Polar Pioneer

Today is the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. This event was initiated to raise public awareness of environmental issues and to encourage commitment to change and service in an effort to reduce pollution and human impacts on our planet.

So today I will introduce you to Polar Pioneer, a visitor to the Port of Port Angeles. Polar Pioneer is a semi-submersible offshore drilling rig that arrived last week from Malaysia on its way to Arctic waters off Alaska as part of Shell Oil Company’s plans to resume exploratory oil drilling there.

Polar Pioneer 1

Polar Pioneer is riding piggyback on the Blue Marlin, a heavy-lift ship that can partially submerge to allow the Pioneer to be towed from its deck. After initial work in Port Angeles it will be towed to Seattle for additional fittings. Then it will deploy to Chukchi Sea in northwest coastal Alaska.

The rig has not been warmly welcomed in some circles. Activists cite poorly handled spills around the world to argue that exploration companies are ill-equipped to handle spills. Greenpeace temporarily boarded the Blue Marlin on its journey and activists protested its arrival here. A coalition of groups, Shellno.org plans further protests in Seattle.

Polar and Coho

Polar Pioneer is 400 feet tall. Though distance alters scale, in this shot it dwarfs the MV Coho, a 341.5 foot passenger ferry that can carry 110 vehicles and 1,000 passengers. Most of us never see these rigs up close and personal. Perhaps we should. I know there are probably many that have worked flawlessly for years. But events such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago are a cautionary tale that time and distance should not erase. Mother Nature is a good housekeeper but not a miracle worker.