The paddle in Seattle live blog

Crosscut archive image.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer Arctic drilling rig before it left Seattle

Shell Oil's drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, drifted into Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle last Thursday. The Department of Planning and Development announced on May 4th that the terminal is not authorized to house the equipment as it is not technically cargo. Nonetheless, the enormous rig is here. According to Mayor Ed Murray's communication director Viet Shelton, the penalty for mooring without the proper permit is $100-$500 a day, a pittance compared to the billions Shell has invested in Arctic exploration.

Saturday, hundreds of protesters will take to the water in resistance, the first recorded form of kayaktivism. Demonstrators are using the hashtag paddle in Seattle, a reference to the WTO protests renamed the Battle in Seattle.

Many of the major news networks will be there in motorboats or helicopters. David Kroman will be live-blogging from a canoe.


2:45 PM: Boaters are making their way back to shore to cheers from those on land. The native canoes are pulling in now and are about to perform a ceremony, cruise ships along the Seattle waterfront in the background.

The festivities are winding down. In all, a calm and positive day. The kayaktivists did what they set out to do, namely juxtapose the mass of tiny boats against a large piece of drilling equipment. Were Shell or the Port paying attention? Didn't look like it today, but there will be plenty of pictures in the paper tomorrow.

2:15 PM: SPD boat captain on managing kayak protesters: "We're trying to maintain everyone's First Amendment rights, but we also have to keep [the Duwamish] clear for boat traffic." He says Port of Seattle management established 100-yard perimeter around the drilling rig and they are just enforcing it.

How does boat-crowd management compare to on land? "It's more of a feat."

Meanwhile, the people in the tribal canoes are singing and playing drums, to the great pleasure of the boat crowd.

2:00 PM: Led by the native canoes, many boaters made their way into the mouth of the Duwamish to assemble in front of the Polar Pioneer. Coast Guard and police boats have established a 100-yard perimeter around the rig, although Coast Guard officers were vague on what they would do if boaters disobeyed. A perimeter is much harder to hold on water than on land.

The rig is bigger in person than photos do justice. There are workers in jumpsuits looking down on the flotilla with curiosity; they look tiny compared to the massive beams many stories above the water.

1:15 PM: The kayaktivists are organizing into three groups so they can raise the banners Climate, Justice and Now. Coordination is certainly difficult on open water.

The whole affair is incredibly family-friendly. We've seen dogs and kids in boats, and the organizers are thoughtful enough to allow for a bathroom break before moving forward with the protests.

There's a wedding at Salty's. It sounds like they're having trouble getting a picture without "Shell No" in the background.

12:30 PM: The flotilla is growing as more groups float in from the shore. Three large wooden canoes just paddled in carrying representatives from the Lummi, Snohomish, Duwamish and Chinook tribes.

A marching band is playing on an old-school wooden barge. The Raging Grannies -- the singing activists -- have their own boat.

Talking to one man, the plan for the day seems to be to organize as well as possible and then move toward Harbor Island. There, they will raise banners and chant.

The Crosscut canoe is holding steady. We have an occasional sea lion friend following us around. He has no comments on the protests.

12:00 PM: The flotilla is organizing off Seacrest park, preparing for a practice banner raising.

Water has a way of dampening sound, which is making the chants of "Justice Now" pretty quiet.

There's a light law enforcement presence: One SPD boat and one King County Sheriff boat. That said, it's hard to imagine anything getting out of control in hand-propelled watercraft.

11:00 AM: Arrived at the beach underneath cloudy skies. The view of the skyline from West Seattle is always stunning. On the way down here, my boatmate and I saw quite a few kayaks, canoes and rafts riding on top of cars on I-5. Already, a good cluster of boats has gathered off Seacrest park. The mood is patient.

10:00 AM: Heading south toward West Seattle with our media canoe. Last week, at a Port Commissioners meeting, many opponents of the Shell lease said the rig looked like a big middle finger to the city. I'm actually surprised no one has compared it to the world engine from the less-than-stellar Man of Steel. 


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.