In this blog post, long-time Greenpeacer Peter Willcox takes us from the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior 25 years ago, to the keel laying of the new, purpose-built Rainbow Warrior in Gdansk, Poland last Saturday. Click here to chip in for the new ship.
It was a day of looking to the future and remembering the past. We got our first look at a real piece of the new Rainbow Warrior. And we remembered losing a shipmate 25 years ago.
It was exactly 25 years ago that the first Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French government, killing Fenando Pereira. We were preparing to go to Polynesia to protest the French nuclear weapons testing program. Scuba divers placed two bombs outside the hull, and a few minutes before midnight, they went off, sending the ship to the bottom of the harbor in less than two minutes. Fenando, going to his cabin to get his cameras, was trapped and drowned by the second bomb. He was the only crew member with two children. We placed a wreath honoring him next to the new section of the new Rainbow Warrior.
There was a 15 meter section of the bottom of the new boat. The steel hull will be built in Gdansk, before being towed to the Fassmer yard in Germany later this fall, where she will spend about a year being completed.
Photo: Shipbuilder in Maritim-Shipyard in Gdansk, working on the new Rainbow Warrior. © Oliver Tjaden / Greenpeace
In the old days a keel laying ceremony was held when the keel or back bone of the ship was competed. But today, ships are built in more modular sections. So the shipyard hoisted up our section of the ship, and gently lowered it onto a plank, with a coin placed in between the ship and the plank - a time-honored tradition among shipwrights. The coin was pressed into the wood, and Kumi Naidoo, the International Executive Director brought it over to show us. The plank will make a nice display back in Amsterdam.
Several speeches were made. Both shipyards were represented. Two members of Greenpeace International’s board, Dimitrios Vassiakis, who is the board member with shipping experience, and Lalita Ramdas, the Chair of the International board. Kumi and I also joined in the fun.
I was really happy to be joined by two other crew from the first Rainbow Warrior -- Davey Edwards, the chief engineer who is now technical director of our ship's unit and Grace O'Sullivan, deckhand, who after a 19 year Greenpeace career is now raising three daughters at home in Ireland.
To round out the day a new simulator / video game was on display -- Ship Simulator Extreme, which will come out in the fall, and give gamers a chance to captain the Esperanza or the new Rainbow Warrior in a simulated action environment. The good folks at vStep, producers of the Ship Simulator series, are also making a donation version of the game available later this year, with a part of the purchase price going to help build the new ship. Buy pre-ordering or buying the donation version, you also get a chance to win a trip on one of the real ship’s maiden voyages.
Photo: Krzysztof Wínniewski, project manager on Maritim-Shipyard in Gdansk and Kumi Naidoo, executive director GPI prepare a piece of wood and a coin for the traditonal keel laying under the first section of the new Rainbow Warrior. © Oliver Tjaden / Greenpeace
This building of the new Rainbow Warrior is an incredibly exciting project. For the first time ever we are getting a chance to build a ship the is designed from the keel up for our particular needs. The difficult part will be the waiting a year and a half until it is completed.