On April 20th 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform floating above 5,000 feet of water, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana erupted in a fireball killing 11 crew members. Immediately following the BP oil spill, many were asking themselves the same questions. How bad is it? How long will it last? How can I help? Like thousands across the country, I added my name to the volunteer lists only to learn that there was no use for someone lacking specialized hazmat or wildlife handling training. Frustration grew as security tightened and beaches closed.
The opportunity to participate in a documentary on the gulf oil spill for the National Geographic Channel gave me a unique opportunity to learn first hand just how devastating the disaster was. Our film includes interviews with Louisiana fishermen whose lives were dramatically affected by closures to some of the world’s most productive fisheries. National Geographic accompanied flight crews in Mississippi during an aerial spraying sortie of dispersant. We followed skimmers and spill recovery crews to the inner oil stained marshes of Barataria Bay. We filmed inside BP’s US headquarters in Houston on the day they successfully halted the spill. While there, we shot inside “The Hive” a high security mission control room for the many ROV’s that proved instrumental in this deep water containment operation.
We also visited with numerous scientist from Baton Rouge to Corpus Christi who speculated on the long-term consequences of dead zones and dispersed oil in the deep gulf waters. It was humbling to witness the unbroken spirit of individuals who were threatened with the total loss of their livelihood and to see the continued commitment of cleanup crews and engineers, many working fifteen hour days for weeks at a time.
Understandably during the making of this project we heard various opinions. Many shared the view that the environmental effects of this disaster would last for years, perhaps decades. The BP gulf oil spill has revived a fresh debate over the risks of deep water oil exploration while not having reliable safety precautions in place. We are now asking new questions about the practice of allowing private industry to enforce itself. It has also become clear that through our increasing demand for affordable energy we as a society share in the responsibility for this and future incidents. Lessons will be learned and forgotten and accidents allowed to reoccur until the costs outweigh the consequences. Or is it the other way around?
Video Preview: “Containing the Spill” — Join the teams on the front lines of the gulf coast working to contain the spill 50 miles off shore.
Video Preview: “Capping the Well” — National Geographic takes you inside BP’s command center during the well cap.
Don’t miss National Geographic Explorer “Can The Gulf Survive?“ premiering September 28th at 10P et/pt.