I was on board our ship Arctic Sunrise, rolling on the swell of the eastern Barents sea, far north in the Russian Arctic, looking through the binoculars at a rusting hulk of Prirazlomnaya, the first ice-capable permanent oil platform to be placed in the Arctic ocean.
The monstrous steel cube, rising up like a futuristic metal fortification from the pristine Arctic waters was more than just an eye-sore. It was a personification and a perfect example of the industrialization that this extremely sensitive environment is exposed to, not least by the oil giants who are more and more fixing their gaze on the far North of the planet, as the climate-change driven ice-melt is making the Arctic Ocean open to navigation for some months every year.
Prirazlomnaya was cobbled together from two decommissioned oil rigs, welded together at a secret nuclear submarine plant near the White Sea, and finally towed out to its present location, some 1000 kilometers away from the nearest city. Originally it was supposed to start drilling last year, but technical difficulties, brought about, not least, by the extreme climatic and ice conditions in the area delayed the start up. The last construction touches are being put into place now, and at any moment the giant drill bit will hit the sea bottom, starting the drilling of dozens of wells into the sub-seabed oil reservoirs. When (not if) an oil spill occurs there, it will cover a huge area, including highly sensitive wild life preserves, spelling death to sensitive ecosystems. If it happens in the winter, the rough weather and quickly moving ice will make it practically impossible to get any sort of clean up operations going (remember? Murmansk is 1000 km away). It will be like the Gulf of Mexico on steroids.
Aaaaaanyway. Here I am, looking at this monster, with 4 of our inflatables zooming around underneath, and climbers going up the mooring lines on its walls, with banners in Russian and English. We’ve been there for 4 days and severely disrupted their operations. As the platform’s support vessels start training its water cannons towards the hull, I am called away from my observation point by the voice on the radio. It is the chief officer of Prirazlomnaya, at his wits end after days of our action saying “Why do you continue your action here? We can’t make a decision to stop the work! The decisions are made in Moscow, why not go there?”.
So today we are following his advice. This morning when the management of Gazprom was arriving at work in their fancy black Mercedes with flashing blue lights they were in for a surprise. The entrance to Gazprom’s headquarters was blocked off by activists from 5 countries, and a bunch of polar bears “displaced” from their homeland by the oil industry were chained to the fence of the building. At the same time the Gazprom headquarters in Berlin – the main foothold the company has established outside of Russia is also being blockaded. This time by giant model oil derrick, spewing black “oil” all over the ice blocking the entrance to the building.
Prirazlomnaya, Gazprom and other oil companies that are now taking advantage of the climate crisis of their making in order to put new areas of the planet at risk will not act outside of public scrutiny. Their crimes will be exposed, the protests will continue, and can only grow. At sea, on the ice, on the rigs, and yes, at the corporate headquarters.
Mr Chief Officer: Thanks for the good advice!
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