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By: joealaska , 8:27 AM GMT on July 15, 2012

Today we finished up around 5PM, much better than the 8AM - Midnight deal yesterday.

As I drove home I went up and over the hill from our warehouse, went around the curve and headed down toward the water I saw the mast of Noble Discoverer. Horribly closer than normal.

This was the first of two Shell drill rigs coming by Dutch, heading north to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas up north. Like I am not north enough! The Noble Discoverer is a self contained drill ship. A rig on a ship. It is different from KULLUK, that oil rig that came through Dutch last year. Kulluk is just a drill rig, and must be towed to get anywhere.

Discoverer has been a landmark parked in the bay in front of Safeway for the last couple of weeks.

Today it was closer to Safeway, and the Post Office. Very close. Scary close.

The anchor lost its grip in the sandy soil and the 50 mph winds pushed the big rig ashore.

It was the lead story on the Anchorage news tonight. Down south tomorrow it will be buried. They said the rig got within 175 yards of shore. Check out my photo ON THE ROCKS. You tell me...
They did not acknowledge it even hit shore. A possible “soft grounding.” All I know is it stopped at that point with no assistance.

So when I first saw the very close boat, I immediately pulled over to the edge of the water off the road. I noticed 2 other vehicles doing the same thing. In 2 minutes, there were 15 cars. So I was knew I was there just when it happened. I took 2 pictures and my camera said CHANGE BATTERIES. Shades of Ocean Harvester! I quickly drove to Safeway where there was a RARE line and bought more batteries. After I returned, I wore out four of those new batteries in about 15 minutes.


But I saw a lot of action. Nothing moves in fast motion with boats, but I have posted pics, and will put together a film.

At first, one small tug- either Saratoga or the bigger Mike O’Leary- was struggling to pull the Discoverer off the shore. There were other boats all around, but they were standing by. The Discoverer was firing up its engines, as the black smoke indicated. But there it sat. My guess was it was about 80 yards off shore, close enough to be grounded.

A big crowd formed all along the beach, even though it was raining and blowing at 50 mph. Everyone was taking pictures. IDIOTS!! (See what I have posted).

It was more interesting to me as we deal with all the big players in this story. I even called one of the tugs as they were in route to help out, telling them we had some freight for them. They said hold on to it, they had a job to get done.

There are thre tugs (at least) with Dunlap towing who we work with all the time. They do a great service to Dutch, as well as the Horizon tug Gyrfalcon (JEER-Falcon).

As the whole Noble Discoverer episode unfolded off in the distance appeared KULLUK. Back with perfect timing. It was being towed in from Seattle by AIVIQ (EYE-VICK). The arrival could not have been more perfectly scripted. One big arrival, one big snafu. They pulled in within complete view, but after the Discoverer issue, they retreated back behind Hog Island out of sight.

Green Peace has already made a big statement about Shell not being able to handle a deep port anchorage, much less an Arctic drilling.

Don’t even ask me about work...

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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14. Ylee
5:22 AM GMT on July 20, 2012
Joe, do you think you'll get any action from the Cleveland volcano? It's recently gone to orange alert!

Dotmom, I saw a lot of weather on the radar around Louisville today! Did you get any of it?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
13. dotmom
2:39 AM GMT on July 19, 2012
My computer says 50 degrees and clear in Dutch Harbor. We just had a soaking rain! Yeah!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
12. dotmom
11:41 AM GMT on July 18, 2012
MidMid: Cute article - mayor with lots of "purrks too!"
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11. Midmid1
12:42 PM GMT on July 17, 2012
Hi Joe! On a different topic, I came across this article this morning. I like this Alaskan Mayor...no taxes!

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10. dotmom
1:30 AM GMT on July 17, 2012
Small blurb in our newspaper today on the Noble Discoverer incident. I like JoeAlaska's full-blown report plus photos. Can't beat that coverage!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
9. Tahoe58
3:27 PM GMT on July 16, 2012
thanks for posting. these are awesome photos. I worked with the Kulluk in the Canadian Beaufort for is reactivation from its multiyear slumber in McKinley Bay. This event is disappointing in the broad scheme of things. There is little to no room for error once they are on location.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
8. Dodabear
2:56 PM GMT on July 16, 2012
7. insideuk 9:20 AM EDT on July 16, 2012
If they put a flashing blue light on the top will that help make it arrive within a month of a disaster?

Probably not, but I think it will attract a lot of K-MART shoppers.
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7. insideuk
1:20 PM GMT on July 16, 2012
A Shell Oil Co. drilling rig that slipped its anchor Saturday evening in Dutch Harbor and drifted close to shore never grounded and there's no evidence it suffered any damage, according to Shell and the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, as is Shell and Noble Corp., which owns and runs the Noble Discoverer rig for Shell. It's one of several issues that Shell is working on with regulators in the final weeks before it hopes to begin drilling in the Alaska Arctic.

Shell has inspected the hull underwater with a remotely operated vehicle and found no abrasions that would indicate the ship ran aground, officials said. It plans to send divers to check further on Monday, said Pete Slaiby, a Shell vice president who is overseeing the company's Alaska operations.

"Any kind of incident like this -- a near miss -- is unacceptable, and we need to investigate why things happened the way they did," Slaiby said.

High winds in Dutch Harbor on Saturday afternoon probably led to the ship drifting, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis. Winds of 27 mph were reported with gusts of 35 mph, she said. A Coast Guard report Saturday saying that the ship only came within 175 yards of shore when witnesses said it got much closer was incorrect, Francis acknowledged. The ship, which Shell said has a 26-foot draft, had been anchored 175 yards out when it began to drag anchor, she said.

