Greenpeace climbers leave Arctic oil drilling rig

The six climbers who safely intercepted, scaled, and set up camp on an Arctic-bound Shell oil drilling rig in the Pacific have come down today after spending almost a week on the 38,000 tonne platform.

The multi-national team of volunteers abseiled off the rig and into inflatable boats, before returning to the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which has been stationed close by for the last week.

They have camped on the Polar Pioneer for the last six days and have shared GoPro videos, tweets, and live interviews from the rig, shining a light on Shell’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in less than 100 days.

On Wednesday, Shell requested a temporary restraining order from a US federal court in Alaska to remove the six from the Polar Pioneer. The US does not have jurisdiction, Greenpeace has said, as the rig is in international waters. On Friday, a federal judge in Anchorage declined to rule immediately on Shell’s request, saying she would make a decision in one or two days.

However, worsening weather conditions at sea, which could bring swells of up to seven meters, mean the six are leaving the rig before any ruling.

Aliyah Field, from the US, one of the six volunteers on the rig, said: “We are coming down today and it fills me with a wide range of emotions. This has been the single most proud, humbling, and inspiring experience of my life. I am truly in awe of all the support and passion from around the world. A global movement has grown even stronger over the last days.

“I might be climbing off this oil rig, but this is merely a transition into the next step of saving the Arctic. I can’t wait to join the millions of voices, the volunteers in Seattle, and all Americans who believe we deserve better, safer, cleaner forms of energy. My voice cannot be silenced, and neither can the millions of others taking a stand against Shell.”

Johno Smith from New Zealand, another one of the six, tweeted from the Polar Pioneer: “It’s been a HUGE week. And Shell, I know you will read this. This is history unfolding & people will continue to take action. #TheCrossing.”

Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said: “I am so inspired and impressed by the volunteers’ decision to climb Shell’s drill rig. I hope everyone who sees what they did are inspired to take action in their own way, to help save the Arctic.

“It’s astounding that Shell seems to think it has the right to jeopardize our environment and our economy, without being accountable to society. I thank the climbers for being society’s eyes and ears on Shell’s rig, letting them know that millions of us are watching their every move, because there is simply no such a thing as ‘safe’ drilling in the Arctic.”

The Polar Pioneer, which is being transported on a 712 feet (217 meters) long heavy-lift vessel called the Blue Marlin, is one of two drilling vessels heading towards the Arctic for Shell this year.

The second, the Noble Discoverer, is one of the oldest drill ships in the world. In December 2014, Noble Drilling, one of Shell’s biggest Arctic sub-contractors and owner of the Noble Discoverer, pleaded guilty to committing eight felonies in connection with Shell’s failed attempts to drill in the Arctic Ocean in 2012.

Both the drilling vessels are crossing the Pacific and are expected to arrive in Seattle before heading to the Chukchi Sea. Shell intends to use the port of Seattle as a base for the company’s Arctic fleet, but the company is facing growing opposition from a range of Seattle-based groups.

The 35-person crew on board the Esperanza has tailed the Polar Pioneer for more than 7,000 nautical miles, since it left Brunei Bay in Malaysia.

The six climbers, who did not interfere with the navigation or operation of the vessel, are Aliyah Field, 27, from the USA (@aliyahfield), Johno Smith, 32, from New Zealand (@nsp_one), Andreas Widlund, 27, from Sweden (@widlundandreas), Miriam Friedrich, 23, from Austria (@mirifriedrich), Zoe Buckley Lennox, 21, from Australia (@zoevirginia) and Jens Loewe, 46, from Germany (@jens4762).

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