Protest boats have also been known to manoeuvre themselves between a whale and the harpoons, hoping to stop the weapon from being fired. In retaliation, the harpoon boats also drag ropes and lengths of steel cable behind them, with the aim of making the protesters inactive. These highly dangerous manoeuvres, undertaken by both sides, can, and do, result in collisions between vessels and injury of crew members.
However, even peaceful protest action can cause a violent reaction, such as was the case with the RAINBOW WARRIOR, a Greenpeace ship engaged in anti-nuclear protests. On the 10th July 1985, RAINBOW WARRIOR was docked at Marsden Wharf, downtown Auckland. She was waiting to start a voyage to Mururoa Atoll to lead a peaceful protest against the French nuclear testing programme in the Pacific Ocean region. During the night, French agents acting on orders from their Government placed explosive devices on the hull of the protest vessel. The resulting explosions led to the death of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira and caused catastrophic damage to the ship.
Here at the New Zealand Maritime Museum we have a small collection of artefacts related to this tragic event.