Last week, the Polar Pioneer arrived in our Seattle port to prepare for its trip up to the Arctic to explore oil drilling possibilities in the Chukchi sea this summer. It is the first of Shell’s 25 vessel fleet that will participate in these drilling activities.

The Shell Oil Arctic drilling is just one of many drilling projects around the world, so why has this one attracted so much attention? In part, the extra attention is because of the extreme challenges that face both the drilling teams as well as rescue and clean up teams should a spill occur. Just the thought of all that oil hitting pristine Arctic ice, wildlife and sea shores is anathema to many. Oil would become trapped under the ice, where it would likely never be able to be cleaned up. The US Department of the Interior estimates a 75% or greater chance of two major spills (plus many minor spills) during the extent of drilling activities should Shell be successful.

In addition, this drilling effort garners extra attention because scientists have stated unequivocally that Arctic oil must stay in the ground if we have any hope of keeping temperatures below 2C above baseline.

The fight to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic is already inspiring artists. This painting is a re-imagining of Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting, Christina’s World, to show what it would look like after a giant oil spill. Wyeth’s original painting is one of the best-known American paintings from the middle 20th century.

via The Guardian.