Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise to perform independent assessment of oil spill impacts on Gulf

by Mike Gaworecki

July 19, 2010

Since the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig exploded and sank in April, BP has devoted inadequate resources to the oil spill response, withheld information from the American public, and denied access to spill sites to journalists. So our ship the Arctic Sunrise is heading to the Gulf to do an independent assessment of the impacts. We believe it’s way past time the full, unabridged truth about the extent and nature of this oil catastrophe was told to America and the world.

The Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise was in the Mediterranean Sea in June to help protect endangered bluefin tuna. © Gavin Parsons / Greenpeace

The reports coming out of Louisiana about cleanup workers and even local police helping BP enforce a media blockade have been nearly as frustrating as watching the oil spew into the Gulf without cease for almost three months (a hat tip is most definitely deserved here to Mother JonesMac McClelland, who has been chasing this story all along and doing a great job of reporting what’s happening on the ground).

It’s in BP’s best interest to limit media access to oiled beaches and wildlife, as the more they can contain the truth about just how much damage has been done, the more they can limit their liability to pay for that damage later on. We released our ScamWow video last week to highlight this very sad and galling state of affairs.

Greenpeace BP Deepwater Disaster picture
View more images of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

We’ve also had a team on the ground since the start of the disaster, tirelessly investigating local beaches and coastal ecosystems to take measure of the extent of the damage. Our team has taken copious photos and posted numerous oil spill updates on our blogs to make sure folks can see for themselves just what BP has done to the Gulf.

But BP is cracking down on public access more than ever, so we’re stepping up our efforts. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on its way to the Gulf for a three-month expedition to document the true impacts of the BP Deepwater Disaster on the Gulf’s marine life and unique ecosystems. This tour is especially crucial now because even if BP has finally capped the leaking well, the crisis will continue for some time, endangering wildlife and ecosystems, destroying the region’s fisheries, and affecting the ocean for decades to come. It’s important that we not let the focus shift away from the truly extensive catastrophe that is still unfolding in the Gulf, whether more oil is spewing out of BP’s well or not.

The Sunrise will leave Tampa, Florida during the week of August 9th and visit the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas before approaching the wellhead during the first month of the expedition. The crew aboard the Sunrise will be examining everything from the plankton on the surface to the subsurface plumes and the deep-sea corals on the floor of the Gulf.

The Arctic Sunrise is a 50-meter long, icebreaker ship that was purchased by Greenpeace in 1995. Since then, it has peacefully protested whaling in the Southern Ocean, documented climate change and glacier melts in the Arctic, and was the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island in the Antarctic, which was  an impossible journey until a 200m thick ice shelf connecting the island to the Antarctic continent collapsed.
Throughout the expedition, the Arctic Sunrise will host independent scientists and researchers who will be looking for oiled marine mammals, turtles, fish, and sea birds. Charles Messing and Jose Lopez from Nova Southeastern University will be on board looking at sponges, which filter large quantities of water and are therefore useful for looking at sub-lethal impacts of oil and dispersants. We’ll announce other on-board scientists in the coming weeks.

So keep checking back on our blog for live interviews with our onboard campaigners and scientists, video and still photography from the Gulf, and an interactive, web-based Virtual Ship Tour that lets supporters come along for the journey. You can grab an RSS feed of our blog posts dedicated to the tour by going here: Greenpeace Gulf Oil Disaster Expedition blogs.

We’ll also be posting lots of ways you can help call for a moratorium on new offshore drilling and for Congress and the White House to come clean, get rid of campaign contributions from dirty energy, and stop subsidizing big oil and coal.

In the meantime, help us promote our Energy [R]evolution report, which shows how it’s possible to phase out fossil fuels and reach 96% renewables in our energy mix by 2050. The US consumes 25% of the oil produced globally but has only 3% of the world’s oil reserves. We will never drill our way out of being dependent on foreign oil. The only way for the US to achieve energy security and stop oil spills before they happen is to invest in its huge renewable energy potential.

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