Have you read Sydney Brownstone's excellent piece about the gigantic Arctic drilling rig that's headed for Seattle? You should. That Polar Pioneer is a frickin' MONNNNSTER. I went with Sydney to Port Angeles to take photos while she did reporting. Greenpeace generously offered to take Sydney and me out on their boats to get a closer look at the creepy Artic drill as it creeped, so creepily, into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. For me, it felt like an unexpected adventure on the high seas. I remember thinking, with my hair blowing behind me and the furry part of my parka slapping at my face as we flew in a boat over the deep, dark ocean towards the rising sun, that THIS, this is what it must have felt like to be a Viking. Only without having to row. It was glorious, a little scary, and I felt totally alive. And then I got seasick.

Our day started with my alarm going off, in a Port Angeles Super 8 at 3:45 a.m. We were meeting Greenpeace at 5 a.m. near the Coast Guard Station
Our day started with my alarm going off, in a Port Angeles Super 8 Motel, at 3:45 a.m. We were meeting Greenpeace at 5 a.m. near the Coast Guard Station.

Look at how blurry these photos are. I was standing on a bouncy dock. I made Sydney go to a Jack In Box at 4:45 a.m. because I wanted a breakfast sandwhich to go with the Dramamine. Sydney said shed never been to a Jack In Box. Never. In her whole life. The Greenpeace people in this photo probably never eat at Jack in Box either.
Look at how blurry this photo is. Wheeeeee! I was standing on a bouncy dock. I made Sydney go to Jack in the Box at 4:45 a.m. because I wanted a breakfast sandwich to go with the Dramamine. Sydney said she'd never been to a Jack in the Box. Never. In her whole life. The Greenpeace people in this photo probably never eat at Jack in the Box either.

I was in a small boat. No standing, only sitting. They put me in the bow, in the very front of the boat.
I was in a small boat. No standing, only sitting. They sat me in the bow, in the very front of the boat.

At one point, a wave went over the boat, over my two pairs of pants, and under my parka and life jacket. I exclaim, That wave went right into my buttcrack! The Greenpeace people dont laugh.
At one point, a wave went over the boat, under my parka and life jacket, and into my two pairs of pants. I exclaimed, "That wave went right in my butt crack!" The Greenpeace people didn't laugh.

These Greenpeace folks had a fancier boat. We followed them out to the rig, as the sun rose. A greasy hash brown and a Jack in the Box Grilled Breakfast Sandwich (hold the bacon) grumbled in my stomach.
This crew had a fancier boat. We followed them out to the rig as the sun rose. A greasy hash brown and Jack in the Box Grilled Breakfast Sandwich (hold the bacon) rumbled in my stomach.

Oh man. Look! Theres the rig! Its huge.
Oh, man. Loooook! There's the rig! It's huge!

I better zoom in. Wait. HOW IN THE FUCK DO I FOCUS THIS CAMERA IN A BOAT, BOUNCING ON THE OCEAN?!
I better zoom in. Wait. HOW IN THE FUCK DO I FOCUS THIS CAMERA IN A BOAT, BOUNCING AROUND ON THE OCEAN?!?

Okay. I held my breath, tucked my arms into my body and waited for the water to gimme calm second or two
Okay. I hold my breath, tuck my arms into my body, and wait for the water to gimme a calm second or two.

Oh hey! WHITECAPS!
Oh, hey! WHITECAPS!

This is probably the worst photo Ive ever taken. Then a wave hit me in the face.
This is probably the worst photo I've ever taken. Then a wave hit me in the face.

Okay. I should have taken TWO Dramamine pills. Just focus on the horizon line, right? But what if the horizon line is crooked?
Goddamnit. I should have taken TWO Dramamine pills. Just focus on the horizon line, right? But what if the horizon line is crooked?

Ignore the horizon line, and ignore the nausea. Focus on the Greenpeace people. Theyre not sick. And they have a flag!
Ignore the horizon line, ignore the nausea. Focus on these Greenpeace people. They're not sick. And they have a cool flag!

To the rig!
To the rig!

The People Vs Shell! Kellys Stomach Vs Kelly!
The People vs, Shell! Kelly's Stomach vs. Kelly!

The more I try to squint through the focus of my camera, the more I feel like Im going to barf.
The more I try to squint through the focus of my camera, the more I feel like I'm going to barf.

If I barfed in the water, would it be pollution?
If I barfed in the water, would it be pollution?

Horizon line, pretty mountains, horizon line, pretty mountains...
Horizon line, pretty mountains, horizon line, pretty mountains...

Now what are they doing. Oh, theyre good at this.
Now what are they doing? Oh, they're good at this.

Forget the nausea. Just look at this scene....
Forget the nausea. Just look at this scene....

Okay. Theyre heading for shore. Lets follow them before I die.
Okay. They're heading for shore. Let's follow them before I die.

Support The Stranger

What, you want to stay out here and get some more shots of the rig from different angles? Okay. Ill pretend Im not dying for a little bit longer.
What, you want to stay out here and get some more shots of the rig from different angles? Okaaaay. I'll pretend I'm not dying.

Back on land! Should I drop down on my hands and knees and kiss it? Not until I pee. Oh God, Ive been paying so much attention to my nausea, Ive been ignoring my bladder! I race to the bathroom, and BARELY get my wet, loaner plastic pants off in time. Shhh, dont tell Greenpeace I almost pissed their plastic pants!
Back on land! Should I drop down on my hands and knees and kiss it? Not until I pee. Oh God, I've been paying so much attention to my nausea, I've been ignoring my bladder! I race to the bathroom, and BARELY get my wet, loaner plastic pants off in time. Shhh, please don't tell Greenpeace I almost pissed their plastic pants...


All photos Kelly O