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23 Jun, 2017 19:31

‘Something’s pulling them here’: Thousands of seals surround Arctic drilling rig (VIDEO)

‘Something’s pulling them here’: Thousands of seals surround Arctic drilling rig (VIDEO)

An enormous herd of harp seals has occupied every free ice floe as far as the eye can see around Russia’s Prirazlomnaya offshore oil drilling rig located in the Pechora Sea, inside the Arctic Circle.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. There are thousands of them!” says an astonished oil rig worker, who did not wish to identify himself, during a minute-long video that was sent to the Russian explorer and travel writer Sergey Dolya, who posted it on his blog.


Harp seals migrate annually between their birthing and feeding grounds and the Arctic, where they spend the summer, often traveling in excess of 4,000 km in large colonies.

But their appearance around the colossal platform – which is actively pumping oil and receiving docking tankers and oil ships – is a surprise, as the animals are thought to be put off by industrial vibrations and the noise and bustle of human activity.


“The seals are very lazy and do not desire to move away from the path of the ship. There must be something attracting them here,” says the off-screen videographer in the undated footage. “This is the rig’s environment – with a herd of complimentary animals.”

In the video, the animals, which can live for up to 35 years in the wild, are seen diving under the thinning ice, and into the water, in which they can spend as much as fifteen minutes hunting their prey before they need to surface.

Captains of ships operating in the Arctic have protocols for avoiding seals, who can suffer not just impact death, but traumatic displacement if an icebreaker plows through their habitat. This is less of an issue with the stationary platform though, which boasts that it has had zero impact on the environment, with all pollutants and waste stored and ferried back to the mainland.

Despite being subjected to some of the most high-profile protests conducted by Greenpeace, the platform has operated without any high-profile hitches since oil was first extracted in 2014, and is shutting down for three months this summer for a planned upgrade.

The Prirazlomnaya platform, which cost the state-run Russian giant Gazprom more than $1 billion to build and install, is a landmark project in Arctic oil exploration, a stated priority for both company and country.