Auckland, 24 February 2012 ? At 7am this morning actor Lucy Lawless joined Greenpeace New Zealand activists in stopping a Shell-contracted drillship from departing the port of Taranaki for the remote Arctic, where its exploratory oil drilling programme threatens to devastate the Alaskan coastline.

The Noble Discoverer is due to depart on a 6,000 nautical mile journey to drill three exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska.

Six Greenpeace New Zealand activists, along with Lawless, famous for her roles in Xena: Warrior Princess and Spartacus, have boarded the vessel, scaled its 53 metre drilling derrick and are in the process of hanging banners from its summit, reading "Stop Shell" and "#SaveTheArctic." They are equipped with survival gear and enough supplies to last for several days.

"I'm here today acting on behalf of the planet and my children," said Lawless. "Deep-sea oil drilling is bad enough, but venturing into the Arctic, one of the most magical places on the planet, is going too far. I don't want my kids to grow up in a world without these extraordinary places intact or where we ruin the habitat of polar bears for the last drops of oil."

She continued, "To see the melting of the sea ice not as a warning to humanity but as an invitation to drill for more of the stuff that caused the problem in the first place is the definition of madness. What Shell is doing is climate change-profiteering."

Shell is the first major international oil company to make the exploitation of the Arctic a key part of their strategy. If the Noble Discoverer strikes oil this summer, other global oil giants may quickly follow, sparking an Arctic oil rush.

The Arctic's extreme weather conditions and short summer season means Shell has a limited window for drilling new exploratory wells before the return of winter sea ice. Freezing temperatures, unpredictable weather and remote drilling locations pose unprecedented challenges, making an oil spill impossible to contain and clean up (1).

According to a senior official at a Canadian firm that specialises in responding to oil spills, "there is really no solution or method today that we're aware of that can actually recover [spilled] oil from the Arctic" (2).

Total estimated Arctic oil reserves would satisfy just three years of current global oil demand, but would both contribute significantly to carbon emissions, and pose a grave risk to the local eco-system (3).

"A large scale oil spill would devastate the fragile frozen Arctic world and hindered by ice, darkness and fierce winds, a clean up would be impossible," said Greenpeace New Zealand Climate Campaigner Steve Abel, "Where oil production happens, spills happen, it is not a matter of if but when."

He continued, "There is no more striking an emblem of the madness of oil expansion than the struggle for the Arctic. We must draw a line in the ice and stop Shell and the oil industry from ruining these last unspoiled ends of the Earth, and transition to the clean energy sources that can power our world without cooking it."
Earlier this week, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved Shell's Oil Spill Response Plan for the Chukchi Sea (4). The plan included devices for cleaning up a spill ? including capping and containment systems and ice deflection barriers ? that Shell admits have never been properly tested except in laboratories or on paper. (5)

(See more on the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Save The Arctic Event Page)



Check out the latest on AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Stop Shell Drilling The Arctic Event page or

Follow @RealLucyLawless on Twitter

Follow @GreenpeaceNZ on Twitter