FOLLOWUP: Blocks, cable removed from West Seattle diving zone

Thanks to “Diver Laura” James for the video, showing the cleanup we previewed here on Sunday – the blocks and cable left behind (deliberately, by agreement of all those concerned) when the “Solar Pioneer” protest barge moved west after first dropping them in the popular Cove 2 dive zone. The official post-cleanup news release from GUE Seattle declares it “a complete success”:

Two teams of GUE Seattle SCUBA divers entered the water (Monday) at 7:00 AM and located the debris field consisting of concrete blocks and steel cables.

(Photos courtesy GUE Seattle)
The five GUE Seattle divers attached mooring line and buoys so a commercial salvage operation could easily locate and remove the debris. At approximately 9:00 AM, a commercial dive team from Global Diving & Salvage arrived on site and deployed surface-supplied divers into the water.

After approximately three hours of work, the Global Diving & Salvage dive team had safely successfully removed all debris without causing any further damage to the dive park.

On Monday, May 19th, 2015, an environmental activist group moored a barge known as the Solar Pioneer in Alki Seacrest Park in protest of Shell’s Polar Pioneer Arctic drilling rig housed at Seattle’s Harbor Island Terminal 5. In the process of mooring, the activist group dropped concrete blocks and thick steel mooring cables and inadvertently damaged a popular underwater park known as Alki Cove 2. As the barge rose and fell with the tides, the steel mooring cables swept the area underneath, causing additional collateral damage to the marine environment as well as endangering recreational divers. Today, the Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Seattle cleanup project was successfully completed and all concrete blocks and the steel mooring cables were recovered and properly disposed of.

We would like to sincerely thank Royal Dutch Shell, Foss Maritime, and John Sellers (the operator of the Solar Pioneer), for financially contributing to the cleanup effort and future restoration work; Laura James for her assistance in video documentation; and Global Diving & Salvage for their skillful work in removing the debris without causing any additional environmental damage.

The Polar Pioneer, as reported here early Monday morning, has left Seattle, headed north; the Solar Pioneer was still off Don Armeni as of sunset.

32 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Blocks, cable removed from West Seattle diving zone"

  • diverlaura June 16, 2015 (12:48 am)

    I have to say, every time I film working divers; the scientific divers, the harvesters, the commercial dives I am blown away by their skill, strength and dedication to the underwater world we share. HUGE thanks to Global Diving & Salvage for letting me film your operation!!

  • David June 16, 2015 (4:35 am)

    So let me get this straight. The activists did not stop Shell in any way, but they did manage to mess up an underwater dive park, endanger divers, and cause damage to the marine environment with their big ugly protest barge? Bravo. *golf clap*

  • Mike June 16, 2015 (6:07 am)


  • KellyM June 16, 2015 (6:12 am)

    So, pardon my ignorance, but in reading the above item I take this away. A group of people protesting potential environmental damages that the Arctic drilling would incur, managed to trash an area of our own local environment? Pound wise penny foolish? I’m shaking my head in wonder.

  • KellyM June 16, 2015 (7:24 am)

    Sorry for the rehash of David’s comment, it didn’t appear when I made mine….

  • Smitty June 16, 2015 (7:31 am)

    This is rich.

    Thank you Shell/Foss for helping pay for the environmental cleanup caused by those protesting your alleged treatment of the – ummm – environment.

  • AIDM June 16, 2015 (8:12 am)

    This is really ironic and its unfortunate that GP was so irresponsible. In all seriousness, it would be really interesting if Diver Laura got permission from the port to film under the area where shell was moored to see what the bottom looks like down there. And to see if they left anything.

    • WSB June 16, 2015 (8:27 am)

      AIDM, if by GP you mean Greenpeace, the barge was/is not a Greenpeace project. – the person who came up with the idea has been identified in various spots as a Vashon resident (John Sellers, who is named in the GUE news release above). It was crowdfunded:
      We didn’t hear anything about it until after it showed up following the Polar Pioneer’s arrival. Just, one day, suddenly, there was a barge …

  • ChefJoe June 16, 2015 (8:43 am)

    Yes, the barge was sponsored by a former GreenPeace worker who founded the Ruckus Society and eventually another action group, The Other 98.
    The Other 98% is a grassroots network of folks committed to kicking greedy corporate asses for the harder working classes. And we have fun doing it.

  • john June 16, 2015 (8:58 am)

    What I’m most impressed with is how very little DiverLaura breaths. I consider myself a good swimmer. I swam competitively thru university, so I’m comfortable in water. The rare times I dive I’m breathing around 30 breaths a minute.

