Greenpeace Australia Pacific BLOG

Our Arctic Sunrise is coming home

Posted on June 10, 2014 by Greenpeace Australia Pacific

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Last week, we had a remarkable phone call from Murmansk.

It was from the team of lawyers representing Greenpeace International telling us that the Russian Investigative Committee (IC) had decided to release the Arctic Sunrise, after nearly nine months of illegal detention in this remote Arctic port.

The Arctic Sunrise was illegally seized at gunpoint in international waters by Russian commandos last September after a peaceful protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya Arctic oil platform in the Pechora Sea. The 28 activists and two freelance journalists onboard were kept for months in jail on spurious charges of piracy and then hooliganism, before finally being granted a Parliamentary amnesty at the end of December last year.

The ship got no such amnesty. Instead she has been left unattended and unloved to rust quietly in a corner of the port far away from prying eyes.

Thankfully, her ordeal should soon be over. Our lawyers have signed the papers and she’s officially back in our hands. Millions of people from around the world spoke out against the illegal imprisonment of the Arctic 30, and today the final member of the group is free to come home.

Our first priority is to make sure the Sunrise is seaworthy. Nine months is a long time for an icebreaker to go without basic maintenance, let alone the sort of care and attention she usually gets from her crew.

But like our campaign to protect the Arctic I guarantee she will emerge better, fitter and even stronger than before.

The Arctic Sunrise should never have been detained in the first place. There was absolutely no justification for her being boarded, seized and kept for so long in Murmansk, not least when the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered her immediate release in November 2013.

This whole affair has been a brazen attempt to intimidate those who believe that drilling for oil in the melting Arctic is reckless and unsafe.

Thank you to all of those who stood with the Arctic 30 and the Arctic Sunrise. Only together will we Save the Arctic. As the world warms and the ice melts this is fast becoming an era defining battle, and we are determined to win it.

Ben Ayliffe is head of the Arctic oil campaign at Greenpeace UK.

To celebrate this news, we’ve put together 17 stunning images of the Arctic Sunrise in peaceful action.

Arctic Sunrise moored to Ice Floe

The first time Greenpeace came in contact with the Arctic Sunrise, it was actually confronting the ship as the French government was using it to build an air strip through a penguin habitat.

Since then it has worked everywhere from within 450 miles of the North Pole, to Antarctica’s Ross Sea, and has navigated both the Congo and the Amazon. It’s latest activity to protest against environmental destruction, including Gazprom’s reckless oil drilling in the Arctic, left it in the hands of Russian authorities along with 28 international activists and two independent journalists.

Designed as an icebreaker, its rounded, keelless hull allows it to navigate through sea ice – but also makes life rather interesting in rolling seas. In 1997, The Arctic Sunrise became the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island in the Antarctic, a previously impossible journey until a 200m thick ice shelf connecting the island to the Antarctic continent collapsed. This was just one of the many signs of climate change which the Arctic Sunrise has helped document.

17. The ship journeys through the Tongass National Forest en route to Juneau, Alaska.

The Greenpeace thermal Airship A.E. Bates in Juneau, Alaska

16. The Arctic Sunrise traveled to the Dry Tortugas with several teams of independent scientists to conduct a series of scientific research programs to further understand the impacts of both oil and chemical dispersants on the Gulf ecosystem in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater oil spill.

MY Arctic Sunrise in Dry Tortugas

15.  Greenpeace activists from the Arctic Sunrise attach floating devices to the cables of a Spanish fishing trawler, forcing her to haul her nets empty, less than an hour after starting the trawl. The trawler is fishing at 450 meters deep, 170 km off the west coast of Ireland in the north east Atlantic ocean destroying the fish habitats of over exploited stocks. 

Action against Trawler in North Atlantic

14.  A team of six Greenpeace activists including Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, board an Arctic oil platform Prirazlomnaya off the North-eastern coast of Russia in the Pechora Sea. 

Action Against Gazprom's Arctic Drilling

13. A researcher writes in the dive log of the Dual Deep Worker submarine on an inflatable boat near the Greenpeace ship MY Arctic Sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill of 2010.

