Rainbow Warrior visits Apollo Bay

Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace vessel is conducting a campaign against the proposed exploration and drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight by a multinational energy company. It’s on a mission to publicise the beautiful and unique marine environment in the Bight, and the remarkable dangers posed to the Bight and the life in it by oil exploration and oil drilling.  Rainbow Warrior spent four days anchored about a mile offshore at Apollo Bay, during which period local protests were conducted. It set sail for the Great Australian Bight on Sunday evening, continuing its campaign.

I am strongly opposed to the any oil exploration/drilling in the Bight.

The Norwegian oil giant Equinor (formerly Statoil), a multinational energy company, already owns permits to explore in the area. But before it can proceed (which it hopes to do in 2019) it must gain the approval and submit to the regulation of the national regulator of offshore petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters – the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority. Noises from politicians to date seem focused only on jobs and tax revenue, with no real regard for environmental concerns.

An oil spill in the Bight could be an environmental disaster for the entire southern and south eastern coast of Australia with no precedent and no solution. The campaign of Greenpeace and communities around Australia and the world, is aimed at preventing the exploration, and of course the drilling.  Greenpeace has produced a lot of detailed information on the issue, and I do not propose to even attempt to summarise it. Google Greenpeace, Great Australian Bight and oil.  There is a lot of material out there. A good start might be:


This blog post is essentially photographic, to share an insight into this wonderful vessel and its capabilities, obtained while it was in Apollo Bay and courtesy of a tour of the ship.

I can’t resist sharing a few interesting facts about the ship:

  • Rainbow Warrior III was purpose-built for Greenpeace and was completed in 2011
  • 855 tonne sailing ship
  • 30 berths
  • 59 metres long
  • the mast tops are 55m above the water line
  • it is an A frame staysail schooner
  • it is the largest ship to have A frame masts, which permit a lot more sail to be used (it can carry 5 sails)
  • wind power is the principal source of energy for its travels. It has electric and diesel backups
  • it can cruise at 13knots under sail
  • the sails can be remotely deployed and stowed from the bridge, using hydraulic systems
  • it has a cruising range of up to 9,500 nautical miles.
  • it has a helipad (and storage for a helicopter on deck)
  • inflatable dinghies can be launched in rough seas
  • the captain is a woman from the Netherlands, Hettie Geenan, who worked on the ship since 1999 (starting as a third mate), finally becoming captain in 2016.
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The Rainbow Warrior anchored 1500m or so off the beach at the bottom of my street.  I took this photo from Tuxion beach with a telephoto lens. There were quite a few days of strong winds and big seas when it first arrived.
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The weather improved during the stay, and on their final day in town, free tours of the boat were offered to anybody interested. RW provided IRBs and crews to ferry anybody who signed up for a tour to and from the ship.  Places were limited because time was limited – with the ship weighing anchor just before 6pm on Sunday.
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The ship was anchored roughly in line with the Wild Dog Creek valley. This was a Rainbow Warrior IRB ferrying those doing the tour.
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The cylindrical object on the right of the mast is to carry people up and down the mast if required.  It is raised and lowered using power. Much better than climbing using ladder hand holds.
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The helipad. Two of the masts rear stays would need to be removed for a helicopter to land here. Even then it would be tight.
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This is the entrance to the helicopter storage area on the aft deck, adjacent to the helipad. It was decorated in the campaign colours for the tours by locals.
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The two A frame masts are huge and magnificent.
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The various sails can be seen here, furled neatly in preparation for being deployed hydraulically by controls in the bridge.
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This is the second mate, a personable Italian who loves his job.  He spends 3 months at sea, and 3 months on land. The bridge is paperless, with all charts in digital form. This requires complete backup systems independently powered.
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That small wheel is the helm.
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The view from the main seat, looking towards the business end. What a job. I was impressed by how much room there is on a ship’s bridge, compared to the necessarily compressed environment of an airliner cockpit.
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On the left is a ship, on the right a boat. It was explained to me that a boat can be stowed on a ship, but not vice versa.
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Ship with a mission.
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Light winds and calm seas on the Rainbow Warrior’s last day at Apollo Bay.
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The view up Wild Dog Creek valley from the stern of the Rainbow Warrior at anchor. The two IRBs are from the RW.
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There was a lot of local interest in the ship. When it first arrived, a chap I know paddled his SUP board out to the ship (the sea wasn’t calm that day), and was heartily welcomed and taken on board for a look around and a cup of tea. Nice.
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I only had the approximate departure time for the ship on Sunday, so I had the opportunity to see the ship swinging slowly back and forth in the breeze while I waited for it to set sail. The hills were in shade under local clouds and mist, while intermittently the ship was brilliantly lit by the late afternoon sun.
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I couldn’t have ordered better light. Bright sun on the ship please, and dim the light on everything in the background.
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Pointing into wind, with Skenes Creek township in the background.
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The anchors came up, and so did the sails in remarkably quick time. This was taken from Point Bunbury, as Cape Patten was about to disappear behind the bow of the Rainbow Warrior.
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As can be seen, there were no whitecaps on the sea at this point, yet the ship was making remarkably good time as it silently forged south powered only by its 5 sails. A beautiful sight and concept.
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Cliffs and dunes weren’t exactly lined with locals waving farewell, but there were more than a few.
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Starting to heel as it picks up stronger winds out of the shadow of the land. The reef in the foreground is Little Henty Reef, which is home to  a colony of Australian fur seals. They seemed indifferent. If only they knew – their fate is bound up in the success or failure of the mission pursued by the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace and many others.
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A very modern ship, but a true sailing ship.  A pinnacle of modern marine engineering. That this ship is funded by those who care about the environment and the forces that would harm it, gives one optimism about humans and the future at least some of them seek to forge for the benefit of all.

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