"A photojournalist charters a flight to see just how close Shell's offshore rig is to the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Turns out a photo is worth a lot more than a bunch of GPS coordinates."
"The general public has not seen images of Shell Oil Co.'s Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, on site off the coast of Alaska, and a sense of the rig's proximity to protected lands has been hard to grasp. Until now.
Oregon-based photographer Gary Braasch flew to Alaska, chartered a plane in the town of Deadhorse, far above the Arctic Circle, and flew out to the rigs. His photographs provide, for the first time, a sense of perspective of the Kulluk rig in its environment, 12 miles offshore of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
'The location has been published for years in Shell's permits,' he said in a phone interview. 'We just went out there and, sure enough, there it was. But having the landscape just behind it was so amazing, and I don't think the public has realized how close it is.'
The photos show the circular rig alone in the water. In the not-to-distant background of several images is the refuge's flat coastal plain, an area thought to be oil-rich but that has remained, so far, off limits to drillers. The Canning River Delta, part of the refuge that has been protected from drilling in many Congressional battles, is visible just beyond the rig."