Boy’s Own Annual stuff from the greenpeas children:
“ON BOARD THE Arctic SUNRISE, The Barents Sea — Each morning at about 9:30, an Illyushin-38 patrol aircraft zooms in from the aft, circles once and then flies off back south.”
It is clear to the crew of this Greenpeace vessel in the middle of the Barents Sea, that the Russian Navy is keeping a close eye on their movements.
Lunch on the first day out of Murmansk, prepared by the ship’s talented Mexican cook, was slightly overshadowed by an ever-present gray speck on the horizon, a Russian destroyer that had apparently shadowed the Greenpeace vessel from port.
Not that Vladimir Votiakov, the Russian-born captain of the Arctic Sunrise is concerned by the attention.
“It could be routine, but I’m sure they’re having a look at us, too,” he said.
The reason for such vigilance is clear. The Greenpeace vessel, a veteran of numerous direct-action campaigns by the group, is headed east across the Barents Sea, and from its deck one can now just make out a tiny white pyramid on the horizon.
It is the drilling tower of the Prirazlomnoye oil platform, Russia’s first Arctic oil rig and a flagship for a drive for Arctic oil and gas that Vladimir Putin has said is key to the country’s future.
It’s an appropriate mission for the Sunrise, a scruffy but tough icebreaker originally built to supply Norwegian oil rigs in the North Sea.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that there is 1.5 billion tons of oil, 11 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and 270 million tons of natural-gas liquids beneath the Barents Sea, mostly in Russia’s exclusive economic zone.
Prirazlomnoye is just one of dozens of such fields in the Pechora Sea, a shallow bay of the Barents just south of the Novaya Zemlya islands.