Little Bits of History

Not at All Peaceful

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 10, 2014
Rainbow Warrior after the bombing in Aukland Harbor

Rainbow Warrior after the bombing in Auckland Harbor

July 10, 1985: The Rainbow Warrior sinks. Between 1955 and 1977, she was called Sir William Hardy and was part of the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. She was purchased by Greenpeace, an environmental organization, and became Rainbow Warrior in 1978. She was registered in Amsterdam where Greenpeace is headquartered. She was the organization’s first ship and worked around the globe fundraising to support environmental campaigns. In 1985, she was in the Pacific campaigning against nuclear testing. In May, 300 Marshall Islanders were provided transport from Rongelap Atoll which had suffered nuclear pollution from American nuclear tests at the Pacific Proving Grounds.

Afterward, she headed to New Zealand. The plan was to lead a flotilla of yachts to protest against French nuclear testing scheduled at the Moruroa Atoll of French Polynesia. During previous tests, protest ships had been boarded by French commandos. The plan was for Greenpeace to monitor environmental impacts as well as to place protestors (illegally) on the island to measure impact there. French agents posed as supporters or tourists and gained access to the ship. French DGSE (intelligence service) agent Christine Cabon volunteered to work in the Greenpeace office in Auckland and secretly monitored communications with Rainbow Warrior from there. She also collected maps and other intelligence crucial to the sinking.

On this day, two DGSE divers attached two limpet mines to the ship berthed at Marsden Wharf in Auckland. The first left a car-sized hole when it detonated at 11:38 PM. The intention was to cripple the ship but leave enough time for evacuation. The crew did not respond as anticipated and when the second explosion went off at 11:45, photographer Fernando Pereira was below decks retrieving his camera equipment. He was killed in the bombing. The other ten crew members survived. The Rainbow Warrior sunk in four minutes. Known in France as Operation Satanique, it was a public relations disaster. At the time, France and New Zealand were allies. France initially denied everything and condemned it as a terrorist act.

New Zealand mounted one of the country’s largest police investigations. Most of the DSGE team fled the island but two agents, posing as a Swiss married couple were eventually found to be French agents. Three other agents were arrested in Australia but could not be held for legal reasons. The commander of the operation escaped and was unknown until he admitted his role in 2005. The perpetrators were collected up and found guilty in a court presided over by the Secretary-General of the UN. Sentences were meted out and subverted with the “married” couple held for manslaughter eventually returning to the French Army and receiving promotions. France was fined and paid New Zealand NZ $13 million (USD$6.5 million). In 1987, France was finally coerced into paying Greenpeace $8.16 million.

The planet doesn’t require saving, and actually hasn’t asked Greenpeace to save it. – Felix Dennis

I think it’s great that we have organisations like Greenpeace. In a pluralistic society, we want to have people who point out all the problems that the Earth could encounter. But we need to understand that they are not presenting a full and rounded view. – Bjorn Lomborg

The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future. – Marya Mannes

For 200 years we’ve been conquering Nature.  Now we’re beating it to death. – Tom McMillan

Also on this day: London Bridge is Falling Down – In 1212, one of London’s “Great Fires” begins on London Bridge.
Tsunami – In 1958, a 1,724 foot high tsunami struck in Alaska.
Death Valley –  In 1913, the highest temperature was recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Carolyn Keene? – In 1905, Mildred Augustine was born.

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