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. Dan R.

    I don't know as I'd agree that "careless decisions were made." But obviously the technology behind the blowout preventers failed and there clearly weren't enough fail-safe mechanisms in place as backups. As best I understand it, there was only one "backup" blowout preventer in case the primary one failed, and that simply isn't enough in view of the potential for catastrophic environmental damage.

    I'm guessing that the final result of all of this will be strict new regulations that will not only require a total re-design of blowout preventers, but that will also require a couple of extra blowout preventers at the site of the wellhead as well as valves periodically placed along the piping itself that can be manually turned by robotic submersibles to shut off the flow of oil if need be.

    I still support offshore drilling, but we have to take whatever steps are necessary to make absolutely sure that this kind of accident never happens again.

    May 8, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sherrie Mc

    As read your responses, George, I get an intense impression that you have taken great effort to develope your intellect. But there is much more to you, and all of us for that matter.
    You don't believe because you can't handle the fact that you would have to face the fact that you are not as superior as you see yourself..
    Do you think that Christians know God to be some puppeteer who macro-manages every thing here on earth? This is how you see us and frankly that is your lack of depth in your own being.
    It is not blind faith for many of us. He has revealed Himself to many of us, and I mean this is a very real and tangible way.
    Actually, you are right to think that we make our own choices on this planet. He gave us the power to make them. The earth was created for Man to manage and God to enjoy His creations, He is, after all the greatest artist of all. An artist enjoys his creations.
    When your days are up you will be reminded of all you have said and all your heart has devised to tell your brain to prevent you from thinking there is more to life that just what we see.
    Don't hate Christians because you think us to be blind believers in some dogma that helps us make sense of this world, even though it can get quite complicated and scarey here at times, if fact most of the time. But, most of us really want to be better human beings. Some of us don't get it at all, I will admit that wholeheartedly.
    If I told you that I knew without a doubt that God is real could you or would you listen? Would you even allow yourself to entertain the thoughts of WHAT IF. I doubt that you would, you can't allow yourself to believe this because if you did, your world as YOU manage it, would crumble. And, there can't be a God for you because that would mean you would have to move down quite a few notches on your place on the uppper echelon of the intelligence ladder.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. John Fitzgerald

    Most of the complainers still will get in their cars and drive using the very oil they condemn so much This is a horrible tragedy, but the earth will take care of itself. It ALWAYS does. Go check out pictures of Alaskan bays that were once told by the media never to return to normal. They are teeming with life with no sign of the Valdez or other disasters. I hope the containment works. And by the way, God did make the oil, it is a natural substance. This is a horrible tragedy but, let's not make it a supernatural problem too. You can't "blame" BP, it was a horrible accident. 11 men died. It wasn't due poor judgement or even a drunk or sleeping captain. There is no sign of negligence.

    You can blame man for war, murder, crime, other intentional evil things. A methane explosion killing 11 and damaging the Gulf is an tragedy, not corporate espionage. If you condemn all oil drilling, that is your choice. Please stop using any oil based transportation, please stop using plastics, please turn off your electricity if your local power plant is powered by oil or coal. Don't light a candle! That's carbon emissions!

    May 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chemeng

    TY, Mr. Gruters – esp for pointing out the use of dispersants on the oil in the Gulf..& these are supposedly chem engineers working for BP that came up w/that "solution"? oy.

    i'd like to know: why didn't the EPA & the Energy Secretaries step up to the plate – where've they been for over a week now? & why the heck bring the war-veteran-hating Napolitano ("FEMA") prematurely into the mix – as ineffectual a response as any Administration has attempted in modern history....were Obama's next words gonna be: "i've got it all under control" like Michael Brown did w/r/t Hurricane Katrina aftermath?

    & Mr Gruters – your suggestion to use a missile to stop the leak has been echoed on other can only surmise that BP has lost its mind, & is still thinking in terms oil production from this catastrophe instead of ending the catastrophe & mitigating its damaging effects on the environment & impact on regional economies.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chemeng

    btw, if you've ever studied anatomy & physiology, you'd never doubt the existence of God. & if you'd ever seen someone dying in an Emergency Room get saved, you'd never doubt the existence of miracles.
    (sorry some of you are so uneducated, inexperienced, 'elitist', or simply lame.)

    May 8, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Blood,Money&Oil

    I can hear what your thiking ..aii your doubts and fears..and if you could look into my eyes in time you would find the reason im here. In time all things shall pass away...In time you may come back some day....To live once more...Or to die once more....But in time your time will be no more. You know your days are numbered....Count them one by one ...Like knotches in the handle of an outlaws gun...You can outrun the devil if you try...But you will never out run the hands of time. In time will surely come a day...In time all things shall pass away...In time you may come back some say...To live once more...Or die once more...But in tme your time will be no more....I can hear what your thinking.

    May 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jcarlos

    BP wins in the end anyway. They get 2 relief wells out of the deal and will be flowing crude soon to market. The oil companies always make out in the end.

    May 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Melissa

    I am heartened to hear that we are all finally close to being on the same page. We may be arguing semantics here and there, but overall, I think we are all beginning to see that we need a serious change and that can only be accomplished together. We must demand, through our daily actions and the way in which we spend our money, the clean and safe alternatives that we know exist!

    ***To Pete and George,

    I agreed with your comments and thought they were, at times, especially articulate (Pete).

    May 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Julie

    There are some folks advocating cleaning the spill with hay and grass – their demonstration shows the effectiveness. I think this should be tried, at lease along the coasts of the states affected.

    There is only one thing wrong with this: People like to make things more complex and confusing as possible, and this is so simple. It could end up being a hard-sell, but shouldn't.

    That is why we must always remind others: KISS

    May 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Teresa

    Its times like these im sad for our human race .......Why? can't we learn to respect our planet
    were so far behind tech wise in living green were going to kill our self's in our own stupidity & greed. ;( im sad for the animals we share this earth with & also for the future generations that will inherit this piece of crap we call earth ...... Well that's how we act anyways

    May 10, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. rebecca88

    I will never buy from BP as long as I live. Some oil companies do a great job of drilling safely. BP was NEVER one of those companies. Shame, shame, shame on them for negligently ruining one of the most diverse and beautiful areas of our country.

    May 10, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. romie

    my god, this is the prize for you exploiting this beautiful nature for years and years, not learning at all.
    you will be answerable one day to your kids and grandkids!
    stand up everybody!!!

    May 10, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. russell lucken

    why havnt some money been spent on

    May 12, 2010 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. jenniwen

    Teresa, it is sad. It's most sad because the animals that are faced with this shiz have no idea. Worse than any natural disaster that could ever happen......... And the saga continues. It's freaking ridiculous.

    May 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lisa R

    I was having a conversation with 2 of my social worker comrades yesterday about greed. How is it that these men and women who work for these megacorporations think they are exempt from catastrophe? Don't they have kids and grandkids? The American Indians were right and who are the fools now? We don't need to be dependent anymore. Americans need to stop being lazy and reactivate their brains. The earth has been through many disasters and in time will heal. But the damage we are doing at such a massive rate will not heal quick enough in the next few generations.
    It will take that much time to begin the recovery process if we start now. Do your part to make this world a healthier place. America isnt about capitalism, it is about greed. Greed is killing us. Money is paper, its smoke, its nothing.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
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