The three-masted vessel was built from the hull of the deep sea fishing ship Grampian Fame. Built in Yorkshire and launched in 1957 she was originally 44 metres long and powered by steam. She was extended to 55.2 m in 1966. Greenpeace gave the vessel new masts, gaff rigged, a new engine and a number of environmentally low-impact systems to handle waste, heating and hot water. She was officially launched in Hamburg on July 10 1989, the anniversary of the sinking of her predecessor.
The First Rainbow Warrior
The first Rainbow Warrior, a craft of 40 metres and 418 tonnes, was originally the MAFF trawler Sir William Hardy, launched in 1955. She was acquired for £40,000 and was renovated over four months, then re-launched on April 29 1978 as the Rainbow Warrior. She was named after a Native American prophecy. The engines were replaced in 1981 and the ship was converted with a ketch rig in 1985.
In 1985, she had travelled to New Zealand to lead a flotilla of yachts protesting against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. During previous nuclear tests at Mururoa, protest ships had been boarded by French commandos after sailing inside the shipping exclusion zone around the atoll. With the 1985 tests, Greenpeace had intended to monitor the impact of nuclear tests and place protesters on the island to do this. The French Government infiltrated the New Zealand organisation and discovered these plans.
The Rainbow Warrior was sunk just before midnight on July 10 1985 by two explosive devices attached to the hull by operatives of French intelligence (DGSE). Of the twelve people on board, one, photographer Fernando Pereira, was drowned when he attempted to retrieve his equipment.
The New Zealand Police immediately initiated a homicide inquiry into the sinking. With the assistance of the New Zealand public, and an intense media focus, the police quickly established the movements of the bombers. On July 12 1985, two of the six bombers were found, interviewed at length, arrested and sent to trial, and although they were operating under orders, eventually imprisoned for 5 years. The others, though identified and although three were interviewed by the New Zealand Police on Norfolk Island, where they had escaped in the yacht Ouvea, were not arrested due to lack of evidence. The Ouvea subsequently sailed for Nouméa but disappeared. Most of the agents remain in French government service. In 1987, under heavy international pressure, the French government paid $8.16 million compensation to Greenpeace.
The ship was refloated on August 21 1985 and moved to a naval harbour for forensic examination. Although the hull had been recovered, the damage was too extensive for economic repair and the vessel was scuttled in Matauri Bay, Cavalli Islands on December 2 1987, to serve as a dive wreck and fish sanctaury. The move is seen as a fitting end for the vessel.