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Shell Returns To Unalaska

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Sarah Hansen/KUCB
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Shell is back in Unalaska. Dutch Harbor was a staging area for Shell’s unsuccessful search for oil in the Arctic Ocean last year. This week, three ships — the Aiviq, the Dino Chouest, and the Ross Chouest — associated with Shell’s Arctic efforts arrived in Unalaska on a mission to remove the last signs of that effort.

A Shell representative says the vessels are “tasked with retrieving more than 50 anchors from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas” and “completing required environmental science monitoring and reporting.”

Meanwhile, a Coast Guard investigation released this week confirms that inaccurate charts are to blame for one of Shell’s major mishaps last summer. The icebreaker Fennica hit a pinnacle of rock near Dutch Harbor, tearing a three-foot hole in its hull and causing the boat to take on water. The original damage was estimated at $100,000 and repairs set back the Fennica’s arrival in the Arctic Ocean by a month.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Rven Garcia says the charts had last been updated in 1935.

“They did have charts, but the actual water depth was significantly shallower than indicated on the chart,” Garcia said. “So the pilot had the proper tools on board, but the chart wasn’t as up-to-date because the survey had not been conducted for that area.”

After the incident, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration conducted a new hydrographic survey to map the area.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.