Rainbow Warrior III in AustraliaImage: ©Tom Jefferson/Greenpeace.

Greenpeace’s heart lies in its ships since that’s how this organisation came about- a group of determined people risked their lives by taking a fishing boat to Amchitka island (off the coast of Alaska) to protest nuclear testing by USA in 1971. And from that small beginning, Greenpeace has gone ahead to successfully campaign against many issues with 3 beautiful ships always by its side- Rainbow Warrior, Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise.

Of these, the Rainbow Warrior, one of the first ships, deserves a special mention. After being bombed by French Secret Service in 1985, the Rainbow Warrior came in a different avatar in 1989 and continued to extend its services to the organisation. In 2011, Rainbow Warrior II was retired (it has been donated to a Bangladesh NGO and is a medical ship now) and its place was taken by a new purpose-built campaigning ship for the first time. Rainbow Warrior III boasts of being environment friendly, has capacity to support original scientific work, has a heli-pad and on-board satellite system for quick communication. Everything on it has been funded by Greenpeace supporters across the world!

All the above information is also available on our websites, but it really does not make any impact until you get to see it, live in it and experience it! And what a beautiful ship it is!

Coal is killing the Great Barrier ReefI am in Australia along with Greenpeace Australia Pacific aboard the Rainbow Warrior III to campaign against coal mining and coastal development which can sound the death knell for the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is a World heritage, just like the Western Ghats in India, supporting an amazing variety of marine eco-system. The reef is already under threat due to climate change and the resulting ocean acidification, but CO2 emissions from coal mining in Australia (and production elsewhere) and expansion of ports to export the coal from Australian coast can accelerate the process of damage even further. Worse, two Indian companies- Adani and GVK- are involved in this mad rush to mine the coal and import it to India.

So right now we are travelling through the lovely coast of Queensland State where the sun is out and the wind has been good most of the parts, which means that the ship has been powering on wind through its 55m-high A-Frame mast system. It is an incredible sight to see the huge sails coming on and the boat steering forward on wind speed! The Warrior also has efficient electric drive engines to power the boat when the wind is low, but the legendary captian of the ship Peter Willcox ensures that the sails are up even when the slightest wind is there. Peter Willcox was the Captian of Rainbow Warrior I when it was sunk by the French Secret Services and he has many stories to tell about the incredible journeys he has made. More on that later.

The ship can house 30 people, and I have been assigned one of the bunks along with the crew. A special mention to the truly international and multi-cultural crew of the Warrior, who have been most accommodating and helpful in explaining the ways of life in a ship. They ensure that all onboard follow the rules to the hilt, patiently guiding ignorant land people to get on the rhibs (rigid hull inflatable boats) which is quite challenging when the waves are high. They have also been giving tour of the ship to local residents quite cheerfully, highlighting the remarkable features of the ship which includes storage of water to avoid sea disposal, biological treatment of sewage and grey water, exhaust gas treatment, and the 25 year old wooden dolphin on the prow which has come from Rainbow Warrior II. 

My days are filled with the green ocean, lazy white clouds and green hills dotting the coastal landscape, while the night are starry with the waves gently lulling me to sleep! In between, Ruslan (the ship’s cook) ensures that all of us are well fed inspite of our crazy schedule by offering a truly international spread.


Arpana is a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace India.