3:52pm EDT: Shell's Arctic Oil Drilling Launch Party Was Actually a Hoax: See update at bottom of the post for what we know about who pranked Shell, and Shell's reaction and threat of legal action against the perpetrators.
4:41pm EDT: Apparently even the threat of lawsuit is a hoax, AdAge reports.
Here's what we originally wrote:
After spending $4 billion and countless man-hours lobbying to be the first to drill in the Arctic, Shell is gearing up to head north. As in, right now. The oil giant plans to start drilling wells off Alaska's northern shores by July.
And apparently Shell's in quite the celebratory mood. Yesterday, the company threw a private party in Seattle's Space Needle—close to where its northbound rig is docked—to commemorate the launch of its North Arctic drilling operations. But if the events that unfolded last night are any kind of a portent, said drilling operations could easily be a colossal mess.
Occupy Seattle has a post up documenting a very bizarre party fail, thanks to Logan Price, an activist who managed to sneak himself onto the guest list.
Once there, he tweeted pics from inside and caught some truly embarrassing moments on video before getting kicked out. Logan says that just before he was expelled, Shell's party was already going badly wrong, with screaming arguments, an overturned table, and frazzled guests evacuating in droves from the Seattle landmark.
It all started with a malfunction.... of the event's centerpiece, a scale model of the Kulluk, one of the rigs heading up north, which was sitting in a basin of liquor (rum and coke?) next to an ice sculpture in the shape of an iceberg.
Logan goes on to say:
I guess the photo-op was meant to be a symbolic tapping of the Arctic. There was a ridiculous three-foot-high scale model of their Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, and the mini-rig had a tap to pump liquor for the guests.
The guest of honor was an elderly Japanese man introduced as the original Chief Engineer of the Kulluk rig who used to work at Mitsui back in the '80s. But when the man went to turn on the ‘rig,’ the liquor went everywhere - and the first to be hit was another elderly guest, the widow of the man who'd actually designed the Kulluk back in the 1980s.
The guy in charge kept asking the old engineer to fix it but he obviously had no idea how to turn it off. Shell's PR people got REALLY worked up, and the designer’s widow started yelling. At this point the guy who was presenting the new ad campaign told me to turn off my camera and got pretty aggressive.
Everything about this is, quite frankly, hilarious. Beyond any satisfaction gleaned from seeing such a preposterous party come to a disastrous end, metaphors abound, and they're about as subtle as a sledgehammer: if Shell can't even handle a three-foot replica of a rig that pumps booze, how is the company going to fare in the Arctic deep?
UPDATE: Some things are too funny to be factually true, even if true in essence (considering statements from the head of the Coast Guard on how we have no way of effectively cleaning up offshore oil spills in the Arctic). Unknown pranksters, presumably The Yes Men, are actually behind the event and video embedded above.
Gothamist sums up what's known so far:
The main proof that this is a hoax comes from the website of Wainwright & Shore, "a full service, integrated marketing public relations and interactive firm" supposedly based in Houston, Texas. Wainwright & Shore boasts "The company donates more than 300 hours of pro bono services to non-profit clients each year."
But according to the whois records, the domain was registered just last month. And the clincher: The domain name server is Mayfirst.org, a lefty-radical hosting company which was also used by notorious pranksters the Yes Men to host a fake Bank of America website back in April.
Shell The pranksters has have been quick to react, threatening legal action against whoever is behind the prank. From their the fake press release reacting to the event:
Lawyers operating on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell plc. (Shell) are considering formal action against unknown activists who staged a counterfeit campaign launch event at the Seattle Space Needle.
The groups released a stream of social media content which deliberately misrepresented the safety of Shell's drill rigs heading to the Arctic, and extensively violated Shell’s intellectual property rights.
Shell Alaska spokesperson Curtis Smith said in the same release, "We can confirm that this was not a Shell event. Activist groups are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to block our federally approved right to drill in the Arctic, and are resorting to ever more underhanded tactics."