As we analysed our nitrox percentages and carried our gear to the dive boat, the smiles got larger and the adrenaline started to build. We were launching from Whangaroa and travelling 20 minutes out into the Cavalli Islands to the resting place of the legendary ship, the Rainbow Warrior. This was going to be our first wreck dive. We had read articles and watched documentaries about the ship and the events leading up to its sinking, but to be honest none of us really knew how we would feel diving around this huge piece of New Zealand history. We geared up and one by one dropped backwards over the side of the boat. In our buddy groups we descended down the buoy line to about 20 meters below the surface.
Turning on our torches, we moved as a group towards the towering shadow. As we got closer, I began to realise how big this ship actually was. This was the Rainbow Warrior. We frog kicked our way along the port hand side of the ship, stopping to check out parts of the rusty, coral encrusted shell – checking cracks and port holes for anything lurking. We had been warned about a few poisonous scorpion fish, which seemed to enjoy hanging out on the deck. Exploring the ship was like nothing I could have imagined. It was dark, eerie and deteriorating but at the same time it was beautiful, colourful and full of life. As we made our way around the ship I poked my head into some of the doors and openings. There were impressive types of fish everywhere I looked.
I felt an incredible sense of awareness pass over me as I remembered Fernando Pereira – the photographer who drowned after the second bomb went off on the side of the ship. Being one of the few people to be able to dive this amazing part of not just New Zealand but world history really hit home. I cannot thank the staff at Auckland Scuba enough for opening my eyes to this new underwater world and I cannot wait for the next opportunity to dive another history-rich wreck, ready to be explored.