Nick Young is Greenpeace New Zealand’s Web Manager, but right now he’s on the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, in the Arctic Circle.
The oil industry is pushing further and further into the world’s most remote and pristine environments, to drill in deep and deeper water, in its pursuit of the last drops of oil. That search has taken it both to the Arctic, and to New Zealand. Greenpeace is campaigning against this around the world, because of the increased risk of spills that come from operating in extreme environments like the Arctic, and in deep water, and because any oil recovered from the final frontiers of the fossil fuels industry will only make the climate crisis worse.
Despite it being the size of a small cathedral, locating Cairn Energy’s oil rig Leiv Eiriksson amongst the icebergs in the North Atlantic is like finding a needle in a haystack.
But, after a week long search for the giant 53,000 tonne rig we found it last night 200 miles west of Greenland under the escort of a Danish warship!
I’m writing this from aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Along with a second Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, we are now in a rather tense stand-off with Danish navy commandos protecting the oil drilling operation.
Confidential UK government documents acquired by Greenpeace and released today reveal that the British foreign office believes any oil spill in Arctic waters would be impossible to deal with.
Take action: Ask Cairn Energy for the Greenland oil spill response plan.
The rig’s destination, in a place known locally as iceberg alley in the freezing seas between Canada and Greenland, is a dangerous minefield of travelling icebergs – just one of the many reasons that drilling for oil here is a risky business.
The company is planning to drill at depths of 1500m – as deep as the BP well that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico last year - but in far more challenging conditions. Freezing temperatures, severe weather and a highly remote location mean any spill could be very difficult – if not impossible - to contain and clean up.
Cairn Energy is the only company aiming to drill in the region this year, but the big boys are watching with interest. If Cairn strikes oil it will spark an oil rush that could devastate the fragile Arctic environment.
We should not be pushing to the ends of the earth, risking everything to get at the last drop of oil – instead we should be seeking clean energy alternatives, and better fuel efficiencies, to break free of our addiction to oil.
Image - Crew from the MY Esperanza engage with the Leiv Eiriksson rig off Greenland. © Steve Morgan / Greenpeace