(Wednesday photo by Don Brubeck)
Since the Greenpeace Esperanza appeared off Duwamish Head yesterday, we’ve been trying to find out exactly what it’s here for, but in e-mail exchanges with WSB’ers, we speculated that it might be related to the expected-soon departure of two Shell drillships/rigs from Vigor on Harbor Island, off to drill in the Arctic. Here’s new evidence that’s likely what’s up. While Greenpeace has yet to answer our inquiry, the maritime-news service gCaptain reports that it’s just been hit with a restraining order by Shell, ordering Greenpeace to stay away from the company’s rigs. They are the Noble Discoverer, which arrived here in April (WSB coverage here), and the Kulluk, which has been at Vigor since last July. A Shell spokesperson told WSB in April that both rigs would likely leave here “sometime in June.”
4 PM UPDATE: Greenpeace has responded to our inquiry with its news release about the ship’s arrival in Seattle, mentioning that it’s anchored “just outside the federally mandated … exclusion zone” – read on:
– The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has arrived in Seattle to prepare for a summer tour which will expose Shell’s attempts to begin destructive drilling in the pristine Arctic Ocean.
The oil company has pursued a series of aggressive lawsuits against Greenpeace and other environmental groups in an effort to curtail peaceful protest. The Esperanza is in the Puget Sound, just outside the federally mandated 1km ‘exclusion zone’ surrounding Shell’s drilling vessels.
“The Arctic is facing the greatest threat in its history” Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director Dan Howells said. “It’s warming faster than anywhere else on earth, but oil companies are rushing in to squeeze out a few more barrels of the oil that is causing this problem in the first place.
“Let’s be crystal clear, this will do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices but everything to make one of the world’s richest companies a few billion richer. America needs smarter engines and powerful electric technology, not a creaky old rig drilling for oil in our last great wilderness.”
Greenpeace is launching its “Save the Arctic” ship tour just as a new Alaskan oil rush begins. The Esperanza will sail along the Pacific Coast, shadowing Shell’s drilling vessels, the Noble Discoverer drillship (built in 1966) and Kulluk platform (1983), as they enter one of America’s most fragile and unknown ecosystems.
The Esperanza will arrive at the drill sites with scientists and activists on board to deploy state-of-the-art submarines, which will be the first to research the remote and little understood ocean floor of the Arctic seas.
Shell is the first company to rush into the Arctic this year, but several other international oil companies are lining up to follow in the energy giant’s wake. The company plans to drill wells in the remote Beaufort and Chukchi seas, places where polar bears, narwhals and walruses have lived without interference for thousands of years. Melting sea ice is already threatening these animals, and the arrival of heavy industrial equipment could have very serious consequences for their survival.
The threat of climate change is, of course, even more serious for Arctic wildlife.
“If companies like Shell continue on this path we’re likely to face global warming that will change the Arctic and the world we live in forever,” Greenpeace senior oceans campaigner Jackie Dragon said. “Polar bears are already dying, too weak to swim the vast distances opened up by the retreating ice, and elsewhere in the world people are suffering from floods, droughts and sudden changes in weather. These are problems climate scientists tell us will get worse as climate change continues, and they are already costing the American economy billions of dollars each year.
“It’s time to draw a line in the ice and say: enough.”
The Esperanza will leave Seattle in early June to begin its journey up to the Arctic.