Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Gulf Report

blog-dirt2-1On the night of the Fourth of July, I flew into New Orleans.  I watched from above as fireworks sailed from below into the sky to celebrate Independence Day. The young man from a small Louisiana coastal town sitting next to me said "I've never seen fireworks from above." "Me neither."

"I've never been on a plane before this either," he added.
A few hours later I was back in the sky, this time flying above a different kind of fireworks. The kind that mourn our dependence. Our small Cessna traced the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, documenting the flow of oil and tar balls onto islands, wetlands, mangroves, beaches and the inadequacy of the bright yellow and orange booms floating here and there and more often than not, beachcast and twisted by the wind and waves.


One member of our team a government geologist studying the weathering of oil on seawater.  One member of our team a environmental toxicologist.  Our pilot, a NASA scientist herself.  And myself, a marine biologist in search of sea turtles. Bonny skillfully skirted the edges of thunderclouds and positioned our plane wherever we wanted it.


blog-dirt2-1aDown the oily coast we flew.  Timbalier and Cat Islands, Grand Isle, the Mississippi River Delta, Chandeleur Islands.  None of these places, and so many others, will be themselves for a long time. Then we turned offshore, for deep water.  Beneath us muddy water, oily water, oily muddy water.  Then the edge, a giant convergence, between deep blue and shallower oily water for as far as we could see.  There we found a school of forty cownose mantas, searching for food, traveling together.  Without a doubt they have all eaten oil.


We flew further offshore.  Closer to "ground zero," the site of the oil gusher and location of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon.


I've spent my adult life working for the ocean, the endangered animals living in it, and the people who depend on it.  I've seen the wholesale destruction of species by commercial fishing, illegal hunting and the destruction caused by plastic pollution.  But none of that prepared me for this.


blog-dirt2-2Our plane surveyed a path of the thousands of square miles of destroyed ocean habitat.  Then we descended a bit and flew over "ground zero", the site of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon. A new platform has taken its place. A large flame of burning methane jetting from the side.  Ships worked the waters all around.  Bands of oil extended off into the distance, set off by the deep blue of the Gulf.


We were close. So close I could smell it.  The cockpit filled with fumes.  I breathed in the foul breath of the fire dragon.  We buzzed the beast, like a pesky fly.  Our small craft banked, circled back around for a closer look.  This time I held my breath.


I thought of the tragic loss of human lives that occurred just below me ten weeks prior.  I thought of the massive loss of animal life that's already happened and will unfold throughout this ocean for years to come.  I thought of the distraught fisherman who took his own life.  I thought of the people below, working to stop the flow of oil, working to burn the oil on the surface.  I thought about my daughters.  I thought ten million other things at the same time.  I felt like I was going to cry.  Somehow I didn't, but I raged inside silently.


Eventually, I could hold my breath no longer and I sucked in the breath of the fire dragon again.

I will think of the Deepwater Horizon every time I smell that smell.  Every time I pump gas into my tank, or ride my bike behind a truck on a busy street.  At airports and bus stops.  At BP, Exxon, or Chevron stations.  It will keep me going in this ocean revolution, our collective effort to slay the dragon.


(Wallace "J." Nichols, PhD is a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences and Founder/Co-Director of Ocean Revolution—OceanRevolution.org)

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.