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

October 1
Yosemite National Park Created (1890)
October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
Secretary of the Interior Convicted in Teapot Dome Scandal (1929)
October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
Henry Mosby, Wild Turkey Biologist, Born (1913)
October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Dedicated (1889)
October 30
UNESCO Designates 9 Natural World Heritage Sites (1981)
October 31
Lincoln Highway Dedicated (1913)
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