I’m here in steamy Gulfport, Mississippi helping out with our expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. The second largest city in Mississippi, Gulfport was demolished by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and has taken an environmental and economic hit from the oil spill.
Yesterday I went up in a spotter plane to try and spot whale sharks. If we caught sight of one, we planned to radio to our boat, the Latitude, and let the crew know where the sharks were so they could tag them.
Unfortunately, we had to turn back to the airport before spotting anything – except some abandoned oil boom and a few dolphins -- because the clouds began to look ominous, and the pilot didn’t want to risk getting caught in a thunderstorm (nor did I). It was quite a treat to be up in a four-seater plane looking over the vast network of wetlands and tributaries that empty into the Gulf of Mexico.
Well, it’s official: oil has now made land in every Gulf Coast state.
With the sight of oil on a Texas beach, it’s clear that this spill is a full-out assault on the Gulf Coast.
And the news just keeps getting grimmer in Louisiana. Over the weekend, tar balls were sighted in Lake Pontchartrain, which borders New Orleans. That spells trouble for the region’s remaining working fishermen, many of whom have taken their boats to the lake since fishing in the Gulf came to a halt.
More than 115,000 people have signed our petition to stop offshore drilling. Will you?
One plan involves building up almost 70 miles of barrier islands by dredging sand and mud, including some from the bottom of the Mississippi River, and depositing it onto the outer shores of the islands, a process that would normally require years of environmental assessment.
Sediments from the river are likely to be contaminated with a host of other chemicals, like mercury, which could add insult to injury in the already badly contaminated Gulf waters.
Some of these islands are home to bird and wildlife sanctuaries, including the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. The plan may not work because the barrier islands have shrunk significantly, in part as a result of human engineering that has altered the flow of Mississippi for a variety of reasons -- including in efforts to facilitate oil and gas production.