Fernando Pereira was drowned in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. Born in Portugal in 1950, Fernando migrated to The Netherlands, married a Dutch woman, Joanne, became a Dutch citizen and had two children, Marelle and Paul. Marelle has grown up to become an outspoken advocate for Greenpeace and on environmental issues.
Fernando Pereira, the Greenpeace campaigner who became a martyr, was popular with his Rainbow Warrior crewmates. A 35-year-old Portuguese-born Dutch photographer, he is remembered for his joie de vivre – his happiness, enthusiasm and love for fun.
“Such a lovely guy,” says Dutch Greenpeace director Hans Guyt, who was one of his closest friends. Separated from his wife, Joanna, in his adopted country, the Netherlands, Pereira lived close to his two children in Amsterdam – daughter Marelle, seven, and five-year-old son Paul.
He was planning a shopping expedition in Auckland to buy his youngsters the long list of Christmas presents they wanted. And then he hoped to slip in a skiing trip to Mt Ruapehu before the Rainbow Warrior was to leave on the Moruroa Atoll protest.
But he didn’t get the chance. His dedication as a photographer cost him his life. When the first of two bomb explosions ripped through the ship, Pereira’s instinct was to rescue his Canon camera.
He dashed downstairs and was trapped when the second blast shattered the propeller near his aft cabin.
Probably stunned, he drowned as the ship sank in less than three minutes.
Pereira fled Portugal when he faced military service under the repressive Salazar regime – before it was overthrown – and settled in the Netherlands where he took Dutch nationality. For several years, he worked as a press photographer for the Amsterdam daily newspaper De Waarheid (The Truth). He became vitally concerned with conservation and anti-nuclear issues.
Pereira first ventured on a Greenpeace campaign in 1982 when he joined the Sirius, a Dutch-based sister ship of the Rainbow Warrior, to cover opposition to nuclear waste-dumping by the British dump ship Gem off the coast of Spain.
He took an even greater interest in the environment and joined Greenpeace, becoming the organisation’s photographer on a string of campaigns.
“He was so enthusiastic about our work that he just had to join us,” says Guyt.
The campaign which made the biggest impression on Pereira was in May 1985, when he covered the evacuation of 320 Marshall Islanders from Rongelap Atoll.
The islanders had been plagued by serious illnesses such as thyroid disorders and leukaemia, which they blamed on fallout from United States nuclear tests 30 years earlier.
His photographs covering the plight of the islanders and the agony of their shift were distributed worldwide by Associated Press news agency.
© Copyright David Robie 2015