Jun 16, 2015 - Shell’s Arctic Drilling Rig Departs for Alaska by Matt Remle


The bowhead whale, the gray whale, are now in dire straits.” – Justin Finkbonner (Lummi)

After having been docked in Seattle for nearly a month, Shell oil’s arctic drilling rig the “Polar Pioneer” departed for Alaska amidst near constant demonstrations and one final effort to blockade its departure.

Recently, the Obama administration announced conditional approval for Royal Dutch Shell to return to the Arctic for oil and gas exploration. The decision came despite a series of mishaps in 2012, Shell’s inaugural attempt to drill in the arctic.

The culmination of mishaps peaked in December 2012, when Shell’s second drilling rig, the Kulluk, broke loose from its tow lines running aground off of Kodiak Island, Alaska resulting in the spillage of 150,000 gallons of fuel and drilling fluid, devastating one of Alaska’s most pristine coastlines.

Justin Finkbonner (Lummi) in massive demonstration against the Polar Pioneer. photo by Alex Garland

In mid-May, the Polar Pioneer arrived at the Port of Seattle, despite not having a proper permit to dock and defying orders from the Seattle city council to not dock there. The Polar Pioneer was greeted by a weekend of mass demonstrations led by Indigenous Peoples.

Pressure against Shell oil and the Obama administration to not allow drilling in the arctic continued with mass demonstrations, kayaktivists, tribal canoes, and blockades of the port entrance.

Last weekend, opposition continued as Indigenous women led a gathering near the Polar Pioneer that included traditional canoes, songs, and speakers from Alaska and the Philippines.

Gathering led by Indigenous women to protect the arctic 6/14. photo by Alex Garland

Early Monday, word spread that Shell planned to depart Seattle for Alaska. They were met by kayaktivists and tribal canoes in an attempt to blockade its departure. The Coast Guard and police removed the kayaks and arrested 24 people including Seattle city council member Mike O’Brien.

Kayaktivists attempt to block the Polar Pioneers departure before being arrested 6/15. photo by Alex Garland

If Shell obtains all the necessary permits, drilling in the arctic could start as early as July 1st.  Alaskan Native’s, climate justice activists, and others vow to continue opposition to arctic drilling.

Last Real Indians