Here we go. Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig is making its way through Puget Sound and will arrive later this afternoon at Terminal 5 in the Port of Seattle. You can watch the journey in real time if you want to follow along.
I’ll be chasing it from the bluffs and city parks near my house and then eventually plan to hop in my kayak down near T5 to witness the “unwelcome” party hosted by kayaktivists who’ve come from around the region and the world for the “Paddle in Seattle” to challenge Shell’s Arctic drilling plans this week and beyond. Then I plan to head back up to Golden Gardens park this evening for the Celebrating and Protecting the Salish Sea event featuring speakers from the host Lummi Nation and other local tribes.
Please add questions or suggestions in the comments section below and I’ll try to answer asap. Also keep an eye on the DeSmogBlog Twitter and Facebook for updates there, as well as Meerkat which I’ve just installed to tweet live video feed at opportune moments.
Timeline of updates (most recent first):
Activists flew a massive banner with the words “Chief Seattle is Watching” for several hours after the Polar Pioneer arrived at T5.
4:18pm PST Polar Pioneer looming in Elliot Bay above the world famous Pike Place market.
2:35pm PST Well that was an unexpected and sobering surprise… I arrived at Carkeek Park to film the Polar Pioneer. It’s as massive and jaw-dropping in person as others have told me. Just as I was beginning to film, I noticed a train coming north around the bend and thought to myself ‘wouldn’t it be oddly poetic if that’s an oil train?’ ….. yup, it was.
1:45pm PST Started filming the Polar Pioneer and then a nasty surprise showed up in the corner of my eye. (Apologies for the swearing! I wasn’t expecting this)
1:44pm PST The view from Carkeek Park through binoculars looking at the Polar Pioneer.
1:13pm PST For some reason the ships stopped off of President Point for a while, but they seem to be getting underway again now.
The local wildlife is active today in “unwelcoming” Shell’s Polar Pioneer as well, with orca sightings in the area last night and a humpback whale reportedly breaching in the path of the rig earlier this morning:
I’ll post my first photos in a short while when I get to Carkeek Park. Meanwhile, what the heck am I even talking about? Read on…
We’re talking today about the arrival of this:
— KIRO 7 (@KIRO7Seattle) May 14, 2015
Port Commission Fails to Protect Seattle, Shell Incoming
With more of a whimper than a bang, the Seattle Port Commission voted this week to appeal the city of Seattle’s determination that they need a special usage permit to enable Foss Maritime to host Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs on the city’s waterfront as it stages for deployment to its drilling grounds in the Chuckchi Sea this summer. Although the port commission asked Foss and Shell to delay arrival of the rigs, Foss and Shell are ignoring the request and bringing the rigs in right now.
The Port commissioners had the chance to stand up for the principle behind the Seattle port’s slogan “Where a sustainable world is headed,” but instead revealed that mission as more of a greenwashing PR statement than a reality by continuing its combative approach in fighting the city’s elected leadership over the legality and sanity of allowing Shell’s climate-destroying oil rigs in our ostensibly green city.
I sat through the five-hour port commission meeting, which featured testimony from 75 concerned citizens who came from as far as the North Slope of Alaska and southern California to weigh in on the controversial decision. At the end of the day, the commission voted to inform Foss that it’s in violation of city permitting code if it allows Shell to bring its ships to the port, but also voted to appeal the city’s determination.
So, in other words, there will be an ongoing city vs. port dispute, both in court and in the media, but Shell’s Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer drilling rigs will have already come and gone from Seattle in order to make it to the Arctic in time for the brief window of summer drilling. That assumes of course that the rigs ever make it out of port, since activists plan to attempt to block the rigs from leaving through nonviolent direct action, but we’ll save the rest of that story for Saturday when I’ll be covering the #ShellNo kayak flotilla in more depth (from my kayak).
Here’s some background info for those unfamiliar with the context of this dispute.
Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plans and the Obama Administration’s Blessing
Shell intends to drill in the treacherous Chuckchi Sea (see map below), a forboding body of water famous for freakish weather and 50-foot waves. The Obama administration conditionally approved Shell’s drilling plan this week, despite Shell’s previous gaffes in the Arctic drilling game including its Kulluk oil rig running aground and its containment dome that “crushed like a beer can” in tests.
Image credit: Mohonu via Wikimedia Commons