Shell Drill Ship Runs Aground in Unalaska

Saturday, July 14 2012

Photo courtesy of Kristjan Laxfoss

Shell Oil has run into a number of problems with its Arctic drilling plans over the last few days. The Coast Guard refused to certify its oil spill containment barge as it stands, the EPA is reviewing the Noble Discoverer drill rig's air permits -- and now, there may be damage to the rig itself. 

The Noble Discoverer appears to have run aground in Unalaska on Saturday afternoon. 

Despite rain and 35-knot winds, more than a dozen residents came to Airport Beach to watch the Shell's contract tugboat Lauren Foss straining to pull the rig back out to sea. 

Longshoreman David Howard was one of the onlookers. Howard says he noticed something wrong with the 500-foot rig earlier in the afternoon. 

“I’m just like anybody else driving by, you see it getting closer and closer, you know it’s dragging anchor and that they probably ought to get a tug on it.”

Howard says he thinks the Shell crew got lucky. 

"Fortunately, where it got grounded, it was pretty soft in here," he says. "There's not a big bunch of sharp rocks out there. It's fortunate to have gone up here rather than out on the S-curves, where there's a lot of rocky areas that might compromise the hull." 

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company has activated a dive team to inspect the hull, which could help determine whether the ship actually touched bottom.

Shell is also evaluating the Noble Discoverer's mooring system to determine how the vessel moved toward shore, he says. But Smith did not say that the ship had run aground.

"Today, while moored off the coast of Dutch Harbor, the Noble Discoverer drill ship drifted toward land and stopped very near the coast," he says.

The Coast Guard is also investigating the incident. 

The Noble Discoverer has been in Unalaska since last Saturday, along with a flotilla of support vessels. It's supposed to begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea next month. 

To see more photos of the Noble Discoverer at Airport Beach, visit our Facebook page

Brian Murphree on Sunday, August 26 2012:

Shell is the best they r the safest and the most upstanding noble is the best drilling company there is they no what they r doing we all need fuel in case people forgot cars dont run on water God put it here for us so drill like Hell

Whitewinged1 on Monday, July 16 2012:

Amberleighnt on Sunday, July 15 2012:

"I havent talked to my husband on the rig yet thank you, and I am not dumb. I assume you just felt it was necessary to through that in there?" Not dumb?? could have fooled's "throw" not "through" you can't even spell simple words correctly! Say i hear they built a really huge internment camp up there in Alaska, capable of holding up to 2 million US "dissidents" citizens for when marshal law kicks in.And i hear that will be very soon.

Local Gal on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Actually, Sabrenah. I think they took your comments down on Facebook because you were the only user who frequently cursed in your rants. The KUCB website and its corresponding Facebook page are public forums that many people very much appreciate, including myself. I say this respectfully, because we are all entitled to our own opinions--but those comments weren't helping you.

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

"natchez Democrate".....I caught you! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "Just wait...THIS gets better!"

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

We plan on having lots of kids, because we have the money to do it. But I'd rather have him home everyday! Although the time he is home, we can do whatever we want to do because we have the time to do it and I don't have to work. But I respect what he does. He's a GREAT man!

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

What? "Natchez Democrate". I don't have a drug problem. I'm not going to jail, and im not going to further this conversation bc it has nothing to do with my husband or the Noble Drill Rig. Thank you.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Amberleighnt, PLEASE don't think I actually posted that last comment! A man named Wade Sache keeps going on here as my name and posting stupid things. I agree with you 100%! In fact, all of the posts I have left under the pictures of the ship have been DELETED my the people who run it bc of my valid point. I did NOT POST that last comment. If you read underneath it, it's already happened once. My husband called me this morning and last night and said everyone is ok..I pray you can reach your husband sometime soon!

Local Gal on Sunday, July 15 2012:

I think Mr. Mason's editorial is most succinct in all of this rambling:

DJHZ on Sunday, July 15 2012:

The point is, whether the oil rig "actually touched land" or not, it was drifting, OUT OF CONTROL, and heading for the beach, not a beach in an "uninhabited area", as some lower forty eight broadcasts reported, but a beach located directly across from our primary grocery store and a a large,fully booked hotel. FYI Unalaska is the eleventh largest city in AK with a population of between four and five thousand people.

Resident are not "freaked out" and are grateful nothing bad happened, but we who live here have a right to be concerned about what occurred and question Shell's safety practices. At least fifty cars were pulled over witnessing the scene and most of the photos you are seeing were taken by ordinary, Unalaska residents, with ordinary cameras. What you see is real.

