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Arctic drilling update: Protester leaves Shell ship after hanging on since Friday

Student activist Chiara D'Angelo, who has been hanging off the anchor chain of an Arctic oil-drilling support ship since Friday night, has ended her protest.

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    A woman identified as Chiara D’Angelo suspended herself in a climbing harness from the anchor chain of the Royal Dutch Shell support ship Arctic Challenger in the harbor at Bellingham, Wash., Friday, May 22. Rob Lewis, spokesman for protest organizers Rising Tide Bellingham, said she was protesting Shell's plan for Arctic drilling. The Coast Guard said it has no plans to remove her but has impounded the activists' support vessels. The Arctic Challenger isn't scheduled to leave the port for several days.
    Reese Semanko/AP
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A woman who has been hanging off the anchor chain of an Arctic oil-drilling support ship since Friday night has ended her protest.

The Coast Guard says student activist Chiara D'Angelo requested assistance getting down from her perch on the Arctic Challenger in the Bellingham harbor around 9:30 a.m. Monday. From Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon, a second protester, Matt Fuller, joined Ms. D'Angelo.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer says D'Angelo was checked for hypothermia and then released.

D'Angelo and Mr. Fuller suspended themselves from the ship with climbing harnesses, in an environmental protest against Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean off northwestern Alaska. 

Rob Lewis, a spokesman for the activists, said D'Angelo and Fuller were protesting Shell's plan for arctic drilling. He described the Arctic Challenger as a savior vessel that is used in the case of an oil leak, but said activists doubt its effectiveness at preventing environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

He confirmed that the Coast Guard did not interfere with D'Angelo, but said they had impounded the activists' support vessels.

Protesters in Seattle have been demonstrating against another part of the Shell drilling fleet. Dutch Shell is using Seattle's seaport terminal to house a massive floating drill rig, the Polar Pioneer. During the previous weekend, hundreds of activists in kayaks swarmed Elliott Bay to protest Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The protest was dubbed the "Paddle in Seattle."

As The Christian Science Monitor's Brad Knickerbocker wrote last week:

Shell cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle last week when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), after taking public comments and reviewing voluminous reports, approved the multi-year exploration plan.

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement. “As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”

If exploratory drilling goes well, Shell plans to invest billions more in infrastructure to open this new frontier, building pipelines under the ocean and onto the tundra of Alaska's North Slope, along with roads, air strips, and other facilities.

The activists remain concerned about the risk of an oil spill in the delicate Arctic ecosystem and the effect of Shell's operations on global warming.

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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