Blog Post: Amchitka and the Birth of Greenpeace

My mom took a printmaking course at Three Schools of Art. The same night, my aunt M and I studied pottery with the brilliant Isolde who knew my grandmother and had a live/work studio in a basement in the Markham village. After class M and I would pick up Christiane at Three Schools and we’d go for tea and soup to one of the Hungarian restaurants on Bloor Street before heading home.

One of my mom’s prints hangs on the wall, here in Karen DuToit and Heinz Kornagel’s apartment on MacPherson. Everyone’s apartments and houses looked like this back then, although Karen and Heinz were better at making the sparseness beautiful than most. When did we stop living like this and start burying ourselves in stuff?

The ship in the print is named Greenpeace. It was the first Greenpeace expedition, to Amchitka, in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. My mother was inspired by the story and created the image in one of her first prints.

“In 1969 the U.S. conducted nuclear tests on the tiny island of Amchitka. Fearing the blast would result in an earthquake, thousands of protesters gathered at the U.S.-Canada border in order to stop the test. Their protests failed as the U.S. detonated its bomb and then announced plans for another test in 1971. As a result, a group of concerned Vancouver environmentalists formed the Don’t Make A Wave committee whose goal was to stop the second test.

“Despite two separate attempts, Greenpeace never made it to the test zone and was unable to stop the U.S. from completing its testing at Amchitka. However, Greenpeace succeeded in causing a flurry of public outcry in the international community. Five months after its voyage to Amchitka, the United States announced it was halting all nuclear tests in the Aleutian Islands. Amchitka was later declared a bird sanctuary.”

Photo by Karen DuToit

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