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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Oil Rig Grounds on Ocean Bay Beach

Ocean Bay Beach looking Northeast 2010
Not really all that much to say - except, yet again, the impossible has happened.  The oil rig that they have been using to do exploratory drilling up in the Arctic Seas off of Northwest Alaska has blown ashore during a storm on Sitkalidak Island just off shore of Kodiak Island.  They were towing the rig to Seattle for maintenance.

Here is a link (click 'link') to an article about the event in the New York Times.

I'm tired of these over-confident oil engineers (and Pebble Mine or the Narrow Cape Rocket launch folks for that matter) telling us that they can handle anything nature throws at them.  Obviously they can not.  They should not be drilling in the Arctic Ocean or building rocket launches on top of earthquake faults.  Because nature does happen - and she can be one angry lady at times.

Above is a photo of the North end of Ocean Bay beach where I gather the rig ran aground.  I know of at least 2 very important archaeological sites in this area. One of the sites is the type site where tools from the 'Ocean Bay Tradition' (5500 to 2000 BC) were first found by Don Clark in the early 1960s (see photo below).  I hope the site does not get damaged during the salvage/cleanup.  Just to the north of the beach is the site of the first big battle between the Russians and the Alutiiq in 1784 - another very significant archaeological site.  Read more about it here.

Ocean Bay Beach is also one of the most beautiful beaches on the archipelago.  This is VERY sad day.


Update:  The rig has actually grounded north of Ocean Bay Beach - on the headland between the beach and Partition Cove.  This puts it pretty close to the Refuge Rock site where the Russians broke Alutiiq resistance to their rule - a VERY significant site.

View of Ocean Bay beach in 1963 - Photo by Don Clark

Sitkalidak Roadcut Site excavation in 1963 behind Ocean Bay Beach - this is where archaeologists 'discovered' the  Ocean Bay archaeological culture


Molly Odell said...

It is amazing what our government will approve for the sake of natural resource extraction.

Philip said...

It is so easy to allow our politics to pick and choose. It is a worthy discussion to look at how we can safely use natural resources. It is another thing to pick and choose our activity based on politics. By your reasoning then we should close all shipping lanes because the weather gets bad, all fishing must stop.All boat traffic must come to an end. Accidents will always happen, and that is what this is. Lets figure out a way to do things with greater concern for our environment, to become better stewards of natural resources.
Peace, Philip

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Actually, I'm all for responsible development. I just don't think we should be taking unreasonable risks for resource development - or doing crazy things like putting a rocket launch facility directly on top of an active fault. Oil spills are a HUGE risk to everyone while a fishing boat or freighter sinking affects far less people. Patrick

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

I feel my above comment needs some clarification so I'll add that its all about risk assessment and mitigation. And taking an oil rig across the gulf of Alaska in winter without adequate tow gear or back up smacks of hubris. A serious lack of judgement. It gets me worried about this company drilling in the high arctic where the risks and costs of a disaster are far higher.

And I'll add that my politics have nothing to do with it. I've actually voted both Republican and Democrat - I'm proud to say I voted for both Ronald Reagan and George H Bush. Patrick