Monday, May 24, 2010

Frank Pope goes out into the Gulf to see what's really like out there - it's bad

Eighteen miles out and the stink of oil is everywhere. Rashes of red-brown sludge are smeared across vast swaths, between them a swell rendered faintly psychedelic with rainbow-coloured swirls.

SHOOT: Good to see guys like Pope getting their hands dirty to get the real story. Feel sorry for these creatures. With BP in charge they'll reap the whirlwind. Certain looks like not much is being done, certainly nowhere near enough effort even at attempting anything.

Cutting the engines, we slide to a stop near Rig 313. We’re not supposed to be in the restricted zone, but other than the dispersant-spraying aircraft passing overhead there’s no one to see us. Despite the thick oil, we’ve seen only two clean-up boats out of the 1,150 that the response claims to have on site: one was broken down, the other was towing it.

When a gap in the slick opens, I dive on one of the huge steel legs of the rig. Swirling around it are dozens of some of the biggest fish I’ve seen in nearly 20 years of diving. Huge cobia, amberjack, mangrove snapper and barracuda thrive on the shelter provided by the rig structures, creating some of the most sought-after game fishing in the United States: our skipper claimed that he’d hosted three world record-breaking catches last year.

A pod of sperm whales resides off New Orleans and is believed to be dining on giant squid. These ultimately depend on the tiny specks of life that are slowly being poisoned at the surface.

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