Boat that rocks

by Guest Blogger

August 17, 2007

Greenpeace is known for rocking the boat, but we also have boats that ROCK, and I don’t mean just the way the Espy is rocking us right now, gently like babies in a cradle. This ship has five zodiacs on board, a sauna, a heli-pad, and…most important of all…an espresso machine in the lounge, the engine that truly powers this vessel according to certain wags. All this, and I keep flashing back to the Phyllis Cormack, Greenpeace’s first boat, that set sail from Vancouver in 1971 for Amchitka Island where the U.S. government was preparing to explode an atomic bomb hundreds of times bigger than the one that leveled Hiroshima.

There wasn’t enough room to swing a cat on board let alone ribbon dance, like bosun Penney was doing up on deck the other night. She blushed when she saw Captain Pete and I watching her, stopped, and picked up the cigarette she’d been smoking intermittently. She is slender and tall and pure muscle, like most of the crew. Then there are the rest of us, slouched over our laptops, barely fit to hoist a coffee cup. Another thing not on board in 1971…laptops. Greenpeace has come a long way, baby.

When a friend who lived in Alaska back in the day heard I was going to Amchitka she said: "I thought it was just called "Amka" now…because that last nuke test in ’71 blew the "chit" out of it." Yeah. Five megaton nuclear bombs will do that to a wildlife preserve. According to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, who couldn’t give a "chit" about sea otters, let alone the wisdom of exploding atomic bombs underground in the most volatile earthquake zone in the world, no damage was done and no radiation escaped. But when Greenpeace scientists visited Amchitka in 1996 they found radioactive isotopes such as Tritium and Krypton in groundwater and fish. A spokesman for Arctic-Alaska couldn’t understand it. "We’ve never found any radioactive fish," he said. Later he admitted his company had never tested fish for radioactivity…and had no plans to start. The Phyllis Cormack became the touchstone for a worldwide outrage that erupted against the blast, and although it didn’t stop it, afterwards the U.S. government announced it would cancel the rest of the series of tests planned. Seven blasts were originally announced. Only three were ever carried out. So, sometimes the ire of concerned citizens, intelligently directed, can go up against the biggest military industrial complex in the world and win. And there’s nothing like rocking the boat with boats that rock! More memories…stories…and tales of life on the Espy soon.

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