The activists first scaled the oil rig Stena Don on Tuesday. They attached hanging platforms to the underside of the rig where they camped out in tents with self-heating meals until last night.
Greenpeacers hang from the underside of the oil rig Stena Don in Baffin Bay. September 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace UK)
Freezing gale-force winds forced the climbers and Greenpeace campaigners on the ship Esperanza anchored one kilometer from the rig to decide to end the occupation.
It took the Greenpeacers four hours of climbing in bitter winds to scale the rig from their hanging platforms up onto the platform gantry, where police were waiting for them. They were taken into custody and flown off the oil rig by helicopter at 2 am.
Before ending the occupation, climber Sim McKenna of the United States, said on his satellite phone, "We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days, but in the end the Arctic weather beat us. Last night was freezing and now the sea below us is churning and the wind is roaring. It's time to come down, but we're proud we slowed the mad rush for Arctic oil, if only for a couple of days."
The protesters occupied the oil rig Stena Don, operated by Cairn Energy, to draw attention to their "Beyond Oil" campaign. They say deepwater oil drilling in the Arctic is too risky for the environment and the world needs to switch to cleaner sources of energy to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
McKenna said, "This beautiful fragile environment would be decimated by an oil spill, while the melting Arctic ice is a grim reminder that we need to stop burning oil and invest instead in clean energy solutions."
"I'm not sure what will happen to us now," he said, "but as soon as we can we'll be back to call for the world to finally go beyond oil."
The oil rig Stena Don. (Photo by Jens Auer)
Ben Stewart, communications officer onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza said, Looking out of my porthole at the massive waves, and feeling the movements of the Esperanza, there is no doubt in my mind that they took the right decision."
"I hope and believe that this action will be remembered as the first step against our blind and reckless hunt for the last drops of oil on the planet," Stewart said.
In London this morning, Greenpeace lawyers threatened legal action against the UK government over its decision to continue issuing licenses for deep sea oil drilling even before the causes of BP's Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are ascertained.
Lawyers for the environmental group wrote to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne asking the government to do as U.S. President Barack Obama has done and introduce a moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil and gas.
"We're asking the government to stop giving out these licenses for new offshore drilling and to carry out a comprehensive new environmental assessment into offshore oil," said Stewart. "It's not just irrational to give out licenses without this new environmental assessment; we believe it's also a breach of European and UK law."
"This is just the first step in the legal process," Stewart said. "If the government does not give us an undertaking within 14 days that it will stop the licensing and do a new environmental assessment, we plan to go to court."
While the UK has not imposed a moratorium on new licensing of deepwater drilling projects, in June, Huhne announced that environmental inspections of rigs in UK waters would be stepped up.
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