Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Some See Dangerous Giant in Shell Oil Rig, Others See Jobs

It was the kind of David-and-Goliath moment that Greenpeace was looking for: Kayakers paddling out in their tiny craft to meet a mammoth oil drilling rig pulling into Port Angeles.

Shell Oil’s Polar Pioneer arrived aboard the carrier Blue Marlin at dawn Friday, in preparation for inspection before it’s brought to Seattle over the objections of environmentalists.

It made a big impression as it came over the horizon, lit up like a castle floating on the sea.

As it approached the harbor, kayakers slid into the water and paddled out. Up on shore, Greenpeace’s Cassady Sharp had her camera out, waiting for the perfect shot.

“This is it,” she said. “Just having the comparison between how big it is, just seeing the beautiful mountains in the background … and then, it’s surrounded by the kayaks … I just think it’s symbolic that the size is overwhelming.”

Activists have protested the use of the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 for maintaining Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet. They say that drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic is inherently dangerous and that Seattle shouldn't support that project. They also worry about contamination of Puget Sound by maintenance activities.

Not everyone sees the oil rig in the same light.

Paul Gallagher, vice president of Foss Maritime, came out to watch the rig arrive at sunrise. His workers are running the tugboats that guide the rig into the harbor.

“I just think it’s amazing that people built that, that people loaded it and they delivered it here across the Pacific,” he said. “I think it’s just a really interesting project.”

And it’ll mean jobs for workers in Port Angeles too.

Don Glover already has a job working on oil tankers in a shipyard. But the size of the rig drew him down to the beach.

“And this just dwarfs those oil tankers, you know,” said Glover.

The protesters were gone within a few hours.

The rig and all its workers will stay in Port Angeles for a couple of weeks before the move to Seattle.