Fernando Pereira

1950 – 1985

Page - September 13, 2011
He joined the crew of the Rainbow Warrior to bring his pictures of French nuclear testing to the world. When secret agents bombed the ship, his peaceful intention cost Fernando Pereira his life. A determined photographer, a family man, a Rainbow Warrior – he will always be remembered.

Fernando Pereira with his daughter Marelle

"Just take care of your mom, I'll do my trip and I'll be home soon." Those are the words Fernando’s daughter Marelle remembers. Eight years old at the time, she recalls how she said farewell at the airport. Taking a walk in the forest afterwards, she and her brother waved "to every plane because that could be the one my dad was in."

Three months later she was told her dad had been killed.

A voyage for a more peaceful world

Fernando drowned, on board the sinking Rainbow Warrior, on 10 July 1985, after French secret service agents had bombed the ship.

The Greenpeace photographer had joined the crew in Hawaii, for a six months tour that was supposed to take him from the Marshall Islands, in the North Pacific, to Moruroa, in the South Pacific. It was a journey to unmask the US and the French for what they really were: nuclear superpowers with a blatant disregard for the health and environment of Pacific islands, rushing headlong into designing and test new nuclear weapons.

Fleeing dictators and their wars

Fernando Pereira

Born in Chaves, a small Portuguese town about 500 km north of Lisbon, Fernando fled his native country to avoid joining the military and having to fight in the then-dictator Salazar's war in Angola. After transiting through Spain, where the Franco government was less than amenable to political refugees, he hitched and walked all the way to the Netherlands.

There he found what he was looking for and embarked on a career as a photographer. He also married a Dutch women, became a Dutch citizen and had two children: Marelle and Paul.

"I remember me and my brother walking in the forest, climbing trees," Marelle remembers. "In Holland we have snow and ice in winter. And the place where we lived at the time, behind our house, we had a little river and that would freeze over. And he would take us ice skating, being Portuguese and all, but he could skate."

A special trip

Before arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, where it was bombed, the Rainbow Warrior had helped the residents of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands to relocate to a new home. Their island had been contaminated by radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific.

The laborious relocation was complete and 10 May 1985 was the ship's first day off for some time. It was also Fernando's birthday and the crew had printed him a special T-shirt, on the front it boasted "Rainbow Warrior Removals Inc" while the back bore the signatures of all on board. A proud memento of a special trip.

An exceptional man

Laying a wreath for Fernando at the 25th anniversary of the ship’s bombing in 2010, Rainbow Warrior captain Pete Willcox said: "Fernando did not have to die; he was a threat to no one. We will never forget him. I hope the generations of activists who sail on the new ship will be as determined and as exceptional and as inspired as he was."

Fernando’s memory will forever inspire all those campaigning for a green and peaceful world aboard today's Rainbow Warrior.