By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Greenpeace activists were up to their high-risk, headline-grabbing, anti-Arctic drilling antics again recently.

A group of Greenpeace activists suspended themselves from one of Portland, Oregon’s tallest bridges—the 408-foot-tall St. Johns Bridge on July 29—in an effort to prevent Shell’s Fennica icebreaker vessel from making its way to the Chukchi Sea. The vessel had undergone repairs in Portland after a gash in its hull delayed its Arctic voyage.

Thirteen Greenpeace climbers—with colorful streamers blowing in the wind—dangled from the bridge for 40 hours, as fellow protesters positioned themselves in kayaks below blocking the vessel’s path. The activists—26 in all—initially succeeded. Not even the threat of fines, starting at $2,500 per hour, from a federal judge caused them to move.

But the triumph was short-lived, just like with previous protests.

Assisted by authorities, the vessel was able to get through a gap. The protesters eventually lowered themselves from the bridge.

In a news release, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said the so-called standoff was an “historic achievement not just because it blocked Shell’s icebreaker from reaching the Arctic, but because it helped spark an even bigger movement of people to raise their voices for something they believe in.”

The move may have drawn attention to the cause but it didn’t prevent Shell from pushing forward with its Arctic drilling plans.

The Alaska Dispatch News reported July 31 that Shell resumed drilling in Arctic waters with the Transocean Polar Pioneer drilling at the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea. Citing Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino, the newspaper said the Polar Pioneer will drill the top portion of the Burger J prospect. It is one of six well sites identified in the company’s exploration plans.

However, U.S. regulators have forbid the company from drilling into hydrocarbon-bearing zones until the icebreaker, toting oil-containment equipment including the capping stack, arrives. The vessel’s arrival will allow Shell to drill deeper into hydrocarbon-bearing zones, Baldino said.

While Greenpeace can be applauded for standing up for what it believes in, perhaps it is time for a change in tactic— something safer—or a different target altogether in their push to stop Arctic drilling.

Greenpeace activists in London grabbed attention as a string orchestra serenaded Shell staff with a Requiem for Arctic Ice as they arrived for work. Instead of hanging from a tall bridge, The Guardian said activists passed out leaflets about their cause.

This is certainly safer and still gets the message across. Will it stop drilling in the Arctic? Probably not.

Velda Addison can be reached at or via Twitter @veldaaddison.