10 July 1985, 11.38pm, a bomb explodes under the Rainbow Warrior making a hole the size of a car. This first act of terrorism on New Zealand soil killed Fernando Pereira, a Dutch photographer for Greenpeace, and sparked worldwide outrage that stopped the nuclear testing that the Rainbow Warrior was supposed to protest against.
In July 1985, Greenpeace had just renovated the Rainbow Warrior. It was fully ready to fulfill an important mission: stopping French nuclear testing in Moruroa, a French Atoll. A whole French special service team came to New Zealand to stop Greenpeace’s plans for a peaceful protest. One of those even worked at Greenpeace office as a volunteer and secretly investigated.
On this Wednesday night, after the first bomb exploded the crew was ordered off the ship but some went back to grab possessions. At this time, there was a second explosion and Fernando Pereira drowned, caught in a rush of water. He had just celebrated his 35th birthday with the crew and was planning to document the French testing. Even if justice has never fully been served for his death, his memory continues to inspire those aboard the Rainbow Warrior who work for a green and peaceful world.
After this tragedy, the crew were in shock but still gave statements to the New Zealand police. Soon, a French couple was questioned, and even the French government denied all knowledge at first. When the evidence mounted, French Prime Minister acknowledged the French Secret Service did sink this boat. But after 34 minutes in court, the 2 French spies were sent to a French military base where they have been released in less than two years. The other special agents just disappeared.
The Rainbow Warrior becomes a reef at Matauri Bay, in New Zealand’s Cavalli Islands.
And, what happened to our proud Warrior? After a traditional Maori burial, the most famous Greenpeace ship was given a resting place at Matauri Bay, in New Zealand’s Cavalli Islands. It has become a living reef, attracting marine life and recreational divers.
Four years later, on 10 July 1989, the Rainbow Warrior II was launched. This particular name refers to a North American Indian prophecy, which foretells a time when human greed will make the Earth sick, and a mythical band of warriors will descend from a rainbow to save it. And in using this particular name twice, Greenpeace wants the world to know that you can’t sink a rainbow!