‘It’s more powerful than just wearing a t-shirt’

Madeleine on the bridge of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

Madeleine on the bridge of the Esperanza © Greenpeace/Rante

It’s slightly weird being docked after ten days at sea. I woke this morning to find Jakarta hovering on the horizon with container ships lining the route into Tanjung Priok port, and sadly the glistening blue seas and dense white clouds have been replaced by grimy harbour water and a blanket of brown smog. But the energy of the place is infectious and I’m itching to get some shore leave and explore.

Before we launch into the next phase of our tour and really get to see the damage that palm oil is doing to Indonesia’s environment, there’s one last interview to present. Madeleine is the ship’s captain and, although this is her first time as captain of a Greenpeace ship, she has a long involvement with both this organisation and others involved in environmental and social campaign work.

Here she is describing her first experiences with the Rainbow Warrior in the Pacific and why she loves direct action. There’s a transcript below.

“I remember when I first joined the Rainbow Warrior, I’d been sailing on a ship that was a copy of the Warrior but it was a private yacht – it was very well maintained, had a very big budget and was always in very good shape. When I joined the Warrior in Auckland, I found my own way to the ship – I didn’t expect anyone to pick me up at the airport although someone was there waiting for me and I walked straight past them.

“So I was sitting on the dock, just looking at the ship before I got on board, and I thought, “They look like such a bunch of freaks!” Really, that’s what I thought. “Am I really going to sea with them? They look like such a bunch of hippies.” And I’ve grown to love them.

“I understood that we were going to be doing a tour in New Zealand but when I joined the ship I was told we were going to Moruroa atoll to protest nuclear testing. So it was a big honour to be able to be on the ship, to be going on this very important, historic, significant campaign.

“It was completely a dream come true. My first action was to drive an inflatable into a nuclear test site in the middle of the Pacific. It was exactly what I’d dreamed Greenpeace was all about, and it just seemed so impossible.

“We were surrounded by the French navy, a really powerful military force, and they were just going to put me in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night, 20 miles from the nearest land and the nearest land is a nuclear test site. I’ve got to drive a boat off into the darkness, find my way across a reef and then climb up on a drilling rig where they’re going to do a nuclear test. It was completely my childhood fantasy, it was great.

“We did it and it was a successful action, and although we didn’t stop every nuclear test, I think it certainly brought the issue to the front page of the world news.

I’ve always felt really passionate about direct actions and I’ve been involved in them since university days when I was involved in social and environmental direct action. I think it is a really effective tool and it’s a really good release for people who are working in the environment or for a campaign that they believe in – instead of all the writing and reporting and talking, you can do something. You can physically present yourself and say this is what I believe in. It’s more powerful than just wearing a t-shirt.”

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Hoi Madeleine

    It is great to see you as Captain on the Warrior. You deserve it. Rermember that day in Raro years ago when we talked about GP?

    good luck!

  2. 2

    shei said,

    Well, lucky you..
    you finally love your way to go around the world by those ships (particularly the Esperanza) don;t you?
    i gotta take a part into the action so i could join you sometimes…

  3. 3

    We do love to travel around the world, it’s true, but there’s always a purpose to our wanderings 😉

    If you want to get involved, contact your local Greenpeace office and find out how you can help. All the contact details are on our international website – http://www.greenpeace.org/international/about/worldwide. Good luck!


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