Activists Who Scaled Shell's Arctic-Bound Oil Rig Leave After Defying Legal Threats

Six Greenpeace activists scaled a Shell ship to fight drilling in the Arctic.

ByEVAN SIMON and DEAN SCHABNER
April 11, 2015, 8:42 PM

— -- Six Greenpeace activists who brazenly scaled a Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling ship bound for the Arctic Monday left the boat today, according to the environmentalist group.

One day after saying that they refused to leave despite a legal injunction against them, worsening weather conditions forced them to return to the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which has been stationed close by for the last week, Greenpeace said in a statement tonight.

"We are coming down today and it fills me with a wide range of emotions," Aliyah Field, one of the six activists on board the ship, said. ". 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."

Less than 24 hours after the activists boarded the ship 750 miles north-west of Hawaii, Shell filed a complaint in an Alaskan court, seeking an injunction to end what they call "illegal boarding."

A federal judge heard Shell's request for a temporary restraining order against the volunteer activists Friday evening in Anchorage, and said a ruling would be forthcoming in one or two days, according to Greenpeace.

PHOTO: Greenpeace activists hold a banner that reads 'The People vs. Shell' as they scaled the Polar Pioneer drill rig in the Pacific Ocean.
Greenpeace activists hold a banner that reads 'The People vs. Shell' as they scaled the Polar Pioneer drill rig in the Pacific Ocean.
Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace

"Boarding a moving vessel on the high seas is extremely dangerous and jeopardizes the safety of all concerned," Shell officials said in a statement released Tuesday, calling the protest a "stunt."

The activists were protesting the Obama administration's recent approval of Shell's drilling lease for the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. The decision came just three years after a Shell oil rig ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska and the company was fined for pollution. Shell has already spent about $6 billion exploring the Arctic.

"We're here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil," Johno Smith, one of the six activists on board the ship said in a statement on Monday.

"This pristine environment needs protecting for future generations and all life that will call it home," he said.

PHOTO: Activist Aliyah Field 27, on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, tailing Shell's Arctic oil rig across the Pacific, as ambassador of the movement of millions against Arctic oil drilling.
Activist Aliyah Field 27, on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, tailing Shell's Arctic oil rig across the Pacific, as ambassador of the movement of millions against Arctic oil drilling.
Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace

The activists boarded the Blue Marlin, a transport ship carrying a 712-foot oil rig called the Polar Pioneer, at dawn on Monday morning, running up alongside the moving vessel in a small inflatable boat and scaling the side of the ship with ropes and ladders.

The maneuver was captured on GoPro cameras worn by the activists, who all have climbing backgrounds.

"These acts are far from peaceful demonstrations," Shell said in a statement.

Greenpeace has boarded oil rigs in the past, most recently in 2013 when the group occupied a Russian oil rig, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of over 30 activists. The activists were later released on amnesty after more than two months in jail.

While on the Polar Pioneer, the group camped on a catwalk on the rig, and received supplies such as food, blankets and camera batteries from the Esperanza, a Greenpeace ship floating nearby. The activists maintained that they were not interfering with drilling, navigation systems or any ship operations and that the crew of the ship had not made direct contact with them.

"We're simply here to send a clear message to Shell that they are not welcome in the arctic," Field said.

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