Thirty years since ‘Rainbow Warrior’ bombing

Thirty years ago today, the Greenpeace ship, The Rainbow Warrior, was bombed by French agents in Auckland harbour. A Portuguese-Dutch photographer, Fernando Pereira, was killed.

The Rainbow Warrior stopped briefly in Auckland. It was on its way to Mururoa atoll, a small island in the Pacific which the French were using for their nuclear tests.

Two French agents attached 2 limpet mines to the base of the ship. The first one exploded at 11.38pm. The crew left the ship safely but soon after, Pereira went back to get his camera gear and at that time, the second mine blew a huge hole in the ship and killed him.

The two French agents were caught but at least 4 others escaped. Eventually, it was discovered that the French government had sent the agents. The French foreign minister resigned, the leader of their spy agency was fired and the French government apologised. They also paid $13m to New Zealand. Some of that money has been used for scholarships for students studying French and for other ways to improve relationships with France. The French government also paid Greenpeace $8.16m for the loss of their ship.

The two agents were sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter. They were sent to a small French atoll in the Pacific but they spent less than 2 years there. One returned to France for medical treatment, and the woman agent became pregnant after her husband visited.

The ship is now a dive site in Northland. It is listed as one of the 10 best sites in the world for divers.


• agents – spies; they worked for the DGSE (Directorate General of External Security)
• limpet mines – mines attached to the ship by magnets
• eventually – after some time
• fired – sacked, lost his job
• manslaughter – accidental murder

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