•To protest acid rain, aerialists from Greenpeace climbed smokestacks in Czechoslovakia, Canada, Western Europe and the U.S. Last year, other climbers scaled the scaffolded Statue of Liberty to hang a banner reading GIVE ME LIBERTY FROM NUCLEAR WEAPONS STOP TESTING.
•This summer Greenpeacers in West Germany chained themselves to buoys in the Rhine River like real-life Loreleis to point up the dangers of toxic-waste dumping.
•In Washington last month, seven Greenpeace bicyclists blocked a highway bridge to stop a truck loaded with nuclear wastes bound for the Hanford reservation disposal site.
•Shortly before her sinking in Auckland, the Warrior visited Rongelap atoll in the U.S. Pacific trust territory to relocate Micronesian natives believed to have been poisoned 31 years earlier by America's Bravo Series of hydrogen bomb tests at Bikini atoll. When the fallout from the blasts carried to Rongelap, children ran out to play in the new-fallen "snow"—actually radioactive fallout. Today, many natives bear scars on their throats from surgical removal of thyroid tumors caused by radiation. Pereira, in one of his last Greenpeace assignments, photographed that relocation mission.
The Warrior was in New Zealand to lead a flotilla once again to Mururoa, where last spring France detonated its largest underground nuclear warhead to date—a 150-kiloton device, 10 times the force of the U.S. bomb that fell on Hiroshima 40 years ago. France is believed to be working to develop a neutron bomb, a weapon that kills people but leaves property intact.
Secrecy about a neutron bomb might be reason enough for the French defense ministry to be concerned about Greenpeace's presence in the testing area. But another reason for sensitivity may be that because of repeated tests there since the early 1970s, Mururoa may have lost not just its usefulness as a test site but also its very underpinnings.
Mururoa is a coral reef surrounding an oval lagoon 36 miles long and rising only about eight feet above sea level. Some 3,000 people are stationed there. The French bombs are planted in holes as deep as 3,600 feet below the surface. The holes are about five feet in diameter. They are "corked" with some 120 feet of cement to guard against radiation leakage. The atoll has been known to lose as much as three feet in elevation after a blast, and there is concern that at some point it may simply sink into the sea. As a precaution, 30 metal platforms rear up from the coral bedrock, and during tests, the personnel conducting them climb atop the structures to avoid being drowned if the island suddenly sinks beneath them. A 12-foot-high seawall stretches along eight miles of beach to prevent tidal waves caused by the blasts from scouring all human life from the island. Two technicians were drowned in 1979 when an explosion-provoked wave swept them away.
So eroded is the island that it is often compared to Gruyère cheese. As a result, McTaggart is convinced that the French will be forced to abandon Mururoa and already may be planning to shift their tests to Fangataufa atoll, 30 miles away. He believes the French may have wanted to keep Rainbow Warrior and its accompanying flotilla from entering the area as the interisland move was about to be made. After the Warrior's sinking, though, McTaggart could not bring himself to believe that the French had been responsible.
"When our boat was sunk," he said, "it was amazing. So many people said it was the French government, but I said it couldn't be the French government—they couldn't be that stupid."
But McTaggart may have been wrong. French intelligence almost certainly was involved on some level. Whether the French government arranged the sinking or merely sent agents to spy on the 'Peacers remains in question. However, one highly dramatic scenario that emerged from press reports in New Zealand, Australia and France was of a plot hatched last winter in the Elysée Palace itself at meetings involving officials of the DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA. By these press accounts, disputed in considerable part by the Paris government, the first step in l'Affaire Greenpeace was the arrival in New Zealand in late April of a stocky young woman named Frédérique Bonlieu, apparently a French agent. She appears to have infiltrated the New Zealand branch of Greenpeace, passing herself off as an archaeologist with a keen interest in environmental affairs, and spent two weeks with Rainbow Warrior's crew. She asked pointed questions about rentals of boats and diving equipment. Suspicious Greenpeace crewmen reported her actions to the New Zealand police, suggesting that perhaps some dirty work was afoot. The police did some checking and were apparently advised that Bonlieu was indeed a French agent. By then, however, she had left New Zealand, bound for an archaeological dig in Israel. She has since disappeared without a trace and has been identified as Christine Cabon, a 33-year-old lieutenant in the army's special forces.