The Greenpeace to Amchitka: An Environmental Odyssey by Robert Hunter (Arsenal Pulp), 272 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
That The Greenpeace to Amchitka should appear three decades after it was written is a vivid testament to the mysterious nature of the Canadian publishing industry. It was wisely commissioned as a picture book by the late Jack McClelland, featuring Robert Keziere's awesome, stark black-and-white photos.
Fortunately, the long delay gave Hunter the benefit of historical perspective to express amazement at all Greenpeace was subsequently able to achieve, including the birth of an international environmental organization, the end of nuclear testing, a virtual global ban on killing whales and most marine mammals, and even a part in ending the Cold War.
The book documents both the launch of a ship and a baptism of the world's first truly international environmental movement in the storm-tossed waters of the North Pacific. The epic quest that began as a protest against a horrific underground nuclear explosion beneath an American national wildlife refuge would unite, through spectacular non-violent actions, the inextricably linked causes of peace and protecting the earth.
Focusing on the Pacific Coast of Alaska and British Columbia, Hunter captures the spirit of the land and its defenders.
Included is a letter of support from mutinous members of the U.S. Coast Guard vessel that kept watch over the first mission. The most moving image is a spectacular panorama of Akutan Bay, suggesting that Emily Carr's landscapes of sweeping, flowing forests are works of strict realism.
Despite their horror at the wreckage done by Euro-American invaders of sacred native lands, the Greenpeace crew found plenty to revere in nature. Upon arriving at Akutan Island, they were stunned by horned puffins and shearwaters flying above herds of sea lions, seals, porpoises and jellyfish.
It's comforting to know that our age can still provide sacred texts capable of moving people to serious non-violent actions in defence of the planet.