Meet Greenpeace captain Peter Willcox


September 20, 2013

Peter Willcox, 20 years after being Captain of the 1985 'Rainbow Warrior'.

© Greenpeace / Bas Beentjes

UPDATE:Russian criminal court judge sentences Arctic Sunrise Captain Peter Willcox to two months in custody pending piracy investigation. More updates on other activists.


The crew of the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise remain in the custody of Russian authorities following an armed boarding of the ship in international waters. Meet the Captain of the Arctic Sunrise, Peter Willcox.

Willcox grew up on the water in South Norwalk, CT. His father a co-op organizer and a yachtsman, and his mother a middle school science teacher.

“I started sailing for the environment in 1973 on the Clearwater, the boat started by folksinger Pete Seeger. When Seeger was learning to sail in the early 60s, he would bring his boat down to our house, and get lessons from my father. I became captain of the Clearwater in 1976, and stayed for four and a half seasons. Since 1981, I guess about 90% of my life has been skippering Greenpeace boats.”

Saving the Arctic

Captain Peter Willcox  looks out from the bridge of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, September 14, 2013.

Captain Peter Willcox looks out from the bridge of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, September 14, 2013.

Greenpeace activists are in Russia protesting against the risky oil drilling in the Arctic.

“I’m sure everyone here on the Arctic Sunrise with me agrees that the Arctic must be saved from oil drilling, but if you’re in doubt, just think about what a different place this planet would be without its polar deep freeze at the top of the world. Rest assured, it will change your life.”

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior

In addition to many Greenpeace voyages including the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill, Willcox was the skipper on the night the first Rainbow Warrior was bombed.

“In 1981 the Rainbow Warrior came to the US, and I saw an add for mates and engineers. I was on board a couple weeks later, in July. By October I was captain, and stayed on as the only captain until the boat was blown up by French agents in New Zealand.”

1985 'Rainbow Warrior' crew.

1985 ‘Rainbow Warrior’ crew.

“For that last seven years I have been a full time single parent of two teenage daughters. Its about the only thing that could keep me from going to sea.”

Learn more about Willcox in this conversation with Richard Fidler for ABC News. Listen now


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