Hearing that Shell is drilling in the Arctic Ocean just 12 miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one thing, but seeing it is another. To observe a drilling rig so close to the Coastal Plain of the refuge – vital habitat for caribou and polar bears – is chilling. That’s exactly why Oregon-based photographer Gary Braasch traveled to Alaska this summer.
Braasch chartered an airplane and flew to the site where Shell’s Kulluk rig was doing preliminary drilling to prepare for the 2013 summer season, when the company hopes to have permits to drill into oil deposits. "I don't think the public has realized how close it is," Braasch said. His photographs may strike fear in people’s hearts, but they should also motivate us all to continue fighting for the Arctic Ocean.
The Wilderness Society is fighting Shell’s effort to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean because the technology to effectively respond to a spill and recover oil in cold, stormy seas simply doesn’t exist. The oil industry needs to develop improved technology, and prove the effectiveness of their equipment and emergency plans. Until then, offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a potential catastrophe.