I got off the WeatherBird II mid way through the cruise in Pensacola, Florida. Five days later, an e-mail arrived from chief scientist David Hollander, subject line: "Yuck!"
As soon as it was back out on the water, the WeatherBird II headed to Perdido Pass, about two miles from Orange Beach, Alabama. When the team pulled up the multi-corer, they were stunned by what they found: the cylinders filled with pitch black, gelatinous goo that looks exactly like crude oil. But it didn't act like oil: the scientists were able to wash it off their hands easily, and it smelled strongly of sulfur, not petroleum. "As a sedimentoloist I can tell you that none of us have ever seen anything like this in the Gulf of Mexico," Hollander says, "especially not in shallow water. It certainly didn't belong there."
The location was also interesting. According to Hollander, "this exact area was subjected to over two months of continuous oiling of the shoreline region and the widespread use of dispersants in near-shore shallow waters."
Back at the University of South Florida laboratories, the experiments began. It turns out the black goo is made up of dead plankton and other organisms that adhered to each other. But why did all these life forms die? John Paul, a professor of biological oceanography, tested the waters from the mud and they came back, in his words, "toxic as all bejesus." So there has been some kind of poisoning, but was it BP? Or did these organisms run into some other poison in the gulf?
According to Hollander, it's certain "that these unique sediments have accumulated within the past year and that their origin is contemporaneous with the timing of the oiling and use of dispersants" in the area.
Hollander's tests are ongoing and definitive results will take weeks. All he knows is that a whole lot of marine organisms died and formed a "toxic marine tumble weed," rolling around on the ocean floor until the Weatherbird team happened to poke it. Which kind of makes you wonder: what else are those supposedly healthy waves hiding?
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This article appeared in The Nation.
A few dollars is a small price to pay for news for the rest of us. Please donate to rabble today.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.