Tanner's Follow-up on the Gulf Coast 8.2.10



Hello, again!

 

I'm here for an update on how the summer's going!  If you'll recall, I managed to bag an
adventurous job this summer at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs,
MS, photo-documenting research and educational excursions for the Summer Field
Program (if you do not in fact recall, you can read all about it at /sites/default/files/blog_archives/pgp/2010/06/tanner-up-close-and-personal-on-the-gulf-coast.html

 

Unfortunately, my summer dream job has been foiled by this:

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Oil from a hole in the ground about 120 miles south of where
I live.
 

 

So, as you would imagine, as soon as oil entered the
Mississippi Sound (the stretch of water between the MS coastline and the
Barrier Islands), the Summer Field Program had to make some changes.  With waters closed, boat trips were cancelled
and this past month has basically been played by ear.  The lab has permits to go into closed waters,
but frequent trips into oil slicks would require painstaking cleaning of boats,
hazmat training for students, etc. 

 

This left me doing A LOT of deskwork.  Don't get me wrong, I like editing photos,
designing publications, and working on a promotional video for the
program;  but after a month of four days
on a boat on the water and one day in the office, life isn't feeling quite so
adventurous.  However, I have gotten the
opportunity to take three or four trips to Florida, where students sample in
clean coastal habitats.  Here, I had the
opportunity to climb over hills FULL of fiddler crabs, warn snorkelers of
approaching alligators, swim in one of the largest spring-fed rivers in the
country, cross an underground river, and sit for 7 hours crammed in a van with
fourteen students and half of my rear off of the seat.  You take the good with the bad! :)

 

Anyways, at the time of my last blog, I had only ever
encountered tar balls once in Pensacola. 
This month, however, I have seen enough tar balls to last me a while -
most of it on the islands and some on the beaches.  Beyond the obvious implications, the oil has
really gotten in the way of research here at lab.  It seems like things are constantly getting
shuffled to accommodate for oil plumes and damaged marine life.  The other day, we left on a trip to Santa
Rosa Island (Pensacola, FL), and had to spend the day in the back marshes
sampling because of oil washing onto shore in the waves.  It's crazy to stand on the beach with loads
of equipment and looking at rolling waves that are not clear, but instead are
dark brown, thick, and foamy, alongside ready BP cleanup workers waiting for it
all to wash in. 

 

Tanner_jpg This is one of many oil booms set up
around protected waters in an attempt to stop oil from spreading.  Clearly, they have sometimes proven to be
mildly ineffective; the oil sometimes
just washes over them.
  

 

Tanner_3.jpgThis is an example of tar balls on the
beach.  All of those black dots are spots
of tar, and when you're walking on an uninhabited island's beaches, it's
important to step carefully, because they look so much like natural rocks or
chips of word or just dark sediment.  

 

The BP-atmosphere here is very prevalent.  Every new development gets talked about
non-stop on the radio and in casual conversation.  Everyone knows someone who has a job with BP
and is excited to know exactly what's
going on that no one else has heard
yet.  I wouldn't say people are angry at
the company as much as they are angry at how long it took for cleanup efforts to
really get underway.  In other words,
many of us are still filling up with BP. 
On the bright side, though, I have lots of friends who now have jobs
with BP's water or coastal cleanup groups. My brother-in-law, in fact, works
for BP as well.

 

So, in a nutshell, this was certainly a unique summer to
return home, and I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to adventure around the
gulf for my first month home, and hopefully, with a (hopefully) plugged well
and clean waters, the next month will be just as exciting.   

 

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Shrimp
boats!  At the beginning of the summer,
we'd boat out super early in the morning, and see these commercial shrimping
boats pull single-file out of the Biloxi Bay like elementary school children
walking to the library.  It's really
funny to see such giant ships, one-by-one filing from shore to horizon starting
out the day.  The fact that we're
starting to see them is good news for the economy, for local business, for
fishermen, for roadside shrimp stands, and for shrimp-lovers!

 

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Chunks of oil that wash up and mix with
sand.  These chunks will sometimes get
far enough on shore to get mixed up in coastal grasses.  This is a problem because, to clean up, they
generally scoop up oil and sand in a shovel, but if you scoop up these grasses,
sand will wash away and the islands that protect the coast from hurricanes will
erode.

 

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I've been to centers where animals (like
turtles, birds, and even a dolphin) have been cleaned and in rehabilitation
before being released, but every now and then we'll come across something like
this, a critter who didn't make it. 
They're pretty rare (on the shore at least), though, so it's not too
depressing!

 

 

On a much lighter note, Dad and I are working on another project
this summer after hours.  Dad promised me
that we could fix up this car since 2nd grade, and we're finally
finishing it so I can drive up to Olin!  "An
ordinary car," you might say?

 

"NO!" says I!

 

It's a 1981 Special Edition, Turbo-charged, T-top Trans
Am!  And it is going to be
FANTASTIC.  We've finished all the body
work, painting, pinstriping, decaling ('81 Trans Ams have more pinstripes and
decals than you can shake a stick at, by the way), and trimming, and now we're
working on the interior and some light motor work before September. 

 

The best part? 

 

We just put the bird on the hood a week ago.

 

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You wanna talk about school spirit?  Let's talk about permanently mounting your
school's mascot on the hood of your car.

 

I am so jazzed!

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