RAINBOW WARRIOR, steel motor vessel:
French-New Zealand relations were blighted by the French secret service’s deliberate sinking of this Greenpeace ship as she lay alongside Marsden Wharf, Auckland, just before midnight on 10 July 1985. The ship was scheduled to lead a small fleet of vessels to Mururoa Atoll to protest France’s South Pacific nuclear-testing programme. French saboteurs placed underwater charges on the hull and the detonations blew two holes in the ship. The larger, about 2m square, occurred on the starboard engine-room plating. The other, on the aft port side accommodation area, also damaged the propeller shaft. The ship quickly settled on the harbour bed with only her superstructure showing. Fernando Pereira, a 33-year-old Dutch photographer, was drowned but the rest of the crew escaped.
Police investigations revealed the destruction of the Rainbow Warrior, a former North Sea trawler, was the work of a group from France’s Direction Generale de la Securité Exterieure (DGSE) which wanted to prevent the anti-nuclear protest by Greenpeace, an international peace and environmental organisation. Two of the bombers were arrested in Auckland on 16 July but others escaped the net.
On 4 November Major Alain Mafart and Captain Dominique Prieur of the DGSE pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges at the start of their trial in Auckland and were jailed for 10 years. Under an agreement worked out by United National Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, the pair were transferred to Hao Atoll, a French South Pacific possession, in July 1986 for three years’ detention. But both agents were flown home early, Mafart in December 1987, and Prieur in June 1988.
The Rainbow Warrior was patched and refloated but was not worth repairing and eventually was towed from Auckland and scuttled in 11 fathoms near the Cavalli Islands off Northland’s north-east coast as an artificial reef for marine life and divers. Six of the 11 crew aboard when she was blasted in 1985 witnessed this end.
The Rainbow Warrior, 1182.2 gross tonnage and 365.4 register tonnage, built in 1955 by Hall Russell and Co., at Aberdeen Scotland. Classed as a pleasure yacht on the British register, operated by Greenpeace and owned by Galleas Ltd., Georgetown, British Cayman Islands. Official No. 183847, registered at Aberdeen. (See Death of the Rainbow Warrior by Michael King.)
Text from New Zealand Shipwrecks, 8th edition (Hodder Moa, 2007). Used with permission of the publisher and authors.