While growing up all of us were fascinated by superheroes. We had our favourites too. There was Spiderman shooting webs from his wrist, Batman driving around dark streets in a high-tech fuel guzzling car and Superman taking short distance flights in a spandex and red chaddi.
The new Rainbow Warrior III during sea trials.© Greenpeace/Oliver Tjaden
However one does not need to come from Krypton or get bitten by radioactive spiders to accomplish extraordinary deeds. Simple acts of courage can save the world from destruction. That is what my favourite superhero does. She sails around the world, fighting to make it a better place, not just for humans but for the other species as well.
My first memory of the Rainbow Warrior (RW) is a very faint. I was watching a documentary on whales on the Discovery channel. In that I saw people wearing bright orange lifejackets on rubber dinghies and speeding away from a little ship which had the rainbow painted on it. The activists in these speed boats came between the whales and the harpoons and my only reaction to their efforts was WOW!
© Greenpeace/ Ferrero /Marriner
Many years later I joined Greenpeace and found out that the ship I saw in that documentary was the Rainbow Warrior or should I say THE RAINBOW WARRIOR.
The first RW started life as a fishery research trawler. It was acquired by Greenpeace in 1978 and renamed 'Rainbow Warrior' based a North American Cree Indian prophecy which said, 'When the world is sick and dying, the people will rise up like Warriors of the Rainbow...” Since then the Rainbow Warrior has played a pivotal role in many actions around the world for years. From nuclear testing in the Pacific, to blocking coal ports, to tracking illegal fishing vessels, she has been recognised as a global icon fighting for environmental justice for more than 25 years.
In July 1985 the RW was ready to confront the nuclear testing by the French government at Moruroa Atoll. The French secret service however had planted two bombs on the ship. The blast killed Fernando Pereira, one of our photographers on the ship. Greenpeace replaced the old ship with a new one and the Rainbow Warrior II (RWII) has been living the life of a superhero for 22 years.
© Greenpeace / John Miller
In February 2009 I got an opportunity to be a deck hand on the RWII in Auckland which also houses the memorial of the first ship. After sailing on the ship for 7 days we entered Auckland harbour and every passing sail boat gave the RWII a hero’s welcome. At that time I felt a sense of pride for being a part of the RWII and everything it stands for. At the same time, I was sad because it was time to leave the mighty vessel and set foot on land again. I bid farewell to the RWII, with the hope the hope of returning to it soon.
The RWII retired on 16th August, 2011 after 22 years of bearing witness. She was handed over to an NGO in Bangladesh at a small ceremony in Singapore. She will now become a floating hospital for victims of climate change impact.
The legacy of the RW does not end here. Today the new Rainbow Warrior III will set sail from Germany and it gives me hope that the planet need not worry, as it has the hero it needs.