  • Andi June 16, 2015 (9:11 am)

    My husband and toddler took a nice sunset walk a couple days before the kayak blockade and were asked by a bedredlock’d gentleman as we passed by their… headquarters (?) if we had any spare kayaks. The conversation went as follows:

    “Hey bros! You got any spare kayaks?”

    “No… I am afraid we do not.”

    “All right then. Have a great evening!”

    What a nice young man.

  • G June 16, 2015 (9:13 am)

    I know that the oil rig dumped a lot of money into the ILWU. A number of guys, including my brother, got a solid month of work on the rig. Considering longshore wages, that’s a significant amount of money, a lot of it spent locally.

  • Felix June 16, 2015 (10:03 am)

    Well played Royal Dutch Shell….well played…perhaps you can use this small PR win to help whitewash the impending arctic spill…

  • Norma June 16, 2015 (10:09 am)

    I’ve been looking for an opportunity to say Thank You! to WSB for giving the neighborhood this very effective method of communication. You’re an incredibly valuable asset to this community. How did we ever get along without WSB?

    • WSB June 16, 2015 (10:16 am)

      Thanks for the kind words, Norma. Somebody has to cover the community’s news consistently and thoroughly. That’s our job – with a heartening amount of community collaboration – and while I wish we had the resources to do it better, we do the best we can, day in/day out/night in/night out – TR

  • Smitty June 16, 2015 (1:27 pm)

    “Well played Royal Dutch Shell….well played…perhaps you can use this small PR win to help whitewash the impending arctic spill…”

    You have a time machine?

  • ScubaFrog June 16, 2015 (3:28 pm)

    Pretty irresponsible, ‘activists’. The ‘activists’ have been pretty quiet about the damage they did. It will be unfortunate to survey the damage the next time I dive Cove 2.

    Shouldn’t someone be held legally responsible for the damages incurred, and the money spent on cleanup? Or can just anyone bring in a barge anywhere in the Puget Sound, wreak environmental havoc, and move on as if nothing happened?

  • ZippyThePinhead June 16, 2015 (3:33 pm)

    More information on how Shell became involved in the cleanup at

    According to my score card, Shell came to Seattle, did their work and left with no harm to the environment.

    The protesters destroyed under water park habitat, pissed off the neighborhood with their obnoxious barge and could not afford to fix the damage that the created.

    And then Shell ponies up the money to clean up after the protesters.

  • diverlaura June 16, 2015 (3:52 pm)

    AIDM, The area beneath Terminal 5 will likely look exactly the same as before they were there. It is the mouth of a river, an industrial river to boot. The problems on these rivers starts many miles up stream where humanity and paved surfaces meet the crystal clear water coming off the mountains. If folks don’t agree, I recommend going on a snorkeling trip up to Skykomish (Big Eddy Park is a nice place to start), on your drive home keep an eye on the waters and watch it go from clear and blue to brown and turbid. If you are looking for something closer to home check out Mark Powell’s blog page that will be documenting his 85 mile swim starting way up in the clear waters of the Green river and culminating down in the Duwamish.
    All that said, thank you for your interest in what exists beneath the surface, and potential impact!

  • ChefJoe June 16, 2015 (4:55 pm)

    Thanks for the mynorthwest news story link ZippyThePinhead. That gives me pretty good feelings about Shell trying to do their drill mapping work as responsibly as possible.

    “One of our members took a long shot and dropped an email directly to the CEO, Ben van Beurden, at Shell,” du Preez said.
    “The next thing you know, someone calls us from Alaska and said,’We’d love to help out,'” he said. “

  • admiraldon June 16, 2015 (5:12 pm)

    Sounds like the folks that put the barge out should have to pay for the damage and the cleanup. Should they wish to return to protest we should all protest them as they have caused more damage than Shell at this point. All this in the place we call home.


  • A Deeper Truer Shade of Green June 16, 2015 (5:47 pm)

    The Backbone Campaign supplied many of the kayaks (there were stickers on the side to ID them) and was one of the organizers which Serving-It-Up-On-The-Internet-Compulsively did not mention.

  • ZippyThePinhead June 16, 2015 (8:43 pm)


    The Green River/Duwamish river start to gain silt once they reach the Kent Valley (Same as the Stillaguamish and other rivers in the region) and start to meander in the valley. This is one of the reasons why the Kent Valley used to be such great farm land, the river would flood and deposit silt in the spring and the farms could grow just about anything.

