Yereth Rosen

When Royal Dutch Shell announced that it had lost its big-money bet in the Chukchi Sea and would end its entire program in the offshore U.S. Arctic, the hyperbole and finger-pointing began in earnest. Rep. Don Young accused President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell of deliberately sabotaging Alaska’s economy. “I’m sure somewhere Sally Jewell and President Obama are smiling and celebrating Shell’s decision to cease operations off the coast of Alaska,” Young said in a statement issued just after Shell's announcement. At the other end of the spectrum, the Sierra Club sent out celebratory alerts to members that congratulated them for Shell ending its exploration after disappointing well results. “This is your victory! You have shown that even the most powerful corporations in the...Yereth Rosen
After pouring billions of dollars into offshore Arctic leases and a complicated drilling program that used the latest available technology, oil explorers were confident that they would strike a gusher and open up a new northern petroleum frontier. The plan went bust and the explorers walked away. Royal Dutch Shell in the Chukchi Sea in 2015? No, it was the notorious Mukluk flop, which became known as the world’s most expensive dry hole. The Mukluk prospect in the Beaufort Sea had been touted in the early 1980s by BP Exploration Alaska predecessor Sohio Alaska Petroleum and its partners as a potential second Prudhoe Bay. Press coverage at the time repeated the hype. “The Mukluk Prospect: Has Sohio Struck It Rich Again in Alaska?” a Barron’s headline asked in August 1983. The answer, which...Yereth Rosen
1918 Shell geologists take their first look at Alaska. 1952 Shell starts first Alaska geological maps, a project that continued until 1964. 1958 Shell and Humble Oil and Refining Co. drill onshore Bear Creek No. 1 wildcat well on the Alaska Peninsula. 1963 Shell, using a drilling vessel in Cook Inlet, drills the first offshore oil field in Alaska, the Middle Ground Shoal No. 1 discovery well. 1964 Shell installs a permanent offshore drilling and production structure in Middle Shoal Ground in Cook Inlet, the first of 16 offshore platforms. Drilling begins there in 1965. 1976 Shell drills the first exploratory well in the Gulf of Alaska, which is plugged and abandoned. 1979 Shell acquires Beaufort Sea leases in federal lease sale. 1982 Shell completes Seal Island well in the Beaufort Sea,...Yereth Rosen
The Arctic waters off Alaska are, in a sense, off the charts -- poorly understood and lightly mapped. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking to change that and also asking the public to weigh in on its plan to create new, detailed and modern Arctic navigational charts. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is accepting public comments until Thursday on its draft 2015 U.S. Arctic Navigational Charting Plan , released in June. The new plan updates an earlier version issued in 2011. That earlier version resulted in the completion of three new navigational charts that were issued last year. The new plan proposes 11 more navigational charts for areas ranging from the Alaska Peninsula to waters off Barrow. U.S. Arctic waters hold 426,000 square nautical miles of oceans and bays...Yereth Rosen
When the Bering Sea warms, there are telltale signs. One is a bloom of phytoplankton that turns the water’s normally gray surface to a lovely turquoise. “It does feel like you’re in the Caribbean,” said Janet Duffy-Anderson, a research biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Center. Though it is pretty, that bloom means ugly conditions for much of the sea life in the Bering Sea, the source of about half of the commercially harvested seafood in the United States. The phytoplankton creating the turquoise bloom is coccolithophoe , a tiny marine plant that thrives in warm, nutrient-poor conditions, “so they are a harbinger of problems when they are in the Bering Sea,” Duffy-Anderson said. This is the second consecutive year the Bering Sea has been...Yereth Rosen
The new operator of a long-delayed offshore oil prospect in the Beaufort Sea is moving forward with a new plan modeled on old fields. Hilcorp Energy Co. , the privately held, Texas-based exploration and production company that acquired many of BP Plc’s Alaska assets, has completed its plan to develop the offshore Liberty prospect and start producing oil from it, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Friday. The new Liberty development and production plan is deemed “submitted,” according to BOEM terminology, meaning that public review and a formal environmental impact statement will start. Liberty , estimated by BOEM to hold 150 million barrels of recoverable oil, is about 5.5 miles offshore and about 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. The prospect, which got its start in the 1980s as a...Yereth Rosen
The first bowhead whale harvested this season by Inupiat hunters in Kaktovik yielded a big surprise -- broken-down pieces of an old projectile left over from the days of commercial whaling, buried in the whale's tail. A whaling crew captained by Freddie Aishanna got the bowhead, which measured slightly over 42 feet, and brought it to the beach on Sunday, said Flora Rexford, a teacher in the eastern North Slope village. The commercial projectile was discovered by crew member Sheldon Brower, who started what was expected to be the usual butchering process, Rexford said. “They had just celebrated, standing on the whale. Then they washed the whale. Then he started cutting and he hit metal,” Rexford said. The projectile, a bomb of the type used decades ago by commercial hunters, was found in...Yereth Rosen
Earlier spring melt usually means earlier emergence of Arctic mosquitoes, as foes of the biting insects know well. Now a study from Dartmouth College that combined field observations in Greenland with controlled experiments has quantified the expected rate at which mosquitoes development will accelerate as Arctic temperatures increase. For every 1-degree Celsius increase in temperature, the Greenlandic mosquitoes need 10 percent less time to emerge as adults, concluded the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences . Faster development into adults means greater probability of survival through the larval stage, and the study found that a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius increased survival probability by 53 percent. A 5-degree Celsius increase in...Yereth Rosen
A warm winter that left little snow in the mountains -- followed by warm spring and summer weather -- took a toll on salmon and Dolly Varden returning to spawn upstream from Jakolof Bay near Seldovia. Thousands of fish piled up dead in an area where the streambed was dry. Fishery researchers with...
Yereth Rosen
After a warm winter that left Southcentral Alaska's mountains with the sparsest of snowpack, followed by a hot spring and summer that further dried the landscape, fishery researchers working last month around Jakolof Bay near Seldovia came upon a scene of devastation. Thousands of dead fish piled on the dry ground where a creek normally runs into a saltwater bay from the freshwater lake above it. The fish, salmon and Dolly Varden, had run out of water on their way to spawning sites. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said Michael Opheim, environmental coordinator for the Seldovia Village Tribe . “It’s pretty worrisome that we’re not getting any fish into the lake or the stream system to spawn.” The finding was quickly relayed to the organization that has become the go-to...Yereth Rosen