Updated, 7 p.m.: More information.
The famed sailing ship Golden Rule has been docked in Norwalk since Memorial Day and on Tuesday, Mayor Harry Rilling presented a proclamation to welcome the crew, all U.S. veterans, at the Veterans Memorial Park Marina. That evening, there was a meet and greet at Eco Evolution in nearby SoNo.
Local Quaker Albert Bigelow and three crew members sailed the 30-foot sailboat into the Pacific in 1958 with the intention to interrupt the Marshall Islands nuclear tests twelve years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs exploded. He wrote a book called the “Voyage of the Golden Rule” to explain what prompted his act of conscience. His action drew international attention to the horrors inflicted by nuclear weapons and played a role in the movement to advocate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
The Golden Rule was recently refurbished by Veterans for Peace and has been on an 11,000-mile epic journey that began at the Great Lakes, headed down the Mississippi, around the Gulf Coast, and is now heading up the country’s eastern shore.
On Wednesday, former Mayor Alex Knopp led a panel discussion on the History of Maritime Protests with Helen Jaccard from the Golden Rule crew and Peter Willcox, former captain of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior (who was raised in Norwalk) at the Norwalk Historical Society at Mill Hill.
Knopp described his mother Honey Knopp’s delivering more than 100,000 signed petitions to Russian and U.S. negotiators at the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty meeting in Geneva Switzerland in 1963, as well as his parents’ friendship with Pete Seeger. He shared that local attorney Roger Willcox, Peter Willcox’s dad and co-founder of Village Creek, taught Owte Seeger how to sail.
Peter Willcox talked about his most meaningful expedition in his 40 years of Greenpeace expeditions, evacuating Pacific Islanders from the prime nuclear testing fallout area to a more distant place. He described the inspiration Greenpeace found in the Golden Rule’s expeditions.
“The Golden Rule was the very first of the environmental and peace vessels to go to sea,” the ship’s website states. “In 1958, a crew of anti-nuclear weapons activists set sail aboard her in an attempt to interpose themselves and the boat between the U.S. Government and its atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
It continues, “At that time both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were conducting aboveground tests of very large nuclear weapons, which produced readily detectable clouds of radioactive fallout that wafted around the planet. Radiation contamination began to turn up in cows’ and mothers’ milk. Public concern grew, and for the first time many middle-class Americans began to wonder if their government knew what it was doing.”
The Golden Rule “was twice boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard at Hawaii, and the crew were arrested, tried, and jailed in Honolulu. But, far from being defeated, their example helped to ignite a storm of world-wide public outrage against nuclear weapons that resulted in the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, and which has continued down to the present in the many organizations still working to abolish weapons of mass destruction,” the website states.
The ship leaves the Veterans Park dock Friday morning.