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The Rainbow Warrior Memorial, New Zealand dive site - Courtesy of Malik Chibah

Fish on the hull of the Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand dive site - Courtesy of John Liddiard

The bow of the Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand dive site - Courtesy of John Liddiard

Hole caused by the explosion on the Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand dive site - Courtesy of Malik Chibah

the Rainbow Warrior, New Zealand dive site - Courtesy of Rik Vercoe

Scuba Diving in New Zealand

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Rainbow Warrior

Location: Cavalli Islands

Description: Greenpeace Flagship

Length: 40 metres approx. (130 feet)

Depth: 26 metres + (85 feet)

Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)

Rating: *****

On the 10th of July 1985 at 11.49pm French Secret Service agents bombed and sank the Rainbow Warrior whilst she was docked in Auckland harbour. Greenpeace protestors had been preparing her for departure to Moruroa Atoll in the South Pacific where the French were planning continued nuclear testing. Two limpet mines were attached to the hull and exploded within two minutes of one another resulting in the death of Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira. Pereira went below decks to try and retrieve his cameras after the first explosion and was still in his cabin when the second mine exploded - he drowned. The French initially denied any involvement even though more than a dozen secret service agents were in the country at the time. After increased pressure the French Prime Minister finally admitted that the French Secret Service had been ordered to sink the Rainbow Warrior. Two agents were being held in Auckland and they took the fall, charged with arson and murder. The agents were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for manslaughter and arson. The French were ordered to pay New Zealand $13 million NZ dollars and apologise. An even bigger insult that was the two agents found guilty were actually sent to French Polynesia to Hao Atoll to serve their short sentences. These sentences were unlikely to have been completed and it's much more likely that these agents were back in France before the year was out. Rumours persist that they were smuggled back to France after serving 2 years of their sentences.

The Rainbow Warrior was re-floated after the attack and transported to an Auckland naval base where it was decided to scuttle the ship as it was beyond repair. On 14th December 1987 she was re-sunk at Motutapere Island. She sits upright on the seabed and because of the small size of this wreck (around 40 metres in length) and relatively shallow location (26 metres to the seabed) it is possible to do a couple of circuits of her in one dive. She is covered in very colourful pink and blue anemones and a great deal of marine life. Her bow rails provide a picturesque backdrop for photographers. The wreck drawing attached here is of a much more complete Rainbow Warrior of days past and nowadays most of the upper cabin area is now gone, along with the masts. The blast hole in the keel is still clearly visible on the starboard side and it is possible to fully penetrate the wreck. During our diving here in 2000 we easily found the kitchen and were able to make our way through the upper rooms. I suspect that this wreck will continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate but she really was an awesome dive.

Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor


Rainbow Warrior Resources



I haven't been yet but sounds like a great dive for me and my Dad.

Owen 12 | 24/01/2009



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