Yikes! As if covering the spill weren’t hard enough with BP keeping things under wrap. Now, according to Photo District News , we learn that:

Spill Photogs Could Face Felony Charges Under New Coast Guard Directive
Photographers and journalists reporting from the Gulf on the Deepwater Horizon spill are now subject to $40,000 fines and Class D felony convictions if they are found to be in violation of a new Coast Guard directive.

The directive established a 20-meter [65-foot] safety zone around all oil containment boom in the gulf. According to The Deepwater Horizon Unified Command press release, “[v]essels must not come within 20 meters of booming operations, boom, or oil spill response operations under penalty of law.”

In a blog post over the weekend, journalist Georgianne Nienaber argued that  this new regulation effectively prevents photographers from getting near affected areas. “If the Coast Guard has its way, all media, not just independent writers and photographers… will be fined $40,000 and receive Class D felony convictions for providing the truth about oiled birds and dolphins, in addition to broken, filthy, unmanned boom material that is trapping oil in the marshlands and estuaries,” she wrote.

According to the Coast Guard directive, “[t]he safety zone has been put in place to protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom.” Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a photo of yours’ truly ( far right, wearing white blouse) on the June 3, 2010 Writer’s Guild Panel, “Broadcast News, Digital News and the BP Spill: A Panel. ” It was fascinating to discuss the issues of reporting in this digital age with my fellow panelists. Whether or not aggregated news accounts for ” news” is a topic to be discussed further down the line. Two friends who attended said I reminded them of Holly Hunter’s character ( modeled after the CBS producer  Susan Zarisnki ) in the movie ” Broadcast News.  ” I was flattered. The Holly Hunter character speaks rather earnestly about veracity in news gathering while the audience yawns.  My friends said they weren’t yawning, however,  and that I did fine.

My friend Nick Dager was the moderator. Nick Dager is the  Editor & Publisher of Digital Cinema Report

Photo by “elevin”. Full photo credit pending.

Here’s a clip I captured of the BP ROV # 1 at 2.50 EDT today as the submersible attempts to install the sealing cap. I think it’s wrestling loose some bolts. Hey guys, why didn’t you name this one? We all know “Top Kill”.  How about calling this procedure ” Fingers Crossed” ?  AP reports that BP is happy with the progress made so far but makes no promises that it will work. So that’s why they should name it ” Fingers Crossed.” During today’s BP telephone conference a few hours ago, AP reports that BP’s Kent Wells “said only that BP will capture all the oil “at some point.”  Who dat?

Say what? 


Like maybe 5,000 years?

Here’s a video clip I captured during an interesting part of the procedure today. While everybody is out swimming in the Sunday heat, I am sitting home capturing video. Sigh.

According to BP:

Subsea operational update:   Installing the sealing cap is proceeding as planned.     Enterprise removed LMRP Cap (approx. 12:40 pm CDT, July 10) and then moved off location to lighter;     Subsea dispersant U shaped wand was inserted in the riser;   A plug was removed from the flange and have started to loosen bolts.   For the first 12 hours on July 10 (midnight to noon), approximately 7,096 barrels of oil were collected and approximately 4,040 barrels of oil and 25.4 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.

AP Story:
NEW ORLEANS – Underpromising with hopes of overdelivering, BP said Sunday that it is making progress on what could prove its most effective effort yet to contain the Gulf oil leak, but cautioned that the verdict could be several days away.

A new cap being placed atop the gusher is intended to provide a tight seal and might eventually allow the oil giant to capture all the crude leaking from the well for the first time since an April 20 oil rig explosion set off the environmental crisis. But several prior failed attempts to stop the leak have made BP PLC careful to keep expectations grounded.

“We’re pleased with our progress,” said BP senior vice president Kent Wells, who then hastened to add the operation was still expected to last up to six more days.

Asked during a conference call if the new cap and collection efforts would end the spilling of oil into the Gulf, Well said only that BP will capture all the oil “at some point.”

Wells said BP may have to bring another vessel back online and add additional collection capacity in order to stop the oil flow altogether. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a press release from BP today re installation of the sealing cap. Let’s hope the cap works. Meanwhile crude is spewing out again, full speed ahead. I urge you to dial in for the technical briefing. According to BP, ” The briefings will be held at 7:30 AM CDT and 2:30 PM CDT” But don’t forget that  BP has it scheduled with CDT, not EDT. CDT is Central Daylight Time, an hour earlier than EDT. Technically this dial-in number is for the press, but who am I to say who is  ” press ”  in this brave new era of citizen journalism? The passwords for the dial-in are at the bottom of the release.

Click here to view a BP video with Kent Wells explaining how the cap will work…if it does work. Fingers crossed.

Sealing Cap Installation Update

Release date: 11 July 2010

Following approval from the National Incident Commander, BP began replacing the existing lower marine riser package (LMRP) containment cap over the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blow-out preventer with a new sealing cap assembly.

