Rainbow Warrior II retires, finds second life as floating hospital

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Feature Story - 2011-08-16
Today Greenpeace said goodbye to an old friend. At a ceremony in Singapore today our iconic protest vessel the Rainbow Warrior was transferred to Friendship, a Bangladesh based NGO which will refit it for use as a hospital ship. It's the beginning of a new chapter for a vessel that’s been with us for 22 good years, traversing the world's oceans in defence of the environment.

Rainbow Warrior II in South Korea


Rainbow Warrior II handover ceremony

The ship will be renamed “Rongdhonu”, Bengali for Rainbow. Serving the coastal belt of Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, the Rongdhonu will deliver primary and secondary medical assistance to some of the most vulnerable communities of the world, communities that have little or no access to basic health care facilities. The Rongdhonu will also serve as an emergency medical ship around the region, enabling Friendship to bring medical aid to those areas which are already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Greenpeace, however, will not be long without a Rainbow Warrior. Construction of a new Warrior, the third to bear the name, is nearly complete. The vessel will join the Greenpeace fleet in October as we celebrate our 40th anniversary.

Rainbow Warrior II in New York, 1989

The Rainbow Warrior II first sailed for Greenpeace in 1989 and replaced the original Rainbow Warrior, after it was bombed and sunk by French government agents in 1985. In over two decades the ship has challenged the legal system and won, confronted environmental crimes, blocked shipments of illegal timber from the world’s rainforests, opposed nuclear weapons testing and sailed against over fishing, whaling, war, global warming, and other environmental crimes on every ocean. More recently, the Rainbow Warrior travelled to the waters off the coast of Fukushima and was used to carry out radiation sampling.

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Speaking at the handover ceremony, Mike Fincken, Captain of the Rainbow Warrior II, quoted the Cree Indian prophecy from which the ship got its name: “There will come a time when the Earth grows sick and when it does a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the world who believe in deeds and not words. They will work to heal it...they will be known as the "Warriors of the Rainbow’.” Adding, “This ship has carried people from around the world and has stood as an icon of hope over pessimism and as an emblem of action over complacency, it is time to pass that task on."

Greenpeace East Asia activist Lang Xiyu was also there to witness the handover. Earlier this year Lang Xiyu was in Hong Kong looking on the Rainbow Warrior from the pier when he met an Australian Greenpeace donor and volunteer of over 10 years. Together they walked the ship for one of the last times. Lang Xiyu said the Australian man was greatly moved. "He solemnly ran his hand over each section as if sensing the environmental history imbued in every part: the mast, the rigging, the wooden dolphin of the boat's bow. Rain was falling on him, but he seemed completely unaware and reluctant to leave."

Construction of the Rainbow Warrior III

...As the first purpose built environmental campaigning vessel the new Rainbow Warrior will be one of a kind. She will be a model of green ship construction, with A-frame sails that allow for minimal use of her highly efficient diesel engines, keeping her carbon ‘footprint’ low. Head here for an on board virtual tour, and help the Rainbow Warrior's proud legacy continue by making a donation to the new Rainbow Warrior and joining the Facebook group "New Hands on Deck".

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