Stop the Fuckery

Wednesday 25 January 2023 Join concerned Capetonians tomorrow at Cape Town harbour to 'welcome' Russian ship Akademik Alexander Karpinsky when it docks on the way to blast Antarctica with illegal seismic surveys.


VISUAL NOTE: A warship with an acoustic payload docks in CT tomorrow. Photo Daily Maverick


Tracking the progress of the ship via marine traffic apps, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace Cape Town volunteers and concerned citizens will congregate on the steps of the Zeitz MOCCA Museum at 10am tomorrow, and move to the V&A Waterfront harbour wall near Cabo Beach Club to 'welcome' the Kremlin's flagship fossil fuel prospector.

The ship employs seismic technology similar to that which oil giant Shell wanted to use to search for oil and gas off the Wild Coast, which ignited protests across South Africa. The Karpinsky’s expected arrival time is an estimate beyond attempts to delay or mask its arrival.

The vessel went incognito off the coast of Sierra Leone 10 days ago, when it appears the ship switched off its Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) transponder, which is not allowed under maritime law unless it is in imminent danger and a continuous signal broadcast would compromise its safety. As soon as the threat is not imminent anymore, the AIS should be switched back on immediately. However, the ship today reappeared on the marine traffic apps, and ETA is 11am tomorrow.

The protestors are not only protesting against the harm to marine wildlife the ship will inflict, but also that it is in breach of the 55-nation Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), to which Russia and South Africa are signatories, under which resource exploration and extraction in the Antarctic region has been banned since 1998.


PROTEST MAP: Meet at Zeits MOCCA (green star) and proceed to yellow star. Photo Supplied


Then there is the basic fact that the vessel is Russian, which opens another can of worms in terms of the South African government's limp wristed response to Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, and our lazy and corrupt intransigence towards the global departure from fossil fuels. The fact that the port of Cape Town has served as the Karpinsky's launch pad for more than two decades is also on the agenda.

While difficult to trace and track the damage caused, there is increasing scientific proof of the harmful effects of this method of acoustic surveying of the sea floor. This ship, and others like it, are likely to have harmed Antarctica’s vulnerable marine ecosystems and inflicted sonic distress on marine species, including critically endangered blue whales and emperor penguins.

Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins rely on sound to navigate, communicate, feed and breed, so they are acutely sensitive to acoustic disturbance. There is substantial scientific evidence that seismic blasting can disturb essential behaviours and result in hearing loss, organ rupture and mass stranding. It also kills whales’ primary food source krill, as well as plankton that forms the basis of the food chain on which all marine life depends.

But beyond seismic blasting’s immediate harm to marine life lies a more sinister threat. The Kremlin has built up detailed hydrocarbon inventories that indicate the region could hold up to 500 billion barrels of oil and gas – equal to 15 years of global oil consumption. It seems that Russia hopes to start extracting some of these oil or gas resources at some point in the medium- or long-term future. If that happens, Antarctica – and the world - will suffer enhanced climate change impacts.


STOP IT: Time to end this lunatic, lemming-like rush towards catastrophe. Photo Supplied

The Antarctic region is already under severe climate change distress and melting at an average rate of 150 billion tonnes per year. West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is in a phase of fast retreat and a total loss of the glacier and surrounding ice could raise global sea levels from three to ten feet, with disastrous consequences for Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that, if we are to remain below the 2°C limit and prevent catastrophic climate change, fossil fuel exploration must end.

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and no corner of the globe is immune to its devastating consequences. The UN’s secretary-general António Guterres has described continued fossil fuels exploitation as “moral and economic madness.”

As one of 29 countries - and the only African country - with decision-making powers under Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), South Africa must ensure that sanity prevails – for the sake of Africa.


  • We urge the South African government to fulfil its moral duty towards its own citizens, as well as Africa and its future generations, by refusing port entry to the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky and all other vessels engaged in harmful exploration activities in the Antarctic region.
  • We demand that the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky and similar vessels prove they are engaged in bona fide scientific research as defined by Antarctic treaties, and that they have neither the intention nor the technologies to prospect for fossil fuel reserves in the Antarctic region, before being allowed to transit via South Africa.
  • We support the proposal that individual states and the decision-making Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties explicitly unilaterally commit now to never commence hydrocarbon extraction in Antarctica.