25 years ago, the French secret service bombed the Rainbow Warrior, sinking Greenpeace’s flagship and killing a crew member. Some of the original crew now lives together in a harmonious community on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. In addition to interviews with six original members, the film contains shocking images of the consequences of the French nuclear tests, exciting action-packed footage of brave little rubber boats up against threatening whalers, and joyous home movies that bear witness to the exceptional sense of camaraderie that existed on the legendary ship.
Founding members of Greenpeace UK, Denise Bell, Susi Newborn and Alan Thornton, decide in 1978 that they need a ship to go to the North Atlantic waters to prevent Iceland from whaling. They don’t have any money but in good faith they decide to tender an offer at auction for a rusty, old trawler called the Sir William Hardy. Greenpeace is the highest bidder, a deposit is placed with a deadline of 3 months to pay the total sum of 42.725 pounds.
Luckily the Dutch branch of World Wildlife Fund makes a generous donation of 45.000 pounds to buy the ship, just two weeks before the final date for payment. It takes a group of dedicated and hard working volunteers about 3 months to repair and paint the vessel from top to bottom. A rainbow and a white dove are painted on the green hull, and the ship is renamed the Rainbow Warrior, after an ancient Cree-indian prophecy of the ecological disaster that would befall the human race if nature was not respected.
In May ’78 the vessel leaves London for a European tour to promote interest in the upcoming Icelandic Whale campaign. After press conferences and celebrations are held in various harbours like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Arrhus and Bergen, they take off for the first Icelandic whaling campaign in June. With difficulty, and a little help of the ‘I Ching’, they find the whalers and have two confrontations at open sea, using the small zodiacs as a human shield between the whale and the whalers.
The Rainbow Warrior has an adventurous and colourful life after this successful start, campaigning against whaling by Iceland and later Spain. They are arrested by the Spanish navy and have a dramatic escape from the military port of El Ferrol in 1980. But they are also combating radioactive and chemical waste dumping in the North-Atlantic sea, or blocking nuclear transports in England and France.
In 1981 the Rainbow Warrior leaves Europe, never to return, on a trip to North- America to campaign against the seal hunt in New Foundland and toxic waste dumping along the east coast. They also confront the illegal Soviet whalers in 1983 during which seven crew members are held at gunpoint by Russian soldiers.
The year 1985 was planned to be the Year of the Pacific. The Rainbow Warrior prepares a Nuclear Free Pacific tour and the ship is rebuild into a sailing vessel. The ship sets off on a year-long voyage with the initial task of evacuating 320 Marshall Islanders from Rongelap Atoll, ravaged by fall-out from United States Nucleair tests 31 years earlier. After this emotional endeavour the Rainbow Warrior visits the American top security military Star Wars base in Kawajalein and the crew hangs a huge banner saying: ‘You can not relocate the world. Stop Star Wars’.
The Rainbow Warrior was then to lead a peace flotilla to Moruroa to protest against nuclear testing by the French. First they went to Auckland harbour to refuel and get the necessary supplies. Three days after arriving, just before midnight on 10 July, two bombs placed by the French secret service sank the ship and crewman and photographer Fernando Pereira is killed. Beyond repair, the ship is now an artificial reef near the New Zealand coast.
RAINBOW WARRIOR TIMELINE
Jan. – May 1978 Londen, purchase, repair and painting the Rainbow Warrior
June 1978 Iceland, whaling. Summer ’79 RW returned twice to iceland
July 1978 Atlantic ocean, nucleair dumping by vessel ‘Gem’
Aug. – Sept. 1978 Spain, La Coruna, whaling
Oct. 1978 Orkney Islands, seals
Feb. 1980 Cherbourg, nucleair transport by the Pacific Swann
March 1980 Barrow-in-furness, nucleair transport by the Pacific Fisher
May 1980 Rotterdam, chemical waste dump
June – Nov. 1980 Spain, 2nd trip whaling, escape from El Ferrol after arrest
March 1981 USA, New Foundland, seals (RW has left Europe for good)
Spring 1981 USA, Georgebank, near Boston, fishing grounds
Summer 1981 USA, Stonington, docking repair
1982 USA, Raritan river, dumping chemical waste
1982 USA, New Foundland, seals
1982 Canada, Saint John, nuclear transport
July 1982 USA east coast (via Panama canal)
1982 Costa Rica
Nov. 1982 Peru, whaling
Start 1983 US west coast, several cities, several actions
June 1983 Pacific, japanese fishing
Juni 1983 Russia, Lorino, whaling
1984 USA, Florida, Jacksonville, repair, sails on RW
May 1985 Nucleair Free Pacific Tour. Rongelap, Marshall Islands evacuation
10 july 1985 New Zealand, Auckland, bombing. The end.