Greenpeace will be waiting for them.
Numerous federal agencies monitor Shell’s actions in the Arctic, but that isn’t enough for the international environmental organization, which has launched a “Save the Arctic” campaign.
This week, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza stopped in Kodiak on its way to the Shell staging area in Dutch Harbor. The Esperanza will shadow Shell’s drilling vessels as they make their way north, then spend time documenting Arctic environmental conditions.
The Greenpeace team stopped in Kodiak for three days and met with the Coast Guard, which is monitoring all activities in the Arctic.
Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Sanial said the meeting was necessary to go over safety concerns and to understand what Greenpeace is trying to accomplish.
“With everything, especially in the Arctic, what we’re looking to achieve is safety for life at sea for everybody on the water,” Sanial said. “Our dialogue with Greenpeace isn’t any different than it is with Shell.”
The Coast Guard was also concerned with Greenpeace’s plans to use small submarines to document the Bering Sea’s marine canyons.
“I did explain to them that the Coast Guard has no capability to rescue that submarine,” Sanial said. “If it gets in trouble at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, there is very little the Coast Guard can do.”
The Greenpeace team will use two small submarines — one carrying a single person, the other two people — to take scientists under water to gather information and images with high-definition cameras and high-powered lights.
“Our intent is to document that pristine environment in places that no submarine-manned expeditions have been before and to bring back to the world images,” said lead Arctic campaigner Jackie Dragon. “We want to give them information and science about what’s at stake as the industrialization of the high north begins. We want to carry those images and stories back to people.”
There will be about a half-dozen people and scientists trained to go on the submarine dives to collect data. The group will also document activities above the surface.
On its way to the Arctic, the team will stop in St. Paul and St. George to present results from a study conducted in 2007 on the large underwater canyons in the Bering Sea.
The group conducted the study to gather data about the habitats, and has been working with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop safe practices to protect them.
“These are areas we’re seeking to gain protection from destructive fishing practices,” Dragon said. “Those canyons are really vital habitats.”
The Esparanza will leave Kodiak today to head to Dutch Harbor, where it is expected to stay until July 6. It will then continue its mission, heading north.
While Shell hasn’t released the exact location of its drilling site, Dragon is confident the Greenpeace group will be able to locate the Shell operation.
The Greenpeace crew wants to be on the scene in case an oil spill happens.
“We are doing what we can to put eyes and ears on the situation,” Dragon said. “It’s only a matter of time until that oil spill occurs and then the whole world will be watching as the disaster unfolds.”
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiak
Ship tour updates will be posted at http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/savethearctic/.