The flagship vessel of world's preeminent environmental group has dropped its gangplank on our shores.
After spending the last four weeks crossing the Pacific Ocean, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior III docked at the Burrard pier next to Lonsdale Quay on Tuesday evening and will be open to the public for tours on Friday and Saturday.
Even though it's the first time the ship has ever been in Canadian waters, it is something of a spiritual homecoming for the Rainbow Warrior. Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver and its first environmental action - a 1971 voyage by founding activists to interrupt a planned hydrogen bomb test in the Aleutian Islands - left from Vancouver.
Former North Shore News columnist Bob Hunter was a co-founder and part of the crew on the first voyage, and News founder Peter Speck, photographer Rex Weyler and accountant Bill Gannon were early directors and staff with the Greenpeace.
While that first action never stopped the U.S. government from carrying out the test, it launched the Greenpeace name into households around North America and helped propel the organization to grow to the multi-million member organization it is today.
Bill Darnell, one of the original members and the man who is credited with coming up with the term "green peace," toured the Warrior Thursday.
Asked if he wished the group had the vessel when it first began, Darnel put things into perspective.
"I think we started in the right place, and it's just amazing what they did over 42 years," he said.
This is the third incarnation of the Rainbow Warrior to enter the Greenpeace fleet. The first was bombed and sunk by the French government to stop it from interfering with nuke tests in the South Pacific. The second was retired in 2011 when Rainbow Warrior III was launched from a German shipyard. The $31-million vessel was paid for entirely by crowd-sourced donations from more than 100,000 donors.
Unlike its predecessors, which ran on diesel engines, today's Rainbow Warrior gets by primarily under sail. With the right wind, the 57-metre, 855-ton yacht can hit 13 knots at sea. It also boasts its own ability to make fresh water from seawater and no waste goes overboard. Organics are frozen for later composting and recycling and what minimal garbage it produces is compacted for later disposal.
Speck, today, reflects fondly on the early days of Greenpeace. "Our average donation size was eight bucks. We, at the time, had the image that we were going to get some heavy hitters who would help buy $20,000 worth of fuel, but when you look at the reality, it was those $8-donations that was keeping us going at the time," he said.
While he's had his differences with the organization since its heady days in Vancouver, Speck still holds the ideals that spawned Greenpeace.
"It was a wonderful time. It was a time of great change, a time of a dawning understanding of animals and the animal spirit. We're all in this together, dogs, whales and people. We're caught up in the net of life and time. This is it. This is not a rehearsal," he said.
The ship is open for public tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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