Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spill in the Gulf

Sherry is making me write a post on the blog (my first contribution) about my recent experience in the Gulf so here goes:

On April 20, 2010, the worst oil spill in U.S. history struck the Gulf of Mexico as a result of negligence on the part of British Petroleum (BP). Little did I know that I would get the chance to go down and help out as part of the effort down there. I have had the opportunity to travel and do many wonderful things as a wildland firefighter. I have helped with the Columbia Shuttle Disaster, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and on numerous wildfires, too many to name.

On July 11, 2010, I was off once again to help a nation in crisis as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's response. It seems silly to talk about myself being a superhero of sorts, but we all play a role in the bigger picture of things. I knew that it would be hard to leave Sherry and Evan for 14 days, but I knew that number one I would be making a difference and number two I would be making some money. So after many hugs and kisses goodbye, I was off. Arriving in Mobile, AL, I rented a car and headed to Daphne, AL where the Incident Command Post was located. That's the ICP for those of you in the know. Naturally, after seeing all of the oiled wildlife on TV and reading about it in the paper, I assumed that I was to be helping with the wildlife recovery effort. The wildlife recovery effort was basically teams of personnel that went out to different locations along the Gulf and responded to any reports of oiled wildlife in distress or dead wildlife that had succumbed to the oil and its effects. So I checked in to the incident and was told that I was a NRDA. At first I was offended. How dare these people call me a NERD; they had just met me. I soon realized that they had said NRDA which stands for Natural Resource Damage Assessment. I went and reported to NRDA and so began my role as the Planning Section Chief. A Planning Section Chief is responsible for keeping the entire operation on track, moving forward timely, and making sure that people know where they are supposed to be. After a couple of days, I soon realized that I wasn't going to see any wildlife. In fact, I might not even leave this room if I didn't make a command decision and make one fast. The NRDA section was responsible for developing plans for monitoring the effects of the oil on the wildlife but also collecting evidence to aid in the lawsuit against BP on behalf of the natural resources injured as a result of the spill.

My first trip was to see Jeff Corwin tape a TV show for the Discovery Channel about the USFWS's operation to move the hundreds of sea turtle nests that stretched from Alabama to Texas. The second trip I took was to view all of the oil that was washing up on the beaches. At first I thought it would be hard to find some oil on the great expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, but boy was I wrong. A 30 mile drive down to Gulf Shores, AL is all it took for me to see the oil first hand. Oil everywhere! Each step I took, I had to avoid oil patches. It was stuck to combs, bottles, sea weed, and of course the beautiful white sand. Needless to say, with one look I knew that the people who called this place home would be dealing with the aftermath for years to come.

On July 15th only four days after my arrival, BP managed to place a temporary cap on the gushing well head, and for the first time in 86 days, the oil had stopped. Now the only problem was the millions and millions if not billions of gallons of oil that had leaked into the Gulf for months on end. Each day, the NRDA field personnel would call in to give us updates on the number of dead or live oiled birds they found, whether there was oil on the beach, and whether BP cleaning crews had come out to clean up the oil. Our crews stretched from Apalachicola, FL to Corpus Christi, TX. One day a crew in Louisiana found a 6 foot Hammer Head Shark dead on the beach.

It was not all work. I did have a chance to go to LuLu's restaurant in Gulf Shores, AL which is owned by Jimmy Buffett's sister. The food was good and the atmosphere was great for kids of all ages from 3 to 53. On July 27th, my tour of duty was over and I was on the way home to my beautiful babies. I hope that by reading this post you learned a little something and also learned that even though the oil may be stopped, the effects to Mother Nature and to those that call the Gulf of Mexico home will last for years to come.

Enjoy some pictures of the event and clean up taken by me and other USFWS workers:

Satellite image of the oil leak
A Satellite image of the area shows the oils progression


2 Red Flags mean danger
2 Red flags flying

Still a paradise on Earth

White sands worth preserving
A paradise on Earth


Exploring the beaches

The early days of the clean up

Not quite paradise

Will these beaches ever be white again?

Oil meets sand

Oil coated comb possibly from the oil rig explosion
An oil covered comb washed up perhaps from the oil rig explosion

Oil coated water bottles washed up on shore
Oil covered water bottles

Eddie showing the oil strewn on the beach
Me finding some more oil

Showing how big a piece of dried oil was next to a size 12
My size 12 demonstrates the size of a big piece of dried oil

More oil on the beach
More oil found

Oil covered seaweed strewn along the beach



Oil meets the shore

1 comment:

  1. That was such a great post! We are so proud of you. You write so well, and we are so glad you made the contributation you did.


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