We stopped in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska this week, A remote area with spectacular views and wildlife, that will be the staging area for Shell’s Arctic drilling program later this month.
While there the Esperanza crew took in the rich Aleutian Island landscapes and were treated to a front-row seat for Unalaska’s midnight 4th of July fireworks show.
On a trip ashore we encountered a huge Steller sea lion bull basking in the sun while a raft of sea otters foraged nearby. Young bald eagles seemed to be testing their wings and gave no objection to our request for portraits. A number of local friends stopped by the ship to wish us well on our journey.
Unalaska is part of a chain of Aleutian Islands that cradle the Bering Sea to the South West of mainland Alaska. The island is best known for Dutch Harbor, the number one fishing port, by volume, in America. A robust fishing fleet and processing plants dominate the economy and geography of the island. From here crabbers, long-liners, and trawlers catch more than half of all the seafood caught in U.S. waters each year in the Bering Sea.
This month Dutch Harbor will host Royal Dutch Shell as they prepare to usher in the industrialization of the Arctic, bent on exploiting the waters recently opened up by global warming and melting sea ice. Shell is currently moving its armada of drilling rigs and support vessels into place just before they advance to the North Slope to begin drilling in the yet pristine Arctic waters.
Large industrial fishing operations have also expressed interest in moving into newly opened Arctic waters to increase their fishing prospects. For now there is a moratorium on commercial fishing in U.S. arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, where Shell plans to drill this summer, and a moratorium on bottom trawling – the most destructive type of fishing gear – in the Northern Bering Sea.
We are headed to the Arctic to show the world what’s at stake and why people all around the world are calling for a global sanctuary in the high Arctic, and a ban on oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in this pristine region. So far 500,000 people have signed on, you can help us reach a million.