Fred Ecks, a boat driver out in the Gulf, passed on his impressions of the spill from his first few days down there.
While we were on the water yesterday, there was a "Pan-Pan" radio call from the Coast Guard alerting all mariners to an emergency situation. There was a fire aboard the Discoverer Enterprise oil collection ship at the Deepwater Horizon site. This ship collects the oil from the containment cap at the well site. It was one of those "Oh no, what now" moments. Thankfully, that fire was put out quickly, but the trouble for wildlife will last a long, long time.
I arrived to the Gulf yesterday morning, and have taken the opportunity to see the Deepwater Horizon tragedy firsthand. From media reports and photos I knew it would be bad, but I was still unprepared for what I’ve already seen here.
I’m struck by the quantity of dolphins here. They are all over the place, all the time. I’ve never been anywhere in the world with this many dolphins! It’s heartbreaking to see them all around, swimming in oil-polluted water.
We met some Fish & Wildlife folks on the water yesterday. They’re working to capture oiled birds for cleaning and rehabilitation. One of the guys explained the process: They identify an oiled bird, and move toward it. The bird takes flight if it can. They’ll follow the bird for about a minute. If the bird keeps going, they leave it alone. If it’s weak and unable to fly longer, they capture it and bring it in. The trouble is, by the time a bird has become weakened by the oil, it’s suffering liver failure from the toxicity, just like we would. The focus is on capturing and rehabilitating mating adults rather than chicks, since the chicks often will die before reaching mating age.
The trouble is, there’s simply not anywhere nearly enough capacity to save wildlife on this scale. As one of the Fish & Wildlife guys said, "This is like peeing in the wind." It feels hopeless, yet they carry on as best they can.
There seems to be confusion as to where the oil will go. I’m no expert on oil spills, but I’m an experienced boater with knowledge of winds and currents, and I find myself clueless about where to expect oil versus clean water. Yet even the officials and scientists appear to be suffering the same confusion — the oil booms will be placed where no oil shows up sometimes, and then there’s a mad rush when the oil starts flowing somewhere else.
I’m a little shellshocked by everything I’ve seen here these past few days. I can’t quite manage to comprehend the magnitude of this problem — as a compatriot pointed out, this isn’t a spill, it’s a spew; it doesn’t stop! I sure hope we can at least quickly reach a point of stopping the spew. I don’t even want to think about the looming hurricane season.
Let’s all keep Obama’s and BP’s focus on this disaster!