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Kayakers Protest Giant Arctic Oil Rig In Seattle

In some ways, this protest was like any other: banners everywhere, with messages like "Climate Justice" and "Shell No." 

But there were sounds you don't hear at the usual Seattle demonstration: Splashing and clanking sounds as boats moved through downtown waters.

There were hundreds of these boats – mostly kayakers who took to the water in a flotilla of protest against the energy giant Shell Oil as it moves floating drill rigs from shipyards in Asia to Alaska’s north coast. They’re being called kayaktivists.

Among them, Dana Schuerholz, who founded an elementary school called Homestead on Vashon Island.

"I'm out here because I want to vote with my feet, or my paddle today," Schuerholz said. "All science points to fact that oil is an archaic technology at this point. It's not a sustainable technology to further invest in."

The kayaktivists are concerned about global climate change and the high risk of an oil spill in the remote and icy Arctic Ocean.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Port of Seattle have said the Polar Pioneer drill rig doesn't have proper permits to dock here. Shell brought it here anyway. 

The company plans to keep its rigs in Seattle except during drilling season in the brief Arctic summer.

Seattle City councilman Mike O'Brien was out on the water in his little orange kayak. The Polar Pioneer towered above. It's half as tall as the Seattle Space Needle.

"The only way this thing comes into compliance is by leaving," O’Brien said.

Shell's contractor has appealed the city's permit ruling. So far, the company has invested about $7 billion dollars looking for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

It expects to find decades' worth of oil beneath the Arctic sea floor.

Saturday's protest was festive, but protesters vowed to be more confrontational on Monday. They said they will aim to shut down work on the rig, with many planning to be arrested.

In an email, a Shell spokesman said the company respects the choice to protest. It just asks that protesters do so safely and within the boundaries of the law. 

Year started with KUOW: 2009