Earth Panorama: Rainbow Warrior memorial, Matauri Bay, Northland, New Zealand.

rainbow warrior memorial

This somber but beautiful memorial overlooks Matauri Bay, in the northernmost island of New Zealand. The propeller belonged to a ship called the Rainbow Warrior, which was deliberately sunk by French intelligence agents in a shocking act of state-sponsored terrorism. Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira died in the sinking, so this is a memorial to him too. If you look at the full panorama on you can see the full range of the impressive environmental beauty of this place, which is definitely fitting given the Rainbow Warrior’s mission and why this terrible act occurred.

The Rainbow Warrior was the flagship of Greenpeace, a global activist organization dedicated to environmental preservation. In the 1980s Greenpeace became active in trying to thwart French nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific, which, as do all nuclear tests, had deleterious environmental consequences to the fragile marine and tropical environments of these delicate islands. The Rainbow Warrior and those who sailed aboard her caused a lot of headaches for the French government. In July 1985, elements of the French government–including, it seems, President Francois Mitterrand–decided to rid themselves of this thorn in their side by simply blowing the Rainbow Warrior to smithereens. This they did, in the harbor of Auckland, New Zealand, on July 10, 1985.

At first the French condemned the sinking, which was done by attaching limpet mines to the ship’s hull. Later it came out that the French intelligence service was involved, and later still various officials admitted that the terrorist strike was approved by high officials of the government. The reaction of France’s allies, including the United States, was curiously muted. The incident gave France a black eye, but it did not stop them from continuing to carry out totally unnecessary nuclear tests in some of their Pacific possessions in the 1990s. The terrorists responsible for the act were, predictably, given a slap on the wrist.

After the sinking the hulk of the Rainbow Warrior was eventually towed to this bay and deliberately sunk to provide a habitat for coral and other marine life. It’s also an extremely popular dive spot. For the record, Greenpeace replaced the ship. Two subsequent vessels have carried the name Rainbow Warrior, one acquired in 1989, the other in 2011 which is still operating.

This photo was taken by David Rowley on September 30, 2012.

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