Rainbow Warrior Bombed and sunk (1985)

            On July 10, 1985, two bombs placed on the hull of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior exploded, sinking the ship and killing two crew members. 

            The Rainbow Warrior was Greenpeace’s primary oceanic protest boat.  It was in harbor at Auckland, New Zealand, preparing for a voyage to interfere with planned nuclear tests by the French government at a nearby atoll.  Two spies from the French secret service placed the bombs, one near the propeller and another against the engine room wall. 

(logo by Greenpeace)

            Just before midnight, crew members reported:  “Suddenly, the lights go out.  There’s the sharp crack of breaking glass.  Then, a sudden roar of water.”  They thought that they’d been hit by another boat.  Then came a second explosion.  Within minutes, the boat listed, water filling the hull.

            The French government at first denied their involvement, but soon admitted that their secret agents had placed the bombs.  Reaction in New Zealand was intense and drove bad relationships between the two countries for years.  Eventually the United Nations was enlisted for arbitration that led to a French apology and compensation to New Zealand.  The secret agents were arrested and tried—and imprisoned for a mockingly brief two years each.

Rainbow Warrior II (photo by Salvatore Barbera)

            The original Rainbow Warrior began its work for Greenpeace in 1978.  Before then, it had been a fishery research vessel for the UK Government.  Its first voyage for Greenpeace was to Iceland to protest commercial whaling.  Later it moved to the Pacific Ocean to campaign against nuclear testing.  The ship was named after a Native American saying that in a mistreated world “… people will rise up like Warriors of the Rainbow….”  And, indeed, the Rainbow Warrior rose again.  A second ship, Rainbow Warrior II, entered Greenpeace service in 1989, leading campaigns against nuclear testing, whaling, inhumane fishing, climate change and other environmental issues.  It was retired after 22 years, in 2011.

            That fall, a new Rainbow Warrior III entered service for Greenpeace.  The new ship was built purposefully as a protest campaign vessel.  It is nearly 200 feet long and can carry up to 30 crew members.  Storage space is available for 8 tons of scientific equipment for research work.  It is as fast as the commercial vessels it confronts; can launch small boats in high waves; has a helicopter pad for aerial surveillance; and has state-of-the-art communications systems.  As well as being mean, it is green.  It is powered largely by the wind (5 massive sails on an A-frame mast system), sports energy efficient hull and engines, and disposes no waste into the water.

References: 

Greenpeace.  The Bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.  Available at:  http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/history/the-bombing-of-the-rainbow-war/.  Accessed July 24, 2017.

New Zealand History.  Sinking the Rainbow Warrior.  New Zealand History, New Zealand Government.  Available at:  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/nuclear-free-new-zealand/rainbow-warrior. Accessed Jluly 24, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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