Well, only a couple of days before the water is once again cradling Widdershins and I begin sailing south towards my rendezvous with Leonie in Kristiansand late in May. It’s been a long week of re-fitting Widdershins with new equipment and servicing all the various parts that will keep us safe on the seas. However, waking early to the sound of seagulls wheeling around and the gentle spring sun of Norway has been a pleasure, albeit I feel just a little grotty having been covered with oil, pain and various other substances for the past few days.
As I speak on oil, I should also divert to mention that while I am ok with my own person being covered with a horrible black mess I am definitely not happy with the prospect of an oil spill in the Arctic. After the mess in the gulf of Mexico last year the world called strongly for a halt on oil exploration in the Arctic and the need to prevent a similar disaster in this pristine part of the world where the wildlife is far more vulnerable to a spill and where the physical conditions make it almost impossible to either engage in a spill response similar to the Gulf (as there are no facilities and few people or boats capable of aiding). Similarly the weather conditions and sever climate mean that most of our technology for cleaning spills simply won’t work here which in my mind suggests we should simply keep out until we can show the capability of adequately responding to a spill here. Better yet, the world should take note of the universal call for alternative energies and keep out completely. It seems just a little short sighted to drill for every last drop of oil before we finally take the initiative to look elsewhere for our energy and the health of our planet.
Meanwhile, as the universal concern over the Gulf fades into our short media memory, sights are being turned back towards the Arctic – towards profit and resource security for the nations that circle this wilderness. Greenpeace have just abandoned their protest of the drilling platform heading to Greenland due to weather conditions that should be a reminder to the operators that this is not a safe place to drill. In the US Thad Allen, the government point person for the Gulf response while acknowledging the various concerns has not ruled out further exploration and drilling the Alaskan Arctic (http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/04/30/3039017/arctic-oil-spill-could-be-more.html). In the meantime Shell’s existing lease in the Chukchi Sea is still planning on being operational by 2012 despite all the risks and inadequate technology.
As for the oil I will be carrying on Widdershins we will have a strict zero discharge policy to make sure we don’t contribute to any spills or impacts in the Arctic. More importantly perhaps, wherever possible we will not be using diesel – we are in no rush and the wind supplies ample energy to get us around and see this fantastic wilderness. Besides …wind is free.