An amazing Greenpeace action to stop oil drilling in fragile Arctic waters has come to a close, but the activists are still in police custody after scaling an oil rig that “looked unclimbable” and spending over 40 hours “suspended above the churning Arctic waves through freezing winds.”
In one of the most amazing Greenpeace actions I’ve heard of, four Greenpeace activists climbed an oil rig in the Arctic this week and stopped oil drilling there for two days. Yesterday, announcing the end of the occupation and the arrest of the four activists who occupied the rig, another Greenpeace activist in the Arctic wrote this:
Well that was dramatic. Yesterday afternoon the seas started churning and our huge banner on the oil rig was twisting and flapping as a gale blew up. I spoke to the four activists under the rig and they assured me they were fine. They had self-heating meals and water and were still doing interviews, telling the world about Cairn Energy’s plans to spark an Arctic oil rush.
I kept eyeing the scene through the porthole in my cabin with concern. The swell was heaving and the lips of the waves were breaking white across the stretch of sea separating the Esperanza from the rig. The weather forecast on the screen on the bridge looked ominous – lots of grim symbols over the coast west of Greenland – while a quick duck outside had my eyes watering with the cold.
Ending the occupation of the Stena Don was a big call for us. We’d stopped it drilling for oil here, while the other rig being operated by Cairn was also closed down due to our actions. Think about that – because of the millions of supporters who let us operate our ships, four ordinary blokes from four different countries were able to come up here and put their bodies in the way of the Arctic oil rush, and they stopped it.
They didn’t just protest about it – they actually stopped it. The drills stopped turning.
The weather up there where the activists were became too harsh, apparently, causing the activists to come down and into the hands of the Greenland police waiting for them. Ben, the activist writing above, continued on:
But now a freezing gale has stopped us. Anybody who saw the images of our camp under the rig will appreciate how harsh the conditions were last night for the guys. When I radioed them and talked about the need to come down they were disappointed the direct action was about to end, but stunningly professional. Straight away they were working out how to get safely on to the platform gantry, where police were waiting for them (our guys obsess about safety, it’s a thing to behold, and is at odds with the image our opponents like to paint).
So they’re in police custody now. But before it was over I spoke to Sim McKenna from the United States. He’s been a star these past three weeks since we left London, and as ever he found the words at the right time, despite hanging under an oil rig over freezing seas as a storm rolled in.
“We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days, but in the end the Arctic weather beat us. Last night was freezing and now the sea below us is churning and the wind is roaring. It’s time to come down, but we’re proud we slowed the mad rush for Arctic oil, if only for a couple of days.”
“This beautiful fragile arctic environment would be decimated by an oil spill. The melting Arctic ice is a grim reminder that we need to stop burning oil and invest instead in clean energy solutions.”
“I’m not sure what will happen to us now, but as soon as we can we’ll be back to call for the world to finally go beyond oil. It is time for people everywhere to take a stand, to call on their governments to fight climate change, ban dangerous deep sea drilling and invest in clean energy solutions that will protect the world’s fragile environments from cowboy oil companies like Cairn Energy.”
The Greenpeace activists, Sim, Timo, Jens and Matt, are reportedly still in prison, but being treated well by the Greenland police.
The area where these Cairn Energy oil rigs are located is both very precious and very fragile. From another article on this activist effort, Greenpeace wrote:
The oil drilling rigs are operating in an area known locally as ‘iceberg alley’. Cairn Energy regularly has to tow icebergs out of the rigs paths or uses water cannons to divert them. If the icebergs are too large then the company will have to move the rig itself to avoid a collision. Last month, a 260 square kilometer ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Disko island and will eventually make its way south through Nares Strait into Baffin Bay and the Labrador Current making these dangerous operations a reality once again….
Baffin Bay is home to 80 to 90 percent of the world’s Narwhal whales. The region is also home to blue whales, polar bears, seals, sharks, cormorants, kittiwakes and numerous other migratory birds. Don’t let Cairn Energy continue to gamble with dangerous drilling in the Arctic.
The activist effort only stopped drilling there for 2 days, but that is quite a big deal. And the hope is that that will be enough to have a huge effect, potentially suspending the oil exploration for another year or indefinitely.
Last week Cairn Energy claimed it had struck gas and was optimistic it would strike oil. By stopping it drilling for two days, Cairn Energy might now struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice conditions force it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year. We’d hoped to stay longer, we’d hoped to extend the shut down to run Cairn out of time to finish its exploration programme before the harsh winter weather forces them out of the region until next year. A year is a long time: enough time, we hope, to get a global ban on deep sea oil drilling.
For constant updates on this action and other Greenpeace news via Greenpeace International.
You don’t need to climb an oil rig in the arctic to help stop this dangerous and unnecessary work, but you can take action by signing a letter to Cairn Energy and by going green in ways that help to reduce our dependence on oil.
Image Credit: screenshot of YouTube video above