Phyllis Cormack

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Name: Phyllis Cormack
Operator: John Cormack
Port of registry: Canada Canada[a]
Builder: Marine View Boat Works, Tacoma, Washington
Completed: 1941
General characteristics
Class and type: Seine fishing
Displacement: 99 tons
Length: 25 m (82.0 ft)
Height: over 30 ft (9.1 m)[b]
Propulsion: One Diesel engine[3]
Sail plan: one sail[c]
Crew: 12

The Phyllis Cormack is a 25-meter[4] (82-foot) herring and halibut seine fishing boat,[5][6] displacing 99 tons and crewed by up to 12 people.[7] The wooden vessel was built in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, by Marine View Boat Works.[d] It was chartered in (northern hemisphere) autumn 1971 by the Don't Make a Wave Committee to travel to Amchitka to protest against the planned nuclear tests there. Greenpeace International calls this trip "our founding voyage."


The boat's name derives from that of the wife of its skipper, John Cormack.[5][8]

1971 Greenpeace charter[edit]

The vessel was renamed or nicknamed Greenpeace for the voyage, a name subsequently used by the organisation that sprang from the organising committee.[9] Greenpeace International calls this expedition "the founding voyage".[10] The nickname for the boat arose from "the dual ecological and antiwar nature of their mission". At the time, the boat was deemed to be "a bit jury-rigged."[11] The boat's crew was Canadian, and included Bob Hunter, Ben Metcalfe, John Cormack, Jim Bohlen and Patrick Moore.[e][12] The boat's departure and arrival point was Vancouver, British Columbia, though an unauthorised stop was made in Akutan, Alaska, resulting on a U.S. Coast Guard boarding and a charge of a U.S. customs violation. The crew's sight of a grisly, abandoned whaling station in Akutan was compared to the Communist Party of Kampuchea's Khmer Rouge Killing Fields and it was called a "pivotal" moment that turned Greenpeace on to the idea of saving the whales.[7][f]

1975 Greenpeace charter[edit]

In June 1975, the Phyllis Cormack was chartered by the Greenpeace Foundation, a Vancouver, B.C. ecological organization,[13] to harass USSR and Japanese whaling; the crew included persons fluent in Japanese and in Russian. Greenpeace named the season's campaign "Project Ahab"; it ran about 50 miles offshore California, from Eureka in the north to past San Francisco in the south. The New York Times reported that for "the first time in the history of whaling, human beings had put their lives on the line for whales". The Japanese Fisheries Agency stated the harassers were fanatics for whom their movement "is like a religion".[5]


  1. ^ "You are a Canadian vessel"[1]
  2. ^ "the single mast, rising 30 feet above the cabin"[2]
  3. ^ "a great, pale green, triangular sail, fixed to the mast and to a boom"[2]
  4. ^ "Marine View Boat Works in Tacoma, Washington, built the fish boat in 1941, designed for stability and space — beamy, with massive oak timbers and fine, edge-grain gum wood planks fixed flush with each other against the oak ribs"[2]
  5. ^ "Crew member Patrick Moore went on to become director of Greenpeace Canada"[7]
  6. ^ "[The Coast Guard captain] was talking to the captain and some of the leaders of this expedition in the wheelhouse of the Phyllis Cormack anchored in Akutan Bay"[1]


  1. ^ a b Wall 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Weyler 2004, p. 94.
  3. ^ Weyler 2004, pp. 78-79: "wedged between the hull and the diesel engine"
  4. ^ SHONA MCKAY (6 December 1982). "Waging war on ugliness". Maclean's. Retrieved 19 March 2019. In 1971 the Phyllis Cormack, a 25-m halibut boat, set out from Vancouver
  5. ^ a b c CHARLES FLOWERS (24 August 1975). "Between the harpoon and the whale". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  6. ^ Paul Clarke (June 1994). "Greenpeace: Past, Present and Future". Satya Magazine. Retrieved 19 March 2019. an aging halibut seining boat called the Phyllis Cormack
  7. ^ a b c "Environmental Pioneers Profile # 24: The "Don't Make a Wave Committee" Were the Founders of Greenpeace". Living on Earth. Public Radio International. 7 June 1996. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Lyle Thurston: Activist and ship's doctor on the first voyage of the 'Greenpeace'". The Independent. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2019. a mackerel seiner called the Phyllis Cormack, named after the wife of its captain
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Amchitka: the founding voyage". Greenpeace International. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2019. their old fishing boat was called “The Greenpeace”. This is where our story begins.
  11. ^ Weyler 2004, p. 80: ""She's a bit jury-rigged," Moore told Bob Hunter"
  12. ^ Weyler 2004, p. 85: "crew of twelve. For the engineering position, Cormack selected [...] Pat Moore and Jim Bohlen would be counted on to help operate the boat."
  13. ^ "WHALE PROTECTORS CONFRONT RUSSIANS". The New York Times. 30 June 1975. p. 32. Retrieved 19 March 2019. the Phyllis Cormack, operated by a Canada‐based ecological organization, the Greenpeace Foundation, whose headquarters are in Vancouver