The Coast Guard is monitoring the situation. It will conduct its own inspection of the ship and review Shell's videos and diver reports, Francis said.

Based on reports from the ship, "there was no evidence of damage to the hull or of the vessel grounding," Francis said.

The crew on board noticed the ship moving, and the Lauren Foss tugboat quickly attached a line to the ship and began pulling it to deeper water, Slaiby said. The tug is part of the Shell fleet and was on standby with engines running, which was the plan for dealing with a drifting ship. The Discoverer fired up its engines, too.

"The incident really took about 28 minutes from start to stop," Slaiby said.

What happened won't affect Shell's plans to drill exploratory wells later this summer in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, according to Shell and the Coast Guard.

"A vessel slipping anchor at an anchorage, while not a common event, is not rare, either," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Chris O'Neil, the Washington, D.C.-based head spokesman. He is in Alaska for a month to monitor and learn more about expanding Arctic operations.

"There's no reason to think operations won't continue as planned by Shell," O'Neil said.

Greenpeace, which is opposed to drilling in the Arctic and following the Shell operation closely, immediately criticized the company.

"Shell can't keep its drill rig under control in a protected harbor, so what will happen when it faces 20 foot swells and sea ice while drilling in the Arctic?" Jackie Dragon, who is taking the lead on the Greenpeace Arctic campaign, said in a written statement. Efforts to speak with her Sunday were unsuccessful. She is on board the Esperanza, which is headed to the Chukchi Sea with research submarines and other equipment to study the area where Shell plans to drill.

That's an invalid comparison, Slaiby said. In the harbor, Shell used a single ship's anchor, which he said is standard, even for big ships. When Shell drills, it will secure the rig with eight, massive anchors in what's called a "spread mooring system."

"It runs out thousands of feet, 360 degrees," Slaiby said. That kind of system would interfere with shipping in a harbor, he said.

The oil company still is working through other environmental and safety issues with regulators. The generators that provide power for drilling and utilities on the Discoverer -- a 1960s-era converted log carrier -- don't meet emission levels set out in an Environmental Protection Agency air quality permit that took Shell years to secure. Shell's application for the permit was fought by environmental groups, Alaska Native organizations and a Fairbanks resident, Daniel Lum.

After spending more than $30 million to retrofit the ship with various emission control systems, Shell concluded that meeting the standards for the generators in its air permit isn't technically possible, according to its application for a revised permit. It's trying to get a waiver for this drilling season and to reach agreement with the EPA for a revised permit for next year. Slaiby said that emissions for the rig as a whole won't exceed the standards, but that the specific generators at issue go above the levels set for them. Lum, an Inupiaq who now lives in Fairbanks, already has vowed to fight any proposal that would allow more pollution into the air.

Meanwhile, Shell still is trying to get Coast Guard approval for a barge that will carry oil spill response equipment and a system for containing and handling oil from an out-of-control well. Slaiby said that system is voluntary, but federal regulators have indicated that it must pass inspection in order for Shell to receive permits to drill individual wells.

Shell is gearing up to send the Discoverer to drill three exploratory wells on the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea and a second rig, the Kulluk, to drill two wells on the Sivilliq prospect in the Beaufort Sea. It is trying to become the first oil company to produce oil from the Alaska Arctic and has spent about $4 billion acquiring leases and outfitting and building specialized ships and support vessels.

Its flotilla is in Dutch Harbor resupplying and waiting for the sea ice to melt so that the drilling rigs can get to their targets. Shell plans for the ships to leave the last week of July.

Oil spill response BARGES for handling oil from "out-of-control" wells?

If they put a flashing blue light on the top will that help make it arrive within a month of a disaster?

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
6. osdianna
5:50 PM GMT on July 15, 2012
Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Good job of reporting, and nice series of photos...telling the story. I have to admit it givers me the willies knowing where they are headed and what they are about to do.
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5. Skyepony (Mod)
1:48 PM GMT on July 15, 2012
Excellent blog & photos Joealaska!
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4. OGal
1:35 PM GMT on July 15, 2012

Joe a guy for news from Dutch. The fog lurker should get an award for best picture of the year. Thanks for your update. Can you imagine with both of these disasters floating up north. Not a pretty picture.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
3. DHaupt
12:19 PM GMT on July 15, 2012
We repeat: nothing can go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong. go wrong....

Great photos! Maybe we should buy up all the seal meat, polar bear meat, salmon and crab futures we can lay our hands on before these jolly rovers of the ocean leave for their destination.

Shell: that's the part that remains for millions of years after the living creature that made it deceases.
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2. dotmom
12:08 PM GMT on July 15, 2012
Love your photos! I especially like the ones where the Kulluk is lurking in the fog in the background.
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1. insideuk
10:53 AM GMT on July 15, 2012
Just when you thought Shell had got everything in tip top shape and Bristol fashion it turns out they hadn't gotten their bay parking permit...

Always a permit short of a passing out parade.

The stern was certainly wedged up on the beach, her propeller must have been grounded, possibly her rudder was building award winning sand sculptures. How very embarrassing. Shell won't want that footage on Youtube. They have ways and means to stop you. You don't DEAL with them, they DEAL with you.

You better go into hiding Joealaska.

If they have the ways and means to fully drain your new batteries inside 15 minutes think how they could power check you?

A thumb and a forefinger pressed hard on your + and – bits?

On the other hand it might be you bought some old battery stock...

Just covering my arse before I head out to my local friendly petrol station to brim fill Betti.
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About joealaska

I have just taken a new job in Great Falls, Montana. A new state and new areas to explore.

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#8734.  RANCHING 101, or RANCHING 911?