My lifelong friend and teacher, Robert Lorne Hunter, died this week.
Bob Hunter was, plain and simple, one of the most inspiring and visionary environmentalists of our time.
Many of us can be called co-founders of Greenpeace, and, like veterans of a long war, we have all been kept aware of each other for three and a half decades. Some remain friends, and some are now sworn enemies, but Bob will forever hold a special place in most of our hearts.
In 1974, he took the embers of what we started with the 1971 voyage to Amchitka to oppose nuclear testing and fanned the dying sparks into the flames that became what is today the international Greenpeace movement.
The fact is, if there had been no Robert Hunter, there would not today be a Greenpeace. It would simply be a footnote in the history books from the early 70s.
In March 1976, he and I stood on a heaving ice floe off the coast of Labrador as a large sealing ship bore down on us. The ice cracked and split beneath our feet as I said to Bob, "When it splits, I'll jump to the left and you to the right.'
Bob looked straight ahead and calmly said, "I'm not going anywhere.' And he meant it, and because he stayed I stayed, and we brought that seal-killing ship to a dead stop.
It wasn't the first time Bob and I had faced death together, and it wasn't the last. He participated in numerous campaigns with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. His last with us was off the coast of Washington state in 1998 and 99, when we were opposing the killing of whales.
Bob was a courageous man, and that courage was present until the end. I had a hard time appreciating the seriousness of his illness over the last year, because he was always so upbeat and positive every time I spoke with him.
Robert Hunter leaves behind a legacy. He not only had an idea, but he nurtured his idea and saw it become an international powerhouse in the global environmental community. He was many things: journalist and author, philosopher and activist, television host and media critic, artist and poet, husband and father, friend to the whales and to nature.
In the year 2000, Time Magazine listed us both together as environmental heroes of the 20th century. We were not, however, equals. He was the teacher and I the student. With his passing, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society loses one of our most valued advisory board members. Greenpeace has lost the very foundation of its organization, and the world has lost an environmental icon.
He was truly the father of Greenpeace, and none of us who were his friends, his fellow co-founders, his shipmates or his fellow eco-warriors can deny his unique and special place as one of the greatest and most visionary ecologists of the 20th century.
Captain Paul Watson is founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.