A regrettable accident

Feature story - 1 November, 2005
We ran aground on a coral reef we were trying to protect.

Rainbow Warrior under sail.

Our ship Rainbow Warrior was in the Philippines, documenting thepotential impacts of global warming on coral reefs in a World Heritagesite.  We were operating with a government chart which claimed tobe up to date, but showed us to be 1.5 miles away from the reef we hitaround 7am local time.

"This incident is very regrettable.  Within minutes after ithappened, we called up the marine park ranger station to inform themabout the accident," said Red Constantino of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.Marine park rangers, assisted by Greenpeace, immediately conducted anassessment of the damaged reef.

The park officials' final assessment of damage covered a total area of 32 meters by 3 meters (105 x 10 feet) of the reef.

The fine was set at 384,000 pesos (US$6,857).

"This accident could have been avoided if the chart was accurate. We feel responsible, however, and this amount will be transferred onWednesday 2 November," said Constantino.

The grounding did not cause any major damage to the ship nor serious delays to the ship's expedition.

Healthycoral on the left, bleached coral on the right. The animal giving thecolony its colour has already died from increased water temperature,and the remainder of the colony almost inevitably follows.

"We appreciate the work that Greenpeace continues to do for theenvironment.  We also appreciate the immediate action they took toget the full assessment of the damage," said Tubbataha Park ManagerAngelique Songco.

Greenpeace and the Tubbataha Protected Area Management board bothagreed there is a serious need of updated maps and precise maritimecharts of the Tubbataha Reefs to avoid similar accidents.

The expedition to the Tubbataha Reefs is part of the global effort ofGreenpeace to document what is at stake should global warming worsen.

The Rainbow Warrior is on the "Asia Energy Revolution Tour" ofAustralia, China, Philippines and Thailand to call for an urgent breakfrom coal and to promote a massive shift to clean, renewable energy.

Without that shift, the rest of the coral reef will face complete destruction.

Read a first-hand account

Pam, our crewmember blogger aboard the Rainbow Warrior, posted this account of what happened.