From Ben onboard the Esperanza in the Arctic...
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.
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.”