Monday, December 17, 2012

Diving the Rainbow Warrior

The stunning Cavalli Islands

Last weekend my friend Edine and I drove up to Paihia in New Zealand's subtropical Northland.  The drive from Mount Maunganui took us approximately 7 hours - but it was so worth it.

We stayed with friends of Edine's (and now mine) who spend their summers in a little harbourside village called Opua.  Cindy is a fellow Canadian, from Vancouver Island, and she is married to her Kiwi husband Terry.  They are amazing people.  They opened their home to us as if we were their family.  

The reason for our trip was to dive the wreck of the famous Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior, which just so happens to be Canadian (I would like to add).

In 1985 New Zealand was basking in its position as leader of the anti-nuclear movement. As a country it had clearly punched above its weight. Then, just before midnight on the evening of 10 July two explosions ripped through the hull of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, which was moored at Marsden Wharf in Auckland. A Portuguese crew member, Fernando Pereira, was killed in the explosions. The Rainbow Warrior had been involved in protests over French nuclear testing in the Pacific. French Secret Service (DGSE) agents were sent to prevent it leaving for another protest campaign at Mururoa Atoll.

Two DGSE officers, Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, were arrested on 24 July. Having been charged with murder, both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. The case was a source of considerable embarrassment to the French government. While the attack was on an international organisation and not the New Zealand nation as such, most New Zealanders did not make such a distinction. The fact that the attack was carried out on New Zealand territory by a supposed friend produced a sense of outrage and a serious deterioration in relations between New Zealand and France.
France used its influence to threaten New Zealand's access to the important European Economic Community market, and New Zealand exports to France were boycotted. New Zealanders reacted in a similar manner to French imports. Eventually, both countries agreed to allow the United Nations to mediate a settlement.
Almost a year after the bombing, on 8 July 1986, United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar announced, in a binding decision, that New Zealand would receive an apology and compensation of $13 million from France. France was also ordered not to interfere with New Zealand's trade negotiations.
Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart were to serve their sentences in full on Hao Atoll in French Polynesia. In what was considered to be the final insult, both were released early: Alain Marfart returned to France because of 'illness' in 1987, while Dominique Prieur was repatriated in May 1988 because she was pregnant. Both were honoured, decorated and promoted upon their return home.
This incident did much to promote what was described as New Zealand's 'silent war of independence' and was central to an upsurge in New Zealand nationalism. There was a sense of having to 'go it alone' as traditional allies such as the United States and Britain sat on their hands while France worked to block New Zealand exports. The failure of Britain and the United States to condemn this act of terrorism hardened support for a more independent foreign policy line.

On its bow she proudly carried a dove of peace carrying an olive branch – never leaving any doubt about her non-violent mission. All around her hull, there were the striking colours of the rainbow.

Greenpeace is an international environmental organisation founded in Canada in 1971. It is well known for its campaigns to stop nuclear testing and whaling, as well as its stand on other environmental issues such as bottom trawling, global warming, ancient forest destruction and genetic engineering. The organisation's official mission statement says that:
'Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.'

Two years after the bombing, on December 12th 1987, the Rainbow Warrior was refloated, towed out to just off the Cavalli Islands and scuttled in 30 metres of water.  Today she has formed an artificial reef which is an ever growing host to marine life. The wreck is splendid with many coloured anemones clinging to the rails and provides a home to schools of Golden Snapper, Kingfish and John Dory. Divers flock to dive on one of the world's most famous wrecks. 

The Rainbow Warrior was named after a North American Cree Indian prophecy: “When the world is sick and dying, the people will rise up like Warriors of the Rainbow…”  This prophesies that when man has destroyed the world through his greed the Warriors of the Rainbow will rise again to save it.  I absolutely love this.  The Rainbow Warrior reminds us still that this world needs to change.  It’s a spirit that will always live on.

We went out with Paihia Dive - I'd highly recommend them to anyone.  It was an amazing dive and the staff were professional and relaxed.

We had a stunning day for it and there were only 6 of us on the boat.  I was feeling a bit apprehensive about doing a dive so early in the season but my new wetsuit kept me nice and warm.  We descended to 28 metres with visibility of up to 10 metres.  The colours of the anemones were a true testament to it's name.   In it's grave, the Rainbow Warrior is breathtaking.

Diving is meditation in motion.  It creates a deep sense of serenity and peace.  I'm happiest under the sea.  It feels like flying.   I love the quiet, listening only to my breath and the bubbles I breathe as I exhale.  I'm almost certain it lowers my blood pressure.  I instantly feel calm but at the same time I can feel the adrenalin surge.  I feel so alive swimming with fish.  I must be a mermaid.

My little friend Dory
I was in awe of the fish life living inside of the ship.  At one stage a fish like Dory from Finding Nemo came to check me out.  I just stared into it's eyes for ages, I swear it was communicating with me.  It made me rethink whether I should be eating fish.   I felt quite emotional looking into this fish's eyes.  I may need to go vegan.  My dive master reckons I was experiencing narcosis which slows mental and physical reactions and makes you feel drunk.  She said I had a huge smile on my face the entire time.  I have to admit, I was in heaven.  We saw puffer fish, scorpion fish, pig fish, big eyes, two spot demoiselle, red moki, porae, blue mao mao, sandagger rasse, John Dory and moray eels.   Edine and I were lucky enough to see a stingray right at the end of our second dive because we still had air left while the others had to go back to the boat.  

We stopped at a beach for lunch before our second dive.  There were already people there, they were a young couple from Auckland sailing around for a few days.  He gave us a proper native greeting.  

The Natives are friendly
I am constantly in awe of this country and what it has to offer.  It's stunningly beautiful and it's not over populated.  People come here for the lifestyle, not the money.  It takes my breath away.  It's a place where you can just forget the rest of the world and the craziness that is happening out there.  It's like living in a happiness bubble.

So when we finished our day out diving, we got back to Cindy and Terry's place and started making dinner when Terry came in and asked if we'd like to go out sailing on a yacht for the night.  Edine  and I looked at each other briefly before saying "Yes" in unison.  There was no time for showers or dinner, we packed for the night and headed down to the marina where Darren and his daughter Jordan were waiting for us.  
What an amazing day.  We are so lucky to be here.

Now onto our next adventure...

Darren and Jordan greeting us with cold beer.

This is the first time I've ever been out on a yacht overnight.  Darren and his family own a company in Opua called "The Great Escape" which hires out yachts and runs 5 day yachting experiences where you learn how to sail and then get to take the boats out on your own.  Bloody great way to spend a week.

But for Edine and I, this was an amazing day.  Diving the Rainbow Warrior and finishing with a sail around the Cavalli Islands and anchoring in a beautiful bay for the night.  We got back the next morning, enjoyed breakfast overlooking Opua harbour with our hosts and then set off on our 7 hour journey home.  

Three days was a perfect mini break away from routine.  I love road trips.  Edine was the DJ and we sang at the top of our lungs.  Girl road trips are the best.  

As much as I love my life, I still need the occasional reminder just how amazing it is.  I get caught up with what I don't have sometimes.  Opportunities like this snap me out of that pretty quick.  I often think about how nice it would be to have someone in my life to share these moments with, but the truth is, these experiences are for me right now.  I deserve them.  My relationships have always been so draining, mainly because I allowed them to be.  My career is based around giving to others and I've got to balance it out by being available to get back.   It's not my time to share with just one person yet.   The universe has been pretty clear about that.

Sailing into the sunset.
This was just what I needed.  Spontaneity is the best.

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