Diving with Doves

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The Rainbow warrior was once upon a time the iconic ship of Greenpeace fleet. They bought it in 1977 for 37,000 UK pounds, and renamed it from being the Sir William Hardy. Nowadays it became an iconic wreck for New Zealand history, where the first and only terrorist attack has taken place in this country, according to locals. For those who are not familiar with Greenpeace activities, or live in New Zealand, this may be a completely new story, as these kinds of news do not get often to the general public.

The history of Rainbow warrior starts in 1955 in Scotland, where it was built, and served to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It was specially built for carrying out research work on fish as food, and it was the first diesel-electric trawler to be built in the UK, designed by Hall Russel and Co. Ltd, from Aberdeen Shipbuilders.  Among its facilities, it has space for four scientists and a laboratory, with a total of 16 crewmembers. The cost of the ship was on the range of ¼ million British pounds as per 1955 money value.

The renaming by Greenpeace, as an idea of “Le Combattant de l’Arc-en-ciel” in Paris, was simplified to Rainbow Warrior. Some thinkers say it was a prophecy of an ecological disaster. After the purchase in 1977, many volunteers polished and cleaned it, and overhauled the engines, to be ready for its first mission in June 1978.

The first campaign of the ship, was in Iceland waters, to fight against commercial whaling fleets. Among several missions, the last destination of the Rainbow Warrior was the French Polynesia, with a stop in Auckland, where it was bombed by the French secret service, in 1985. The mission was related with nuclear research by different countries, and the Warrior was assigned to investigate and combat these nuclear tests that were being conducted by France in Moruroa Atoll, after some disasters in Rongelap because of the nuclear US program. It was meant to help people of Rongelap atoll to escape from the nuclear contaminated island as well.

On July 10th 1985 the Rainbow Warrior was sunk in Marsden wharf in Auckland, because of two intentioned bombs acknowledged by France some time later. One photographer, Fernando Pereira was killed during the attack. After several investigations and forensic examination, it was declared irreparable, so it was scuttled in Matauri Bay, Northland New Zealand, the 12th of December 1987.       

Technical matters

The wreck has a length of 39 meters, by 8,4 meters breadth and 4.5 meters depth, with a gross tonnage of 418 ton. It is sunk in Matauri Bay, Northland New Zealand, after long discussions on where, when and how Department of Conservation, IWI and other New Zealand institutions, and it has became a must-do dive in New Zealand waters.

It lies on a bed of 26 meters of water in the Cavalli Islands, acting as an artificial reef for the species native of that area.

The diving on this wreck is easy and suitable for advanced divers, with several way points, including penetration. The anchor buoy for it is located a few meters from the wreck, mainly to protect it from boats damage, so divers should be careful when descending and not loose track of the wreck location, especially when the conditions are not great visibility wise.

Always look behind

The penetration inside the wreck is possible, even as of January 2016. As it is beginning to deteriorate, it´s been sunk for several years now, it is left to the diver´s discretion to do penetration, or the safety measures that should be taken, although overhead protocols are recommended. One of the best views of the wreck is towards the surface on the bow.

For those who like landscapes, and to enjoy a relaxed dive on a wreck, it is a place where you feel the history, and where to enjoy a dive full of life. When you dive this wreck, you can definitely feel the history on it, and you can imagine yourself as a Greenpeace activist running on the walkways while an evil patrol ship approaches.

The marine life on the wreck is filled with several colors anemones, and its what local fish species like john dorys, leatherjackets, demoiselles, nudibranchs, crayfishes… call home. Could you count how many fish are in the picture?

Count the wildness

As a side trip, or a complimentary trip, there is a nice walk up to one of the hills of Matauri bay, where the memorial is placed, by having the propeller on top of the hill that guards the bay. On exploring more about New Zealand, the original mast of the first Rainbow Warrior is available for those non-divers as well as the propellant. The mast is erected on the West coast, in Dargaville Museum. It was first brought there in 1986, right after it was sunk in Auckland Harbour, and after some years of delay for repairing and conditioning, it custodies the town since 2010.

Rainbow Warrior mast in Dargaville museum


Special thanks for the underwater pictures on this article to Nicole Miller

Written by Belen Andres


Death of the Rainbow Warrior By Michael King

Eyes of Fire, The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior By David Robie

New Zealand Hearld


2 thoughts on “Diving with Doves

  1. Perfecto reportaje de un buceo lleno de historia.
    No dejes de contarnos experiencias que nos hagan viajar a todos.


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