the North Sea to document marine pollution by oil from offshore installations.
During its colourful history, the Arctic Sunrise and 30 Greenpeace crew members were detained by Russian authorities in 2013, during a peaceful protest that was calling attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change at Gazprom’s oil rig outside the north polar circle.
After spending two months in prison the crew were released on bail, then finally freed altogether with all charges dropped.
The Arctic Sunrise itself was returned to Greenpeace after nine months at port in Murmansk, having suffered considerable damage during the arrest and detention. A later court case affirmed the right to peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic and the Russian government were ordered to pay damages.
The ship has been all over the planet, including the Congo, the Amazon and most recently completed a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to conduct scientific research on biodiversity in the region.
Esperanza (Spanish for ‘hope’) is the first Greenpeace ship to be named by visitors to our website and is the largest and swiftest ship in our fleet. A former Russian fire-fighting vessel, Esperanza has spent the last 15 years fighting environmental emergencies.
From disrupting illegal fishing off the coast of Sierra Leone, to thwarting Japanese attempts to pursue its so-called ‘scientific’ whaling programme, the Esperanza works tirelessly to protect our oceans and vulnerable marine life.
At 72 metres length, and a top speed of 16 knots, the ship is ideal for fast and long range work, and its ice class status means it can also work in polar regions.
Ultimately, our ships and crews cannot continue to function without our supporters. People from all over the world choose to donate their time and money to make it all possible, and it is thanks to that loyal support that our ships remain at sea.