Arctic Sunrise in Wilmington, NC

During one of the last weekends of October my family and I headed out to downtown Wilmington, NC to checkout the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise. The ship docked along the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington as part of the Atlantic Coast Ship Tour. This was a once in a lifetime experience that I got to share with my family and wanted to share more information about the ship and its cause with you.


This was an amazing opportunity where we were allowed to board and tour the ship and speak with crew members. Here is a bit about the Arctic Sunrise, her history and what purpose she served before joining the Greenpeace fleet.

Designed as an icebreaker, its rounded, keelless hull allows it to navigate through sea ice – but also makes life rather interesting in rolling seas. In 1997, The Arctic Sunrise became the first ship to circumnavigate the Antarctica’s James Ross Island, a previously impossible journey until a 200m thick ice shelf connecting the island to Antarctica collapsed. This was just one of the many signs of climate change that the Arctic Sunrise has helped document.

The ship has returned repeatedly to the Arctic to work on a variety of issues, included several visits to Alaska to study climate change. It also went to Alaska to oppose Northstar, British Petroleum’s project to open up a new offshore oil frontier that not only risked oil spills in this vulnerable region, but also further contributions to global warming.

In 2009, the ship spent many months working around the coast of Greenland and Arctic sea ice, documenting the effects of climate change on the region.

In the Southern Oceans, the Arctic Sunrise, along with its sister ship the Esperanza, thwarted Japanese attempts to pursue its so-called “scientific” whaling programme;  it also chased pirate vessels fishing illegally for Patagonian Toothfish to the pirate port of Mauritius.

Before we registered for the ship tour, we stopped and looked at many of the vendors who had also come out to share information about topics like global warming and offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina. We stopped at the Oceana table in support of our local area. My husband and I find it important to educate our kids on the facts of offshore drilling and its impacts on coastal life. My kids both have their lifetime sportsman licenses and are interested in learning about our coastal ecosystem. They know our ocean as a sanctuary for ocean life and have many times been out in the boat to see dolphins cruising the currents alongside us in the Intracoastal Waterway. I hope this experience is shared by many generations in my family to come.

One of the Arctic Sunrise crew members painted a rainbow on my daughter’s hand before we got to tour the ship.

The tour aboard the Arctic Sunrise:

We learned that the Arctic Sunrise is the only “icebreaker” ship within the Greenpeace fleet. It has allowed the Greenpeace organization to navigate icy waters where as previous ships could not venture.

The view just outside the front of the Arctic Sunrise where the captain navigates the ship. This was the second stop of our tour as we looked out upon the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, NC.

On to the inside of the Arctic Sunrise. While touring the inside of the ship, we watched a short film about Greenpeace and its purpose. We also learned of the Arctic 30, a group of Greenpeace crew aboard the Arctic Sunrise who were held hostage by Russians as the Arctic Sunrise was taken control of. As the crew member shared the story of the Arctic 30, we learned about the crew aboard the ship, the purpose of the Arctic Sunrise being in the area when the event occurred and the story of the ship being detained and vandalized.

A view from inside the Arctic Sunrise. As we sat in the middle of the ship we could see the cabin doors where crew stay aboard their stay on the ship, wet suits used in colder waters while on the smaller boats and several storage areas for equipment. Crew members store their bikes along the outside rails so they can take short bike rides when the Arctic Sunrise docks.

Read more about the Arctic 30 crew and their story here.

Next up was the rear of the ship. Here we got to see many of the smaller boats used within the Greenpeace organization to complete missions. The smaller boats are used to maneuver closer during peaceful protests in open waters. At the back of the ship were more crew members talking to visitors about how to get involved with Greenpeace and events and organizations in our local community. One discussion we had was on the issue of offshore seismic blasting.

Click here to read more information about seismic blasting off the coast of North Carolina.

Speaking Out Against Seismic Blasting

The North Carolina Coastal Federation opposes seismic blasting because of its negative effects on fish and marine mammals and the potential barriers they pose to ocean access for recreational and commercial fisheries.


We had beautiful weather the day the Arctic Sunrise docked in Wilmington, NC. Here are a few tips on touring if the ship is on tour in your area.

  • Wear comfortable tennis shoes. There are lots of steps, small doorways and obstacles to cross during the tour aboard the ship.
  • Bring a book bag or a small bag to keep your personal items in. This keeps your hands free to hold on to stair rails while on the tour.
  • Bring your camera as photography is permitted during the tour.


Greenpeace Atlantic Coast Ship Tour



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