SEATTLE - What a sight it was. A flotilla of kayaks and canoes surrounding Shell Oil's controversial Polar Pioneer.
There, they said, to protest the oil giant's plan to drill for oil in that pristine wilderness.
"For everybody here this feels like a moral decision, a moral choice," said Florence Case, who brought her kayak from Port Townsend.
"I think it sends a message to people that we've got to start thinking seriously about this and draw the line somewhere," said Seattle kayaker Tony Case.
That line was made clearer still when the Polar Pioneer made its way into Elliot Bay on Thursday.
Shell and its host, Foss Maritime, defied 11th hour attempts by the city of Seattle and its Port Commissioners to keep the massive oil rig out of Terminal 5.
Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who joined the protest in his own kayak, called those efforts too little, too late.
"The port commissioners knew it would be controversial and they kept it secret until the very last minute," McGinn said. "They briefed other elected officials, including our mayor, who also helped keep it a secret until really, it's too late."
Efforts to get a reaction from current Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proved fruitless.
The commissioners have heard from plenty who support Shell. Alaska natives traveled to Seattle, arguing the oil drilling operation will help lift their communities out of poverty.
"This is not about Seattle," said Anthony Edwardson from Barrow, Alaska. "This is about our livelihood as (Alaska Natives) who live and thrive in the Arctic.”
The protesters say they are undaunted.
"As one of the native people said, this is the beginning," said Caplow from Port Townsend. "This is just the beginning."
The protesters are promising to be back on the water Monday. They predict they won't be as peaceful then.