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Where Rainbow and Birds meet! (New Zealand)

DIVING THE RAINBOW WARRIOR WRECK - Matauri Bay, North Island 1985 - the world had faced a few nuclear bombing tests in the South Pacific. French, American, Russian, Chinese, etc. have made their bizarre atomic bomb contribution to the 'Cold War Scenario'. One incident overshadowed the peaceful protest of GREENPEACE in the nuclear test on Hao Atoll, when French Intelligence agents sneaked into Auckland's harbor to set off a bomb underwater which created a man size hole in the peace keeping ship RAINBOW WARRIOR killing the on board photographer Fernando Pereira. It was an uproar in the world wide media and New Zealand almost broke it's allies ties which France over this incident. Later France had to pay dearly for this 'error' with financial compensation of more than 20 Mio NZ $ to Greenpeace, Pereira's family and New Zealand's government. (source Wikipedia)

One hour drive North of Paihia rests the Wreck of the GREENPEACE 'RAINBOW WARRIOR' in the Matauri Bay.

While hanging out in sunny Paihia, I stepped into the local Dive Shop looking for some ideas to go diving around the 'Bay-Of-Islands' a picturesque location at the NE of North Island. Much can be done outdoors in this unique bay overlooking the Pacific from its protected ports.

Captain Cook was the first Europeans anchoring his ship here in the bay when Maoris (New Zealand indigenous people) ruled the bay. DIVE PAIHIA had a few options for diving around this area including two wreck dives; the 'HMNZS CANTERBURY' and the 'RAINBOW WARRIOR'.

First one was a modern type Frigate ship stripped down to make it safe for wreck diving and second the famous peacekeeping ship of Greenpeace's flagship the 'Rainbow Warrior' which was sunk in the Matauri Bay. Because of its longer time underwater the RW had more grows on its decks and hull and was relatively shallow in 25 meters while the Canterbury was a bit deeper and longer, shortening the bottom diving time. The choice was made - Diving the RAINBOW WARRIOR. Going diving an icon! The next morning all signed up divers gathered in the dive shop and got their gear sorted out. I brought most of my own stuff, but needed tanks and a weight belt. Most divers were fairly young but one or two were in my 'price range' including an obnoxious Norwegian 'lady' who knew everything better then the rest of us. Tried to avoid her as often as possible. We then crammed the bus with divers and gear and headed North to Matauri Bay where the dive boat was waiting for us. Efficiently the divers were geared up and asked to get to the beach were the Zodiac-type boat was launched.

Gangway of the ship inviting some reef fish for a walk.

The dive went smooth, nobody got lost or left behind. I mention that because the visibility was low and without a geographical reference (wall, reef) someone could have been lost easily. I filmed at the bottom of the ship looking for some attractive fishes like; morays or king fish, but with the exception of a scarred Scorpion fish and a few Damsels the bottom was clean. It was a shorter vessel too, so the dive could cover most of the ship. Over the bow and into the deck's opening I found more sea creatures but none were unique. The divers swam into an opening in the hull and thru upper chambers looking for clues of the terror act created thirty two years ago. Because we dived a U-dive profile, meaning we dived down to the bottom and remaining there until we got up to the decks our time was up early and slowly accented along the anchor line to the surface. During our Surface Interval ( SI time on surface to degas from Nitrogen overload in our body) our skipper anchored the boat in a leeward bay overlooking the beautiful Matauri Bay with its numerous islets and islands. We had lunch and a very informative speech by the captain about the terror act in 1985. The speech made our dive even more memorable and we applauded our captain for his well told stories.

Lunch break on shore with a beautiful view overlooking Matauri Bay. © Beat J Korner

Our second dive was in much shallower water and we were looking for Eagle Rays and Morays. The visibility was less than eight meters so we must have missed a few encounters.

Time to move on to continue my mission of filming wild life. Next Muriwai, a National Park that attracts thousands of Gannets, a sea bound bird about the size of a very large sea gull or a smaller version of an albatross (pardon my non-scientific comparison).

They belong to the sea bird family of 'Boobies' (yeah right, not does ones) named after the Spanish word Bobo for 'Clown', because of the bird's funny looking foot-lifting performance to impress their female counter part. Also their feet look a bit bluish, also reminding of a Bobo. In early spring they nest along Muriwai's steep cliffs and raise their off springs.

Part of their greeting and reuniting ceremony is, rubbing their beaks and the male lifting its clown-looking feet as high as possible.

While observing these amazing looking birds I kept the camera rolling. Maybe 500 images and one hour video taken in a view hours observing them. Note the beautiful 'mascara' around their beaks and eyes. Few facts about Gannets: • Wingspan up to 2 meters • Live up to 35 years • Have no external nostrils but inside the beak! • Can dive vertically into water with a speed of 100 km/hr. • Have special air sacks in their face and chest (under the skin) to cushioning the dive impact.

Next: Coromandel Peninsula SE of Auckland

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