We trekked down to Fort Morgan Peninsula to see first hand if CNN’s dire reports from the beaches were media hype. Unfortunately, the reality is even worse than the televised reports. Alabama’s beaches are just beginning to suffer from the BP oil spill but even at this early stage—when the oil is just starting to trickle onto the white sands—the enormity of what is happening in the Gulf is sad and depressing.
The water itself is oily, mixed into a frothy emulsion by the pounding surf from Hurricane Alex. A few orange booms bob in the surf, each incoming wave barely impeded in its advance as it washes over the top of the boom. I reach in the surf and pull back a slippery, oil-stained hand. Pelicans are diving into the water offshore and I wonder how often they can make those dives before their feathers are impregnated with petroleum, their gullets full of poison. How much oil can they consume before it’s too much? The oil here is not the thick and gooey mess that accumulates in teh marshes so these birds will not show up in one of the rehab facilities. They'll probably slowly ingest enough oil that eventually they sicken and die somewhere out at sea or in the dunes, forgotten and uncounted.
That beautiful comforting fragrance of the ocean, a mix of salt air and fish, is masked by a strong industrial odor—the kind that makes you wrinkle your nose when you drive by a refinery.
A disaster, no doubt about it. But how bad? From my perspective the efforts of BP seem more of a PR effort than anything that is really having any effect. I can’t see anything other than a massive die off of marine creatures, the base of the food chain that feeds the birds, turtles, dolphins and fish going first, followed by the rest.