I’m going to keep this post up as a sidebar sticky — as wildlife news trickles in about the Deepwater Horizon spill front lines. Scroll down a bit to read two wildlife blogs where updates will be posted daily. I’ll add new links chronologically at the bottom of the post.
Update June 3, 2010: This is out of chronological order but I’m posting it first because one cannot look at these photos and the video, and diminish the magnitude of what’s happening in the Gulf. It’s tragic beyond description: 1) Oiled Bird Photos from Boston.com, and 2) Video of Oiled Birds
Wildlife oil spill experts are on the scene in Louisiana, setting up emergency centers and assessing the damage from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Hugh and I have basic Hazwoper training — precisely for these types of situations. But we are volunteer-level responders. So far, volunteers at our level are not being called. The commitment to help in a disaster such as this necessitates leaving work and juggling other logistics. So, even pre-trained volunteers have a number of issues to weigh when the call for help does come in.
In the meantime, if you’re concerned about wildlife in the Gulf as the river of oil creeps closer to shore and sanctuaries, check the IBRRC blog and the blog from OWCN. Both IBRRC (International Bird Rescue Research Center) and OWCN (Oiled Wildife Care Network) have boots on the ground in Louisiana, as of today. They’ll be posting regular progress reports, photos, and journals from the scene of this massive spill.
Although the costs of such a spill do not generally fall on the wildlife groups, orgs like IBRRC always need donations for the incredible work they do. My heartfelt thanks to all of those who have made this their life’s work — to step in when unnatural disaster overwhelms our wild brethren.
Added May 2, 2010: USA Today had a recent piece about what people can do to help in the Gulf — including information on local coalitions building volunteer lists. If you have experience relevant to oil spills, check out the resources. If you don’t have any experience, your help may still be needed.
Excerpt: “I’ve seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon’s name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was … British Petroleum (BP).”
Added May 14, 2010: If Judge Judy ran the Gulf oil spill investigation:
Added May 20, 2010: The most recent 60 Minutes has a revealing interview with a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon blast, with his description what went wrong to produce the horror of the explosion. Here’s a link to the 60 Minutes piece.
Also: My friend Jennifer clued me into Deep Sea News — a site reporting various stories about the Gulf oil “spill.” (I can’t bring myself to call it a spill anymore, understanding the broad repercussions of what amounts to an oil geyser under the Gulf.)
Excerpt: “Mention the name of the corporation BP to Scott West and two words immediately come to mind: Beyond Prosecution.
West was the special agent-in-charge at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division who had been probing alleged crimes committed by BP and the company’s senior officials in connection with a March 2006 pipeline rupture at the company’s Prudhoe Bay operations on Alaska’s North Slope that spilled more than 200,000 gallons of oil across two acres of frozen tundra – the second largest spill in Alaska’s history – which went undetected for nearly a week.”
Excerpt: “In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.”
Added May 28, 2010: VIDEO: Alternative perspectives on the second plume of oil (MSNBC):
Added May 29, 2010: VIDEO: Diving into the toxic mix of oil and chemical dispersants in the Gulf (you’ll have to sit through an advertisement at the start):
Added June 12, 2010: Marine biologist fly-over of Gulf and oil spill. He discusses how the toxic dispersants hide the oil below the surface, as opposed to rectifying the problem. “BP’s denial is simply dishonest.”
Also . . . Riki Ott, author of Not One Drop (a book I recommend, about the Exxon Valdez spill) writes in Huffington Post about BPs cover-up in the Gulf, including restricted press and researcher access to locations.
At the OWCN blog . . . Nils and Mike post in refutation to the recent rash of stories suggesting that rehabilitating oiled birds might not be worthwhile. Their piece cites references and studies that contradict the anti-bird-washing media blitz of late on this topic.
The photos: I’ll never forget the first day, doing wildlife reconnaissance after the Cosco Busan spill. The fog was a contributing factor in the accident. So fog persisted during the early recovery efforts. The eery quiet that engulfs the Bay Area when fog creeps in added to the utterly depressing situation of seeing heavily slicked birds on rocks, beaches, outcroppings. Cosco Busan was my first oil spill, firsthand. I’d obviously seen hundreds of oil spill images and bits of footage over the years. But nothing prepared me for the sense of helplessness I felt when I saw that first bird — a grebe stranded on a rock at Berkeley Marina, covered bill to tail in a thick layer of oil. Only its eyes were visible through the muck as it frantically tried to preen itself of the oil. It was a heartbreak that lives with me still. It’s haunting and devastating to see animal after animal desperate to clean itself with a total inability to do so. And know that only a percentage of the birds will be recovered before they die of starvation or hypothermia or both. The smell of the bunker fuel was unbearable, even as winds tried to blow the air clean. The birds themselves, coated in petroleum sludge, had no reprieve from the toxic and smothering effects of the oil.
The beached birds have a chance at rescue since by the time they get to that point, they’re often too weak to resist capture. Of course, the longer they’ve been out, exposed to the elements and unable to feed, the weaker and more susceptible they are, too. The tough ones to grapple with are the birds with patches of oil, like the gull pictured here. Most birds, with even a tiny patch of oil, will succumb to hypothermia because birds depend on perfectly-layered plumage to stay warm in cold air and water. That’s why they preen. One bit of oil on their feathers is, as they say, like a “hole in a wetsuit.” At the same time, birds lightly oiled like this gull, fully mobile and flighted, are impossible to capture. It’s all one big Catch-22.
My first experience with an oil spill was one I hoped would be my last . . . even as Hugh and I trained to be ready for the next one . . . the one you pray never comes. In my wildest notions, I couldn’t have conceived of the size of this Gulf spill. The weather is not cooperating, animal surveys have not been conducted extensively, the oil is still gushing, so we have no idea what damage and death will result. Yet. I’m sure that soon, those images will come pouring in. And based on what I saw during this “small” spill, Cosco Busan (58,000 gallons), I can’t even imagine the suffering that might occur if and when the oil travels where it’s predicted to travel. I hope beyond hope that the monumental disaster being predicted is somehow averted. Somehow. The ecosystem and its inhabitants surely do not deserve one more human-engendered assault in this already tenuous existence.
Washing an Oiled Bird – as explained by Jay Holcomb of IBRRC