The Rainbow Warrior (sometimes unofficially Rainbow Warrior I) was a former UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) trawler later purchased by the environmental pressure group Greenpeace. She was active in supporting a number of Greenpeace protest activities against seal hunting, whaling and nuclear weapons testing during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was sunk whilst in harbour in New Zealand by operatives of the French intelligence service (DGSE) on 10 July 1985, killing one of the activists.
She travelled to New Zealand to lead a flotilla of yachts protesting against French nuclear testing at the 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 into the shipping exclusion zone around the atoll. For the 1985 tests Greenpeace intended to monitor the impact of nuclear tests and place protesters on the island to illegally monitor the blasts. The French Government infiltrated the Canada-based organisation and discovered these plans.
A murder enquiry began and a number of the French agents were tracked and arrested. The revelations of French involvement caused a political scandal and the French minister of defence Charles Hernu resigned. The captured French agents were imprisoned, but later transferred to French custody and subsequently released. After facing international pressure France agreed to pay compensation to Greenpeace, and later admissions from the former head of the DGSE revealed that three teams had carried out the bombings. In addition to those successfully prosecuted, a two-man team had carried out the actual bombing but their identities have never been officially confirmed.
The wreck of the Rainbow Warrior was refloated on 21 August 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 in the Cavalli Islands, New Zealand on 2 December 1987, to serve as a dive wreck and fish sanctuary. The move was seen as a fitting end for the vessel. Indeed, the hull is now covered with a large colony of vari-coloured sea anemones. The masts were salvaged and now stand outside the Dargaville Museum. A second ship, named Rainbow Warrior after the first vessel, was acquired in 1989.