Maybird Classic Sailing

Mike & Brucie Shallcross

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June 1972: Greenpeace III sailing into the French nuclear test zone

Mike and Brucie Shallcross became Maybird’s legal owners on 23rd June, 1975. Mike, an American originally from Savannah in Georgia, and his New Zealand wife, Brucie, operated a small boatyard at Kaira Point, Keri Keri, Bay of Islands. Mike Shallcross was an early member of the Greenpeace movement in New Zealand. He was a friend of Kurt Horn, a former Vancouver Greenpeacer who had taken part in the Amchitka protest in 1971 and shortly after emigrated to New Zealand. Amchitka is an island chain in the Bering Straits, off Alaska used at that time by the US to test its nuclear weapons by exploding a nuclear bomb 1200 metres below the surface of the sea. Horn was crew on the Phyllis Cormack renamed Greenpeace Two that sailed out to the test site in protest which led to the cessation of the tests by the U S Government. The New Zealand Greenpeace movement was formed around this time prompted by France’s nuclear testing in the South Pacific at the Mururoa atoll. Another Vancouver Greenpeacer, David Taggart, sailed his Colin Archer designed Vega out to the test site from Auckland on two occasions in 1972. The Vega was rammed by the French Navy in an effort to deter the protesters. However, Taggart and his crew were made of sterner stuff and in the end the French Navy had to board and seize the Vega, which by then had been renamed Greenpeace III. Taggart’s book – Greenpeace III – Journey into the Bomb (1978) gives a compelling account of both the seamanship involved and the skulduggery engaged in by the Canadian, New Zealand, British, French and American governments.

Shallcross was a friend and supporter of both Horn and Taggart and joined the Auckland Peace Squadron in 1975. It was set up by George Armstrong, a lecturer at St John’s Theological College, Auckland as an open group for people with their own boats who wanted to protest actively against both nuclear testing in the South Pacific and visits by nuclear powered vessels to New Zealand. The Peace Squadron became very important to the future development of Greenpeace in New Zealand and played a key role when the French resumed nuclear testing in the early 1980’s.

According to the book: Protest at Mururoa by Claudia Pond Eylsey vessels of various shapes and sizes from several countries sailed to protest against French nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean from April 1972 to October 1995. She does not list every vessel and crew member involved in these protests and no trace of Maybird can be found. So although we have no evidence that Maybird did the long passage out to the Mururoa atoll, we do have anecdotal evidence of her participating in many of the Auckland Peace Squadron flotilla protests in New Zealand waters at that time. During this period, Maybird was based at the Te Puna Inlet, Keri Keri, Bay of Islands and regularly plied the NE coast down to Auckland.

Mike Shallcross, although not as high profile as Horn and McTaggart in those pioneering days of Greenpeace, nevertheless played his part in the early days of an organisation which was to shape the way most of us think about the natural world. Through her participation in the Auckland Peace Squadron flotillas, Maybird did her share also in being part of a movement that has made us all far more aware of the fragility of our planet’s environment.

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