The Rainbow Warrior - 30 Years On

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
MV RAINBOW WARRIOR, Greenpeace ship model, Askew and Avery Modelmakers (NZ Maritime Museum Collection 2004.43.1)

10 July 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the RAINBOW WARRIOR and the killing of a Greenpeace photographer by French Secret Agents.

New Zealand had been involved in protests against nuclear testing by France in French Polynesian from the mid 1960s. The tragic event at Marsden Wharf in Auckland outraged the nation, but also raised the country’s consciousness about Greenpeace and environmental issues.

The Greenpeace vessel, the RAINBOW WARRIOR, was berthed at Marsden Wharf in Auckland on 10 July 1985, from where she was due to leave to lead a flotilla to Mururoa, the focal point for the tests. That night two bombs were attached to the hull of the vessel by French divers. At 10 minutes to midnight the bombs exploded, ripping the hull apart. Most people still onboard were able to disembark while the boat began sinking, but 35-year old Portugese-born crew member and photographer Fernando Pereira was drowned in his cabin.

France denied involvement in the bombing for months, only admitting responsibility on 21 September. Later, it transpired that the French Secret Service (DGSE) agents had been sent by the French Government to prevent the RAINBOW WARRIOR from protesting at Mururoa.

It is believed many French agents were involved and the most of them, including the divers who placed the bombs, were able to escape the country before being identified, but agents Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart were arrested on 24 July. On 22 November 1985 they were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were, however, released in to French custody the next year.

The RAINBOW WARRIOR was deemed too badly damaged to be fully repaired. She was scuttled on 12 December 1987 at her final resting place near the Cavalli Islands, Matauri Bay, and farewelled with a full Māori ceremony. Her wreck became a living reef that is home to a variety of marine life and is popular with divers.

Greenpeace have an interactive on their website that allows you to explore the wreck, and explains the history of the ship. Click on this link to have a look