Roughnecks Girl on Sunday, July 15 2012:

My man is there right now too...and Amberleighnt pretty much said it best. Our men are going to get their jobs done regardless of all the idiots who try to stop them. Actually all they do is get in their way and cause bigger chances for error. Also unless you live completely off the land shut your mouths...everything has to get to the store and supermarket somehow amd I'm pretty sure it's not by horse and buggy.

Clint on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Why don't all you whiners whom want to stop the fossil fuel useage start by giving up anything you own that uses these fuels, then maybe the rest of us will follow your examples, until then please give us a brake you hyprocrital asses.

Amberleighnt on Sunday, July 15 2012:

I havent talked to my husband on the rig yet thank you, and I am not dumb. I assume you just felt it was necessary to through that in there? Or maybe the comment left from a Previous entry didn't concern you, the one where it was wished that the rig never made it to their destination? I dont know about you, my husband is on that rig too. Frankly I'm tired of all the hype. He has yet to have a normal hitch between greenpeace and freak things happening.

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

I just talked to my hubby up there he sais yall need to just chill he and the captain were busy Docking and he rammed the stern just like captain told him. geez u guys r dumb

Amberleighnt on Sunday, July 15 2012:

What gets me, you guys determined to protest where they drill, have you nothing better to protest? What about nuclear plants??? That was a world known catastrophe. Bad for the environment, dangerous to those who live near it, and if they explode, a lot of lives would be lost! Really? Drilling? You just don't know how much the rig had to go through to be certified to drill up there. If it was approved by the EPA, that's something to be said. And as far as greenpeace goes, they fuel their boats and cars, they drink out of plastic bottles too. All these oil rig workers under scrutiny all the time. I hate that they are under appreciated. While I am not saying we should praise them for the job they do everyday, but it would be nice if people would just leave them alone.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

you are correct, that isn't what makes a person a hypocrite. Threatening the rigs, like Green Peace does. Saying things like, "every rig, even in the Gulf, needs to be destroyed"...protesting to the point of going to jail, yet you still use the products? that's not only hypocritical, but also contradicting. You cant "destroy" your cake and eat it too!

Frank Gwartney on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Striving to transition from fossil fuel technology to sustainable energy while using petroleum products does not make a person a hypocrite. Every informed person should be concerned with the consequences of climate change and its effect on future generations.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Noble isn't this big bad guy like everybody thinks. I trust Noble with my husband because I KNOW they are safe and they precaution. I'm not the hypocrite here. They do everything they can to protect those men. It sucks that with all the things that these men are doing and sacrificing this is the kind of feedback they get from the public. My husband missed our daughter's first steps the work. It kills him. He's just doing what he's told. I get on the internet and all i read is,"I hope the disco sinks with all the workers inside"...the world is so fucked up, the last thing people should be freakin over is where the Disco drills..

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:


sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Mr. Bob, I appriciate your comment. You've made the most sence out of anyone I've chit chatted with today. It's not that they want to cover up anything or overlook safty violations. The guy got fired! The problem causer has not been kicked off. the problem is fixed! Yet people think because Noble knows that if it were to get out and people, like mr wade douchebag here, were to hear about something that wasn't anything, they'd make a mountain out of a mole hill. People need to freak out if the rig tore up the shore. Not if it "almost ran aground". Nobody got hurt. Nothing got damaged. So why are people tripping??? leave the rig workers to the rig problem. there's nothing anybody else can do anyway.

Bob Moseley on Sunday, July 15 2012:

You people are idiots because you are confusing the argument. Argument isn't whether or not to have fossil fuel, the argument is whether or not to be safe (protect people and the environment) when we explore for fossil fuel. Nobody thinks that your men are not hard workers. And, it's not hypocritical to want safer drilling practices, in fact it is hypocritical to say that you love your hard-working man yet they should overlook safety violations or oil spills. The safety standards are put in place to protect your hard-working men.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

....$13 an hour??? No no, he makes more then that doing this dangerous job. Nice guess though.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

and your paragraph was pretty comical, I will give you that!

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

oh, and yes, my husband is a BIG, STRONG, RIG WORKER. and I'm proud to say I'm a rigger's wife. It's tough to do, but somebody has to help give off it's products to hypocrites like you. Wal Mart steak you say? My husband grills them the best ;)and we only have one daughter, by the way.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Whoever hacKed me, nice job making me look like a redneck douchebag. Just the fact you had to HACK my name to ATTEMPT to prove your point obviously proves mine. I can understand where you'd be upset. BUT THE WORLD NEEDS OIL.

