July 12th – 5:05PM
New Orleans, LA – This morning we took our second flight over the spill site and affected area, once again fortunate enough to be granted unbelievable access and flying as low as 300 feet above ground level. Circling a 10 mile perimeter around the spill site for about 25 minutes, we saw the usual group of ships, including the Transocean and BP Discoverer Enterprise, as well as a number of skimming boats dragging long sections of boom across the stained sea.
Over the plane’s radio, we listened to the ships’ communications, which were laden with confusion and made the entire cleanup operation appear rather clumsy. Considering that we were flying over a literal sea of oil, it was puzzling to hear boat captains saying that they couldn’t find oil to skim. Perhaps their definition of “actionable” oil is different than ours, but we watched in awe as oil streaked the surface and boats passing by kicked up dark black clouds of oil behind them. The oil is everywhere and every single one of those boats working at full steam wouldn’t be enough to change that. Certainly, though, it would be reassuring to see the boats that are there working as hard as they can to make a difference. This, however, likely says more about the cleanup infrastructure at large than the individual boat captains we listened to today.
After leaving the source, we headed northwest to the Chandeleur Islands, where we saw an encouraging amount of wildlife. While the islands appeared to have seen some impact of oil, a significant number of birds lined the beaches. We also spotted what appeared to be hundreds of rays, numerous groups of small bait fish, and several sharks (unsure of what species). Given the extreme scarcity of marine life we’ve seen in the area surrounding the spill site, this was a moment of encouragement, but the reality is, who knows where the fates of these creatures lie?
(Check our Media Gallery for images from today’s flight)