Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Severed Fish

Typo of the day (from Orlando TV Station website): Hundreds of upset, anxious boat captains filled an Orange Beach, Alabama restaurant Monday. In a place that usually severs the fish they catch, the residents were looking for answers, looking for money, and looking for work.

I haven't written anything yet about the oil spill because I don't really have any useful information to add. I'm not even up for ranting about it. The whole thing just seems hopeless. But as I see my Atlanta friends crying on Facebook about being forced to cancel their Destin vacations this summer, I get madder and madder. Really? Your only comment is about how it inconveniences you on your VACATION? The estuaries! The mental image I have of oil between every blade of sawgrass, coating every crab, snail, spat.... The pelicans unable to dive for a fish in clean water, the smell of it cooking on the mud at low tide.... I don't even have the energy to go on to imagine the beaches and the economic impacts. I read one quote from a hotelier in Pensacola that said the tourists were canceling already, but she wasn't worried. The crews to clean it up would need a place to stay, and she speculated they would spend more money in the bar at night than the families anyway, because they would be so depressed. I heard that. I'm depressed just thinking about it. I did Hurricane Wilma cleanup and it was depressing as hell. I imagine I will go work on cleaning this up too, if I can find somebody that will hire people who don't have the 40 hour HAZWOPR training already.

I graduated with my Master's Degree from the FSU Oceanography department exactly two years ago, right when the economy in Florida went down like a BP oil platform. This week that department closes. I picked that major because it was the 8th ranked oceanography department in the nation, the only ranked school at FSU besides Physics, and I already had a degree in that. It had the 4th largest research budget at the university. And they closed it. A state surrounded by the ocean closes the oceanography department in the capital city. They almost deserve what they get with such poor planning. And it's great timing that it coincides with what I expect will be the biggest oceanographic disaster to happen to Florida. Maybe all my out-of-work professors will get hired by BP to work on this incredible screw up. I have no idea what they can do except collect as much money as possible to punish BP for not hiring more oceanographers in the first place to talk them out of being so fucking irresponsible in the first place.

I used to have a sort of faint belief that oil companies were bound by logic to take technological steps to ensure that oil stayed in pipelines or was collected completely from oil wells because the oil was the product. They can't sell it if they can't dispense it into the customer's tank. I never for a minute thought they gave a damn about polluting the environment. But I thought they would at least wince at the loss of income if the oil was wasted. Not to mention now they're being held accountable for it wherever it goes. What a tremendous waste this is. I don't care if the technology to automatically cap that well would cost a billion dollars. How could their calculations show that the risk of this happening were worth the savings? And even if there was some device down there at the sea floor and it didn't work, why doesn't it have back ups and back ups to back ups? They could have made it so an ROV could just drive down there and bump into a big red button over and over until it closed a gate valve. (Only no reason to make it red at that depth. Coated with microprisms for retroreflectivity or some special sonar reflective surface would be ideal.) But the concept is no more complicated than a child's game for fuck's sake. My friend Jeff with the big camera lens writes simulation software to train people to operate these underwater robots. I'm sure he would be glad to write a simulation to train people to close gushing oil well heads. BP could afford to have done that ahead of time.

I hope that no environmentally conscious people take their free time to go out to the beach or estuary to catch oily birds and try to wash them with dish soap. I think BP should pay every single person who has a single molecule of petroleum get on them from helping to clean up this oil. BP should set up a web site right away where you can upload a cell phone picture of yourself washing a cormorant and give them your email address so they can put money in your Paypal account.

My sincere hope at this point is that the wind dies down enough for them to set this oil on fire. If it gets into the loop current and THEN they set it on fire, that's just too horrifying to imagine. Big ocean currents are where juvenile sea turtles hang out. There's a lot of stuff in there. Sargassum weed and all kinds of flotsam for turtles to hide in from predators. But they can't hide from an oil slick. Or an oil slick on fire. Just the same, I have to be logical and say if they have a chance to ignite it, they should ignite it. The air pollution would be diluted so much more effectively than the water pollution. I'm pretty sure they try to contain it before they ignite it though, and you can't contain one of those currents. As summer progresses eddy currents will form and maybe concentrate the oil in an area that can be ignited. I just have to try not to think about what else is in there.


  1. Nell....very thoughtful post on such a terrible situation we find ourselves in. It is "fun" to watch the politics and statements from politico-folks on oil drilling ebb and flow and get as slick and slimy as the actual oil "spill" (an ironic understatement of a term!) as it toys with our coasts.

  2. PS: I forgot to add that "don't politicians run for office to sever the people?"