You hear it's massive – but that word oftentimes is used too loosely. In this case, it is sadly the right choice.
We had just left Houston's Hobby Airport when the captain came on saying if the clouds weren't too thick, we'd be flying right over the oil slick in the Gulf on our way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He'd let us know.
Less than an hour later, he's back on the speaker, "If you're sitting on the left side of the plane, that's the mouth of the Mississippi."
We were flying at 39,000 feet, he said. With the clouds only scattered, we'd have a good look at the slick out of both sides of the plane.
From that altitude, I wondered how much I would see – probably not much.
Within minutes, it was below us – the oil stretched out in long, rust-colored streaks, tentacle after tentacle like the arms of a dozen octopus.
To put it another way, think of what it would look like if someone took a gallon of paint and threw it across a floor. The Gulf is a large body of water, but this was truly massive.
I heard the folks at window seats around me just sighing in disbelief.
As we flew, you could periodically see a boat or two moving between the strings of oil. They looked like ants caught in molasses. There were places where the rust color thinned to a sheen on the water.
But then we'd fly over a few other spots that were imbedded in the rust color. The water was black. I don't know what the folks on the right side of the plane could see. But the captain had said, they'd see even more.
We weren't over the area of the spill for more than 10 minutes at the most. As we moved farther east, the color returned to that beautiful Gulf blue.
As we made the turn down the west coast of Florida, the white sand beaches stood out as they always do – and hopefully that's how they'll stay.