    The Duwamish river is now constrained within the banks that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created and the silt has to flow into Elliott.

    I’m not sure that can all be blamed on ‘humanity and paved surfaces’

  • Felix June 16, 2015 (9:01 pm)

    Smitty….I’d put money on it…I give em 5 years….

  • Diverlaura June 16, 2015 (9:47 pm)

    Zip.. I’m referring to the pollution it receives, not the silt. My error for not making that more clear.

  • alkiobserver June 17, 2015 (3:33 pm)

    So, the protested comes to the rescue of the protestors to clean up their mess? It would be funny if it was supposed to be comedy. Admirable move by Shell, Foss, GUE and the barge owner that leased it to the protestors. Tip of the hat and thanks to them all for doing the right thing. Sure looks to me like “The Other 98%” or whatever the group that “sponsored” the barge is the real inept ones in this scenario. No kicking of greedy corporate asses for them this time around.

  • Buck June 17, 2015 (4:31 pm)

    AIDM : I worked on the Polar Pioneer (ILWU) and I can tell you that the Coast Guard was very visible and they were making sure that nothing was dropped into the bay (as far as gear goes). Shell and Foss also made sure to have ample waste receptacles and our foremen let it be known that we were not to drop so much as a gum wrapper onto Pier 5. Everything made it into the trash. Think what you will about Shell, but they were very professional and accommodating, both to the workers and to the protestors. Foss is and has been the pinnacle of class.

  • Pumpkin June 17, 2015 (6:19 pm)

    Did WSB ever actually reach out to the Solar Pioneer to get their side of the story? Perhaps it was just easier to be spoon-fed Shell/Foss PR greenwashing spin… If there’s anyone who honestly believes that the activists (who, in an honest mistake, did “minimal damage,” according to GUE and the DNR, and in a spot that the USCG permitted them to anchor in) are the real villains here, and not Shell and their horrendous record of environmental devastation and human rights abuses around the world, they are buying into a cheap story meant to dazzle and distract.

  • Kevin June 17, 2015 (8:04 pm)

    Pumpkin…I do not think you have your facts straight about the Coast Guard letting them anchor where they did damage, as from my understanding they did not have enough life jackets or lighting requirements to anchor anywhere at first.

  • Pumpkin June 17, 2015 (9:33 pm)

    Kevin, the life jackets and lighting had nothing to do with the permission to anchor. Permission to anchor was granted over a week before USCG boarded and requested that the crew add a few extra life jackets for visitors, which was done promptly.

  • S June 18, 2015 (5:26 am)

    Pumpkin–USCG also has allowed Shell/Foss to travel about and anchor too…does that make things ok and free them of personal responsibility when damage is done? If Shell had done damage would you be making excuses for them? Try applying the standards that you apply to Shell toward yourself as well. I am not saying Solar Pioneer is the “real villain” but rather just hypocritical and ironic. Taking personal responsibility here would be a better move than denial.

  • Pumpkin June 18, 2015 (7:11 pm)

    I totally hear that, S, and I don’t think I’m making excuses–only hoping people have a complete understanding of what happened. The folks on the Solar Pioneer did their best to take responsibility and felt awful (really, really awful) about what had happened. After hearing from Sydney Brownstone at the Stranger about the dive park (the divers went to the media first, not to anybody on the barge, so the Solar Pioneer didn’t even know until Sydney asked them about it), they immediately reached out to the dive community and started working with them. Remember–the barge was permitted to be there by the USCG, *and* they’d hired a professional tug/barge operator to anchor it, so they truly had no idea there was an issue with their anchoring spot. They tried to move immediately upon hearing that it was a problem, but were delayed by DNR who took two days to permit them to anchor further north. They put money towards cleanup. The divers actually said that the eco-blocks should remain in place (the place is a dive park because of previous junk that was left there, after all), but DNR required removal, against the divers’ recommendations.

    All I’m trying to say is that this story isn’t as big of a story as the clickbait headlines would have everyone believe (“Environmental Activists Destroy the Environment! Ha Ha!”). There was actually very little damage, and it was completely because of a mistaken but understandable assumption that the USCG and barge operator would know where it was appropriate to anchor. It wasn’t a case of brazen/idiotic ignorance or apathy as it’s been portrayed, and any reporter worth his/her salt would have actually made some attempt to reach out to the Solar Pioneer and hear their side of it.

Sorry, comment time is over.