Storm-driven waves smash into the Shell drilling platform Kulluk where it lies hard aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, in the January 2013 Photo of the Month by Jonathan Klingenberg of the United States Coast Guard.
The image has drama, but not as dramatic as the Coast Guard rescue of 18 crew members from the 18,681-ton, 266-foot-wide conical rig or the air lift of a ton of engine parts to the tug Aiviq, one of three support vessels towing the Kulluk in 20-30 foot seas when the towing cables broke. In an auspicious end to Shell’s year of oil exploration in the Arctic, both of the oil rigs Shell plans to use next summer got into trouble. In November, a U.S. Coast Guard inspection team found serious issues with the the Noble Discoverer in Seward, Alaska.
This while the drilling ships were not even in the more risky Arctic. This should be warning enough to cancel the permits and end industrialization of one the last wild places on earth. It’s time to Save the Arctic.
Why? Another dramatic Coast Guard photo shows the replica of the HMS Bounty sinking in the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina on Oct 30, 2012. The 180-foot replica of an 18th century sailing ship lost power and floundered trying to outrun Hurricane Sandy. The Coast Guard rescued 14 members of the crew, but one deckhand died and the captain has not been found.
I can’t say that Shell drilling in the Arctic caused Hurricane Sandy but I can say that the dramatic change in weather and sea ice conditions that made it possible to tow an oil rig into the Arctic Ocean also made it possible for a late season hurricane to grow into a monstrously powerful weather system that devastated the nation’s most populous area on a track that defied predictability.
People are recalibrating to a new normal whether they know it or not. This new normal is dangerous, unpredictable and has the risk of destabilizing civilization as we know it. Exactly like Shell’s and Gazprom’s reckless gambles in the North. Stop it before we all sink.