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Thank Jesus for $hell oil! My husband ( a real tough strong OIl Rig Man ) and so many other of us great Okies has jobs in Alaska! It is like those dumbass Alaksans dont want a non-unionized job that pays $13 per hour! If you all could just keep your big mouth shut when there is a spill or saftey violation like we do maybee youd has a job too! the kids (all 7 of them) cant wait for their oil man daddy to get home from this drill rig cuz we are gonna grill us some Walmart steaks!!

Shirley on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Hummmm - didn't even make it up to the Arctic yet! Nothing wrong with using fossil fuels. It's a part of our lives now. The problem is being able to enforce responsible drilling by the money hungry corporates.
You see now a perfect example of what could happen in the Arctic because of negligence and complacence.
A spill in the Arctic under the ice would be a disaster. So much for the fisheries after that.

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

John Green, my point EXACTLY!

John Green (Britain) on Sunday, July 15 2012:

All this daft American Hype, all these Hypocrites who use fuel for motor vehicles or other mechanically propelled vehicles.............Similar to these fanatical Anti-Smokers constant criticism of smokers, yet they are worse, pumping tons of exhaust fumes into the air with their 4 x 4s, cars and other motor vehicles. Why not live in a Cave in the Stoneage......but I bet you would not.....much too hard, no gas or electricity or daft violent TV or Computer games there.

Sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Amberleighnt, I'm right there with you. My husband is also on that rig right now. These people are idiots. Our men are out there doing what THEIR MEN CAN'T so that they can drive there trucks and drink out of their bottled water.

sabrenah on Sunday, July 15 2012:

you know, for all you people who bitch about drilling in the artic, you use just as much of the product used from this kind of drilling as the next person. Even the computer YOU are typing on right now wouldn't work without it. So, unless you are Amish (which apparently you arent) stop being a hypocrite!

Amberleighnt on Sunday, July 15 2012:

I think it's sad to wish this ship never reached thistle destination! Frankly a little selfish,y husband is on that rig right now and it terrifies me, the thought of something happening. How could you wish that to someone else's family???!! We have dreams and plans too. He works his butt off out there, in the driving rain and blistering heat and even in the freezing cold. Wherever they send him. By the Way, we are all addicted to fossil fuel. Unless you ride a bike or walk, to me it's almost hypocritical to criticize these oil companies. One day, everyone's crying and fussing about gas prices, they try to become more self sufficient and now people are angry at that. I get so tired of hearing people blast oil companies about drilling up there. Did we not push them to? They had to do something!? I just wish people would realize, whatever reservation they had to drilling up there, it's not the rig employees that's to blame.

dow jones on Sunday, July 15 2012:

a new reef in the making =]

Anonymous on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Where were the Greenpeace submarines? I bet they loosened the anchors.

joel on Sunday, July 15 2012:

thanks for covering this, kucb!

Wade Sachs on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Wicked wicked Babylon shitsem! Your drilling rig does not belong in the Arctic! We nuh want your dirty jobs , your dirty money. Our children's children deserve better.Blessed Jah please prevent this vessel from ever reaching it's destination.

John Wayne on Sunday, July 15 2012: Check out the picture Veda posted. The boat is on the beach.

john on Sunday, July 15 2012:

Drill Baby Drill. Let Shell Oil do work and stop with the PC bullshit.

Jeff on Saturday, July 14 2012:

Dear Curtis Smith, according to what I heard on the VHF radio while this was happening, the Lauren Foss did not respond to repeated calls for aid from the Noble Discoverer, and the nearby smaller local tug "Saratoga" witnessed and described over the VHF that the vessel was aground. Not just "very near the ground" as you state. AGROUND. When the wind is moving a big ship like this toward the beach and they are not under their own power or under tow by another vessel and they STOP moving, the vessel is aground. FYI asshole.

Shelly L. on Saturday, July 14 2012:

Dumba$$ drillers and fossil fuel addicts. This has disaster written all over it.

Stop with the archaic fuel sources!!

Leola Roberts on Saturday, July 14 2012:

Any word on the Beaufort Sea crew? Have they been similarly ill-fated? I know someone running boats for Shell there.

Matt Gifford on Saturday, July 14 2012:

Drill, baby, drill!

len on Saturday, July 14 2012:

The Bridge watch made some error here, maybe they were alseep, as I assume the did do the anchor checks for tension when they moored up. Plus the fact that IF it was known they had some SOFT ground in the area (as the local man stated) they should have risk assesssed this and put a contingency/mitagation in place

William J. Bryant on Saturday, July 14 2012:

Drill, baby, drill! What could go wrong?

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