Sunday, December 11, 2011

A ship to explore the confines of ethics

The history of ocean conquest and exploration is the history of many famous ships. But not all ships had the same importance. Many a ship is known worldwide and honoured in its country of origin, but it did not mean any advance for humanity. We are talking about ships used to conquer, plunder and colonize new territories. Just ask the Caribbean Indians about the Santa María ship, the New England natives about the Mayflower ship or, not so long ago, the fishermen of the Red Sea about the Spanish fishing vessel Alakrana. However, in the list of famous ships there are some others which deserve greater honour for their contribution to human progress: the Beagle with Charles Darwin on board, the Fram carrying the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen or the Calypso operated by Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Today, as it is the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace, we would like to talk about another famous ship, the Rainbow Warrior. Greenpeace named three ships the same to sail the seas and the oceans of the world with the aim to study the impact of human beings on the environment. But contrary to other vessels for scientific research, the Rainbow Warrior not only reports environmental crimes, but also gets involved and tries to stop some atrocities performed in our oceans. Its most well-known actions include the protest against whale hunting, which is indiscriminate and can cause animal extinction, as well as reporting oil spilling or dumping, and the boycott attempts against nuclear testing in the ocean. However, the Rainbow Warrior also performs other actions with less media coverage but nonetheless important, like studying the impact of trawling in New Zealand or the glacier retreat in Norway, playing a very significant role in the fight to protect our ecosystems.
As we said before, the Rainbow Warrior is not one ship, but three, which were not contemporary thanks to the French government. The story is sadly notorious. In 1978, Greenpeace purchased its first ship, a former UK research vessel built in 1995 which was used as a trawler in the Northern Sea. Greenpeace named this first ship Rainbow Warrior after a legend of north-American natives, quite well-known among eco-friendly activists. This ship took part in many environmental actions around the world. In 1985, the first Rainbow Warrior intended to enter French waters to prevent nuclear tests in the Mururoa Atoll, in the French Polynesia. It was anchored in New Zealand, but it could not weigh anchor: agents of the French intelligence service (the so-called General Directorate for External Security) put a bomb on the ship to sink it. A photographer of the Greenpeace expedition, Fernando Pereira, died in this terrorist attack, the first ever recorded in New Zealand. The responsibility for the attack is not a conspiratorial paranoia: the agents of the French intelligence service were judged and sentenced in New Zealand and their names are written down in history.
The wreck of the Rainbow Warrior was refloated, but it was impossible to repair, so Greenpeace decided to scuttle it in Cavalli Islands to serve as an artificial reef of marine life. Four years later, in 1989, Greenpeace bought another ship named Rainbow Warrior II and in 2011 it was given to the NGO Friendship to become a hospital ship. Today, the Rainbow Warrior III has set sail in a presentation tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace. If you want to meet it, from December 14th to 19th it will be anchored in Barcelona. If you are not living in Barcelona, check the next stopovers at Greenpeace website. And if you see it, you will realise that it is not a huge, spectacular ship, but it is huge for its meaning: it is a symbol of the next step forward of our species. We cannot resign ourselves to knowing what’s going on around the world, we should take action.

Santa María:
Greenpeace 40th anniversary:
Rainbow Warrior:
Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior I:
Fernando Pereira, the Greenpeace photographer killed by the French intelligence:



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