Greenpeace swimmers stop Amazon Warrior seismic blasting, 50 miles out to sea
10 April 2017 - Greenpeace activists have thrown themselves into the sea in front of a huge offshore oil exploration vessel off the New Zealand coast.
Among them is Greenpeace Executive Director, Russel Norman.
The swimmers’ position has forced the oil exploration ship to halt its operations and deviate off course.
This drama is taking place 50 nautical miles off the Wairarapa coast where the 125 metre Amazon Warrior, nicknamed “The Beast” is seismic blasting for oil.
The oil exploration is being carried out for Arctic driller Statoil and Chevron, a US oil company part-owned by President Donald Trump.
To find oil, the Amazon Warrior is using seismic cannons to blast the seafloor with sound waves every eight seconds, day and night. It needs to travel in straight lines along a grid to get data about potential oil reserves, and any deviation makes this data unusable.
The blasts it lets off are comparable in sound to an underwater volcano and can cause chronic distress to whales and dolphins in the area.
Statoil and Chevron have permits to drill to extreme depths of up to three kilometres if oil is found – twice as deep as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the world’s largest and most devastating oil spill in 2010.
The Fossil Fuel President, Donald Trump, has shares in Chevron, and the oil company funded a large part of his presidential inauguration.
25-year-old, Sara is another of the swimmers currently floating in the path of the Amazon Warrior with Russel Norman.
She says she’s putting her body on the line because the ship is searching for the very oil that will destroy her future.
“The science is settled that we can’t burn the majority of the fossil fuel reserves we know about if we want to keep the Earth’s temperature below dangerous levels,” she says.
“What this means is that not a single newly discovered oil well anywhere in the world can operate if we want to avoid a climate catastrophe. Right now I’m looking at a ship that’s been invited here by the New Zealand Government to do just that.
“I’m young and I’m already experiencing the effects of climate change. Every year the storms get worse, the floods and the droughts are getting more extreme. Just imagine how grim my future looks if we can’t stop this.
“It’s easy to feel powerless because what we’re up against is so big. But everywhere, people are rising up and demanding change. Their actions are having a snowball effect, and in many parts of the world, we’re starting to see huge, positive changes.”
Greenpeace has been tailing the Amazon Warrior for the past 2 days in its newest boat, Taitu.
The organisation crowdfunded nearly $100,000 in just a week to buy the 15-metre boat, and ran an online competition to choose its name.
A 2013 Amendment to the Crown
Minerals Act, dubbed the 'Anadarko Amendment', was put in
place to stop protests at sea around oil exploration. The
law change makes it an offence to interfere with or get
closer than 500 metres of an offshore ship involved in oil
From on board Taitu, Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says the right to peaceful protest is essential to a healthy democracy and New Zealand has a long and proud tradition of protest at sea.
“Neither the Government nor the oil industry can stifle people across New Zealand peacefully rising up against this mad pursuit of new oil to burn in the midst of what is nothing less than a climate emergency,” he says.
“Climate change threatens our homes, health and families. Despite knowing this, our Government is actively subsidising oil companies to look for new oil, putting profits above people’s lives - it has become necessary for people to take action.
“In New Zealand we’ve already seen extreme storms, flooding, drought and fires in the space of a just a few weeks, and it’s only April. Climate change makes these weather events more frequent and more intense.”
Taitu’s trip follows on from a flotilla that included Ngāti Kahungunu’s voyaging waka, Te Matau a Māui, which travelled out to the Amazon Warrior to deliver a message on behalf of more than 80 hapū of Te Ikaroa.
Public opposition to oil exploration has seen protests in ports, petitions garnering tens of thousands of signatures, and significant local government and iwi opposition.