Story: Shipwrecks

Page 6. The Rainbow Warrior and Mikhail Lermontov

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Rainbow Warrior

The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was sunk in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985 by French saboteurs. The French government feared that the ship would draw attention to French nuclear testing at Moruroa Atoll. French secret-service agents attached and exploded two limpet mines on the hull of the ship, creating a massive hole and rendering the vessel useless. Photographer Fernando Pereira was killed in the explosion.

This event sparked a diplomatic row between New Zealand and France. Prime Minister David Lange described it as ‘a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism’.

Agents Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur were arrested, and each was given a 10-year sentence. Within a year the pair were sent to French Polynesia, and from there they soon returned to France.

The Mikhail Lermontov

On 16 February 1986 the Soviet cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov was sailing through the Marlborough Sounds to Milford Sound with 738 passengers and crew aboard. At 5.37 p.m. the ship hit rocks off Cape Jackson.

With its hull sliced open in three places, the 155-metre vessel limped towards Port Gore, where she finally sank at 10.45 p.m. A flotilla of small craft, the inter-island ferry Arahura and the LPG tanker Tarihiko rescued all but one of the passengers and crew. Refrigeration engineer Pavel Zaglyadimov drowned.

Today, the liner lies on its side 30 metres below the sea. Since its sinking, the Mikhail Lermontov has claimed the lives of three recreational divers; two of the bodies have never been recovered.

How to cite this page:

Gerard Hutching, 'Shipwrecks - The Rainbow Warrior and Mikhail Lermontov', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/shipwrecks/page-6 (accessed 19 April 2019)

Story by Gerard Hutching, published 12 Jun 2006