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. maxell

    Here's one for you GULFOILSPILLTHEMOVIE.COM for sale on ebay

    May 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jamie

    Does anyone remember what this news story was about. It seems to have gotten away from the topic at hand. There are thousands of barrels of oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico and spreading. Remember? Now offer positive solutions and be of some assistance or say nothing. Let's get the donkey out of the ditch and worry about how it got there later.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rob2tall

    It was only a matter of time before an event like this happened-you can blame it on oil industry deregulation on safety-and the EPA slapping offenders with tiny fines rather than revoking their offshore drilling permits until its fixed.
    BP and all the other should be required to build equipment to contain,or stop any leak at any depth they are permitted to drill at,and the equipment should be part of the drill rig-not ab accessory the have to haul in weeks later after the fact-BP needs to be slapped with a 10 million $ a day fine from the day the rig caught fire to the last day of its cleaning of the entire Gulf Coast-and Congress needs to ensure the cost of fuels do not go up a penney until long after this disaster is just a history lesson!
    Shame on BP and our stupid EPA to allow such a disaster to happen to begin with!

    May 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ACinsC

    If this is all God's fault then why do we have laws to address corporate responsibility? Would you tell hundreds of thousands of Indians (the real ones) that God, or in their language, Vishnu, is responsible for the Union Carbide accident?

    First of all, it is the responsibility of Congress to know all the things that can go wrong when dealing with the retrieval of resources in a delicate ecosystem – and to legislate appropriately to prevent accidents like this. Thanks, REPUBLICANS.

    Corporate culture now molds the reputation of a company in the future. If BP wants to do everything the US allows it to do, just like Union Carbide was willing to do everything India allowed it to do, then BP is also at fault.

    So is the company that ran the rig, and the company that engineered the rig.

    God is only at fault for creating the universe ... if you want to blame him for that.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kat

    I'm a Canadian looking at this entire messed up world and we humans are the only ones to blame. We are greedy, self-sacrificing and disrespectful of everyone and everything. Shame on us for allowing our greedy wants to become needs ie. gluttonous use of oil and other toxic products and the use of cars that still run on oil even though we have the technology to use clean energy automobiles. Shame on us for overpopulating this world and creating all the illness, violence and destruction of our natural habitat.

    The religious people should keep religion where it belongs – in your own home and church. It doesn't belong on a post where some educated people are trying to discuss the relevant topic at hand.

    I am proud that Canada does not allow offshore drilling and i hope the US and other selfish countries have learned from this experience and prohibit future drilling in the arctic. Canada too, can learn from advanced countries such as Sweden for smart technologies that improve our every day lives without killing us in the process. The world needs to use our intelligence and money on clean energy instead and get down to the core basic of population control and increased use of knowledge to become a smarter, cleaner and respectable human race.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lighter

    Anyone who uses oil is at fault. This is the fault of mankind. Everyone here wants to point their oil stained fingers in someone else's greasy face, This is not the end of the world. Although bad, lots of worse things have happened. Everyone should help in some way to clean up the mess. No use crying over spilled milk... or oil. Maybe this will encourage someone to put forth the effort to invent or design a new emergency proceedure or a new way to get to the oil. Heck, even something to use besides oil for our energy needs. Everyone is blaming someone, Democrats, Republicans, even God. I haven't heard anyone blame the Devil. I think the Devil made them do it. ( sounds as good as anyone else's opinion in here )

    May 8, 2010 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mike D

    There is no excuse that these so called industry professionals never thought to prepare themselves OR better yet OUR GOVERNMENT never required these offshore money spongers to have a unit prepared to use in this instance ON CALL when a catastrophe may happen and also a secondary back up plan as well . Russia has been been using atomic bombs allegedly to close these problems
    up when they have surfaced. Hats off to the cheapest bidder on that valve supplied that malfunctioned and helped cause this. Probably a NAFTA bargain from the past. Too
    bad for the shoreline occupants that will get to enjoy a daily aroma therapy of BP's
    Poison. By stock in Dawn dish detergent they will be using lots-–
    NASA is an organization that has a great history of thinkers and engineers and achievers
    the oil industry should get smarter--Quickly--

    May 8, 2010 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. purification through fire

    If I could have but one wish.
    I would wish that the 100 ton dome misses its mark and crushes the well head even further. Increasing the flow to 100,000 barrels a day. Being that the dark oil can absorb more solar radiation and heat then the water could alone, the temperature would rise, thus increasing the force of the storms during hurricane season. a few months later the mother of all storms brews. Its enters the oil fillled gulf sucking up millions of gallons of flammable fumes and liquid. Ignited by a bolt of lightning the first ever Fire-cane is born. It rips through the south and up the mississippi cleansing the land in baptismal fires as it goes.
    Yes I know its not probable, but its my wish none the less.

