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4 Strange Greenpeace Moments

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Greenpeace has been at the forefront of political and environmental activism since its inception in 1971. While opposing nuclear testing and supporting environmental causes, Greenpeace has routinely been in the media spotlight, and often seeks out media coverage to promote its cause. Here are a few funny (and a few sad) moments in Greenpeace history.

1. Mister Splashy Pants

In 2007, Greenpeace held an online contest to name a humpback whale in the Southern Ocean. Surfers were invited to create a list of potential names, then to vote for their favorite name from the list. While most of the 30 names on the list were typical "whale names" -- including Talei, Libertad, Aiko, Mira, and Kaimana -- one jumped out: Mister Splashy Pants. Sites including Boing Boing, reddit, Digg, and others rallied web users everywhere to vote for Mister Splashy Pants, and on December 10, 2007 Greenpeace announced that indeed, Mister Splashy Pants was victorious:

Mister Splashy Pants got a huge 119,367 votes (over 78 percent of the vote) with his nearest rival being Humphrey at 4,329 (less than 3 percent). The rest of the top ten were Aiko, Libertad, Mira, Kaimana, Aurora, Shanti, Amal and Manami.

Greenpeace has since encouraged the public to Save Mister Splashy Pants by taking action against whale hunting and supporting Greenpeace. There's plenty of official "Mr. Splashy Pants Gear" available for those who love the splashy whale icon, but don't want to get all political.

2. Operation Satanic Sinks the Rainbow Warrior

Rainbow Warrior hull damageOn July 10, 1985, a French foreign intelligence plot codenamed Satanic set off two bombs aboard the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior while it was docked in Auckland, New Zealand. The bombs were intended to cripple the Warrior and prevent it from leading a flotilla of yachts to protest French nuclear weapons development. But the bombs sank the ship, killing Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira as he attempted to retrieve his camera gear.

The sinking caused a major international scandal, with French officials initially denying involvement. Two of the French agents were charged and imprisoned, while others were released due to issues of international law. Information about French President François Mitterrand's approval of the mission surfaced in 2005, shortly after he left office (update: this was a mistake; officials including French Defence Minister Charles Hernu resigned and Admiral Pierre Lacoste was fired as a result of the bombing). You can read more about the sinking at the Times Online, or on Wikipedia.

(Photo of Rainbow Warrior hull damage by Gil Hanly, via an excellent article in Facsimile Magazine.)

3. British Aliens Consider Earth "A Crap Sandwich"

Greenpeace UK put together a short film starring comedians Eddie Izzard, Jim Broadbent, and Joe McFadden. In the film, a group of corporate aliens hold a meeting regarding a proposed takeover of planet Earth. The result is a funny, inspiring piece conveying the Greenpeace message with a light touch. Check it out:

4. Rainbow Warrior II Runs Aground on a Reef

In 2005, Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior II was on assignment examining Tubbataha Reef Marine Park reef in the Philippines for signs of bleaching due to global warming. During the exercise, the Rainbow Warrior II accidentally ran aground on the reef itself, damaging corals in the process. Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 for damaging the reef it was seeking to protect. More from a BBC News article:

Rainbow Warrior IIPark officials said almost 100 sq m (1,076 sq ft) of reef had been damaged.

Greenpeace agreed to pay the fine, but blamed the accident on outdated maps provided by the Philippines government.

"The chart indicated we were a mile and a half" from the coral reef when the ship ran aground, regional Greenpeace official Red Constantino told AFP news agency.

"This accident could have been avoided if the chart was accurate," he said, adding, however, that Greenpeace felt "responsible" for the damage.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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