The New Rainbow Warrior by Angela Caldin

Rainbow Warrior at Princes Wharf Auckland

Rainbow Warrior at Princes Wharf Auckland

When I heard that the New Rainbow Warrior was to sail into Auckland Harbour, my heart skipped a beat. I felt excited and exhilarated. That name was synonymous with Greenpeace and so evocative of many years of non-violent direct environmental protests on the high seas. My mind went back more than 25 years to the first Rainbow Warrior and her tragic sinking in the same year that my younger daughter was born – 1985.

First Rainbow Warrior

She was a trawler used in many Greenpeace protests against seal hunting, whaling and nuclear weapons testing during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She travelled to New Zealand to protest against French nuclear testing at the Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia where Greenpeace intended to monitor the impact of nuclear tests. The French Government infiltrated the organisation and discovered the plans. The Rainbow Warrior was sunk on July 10, 1985 by two explosive devices attached to the hull by operatives of the French intelligence service. One of the twelve people on board, photographer Fernando Pereira, returned to the ship after the first explosion to get his equipment, and was killed by the second, larger explosion. Initially, there was a cover up, but the French Prime Minister later admitted that French secret service agents had been acting on orders to sink the boat.

Greenpeace and the French Republic agreed to submit Greenpeace’s claims against France to international arbitration. The tribunal in Geneva ordered France to pay Greenpeace about $8 million, described as ‘a great victory for those who support the right of peaceful protest and abhor the use of violence.’ The incident gave Greenpeace massive publicity and rallied many supporters to the cause, completely contrary to the intentions of the bombing.

The wreck of the Rainbow Warrior was scuttled in Matauri Bay in the Cavalli Islands, New Zealand, on 12 December 1987, to serve as a dive wreck and artificial reef to promote marine life. She was welcomed by local iwi to her final resting place.

Second Rainbow Warrior

She was a three-mast schooner built from the hull of a deep sea fishing ship. Greenpeace gave the vessel new masts, a new engine and a number of environmentally low-impact systems to handle waste, heating and hot water. She was officially re-launched in Hamburg on 10 July 1989, the fourth anniversary of the sinking of her predecessor.

Over the course of her career, she took part in activist campaigns such as a blockade of the Russian whaling fleet, continued protest about French nuclear weapons’ testing, stopping of ships with cargos of coal and palm oils, as well as humanitarian activities such as evacuating the inhabitants of Rongelap after the island was contaminated by nuclear testing and providing aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  She carried out a campaign tour in the Philippines aimed at educating people about the effects of coal on climate change, proposing alternative energy sources such as geothermal and solar.

She was retired in August 2011 and sold to Friendship, a Bangladesh NGO, to serve as a hospital ship. She was renamed Rongdhonu, Bengali for rainbow.

Third Rainbow Warrior

She is a purpose-built motor-assisted sailing yacht and is the first Rainbow Warrior that is not converted from another vessel. She was built in Germany, with state of the art facilities including advanced telecommunication equipment, specialised scientific equipment, a helicopter landing pad and a rapid response wet room funded by New Zealanders. The ship is also designed to be one of the greenest ships afloat. She runs primarily on wind power backed up by a state-of-the-art hybrid. On board she can store up to 59 cubic metres of grey water and black water, avoiding the need for disposal at sea.  All materials have been chosen with a view to sustainability, and each component has been supplied with transparent ethical sourcing.

The ship was partly funded by a crowd funding project. Supporters were encouraged to buy parts of the ship through a special website. They received a certificate for their contribution and had their names etched onto a digital artwork on board. The website live-streamed names and messages, tying people directly to the part of the ship they contributed to. The multimedia site also had a webcam allowing people to follow the ship’s construction up to its launch date. The project was widely supported all around the world.

When she sailed into Auckland Harbour, my younger daughter, born in 1985, was among those who were on the quayside to greet her because she works for Greenpeace here in New Zealand. This elegant ship is ready to take risks and make protests on behalf of us all. Her mission is to ensure that we choose a clean, green, innovative future rather than taking the path of contamination of our beautiful planet.  Who would have imagined that so many years after that tragic sinking, such a splendid icon for the protection of the environment would sail back to Auckland like a phoenix risen from the wreckage.

To see a summary of Greenpeace’s achievements go to:

Let us know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: