Activists occupy oil rig bound for Arctic drilling

Feature story - 21 April, 2011
Activists are demanding an end to reckless deepwater oil drilling and taking bold action to stop the oil rig Leiv Eiriksson as it departs Turkey to the Arctic waters of Greenland to begin drilling.

In the early hours of the morning activists began their mission to intercept the oil rig as it attempted to leave Besiktas port near Istanbul and head to the Arctic to start exploratory drilling. Eleven activists scaled the 53,000 tonne rig to impede its progress and are prepared for a sustained occupation, with sufficient supplies to last for days. 

The Leiv Eiriksson is operated by Cairn Energy and is the only rig in the world currently set to begin new deep sea drilling in the Arctic – making it a clear and present danger to the pristine arctic environment. Sound familiar? If it does it is because we’ve told you about Cairn energy and their quest for Arctic drilling before. Read about how activists stopped Cairn energy from drilling last year.

Extreme arctic weather conditions mean that Cairn has a very short window to drill four new exploratory wells at staggering depths of around 1500m – these are similar depths to the ill-fated BP Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. Freezing temperatures, severe weather and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges to any oil spill response in the Arctic and mean a spill would be impossible to contain and clean up.

Our oil addiction is seeing us dangerously lurch from one oil crisis to the next. It was only a year ago that BP’s disaster unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, we’ve seen oil price hikes damage the global economic recovery, and drive up the costs of food and transport. Now, as we witness the Arctic sea ice retreating at record rates, the oil industry wants to start risky deep sea drilling in one of the worlds most fragile and important ecosystems - despite the terrible risks of a spill there.  And that’s just one major reason why deep-sea oil drilling in this pristine wilderness is so risky. The area the Leiv Eiriksson is set to drill in is already under stress from climate change. Baffin Bay is home to almost all of the world’s Narwhal populations as well as blue whales, sea bird colonies, and polar bears.

We can change course and protect the Arctic but only if we can force polluting corporations and the politicians who back them to embrace measures that can curb our dependence on oil. The key is to take the trillions set to be invested in dirty oil and to invest it instead in an Energy [R]evolution - ramping up the efficiency of vehicles, and rolling out new clean technologies. That way we can start ending our addiction to oil and protect the Arctic, defend the climate, and create new clean energy jobs and industries.

Follow the action as it unfolds.

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