Installation of the sealing cap is proceeding as planned. The Discoverer Enterprise removed the LMRP cap at approximately 12:40 PM CDT on Saturday, July 10. The Discoverer Enterprise then moved off station. Following the removal of the cap, a subsea dispersant wand     was  inserted into the riser. Two plugs and all six flange bolts were then removed. The Discoverer Inspiration is now moving on station.

The Q4000 containment system continues to capture oil and gas from the MC252 well and flare the hydrocarbons safely at the surface. Once it becomes operational, the Helix Producer containment system will begin capturing additional oil and gas.

Technical Briefings

BP will host two technical briefings today, July 11, to provide updates on its subsea containment efforts. The briefings will be held at 7:30 AM CDT and 2:30 PM CDT. The dial-in details for these briefings are as follows:

US/Canada Dial-In Number: (877) 341-5824
International/Local Dial-In Number: (706) 758-0885

Password for morning briefings: AM Technical Briefing
Password for afternoon briefings: PM Technical Briefing

Jimmie Buffet is bring Margarita-ville to the Gulf Coast tonight with a benefit concert. I spent five days last month with the mayor of nearby Orange Beach, Tony Kennon , and interviewed him at Gulf Shores, the day that a massive attack of tar-balls hit the beaches.

Click here to play the video in high definition IPlayer HD viewer

Jimmie Buffet is playing a benefit concert today at Gulf Shores, an Alabama Gulf coat community whose tourism industry has been BUFFET-ED ( get the pun? ) by the BP oil spill. My video report, Gulf Shores Tar-Balls was filmed at the site of where “CMT Presents Jimmy Buffett & Friends: Live From the Gulf Coast” will be held tonight. The Pensacola News Journal tells us that ”  The 35,000 free tickets are long gone.” You can watch it on CMT tonight from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Performances will be simulcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio’s Radio Margaritaville channel and streamed live on http://www.CMT.com.

ABC News tells us,

“Known for laid-back tunes like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Buffett told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that it’s perfectly normal for people to be mad when they see oil washing up on beaches and marshes.

“If you’re born and raised on the Gulf Coast and it’s kind of in you, and you don’t feel anger and rage initially over what’s going on down there, I think you’re a hypocrite,” he said in a telephone interview from New York. “That’s the way I felt. Now, what you do with that is a big question.”

Buffett said a beachfront concert seemed like the right thing to do after talking to people on the coast.

“People were going, `What are you going to do about things?’ I mean, hell, I can’t stick my finger in that hole. Everybody wishes they could,” said Buffett.

“But there’s a huge amount of frustration and probably it will boil over in summertime anger, and I know what I’ve done for years is entertain. What I’m best at is two hours of escapism for people that have to go back and either live jobs that they don’t like or whatever,” he said. “It’s that Mardi Gras mentality.”

Born in Mississippi and raised in Alabama, Buffett has lived all over the Gulf Coast. He said memories of the region are laced through his music.

“I have pretty much surrounded myself with Gulf Coast influences for a long time, and … if you listen to those songs, I think it’s pretty much in there,” said Buffett, 63.”

Mark Twain told us all about the capricious nature of the Mississippi River’s ebb and flow in his book , Life On the Mississippi. It’s special body of water that changes with the seasons. According to experts from the Audubon Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this mighty river has kept the oil spill from hitting the shore line until now. But that is about to all change now as summer arrives. Play this video I filmed two weeks ago,  to learn more. It’s not a  pretty story.

Click here to play video in  high definition IPlayerHD viewer

Put Oiled Birds Down?

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

As you can see in the previous video I posted the pelicans at BP’s Fort Jackson center get quite the scrubbing. It’s quite stressful for these birds, although it does make for ” feel good” PR for BP . We are being told by experts that

“More than 600 animal species in the wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico are threatened by the expanding oil slick.”

There’s a biologist in Germany, as reported in Der Speigel, who says the best thing to do would be to put these birds to sleep, out of their misery, reports the Huffington Post.

Despite the short-term success in cleaning the birds and releasing them back into the wild, few, if any, have a chance of surviving, says Silvia Gaus, a biologist at the Wattenmeer National Park along the North Sea in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.”According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent,” Gaus says. “We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds.”

Instead, she says, it would be less painful for the birds to kill them quickly, or to let them die in peace.

Cleaning Birds Worse than Letting Them Die?
Capturing and scrubbing the birds is a traumatic experience, and is incredibly stressful for the birds. Gaus also says that forcing birds to ingest coal solutions like Pepto Bismol as rescue workers are doing in the Gulf is ineffective, and that the birds will die from liver and kidney damage anyways. Birds ingest the toxic oil while attempting to clean their feathers.

