Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Something Strange This Way Comes - Redux!

From time to time we experience an exciting event that is etched into our memory. I am at the beginning such an event.

When I found out a few days ago that the Dockwise Vanguard would be coming to Port Angeles, I went bananas - like a 10 year old kid anticipating Santa!

I followed her all day long as she advanced inbound through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and now.

Check it out! Not only is the Vanguard heaving to, but she's a stone's throw from the Dockwise Blue Marlin!

It's a gobsmacked twofer!


Near the end of September, Shell announced it will cease Arctic exploration drilling for the near future. The announcement came after failing to make a commercial find at the Burger J Well, located in Alaska's Chukchi Sea.

The well was drilled to a total depth of 6,800 feet and although indications of oil and gas were found at Burger J, they were "not sufficient to warrant further exploration in the Burger prospect."

Further frustration was caused by Shell's inability to use both drill ship, Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer. The Noble Discoverer simply sat on its hands, with a crew of more that 100 souls, on site for three months, unable to drill!

She was prevented from drilling due to a prohibition mandated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), requiring a minimum 15-mile separation between active drilling rigs. That buffer would help reduce the risk of hearing loss among walruses and give them safe passage if they needed to escape.

Shell, not giving a damn about the risk of hearing loss among walruses, fought the 15-mile rule. The Chukchi well sites were tightly clustered within a 300-square-mile prospect, and the company wanted to position its rigs at the two most promising sites-just nine miles apart.

Shell argued it would already be spending the resources for a second rig because, in its exploration plan filed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM,) Shell had agreed to have a backup vessel - Noble Discoverer - in the vicinity to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout.

Fortunately, thankfully, Shell lost the argument. 

So in the end, the Burger J well was sealed an and abandoned. At the end of September, the expeditionary fleet was disbanded.

The drill rig Polar Pioneer returned to Port Angeles and Noble Discoverer returned to Everett. But a really interesting development resulted when

the State owned (Finnish) Arctia Offshore's Multipurpose Icebreaker tugs Fennica and Nordica returned to home base at Rauma, Finland, via the Northwest Passage.

Joining the tugs, a large contingent of international scientists, to record and observe nature, Arctic fauna, as well as weather and ice.

All part of the growing International concern over climate change. The fact they could make this trip in the winter; further indication of  diminished ice.

Noble's Noble Discoverer returned to Everett on October 24th to offload equipment and prepare for her next assignment, somewhere in the South Pacific. She will be dry towed by the Blue Marlin.

Transocean's Polar Pioneer arrived back at Port Angeles on October 28th to offload equipment and prepare for her next assignment. The Polar Pioneer, which first visited Port Angeles in April and May while preparing to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, is believed to be destined to the North Sea, where she operated for 30 years.  She will be dry towed by the Vanguard.

Once in a Lifetime 

In all my years of train chasing and ship watching, few events prepare me for the excitement of what I will experience over the next few days.

•  See and photograph the final steam locomotives on the Canadian National Railways.
•  See and photograph Krauss-Maffei diesel hydraulics in Oakland.
•  See and photograph the famous Smit Singapore when she visited Portland.
•  See and photograph the last working steam tug Portland.
•  See, photograph,  and have coffee aboard one of the world's most famous salvage tugs, the Salvage Chief, in Hoquiam Washington.

So What's Next?

I recognize this as a once in a lifetime event. Port Angeles is a 100 mile round trip from home.  I've got to plan these next few days carefully.

I published an extensive article about the construction of the Vanguard, so I won't need to re-plow that field.

So now we have two famous heavy lift vessels in town. I've just purchased another new camera, so I'm going to spend some time making sure I know how to operate it - unlike learning the Nikon "on the scene" when the Polar Pioneer was first delivered to Port Angeles last spring!

See Also:  Something Strange This Way Comes!

1 Comments - Click here:

Steve Boyko said...

Sounds exciting - good luck!

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