LKF about WKP

chris in breeches buoyLittle Known Facts about well Known People

Who is this well-known Kapiti man?

By Alan Tristram

Clue: It’s 40 years ago and he’s suspended between HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Otago  steaming at 12 knots in the Pacific Ocean.

He looks apprehensive and well he might — his safety depends on  the seamanship of the captain and crew on both ships.

All went well and later he returned to the Canterbury — but this time in a Wasp helicopter.

For the full story , follow the link.

The mystery man is former Regional Councillor (and present contender for the same job) Chris Turver, of Te Horo.Chris Turver

He was with the New Zealand Navy protesting against the French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll.

Chris was being swung in a breeches buoy from HMNZS Canterbury to Otago for a briefing before the Otago returned to New Zealand.

A long-time journalist, Chris had already served on several overseas assignments, but he says this was the most memorable.

It began  when the NZ Press Association assigned him to go with the Navy to cover the highly-contentious French tests. We’ve asked him to write a special account of what all this means  today.

Here’s his account…


By Chris Turver

New Zealand achieved a major breakthrough in stopping atmospheric nuclear testing in the South Pacific in 1973 but the price has been high for many of the sailors on the protest voyages by two New Zealand frigates.

There was a hugely positive outcome in creating so much worldwide opposition that France was forced to move its nuclear testing programme underground. 

mururoa 2Deadly legacy of the Tests

But the legacy has been a high rate of crew cancer deaths, with linkages to radiation poisoning. None of the crew were warned of potentially serious consequences.

Of the 245 crew of HMNZS Canterbury and 240 crew of HMNZS Otago, a combined 154 have died of cancer since 1973, many others are terminally ill, and there is genetic damage for some of their children and grandchildren. 

Others, like me, have shown no ill effects. 

Veteran Affairs has recognised some claims for disability but the government has never accepted any liability for what happened and no compensation has been paid. 

Lying upwind of Mururoa atoll, just outside the territorial limit, the two warships separately observed the 30th and 31st tests of nuclear devices hoisted high into the atmosphere above Mururoa atoll under big balloons and then detonated.mururoa atoll 1

Both warships monitored the French countdowns by radio and their crews and media reporters, dressed in anti-flash gear and dark goggles, were locked down below decks until minutes after the blasts when the decks were hosed clean and we were allowed up top to see the mushroom clouds.

Reporters’ accounts 

Reporters from the NZPA and NZBC recorded what they saw.

Shortly after the 31st blast, I found myself next to National Radiation Laboratory scientist Jim McCahon who, with his Geiger counter, reported a “light dusting” of radiation from a sort of backwash from the prevailing upper atmosphere winds.

In London, the High Court has recently announced that veterans from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Britain can sue the British Ministry of Defence for compensation for radiation exposure from British nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1950s. 

As more Mururoa veterans succumb to cancer, the case to the New Zealand Government for compensation over the effects of radiation fallout will be pursued with vigour.