MY Arctic Sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico

12.  In 1997, The Arctic Sunrise became the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island in the Antarctic, a previously impossible journey until a 200 meter thick ice shelf connecting the island to the Antarctic continent collapsed.

ARCTIC SUNRISE at James Ross Island

11. Greenpeace protests against the ship “Front Driver” loaded with 153.000 tons of coal, 15 miles outside Valencia. The “Front Driver” is heading towards Tarragona. The protest is to denounce the Spanish energy policy that still relies heavily in fossil fuels.

Climate Coal Action in Valencia10. Two Greenpeace ships, the Rainbow Warrior and the Arctic Sunrise sail together in the Mediterranean Sea in 2012 to action against the bluefin tuna fishing fleets and to promote marine reserves.

RW and Arctic Sunrise in the Mediterranean9. The crew of the Arctic Sunrise construct a ‘heart, with the flags of the 193 country members of the United Nations on an ice floe north of the Arctic Circle.

8. The ship displays a banner reading “Still Yearning To Breathe Free. Quit Coal” as it passes in front of the Statue of Liberty during the ship’s arrival in New York.  

Coal Free Future Tour in New York City

7. The ship’s crew and a team of independent scientists sail to remote northeast Greenland, to study the effects of climate change in the Arctic in 2009.

MY Arctic Sunrise in Greenland6.  Crews of the MY Arctic Sunrise and the MY Esperanza use their bodies to write “Help End Whaling!” on the ice of Antarctica, after completing a two month campaign against the whaling fleet of Japan.

Crews form message with their bodies - Southern Ocean Tour 2005 - Sutton-Hibbert5. Ice accumulates in the strong winds that cross the starboard side of the Arctic Sunrise during a 2011 tour in Norway.

Ice on the Arctic Sunrise4. The ship Arctic Sunrise blocks the path of the smaller Cargill ship containing Amazonian soya to prevent it from exiting in 2006. Cargill is responsible for exporting soya grown in deforested areas of the rainforest where huge areas are destroyed to accommodate agricultural demand.

Arctic Sunrise Blocks Discharge of Amazonian Soya3. Politicians and celebrities board the Arctic Sunrise to say ‘NO’ to Trident and explain why they don’t want the UK to spend up to £76 billion on outdated, unnecessary and dangerous weapons of mass destruction in 2007. The Arctic Sunrise has recently returned from an action at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland, where it blockaded the port for an entire day in protest at the UK government’s rush to a new generation of nuclear weapons.

MY Arctic Sunrise arrives in London2. The Arctic Sunrise with “SOS” signs held in between two inflatables in front of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janerio in 2001.

Arctic Sunrise in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil during the Americas Stop Pollution Tour.1.  The Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise is towed into Murmansk port by a Russian Coast Guard vessel. The activists onboard are detained with piracy charges for a protest against Arctic oil drilling by Russian company Gazprom in the Pechora Sea. The ‘Arctic 30? include 28 Greenpeace International activists, as well as a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer.

Arctic Sunrise Inspected by Russian Authorities

What’s your favourite Arctic Sunrise moment? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Blog post by: Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent direct action to expose global environmental problems and to force solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future.
All blogposts by Greenpeace Australia Pacific
  • cait

    Beautiful amazing work Greenpeace is doing! Im glad it exists. Im thankful that people are so brave and passionate that they fight for the survival of our planet. Ive often thought that a documentary that shows what the world is really like now, with the effects of deforestation, extinct species, mining etc so that people who are unaware of the extent of the damage this has caused can see it with their own eyes. If it was to hit big cinemas, to be all over YouTube, Twitter etc.. it might just show people whats happening.
    I know that people often think that the natural world still looks like it did in documentaries made in the 90′s, but so much has changed since then. I’ve spoken to young people my own age who think there is no need to act against the environmental destruction by people, because they think there will be a vast and plentiful abundance of resources and untouched land for years to come.

    They have no idea, and they don’t care enough to go and find out, but if it was in there face, and so easy to see how much damage has been done they might be more inclined to sign petitions and be aware of whats really happening and keep up the conversation.