For a long time before I had even planned on coming to New Zealand I have wanted to dive the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior. Its not often that a shipwreck can claim to have such a rich story associated with it.
Built in 1955 Hall, Russell & Company in Aberdeen, Scotland. The Rainbow Warrior started life as a fishing trawler UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. She worked at this until 1977 when she was brought by the conservation group Greenpeace.
At the time of purchase the Rainbow Warrior underwent a refurbishment in preparation for her new job protecting the seas. In 1985 the ship was active protesting against nuclear testing in the Pacific and it had come to New Zealand with the intention of leading a flotilla of yachts north in protest of the French nuclear testing at the Mururoa Atoll.
The French had obviously never read the classic book “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. So they decided to send a team of commandos into New Zealand to deal with the matter under the name Opération Satanique.
While moored at Marsden wharf in Auckland, French operatives attached explosives to the vessel below the waterline and these where detonated in a series of two blasts 10 minutes apart.
After the first blast most of the crew left the sinking ship, but the photographer Fernando Pereira returned to get camera equipment from his cabin
After an investigation, the French plot was uncovered and it became an international scandal. A friendly country had sent operatives into a country to commit an act of terrorism.
The French Government after much resistance paid reparations to the New Zealand Government, Greenpeace and the family of Fernando Pereira. The incident forced a shift in political alliances and the is still a lot of ill will about the incident that lasts to this day.
The Rainbow Warrior was refloated after the initial sinking to aid the investigation. But the damage was too much to repair so she was towed North to the Cavalli Islands and sunk as an artificial reef in 1987.
Today the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior sits upright on a sandy bottom in 30m of water. Over the last 33 years in her final resting place the wreck has become encrusted with large groups of jewel anemones, kelp, sponges and other marine life.
Huge schools of fish dance around the wreck, combined with a full compliment of “Big Eyes” or “Bullseyes” taking refuge in the dark interior. The wreck has plenty to offer and a Grey Moray and a Crested Blennie were among some of the other highlights on our dive there.
The Rainbow Warrior is 40m long which is just perfect! Given the depth after a couple of dives you can still walk away feeling like you got to see most of the wreck.
Doorways, hatches, and holes in the wreck offer ample penetration opportunities for those properly equipped.I felt some of the doorways were skinny or I am just too fat.
So, I would love the opportunity to come back one day and dive it side mount and I could feel a little less squishy swimming through the tighter holes.
The Rainbow Warrior is 40m long which is just perfect! Given the depth after a couple of dives you can still walk away feeling like you got to see the majority of the wreck. Doorways, hatches and holes in the wreck offer ample penetration opportunities for those properly equipped.
I felt some of the doorways were skinny or perhaps I am just too fat. So I would love the opportunity to come back one day and dive it side mount. So I feel a little less squishy swimming through the tighter holes.
We dived the wreck with Paihia Dive after doing the HMNZS Canterbury with them and once again the service was top class. They keep a boat up at Matauri Bay specially for visiting the wreck with a 40 minute car trip from the shop. Followed by a 5 – 10 minute ride out to the Rainbow Warrior itself.
Visibility on our visit was 12 – 14m with that light deep blue hue of water most divers dream about. A magic day on the water and a dive that will stick in my memory for a long time to come 🙂