Rainbow Warrior wreck
- darkometer rating: 3 -
The story sounded too James-Bondsy to be believable at the time but it really happened: in 1985, the French were preparing for nuclear testing
at their Pacific
Moruroa test site, and the environmentalist organization Greenpeace was preparing for a protest mission. Their flagship, the "Rainbow Warrior", was moored in Auckland harbour, New Zealand
, when just before midnight two limpet mines sank her. One photographer on board drowned with her. It was known that French secret service agents were in the country so suspicion focused on them. Two agents were kept in custody in New Zealand and under increased international pressure the French finally had to admit that it was indeed their secret service that was responsible for the sabotage mission.
It was an unbelievable embarrassment that harmed France
's reputation in the world massively. In addition, France was not only ordered to pay millions of dollars compensation, the two agents were also tried for arson and murder. However, they served only part of their prison sentence on a Polynesian island. Despite the bombing Greenpeace turned out to be the winner in the long term. In 1996, France again continued nuclear testing at Moruroa accompanied by another wave of huge international outrage, but that was the end. Since then France has joined the moratorium on nuclear testing
The wreck of the Rainbow Warrior was initially raised for examination but subsequently found to be beyond repair, so in 1987 she was given up and sunk (this time officially and with Greenpeace's permission) to the south of Motutapere Island off the northern coast of New Zealand
Since then a second "Rainbow Warrior" has been continuing Greenpeace's cause, but the old one remains as a wreck in relatively shallow waters (26 metres/85 feet). So she's become an artificial reef and an attraction for divers (see e.g. seafriends.org.nz or divesitedirectory.co.uk).
For those not too keen on diving, some parts of the Rainbow Warrior can be seen on dry land: the masts have been salvaged and are now on display at a museum in Dargaville (daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). And on the coast of Matauri Bay stands a memorial to the Rainbow Warrior which incorporates her propeller.
on/off the north-eastern coast of New Zealand
's North Island, ca. 140 miles (230 km) north of Auckland.