The Rainbow Warrior – new life at rest
I was a spotty 12 year old when the French Government bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour as it was on it’s way to the site of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Nearly thirty years on we might have left behind the threat of mutually assured destruction agreed between NATO and the Warsaw Pact but the world feels decidedly closer to calamity, even from my relatively safe vantage point in the quietest corner of New Zealand.
As a spotty 12 year old I remember going to visit a publicity caravan of Greenpeace in the town of Pontypool in a school lunch hour. I don’t remember if they were there because of the bombing but either way I remember making a small (tiny) donation and getting a little enamel rainbow peace dove badge for my generosity. The badge is long lost but the sense that I had somehow taken a position on an issue that was larger than the world I lived in has stayed with me. Lives were lost in the French terror attack on the ship and I’d like to think that I’m not alone in being awoken from a complacent belief that authority and governments ‘know best’. Some small return on the ultimate sacrifice. Governments aren’t evil, indeed I make much of my living from being a minion within the civil service but they do act on their own interests as much as those of the electorate. Its a perversion of the democratic process that can only be tempered by the reaction of the voting public. Today it seems, we go where apathy, the media and marketing takes us. That is, until impassioned people with determination make a stand for the values and ethics they hold dear.
Today the ship is much more than a rusting wreck. It harbours some wonderful marine life and makes a superb wreck dive. The area known as the Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand suffers a fair bit of recreational fishing pressure so any voluntary no take area such as this wreck soon fill with fish.
Today shoals of bigeye (Pempheris adspersa) fill the cavernous hull with snapper (Pagrus auratus) seeking refuge. Shoals of blue maomao (Scorpis violacea) and New Zealand demoiselle (Chromis dispilus) cruise the sheltered waters around the wreck. Smooth leatherjackets (Meuschenia scaber) hang in the kelp and crop the hard corals, polyps and tubeworms that encrust the hull, whilst Eastern red scorpion fish or grandfather hapuku (Scorpaena cardinalis) stalk the seafloor beneath.
I don’t think that as a twelve year old a hemisphere away I could imagine that I’d be enjoying the wonderful life I do, having the privilege to dive the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior decades later, make my living as a conservation biologist and filmmaker, have a wonderful little family and a home on the edge of the most dramatic National Park I know of. A life of possibilities stolen from Fernando Pereira, the Greenpeace photographer killed in the bombing of the protest vessel. Squeezing the most out of life isn’t easy, but to do anything else is an irresponsible waste and an affront to those without the privilege. It won’t be long, however, before this ship will disintegrate into the ocean floor. Already the sheet metal of the hull is rusted and thin, a good storm would tear most of it off. But as it is, it makes a wonderful diving experience and fantastic photographic opportunity. I hope Fernando would have approved.