The Rainbow Warrior & the fight for a nuclear free Pacific

Over a decade after McTaggart and crew sailed into the Pacific to protest nuclear testing, the residents of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands appealed to Greenpeace for help. Their island home had become contaminated by nuclear testing by the US, with many islanders suffering terrible health consequences as a result.

The US, who had conducted the nuclear tests, refused to evacuate the people of Rongelap, despite their pleas, and so in their place Greenpeace agreed to transfer islanders to the safer Mejato 180 kilometres away. ‘Operation Exodus’ was a far cry from the usual work of hanging banners and protesting Greenpeace had become known for. The mission involved moving 300 islanders and tonnes of building materials across the Pacific, in an effort that would take almost two weeks.

As the crew arrived on board the Rainbow Warrior on May 17th, 1985, they were greeted warmly by the islanders. For the next ten days, they evaculated Rongelapese and materials across the ocean. By the end, many of the crew were left emotionally distraught at what they had witnessed. The Rongelapese people, who had lived on this land for thousands of years, now had no choice but to leave, unlikely to ever return. The mission brought home the real consequences of nuclear testing in the Pacific, and drew many to the cause.