Dispatch from the Gulf Oil Spill: Damage Getting Worse Before It Gets Better

philipe cousteau oil hands photo

Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

The day started early as we left New Orleans in the hot muggy morning light. The drive to Grand Isle takes about two hours, plenty of time to contemplate what I was about to see. It had been a week since I was last in Grand Isle and I had heard things were getting worse, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see.

out of biz thanks bp photo

Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

Once we made it to the southern part of Louisiana, about an hour into the trip, we started to see signs advertising small shops closed due dwindling fish supplies and others pleading with the government and BP to help them feed their children. By the time we got to Grand Isle and met the team, there was a sense of frustration and anger that was palpable amongst the people milling about the marina.

"It's like losing a loved one," says a devastated fisherman of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "I moved 1,200 miles to come to an island in the middle of nowhere because it was so beautiful and the fishing was great and the people are wonderful. This is going to fundamentally change southern Louisiana."

message to bp photo

People in southern Louisiana express their anger and frustration with roadside signs. Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

We boarded the boat and headed out into Barataria Bay, the home of the most fertile oyster and shrimp and fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, our destination was several small islands were birds congregate. As we pulled up to the shore we saw oily booms washed up on the beach and thick red oil covering the sand along the shoreline.

beach covered in oil photo

Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

A few hundred yards down the shore a small heron was covered in reddish colored oil that was thicker than molasses. As soon as I looked at bird I knew she was waiting to die, shivering and too weak to stand. I knew this was just the beginning.

heron covered in oil photo

Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

Further along we saw more birds whose normally bright white feathers were stained orange and knew it wouldn't be long for them either.

Philippe Cousteau discovers and oil-covered bird from the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill on the shores of Louisiana.

Soon a dark cloud rolled in above and we hurried back to the boat only to get caught moments later in a squall that threatened to flip the small boat that had ferried us to the island. A grueling ride back to port left us drenched in the oily water that splashed over the bow of the boat. As I jumped off the boat the taste of oil was still in my mouth and we wasted no time drying off. We didn't have much time before we had to drive back to New Orleans to fly to Florida so we hurried to interview several of the fishermen at the marina and headed to the main beach on the Gulf side of the island.

Philippe Cousteau interviews a fishing boat captain on Grand Isle, La. "This marina is empty," says the captain; usually it would be full of fisherman all summer long.

philipe cousteau crouching photo

Image courtesy of Philippe Cousteau

As soon as we arrived, I was greeted by a horrible sight: A beach covered in thick blotches of oil as far as the eye could see—and barely anyone on shore attempting to clean it up. Now I know why everyone was so frustrated: The oil had reached the beach which was bad enough but there seemed to be little effort to clean it. Soon two uniformed individuals asked us to leave the beach "for our own safety" and ushered us away but I knew I would be back within a week. From what I saw that day, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Read more about the Gulf oil spill:
BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet: A Timeline of Unfortunate Events
Gulf Spill Exclusive: Shocking Marine Life Destruction and Angry Locals (Slideshow)
Less Than 1% of Oil-Soaked Birds Survive
Gulf Oil Spill: Amazing and Devastating Photos

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