There are certain stories that get under your skin, stories that no matter how many times you hear them somehow strike you in a way that you never forget, stories that become a very part of you. The story of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior is one of those stories.
I was a two year old when the Warrior first began her transformation from a humble Scottish trawler into the iconic international champion that made her famous. She was bought for £40 000 in 1977. She was a twenty-two year old then. I can't imagine what it would have been like working on her back in the day, taking on the sealers and whalers in the South Seas, campaigning against nuclear testing in the Pacific. I read Susi's early accounts of life on the ship from the comfort of my bunk in the cabin I shared with a Swedish deck hand on the Rainbow Warrior III last summer, feeling vaguely guilty that we had it so sweet.
Last week I watched a documentary about the stoic work those brave sailors did in the Marshall Islands, re-locating the people of Rongelap who were forced from their homes to avoid the horrors of radioactive pollution. I remember feeling so proud of them, so lucky to be able to work alongside people like Bunny who haven’t given up, people with a relentless energy for bettering the world. Those early days defined us as an organisation. We became known as people who stood (and sailed) for justice; justice for the creatures endangered on land, in sea and sky, justice for their habitats and justice for those people who find themselves struggling to survive in an often unjust world.
So when our people gathered outside the office on March the 28th, some old faces, some new, there was a sense of belonging to something. Something big. We were off to maintain a track. An ordinary grass track that leads from the campsite up to an extraordinary Memorial Site. We went to honour our old kuia of a boat, a boat that got taken out of service by French agents 29 years ago, not long after returning from Rongelap, with her newly fitted sails. A boat that took our friend Fernando down with her. The track work became a tiny part of what we dug up there.
The weekend was about so much more than just weeding and building. Together we remembered what it is we’re really doing here. On the way north we stopped for a picnic and swim at Uretiti beach – a beach that without the actions of some of those among us, would have been dominated by the ugly beast they called Marsden B, a campaign we heard about that night, from Chris.
It was only right that on arrival we spent our first night on the marae of Ngati Kuri, the good folk who offered up their waters and continue to keep watch over our ship. In their wharenui we shared our stories. Bunny opened by talking about the dreadful night that the bombs went off. It’s always so moving to hear such a personal account, one that’s telling so obviously takes a toll each time told. People had questions that revealed how important it is to keep passing the knowledge on.
Before we slept, after being taken down to the Bay’s depths, we were taken up the Noble Discoverer’s derrick with Viv, onto the roof of Marsden B, behind the Japanese Embassy in the Hague with Julz, to Africa with Nick and over to Vienna with Mel. Stories were the magic carpet that let us tour the world that night.