Live Action: Climbers in survival pod stop Arctic oil rig
by Nick Young
May 31, 2011
In the freezing seas off Greenland, activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza are taking direct action against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Luke and Sigurd are now hanging from the underside of Cairn Energy’s giant oil rig in our Arctic survival pod with enough food and water to stay there for for a good long time. Their action will prevent the rig starting its dangerous deep water drilling 100 miles west of the Greenland coast.
There will be live updates from the survival pod on the oil rig, and from the two Greenpeace ships near by.
Here’s what’s happened so far.
At 3am local time on May 29th three climbers left the side of the Esperanza in inflatable speedboats. They slipped past the navy warship guarding the rig and climbed high into the superstructure of the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson oil rig.
They're now hanging from the underside of the rig 20-30 meters above the sea where they’ve set up camp in the survival pod hanging only a few metres from the huge drill-bit.
If drilling is delayed for just a short time, Cairn could struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice closes in, forcing it to abandon the search for another year.
Speaking by satellite phone from the survival pod 25 year old Luke said:
"Despite the extreme waters below, we’re safe and secure. There’s no way Cairn can drill for oil while we’re hanging next to their drill-bit, and it's going to be extremely difficult for them to remove our survival pod. To drill for oil here would be dangerous insanity. We have to stop the Arctic oil rush."
Greenpeace International has repeatedly asked Cairn for its emergency oil spill response plan but has been refused. That request was repeated to the rig by radio several times this week, but was ignored.
The world's oil giants are watching Cairn’s rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.
Even without an accident Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait – including 180 tonnes of red-listed chemicals (more than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined). The company admits that it would take decades before significant profits from oil exploration flow to Greenland, while Cairn’s operations pose a grave threat to Greenland’s fisheries, which represent 88% of the island’s export economy.
The area where Cairn intends to drill is known as ‘Iceberg Alley'. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig's path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. If the icebergs are too large the company has admitted it will need to move the rig itself. Last year a 260km2 ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley. The region is famous for its narwhal population.
- View the action live via the Esperanza web cam