May 7th, 2010
02:05 PM ET

Gulf oil spill from the air: Like paint covering a floor

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.

soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Shut up

    I believe your statements are irrational and narrow minded. The fact of the matter is that careless decisions were made, and the safety of the environment was compromised in order to make a profit.

    To turn this into benevolent finger pointing is not going to change what is happening today. To turn this situation around and claim that the lack of religion in our everyday lives has caused a higher power to turn on our society is ludicrous.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kerberos

    BP has so much money and influence that they could give a crap about the oil spills. Once the harm is done and the marine life dead, they'll dump millions of dollars of "cleanup efforts" and 6 months from now they'll be back to billion dollar profits and lobbyist on their side. Oh and an FYI, you want to know how much power this company has? They helped overthrow the Shah of Iran, so that a bunch of Ayotollah's could allow them to continue gathering oil from that country.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sam the Sham

    We need to stop using their wicked oil today! Stop driving, using electricity, buying any products that are shipped to market. Stop flying, boating, using all petroleum based products...stop buying anything made with plastic. While we're at it, stop buying any product that is made with machinery that needs to be lubricated with oil. Heck, get rid of all moving parts all together.
    Yeah, that'll hit them where it hurts.
    On second thought................

    May 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    The joint command cneter in control of response operations indicates that they have 256 vessels employed, including tugboats and skimmers. One thing in particular caught my attention in this CNN reporter's report: "As we flew, you could periodically see a boat or two moving between the strings of oil." This seems to tell me that there are not nearly enough vessels employed for recovering oil from the surface of the sea. I think BP and the government need to employ many more boats to help in the recovery efforts.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George

    This oil spill has NOTHING to do with God, but EVERYTHING to do with Greed!

    BP and/or RIG could have spent half a million dollars on an automatic remote shut-off valve,
    but they decided to save that money and didn't even bother installing a shut-off valve!!!

    The United States is the ONLY country with off-shore oil drilling that does NOT
    mandate an automatic remote shut-off valve on each and every off-shore oil rig!!!

    Pathetic........... Our politicians are bought and paid for by BIG OIL!

    May 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    I find it ironic that people flying in a massive machine using thousands of gallons of oil-derived products would be sighing at the sight of the oil slick. They are (we all are) responsible for it being there, after all.

    May 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David Jintes

    What has happen is not only the fault of the company involved it is fault of the entire industry and it's proper clean up should be funded by the entire multi trillion dollar industry!
    Time for the big oil boys and girls to give back a little this time so pony up!

    May 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    For you apologists that want to shift blame to a society that can't do without plastic and other petro products, I say stick it in your ear.

    The fact that we are oil dependent does not, in the least, mitigate BP's responsibility. Nor does it provide a decent argument for cutting back on production in sensitive areas, conserving, and moving to alternatives at breakneck speed.

    The fact is, the oil companies ARE wicked. It was they, in concert with the auto industry, that fight every initiative to replace their petro products or their transportation infrastructure with more sustainable products and methods. It is they who decimate the people and environment of the Amazon, Nigeria, and other entire regions, in the name of increased profit. And they have the money to make sure they never have to pay the costs.

    It is they who buy the politicians who oppose public expenditures for mass transit, bike friendly cities, alternative energy research, etc. They lobby aggressively against industrial, eco-friendly hemp. They launch phoney astro-turf propaganda organizations, like the Gulf orientated one that was consulted by the NYT in a recent article, to convince us that there is no viale alternative and they are doing the best they can. If only we weren't so dependent on those nice oil companies. It's all our fault.

    They're like a crack dealer justifying his trade by claiming that he's doing a service to his crackhead customer.

    But they're worse than crack dealers, spending billions to make sure that we, as a society, remain dependent on petrochemicals and to convince us to ridicule the very idea of a feasible alternative. And they spend a a like amount to ensure that they remain "too big to fail" and will never have to account for all the costs and externalities they impose on society and the earth.

    To the extent that oil is vital for certain things, our needs can be met without endangering vast swaths of the eco-system and economies, despite the oil industry's, and its shills and toadies', bleatings to the contrary.

    Don't blame us for being dependent on the industry. They spend billions to make sure we believe it, and that it stays that way. We are the heroin addict in search of a methadone clinic. BP is the dealer. (My apologies to the more ethical drug dealers out there)

    May 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jack mckenna

    The American public should boycott BP nationwide. Do not spend a dime with that company forever

    May 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Credit Where Credit's Due

    Chuck Lentine

    God didn't create this mess. You are actually correct since God didn't create anything and in fact doesn't exist. However, let's assume for a moment that your beliefs are true and that God created man and all that exists. If this is true then God, in fact was responsible for the oil spill as he created the oil that is polluting the gulf, the materials needed to make the oil rig, the human brain that designed the oil rig and the laws of physics which are responsible for the current outpouring of oil. It would be unbelievably refreshing if those of a religious bent would actually give God credit for everything (the good, the bad and the ugly) instead of simply picking and choosing to suit their purpose. You could have at least gone with the "God works in mysterious ways." as that has the (small) benefit of being scientifically indisputable. As stated your comments are simply foolish and lack any logical rigor. Not that any of this matters to you I'm sure. After all God get's credit for your shortcomings as well.

    May 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kel

    I just do not know why they just do not put another rig on top of that pipe they have millions, billions of dollars they put it there in the first place so it can be done just do it stop looking at other things that will not work why do they not make these rigs with shut of values look at the damage that is going to be done and the dollars that will be lost and who will pay for all of this the little people they put the rig there in the first place put another there, these oil comanies are turning billions and billions of dollars in profits again by ripping of the people just cap the pipe or put another rig on it yes it will costs lot of moeny byt htey have that instead they are lettting it ruin the ocean the peoples lifes and the environment. Maybe this is a sign for people to stop being so selfish we have one planet one life once it is gone there is no turning back all becasue of the almighty dollar!

    May 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jack mckenna

    Pete, you are an idiot. Keep your uneducated mouth shut

    May 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. George


    Opponents of electric cars argue that electric cars get their power from coal plants, but AT LEAST electric cars have the potential to get their power from alternative energies, like wind and solar!

    May 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. George



    May 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. K

    One more comment if there is a God he would not so this to the planet he created it for us to live in and everything in it for us to use the right way if you beleive in that, but we abuse it and now look at what is happing I think if anything mother nature is getting even cause she can be mean when she wants to be. I think this has nothing to do with god maybe if you want to look at the big picture the world is running its course we are having earthquates that have not happen in hundreds of years, volcanos erupting that haven't in hundreds of years. Maybe it is the beginning of the 2012 theroy where the stars are to align I think this is the beginning and the worst is yet to come. People are the only mammals that will self distruct and do what we are doing, it is human nature to be selfish no other animal in the world acts the way that humans do and the sad part about all of this nobody will learn they will just keep going and going until itwill be way too late oh well what do you do when you are just a poor tax payer in this big world!

    May 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
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