    May 8, 2010 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Shane

    This Oil Spill is indeed a huge disaster that is going to effect the wildlife, families and livelyhoods in that area. But its alos the Oil Production Workers in that area that will be effected too.

    The problem is the fact that we as a nation need to have the energy resource from the off shore oil production. Do I agree with it, not really. But as I stated in another section, we need the energy resource at this time if we are going to quit paying Saudi Arabia for their oil. We don't need to continue to be dependant on those folks for their oil.

    As I pointed out before, the issue is not one of completely getting off of the need for oil. Unfortunately we need it, but what needs to happen is finding an alternative source of energy. As other folks have pointed out we can use solar and wind, but those are a drop in the bucket compaired to some other resources that we keep selling to our European Counterparts.

    We do have geo-thermal, but just not enough of it. We do have hydroelectric, but many of the Dams in my area need a face lift, systems improvements and reservior capacity increases in order to suppliment and provide a higher volume resource. Getting the Bunny Huggers to understand increasing the size of the dams equals a better pollution free power source is diddicult because all they see is a concrete wall.

    But the real issue is getting folks to understand that Nuclear Power is the best option at this point to reduce our need for Oil. Nuclear Power Plants are what we need for a Hydrogen Fuel Resource.

    I would really like to see our energy answer base itself on Hydrogen Fuel, (Compressed Hydrogen Gas). Nuclear Power Plants open this door for our Nation.

    The technology is also available to properly deal with the Nuclear Waste problem too. The Fuel Rods can be recycled and used again. Then recycled and used again, until they have spent their radiation. This can be done. Its a matter of getting our Government to move forward on this technology.

    Instead BAMALAMA wants to move forward with "Clean Coal". That's a first! Never heard of clean coal. Burning coal is just as bad as burning oil. Sort of why the Railroads do have Steam Locomotives any more, too expensive to maintain, and create too much pollution. Don't get me wrong though. Nothing I like to see more than Union Pacific's Challenger running with a full head of steam.

    As for this situation?

    Personally, I think there was some Hanky-Panky on both parties involved with this mess.

    May 8, 2010 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dee


    God didn't create oil? God didn't create man? If there is a god (which there isn't) and he is omnipotent (which he isn't) and he didn't want man and oil to mix (which apparently he did) he could have prevented it (which he didn't). God's got nothing to do with this, so save your tears for something more significant – like spilling milk on your mom's clean floor.

    The culprit here is methane gas – a natural hazard to the oil drilling process.

    And unless you cranked your own electricity to fire up your organically created computer to post your sniveling nonsense on line, you are a consumer of petroleum just like every other hypocrite who feels compelled to seize the opportunity to decry the very thing that makes their cushy lives possible.

    You are part of the reason this very event even happened: you are part of the demand for oil. Shut off all electricity to your home, grow your own food in your backyard, never travel farther than you can walk, and wear only clothes made from fiber you grew yourself. Any reply to this posting is simply further evidence of its truth.

    May 8, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. KG

    Hey Pete (May 7, 4:08 p.m.) – Do you drive a car? Do you heat your home in the winter? Well, then shut up!!

    May 8, 2010 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    purification through fire,

    I certainly feel this is a very tragic situation. I've read countless numbers of posts over the last week. Your waxing on the cleansing power of fire in post #39 is absolutely the most ridiculous post I've read so far. And it's the first one that has made me really laugh. Thanks for bringing in some levity to this dicussion. At least, I hope you're trying to bring some levity to this discussion. Otherwise, your post is one of the most provoking posts I've read so far.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. michael nyc

    dome is not necessary and wasting time – oil floats to surface and can be pumped into takers/barges –

    employ a floatation of existing tankers/barges starting at epicenter of shaft leak to recover (pump skim off surface oil)

    possible "stop leak" would be explosion deep in old shaft using a missile

    thank you

    Michael Gruters – former faculty physics Princeton late 60'

    p.s. the use of dispersing chemicals make surface removal impossible and poisons the sea – really stupid....

    May 8, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Aristote

    Are we Morons ?

    May 8, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike Campbell

    I'm concerned about the effects that the oil spill is causing on food consumption
    not only in the Gulf but all spills.What has already happened I hope its contained soon.Let us stand together and demand the need for better
    protective measures be to implimented.Even a litle toxicity effects our health
    and the conservation of our natural resources.

    May 8, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
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