According to a British Study cited in the report, the average bird released after cleaning in other spills only survived for seven days. Even the World Wildlife Fund agrees that cleaning is largely futile: “Birds, those that have been covered in oil and can still be caught, can no longer be helped. … Therefore, the World Wildlife Fund is very reluctant to recommend cleaning.”

Which is why Gaus advocates a quick clean death for the birds, to end their suffering. It’s an unfortunate recommendation, and one that goes against our better instincts, but what if Gaus and those who side with her are right? If scrubbing oiled birds only increases their trauma — and they still die, painfully, shortly after — are such bird-cleaning operations providing any service other than to make a public show of BP’s ‘response’ efforts? It’s indeed depressingly grim to consider, but perhaps conservationists are doing more harm than good by ‘saving’ birds from the BP Gulf spill.

The volunteers at the recovery center for oiled pelicans in Fort Jackson, Louisiana use toothbrushes, Q-tips and their bare hands to scrub and soap down pelicans rescued from the oil spill. What is the  favorite high-tech cleaner at Fort Jackson? Dawn dish-washing detergent. Most pelicans don’t ever make it this far, creating what some call a BP public relations ” bird and pony” show at Fort Jackson. The plunging pelicans that get oiled out at sea eventually sink down deep into the water column, their demise uncounted or mourned. It is rather like that old Zen koan, ” What is the sound of a tree falling in the forest if no one is there to hear it? ” ( I believe that was a koan or is it a philosophical conundrum? )

The New York Times tells us that ” roughly 420 birds harmed by oil have been found on the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.” Of those birds 190 have been found dead. The northern gannet is the hardest hit, as they spend most of their time over the open seas. Included in the birds found are pelicans, terns, loons and shorebirds. But here’s the clincher:

“A substantial number of birds harmed by oil are never found.”

What are the numbers for “substantial” ?

On Monday’s Wednesdays and Fridays, members of the press are allowed to visit this facility that is operated by a BP contractor, the Bird Rescue Research Center, which along with Tri-State Bird Rescue,  has been contracted by BP to manage the   oil-spill ” bird responses.” The press arrives at noon after all the worst cases have been treated. And indeed we were treated to a beguiling scene of patient volunteers cradling oiled pelicans and dumping them into bubble-baths within which the pelicans are  scrubbed and cleaned. They leave feeling fluffy and ready to go, if the toxic oil they ingested does not kill them later on.  I visited them two months ago and interviewed the director Jay Holcomb when only two birds were in residence.

Here’s a B-roll video report I filmed this last visit during which some 30 birds were being cleaned that day. The Center had washed 250 birds over the previous eight days and averages 30-40 birds a day I was told.

Click here to play high definition in an IPlayerHD viewer

Bob Stake’s New Yorker cover of flying oiled pelicans and darkened fish  says it all. It’s a very deep chain of injury the BP oil spill has inflicted on the Gulf that only just now is beginning to affect wildlife. New Yorker editor Francoise Mouly chose this cover .

Francoise was my room mate in New York when I first moved to New York some long time ago. I lived in her Soho loft and learned to drink a lot of strong French-press coffee. It was then that she met the Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Art Speigelman, author of Maus. I was the witness at their City Hall Wedding. But that’s another story that has nothing to do with the oil spill. And I don’t blog about friends without their permission.

“When The New Yorker ran Barry Blitt’s “Five Weeks Later…,” which showed a man in a suit testifying before a panel of oil-saturated marine animals, on our June 7, 2010, issue, our art editor, Françoise Mouly, assumed that would be our cover about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. So did Bob Staake, who had sent Mouly a sketch that played off M. C. Escher’s “Sky and Water.” “I thought, O.K., Barry won. Barry got the cover,” he recalls.

Unfortunately, five weeks became ten, and estimates of the magnitude of the Gulf Coast spill doubled and doubled again. Mouly’s problem, she said, was the same as Tony Hayward’s or Barack Obama’s: “How do you deal with a nightmare that’s not going away?”

Her answer is this week’s cover, Staake’s “After Escher: Gulf Sky and Water,” which has lit up the blogosphere. (In fact, Staake, whose issue hasn’t arrived yet, told me while on the elliptical trainer at the gym this afternoon that he knew for sure that it ran only because of all the mentions on Twitter.) The original Escher image, a dorm-room fixture as much as posters for “Scarface” and the Periodic Table of Mixology, has “good lasting power,” Mouly says, because it’s “a variation on a classic image; an image that meant to celebrate the beauty of nature.”

Staake modified the original Escher to include wildlife typical of the Gulf: a turtle at the bottom and a pelican at the top. To simulate a woodcut, he cut the animals out of white paper, laid them on a black background, scanned them, inverted the silhouette, then used Photoshop to draw light lines on top—a process that he says helped him get inside Escher’s head.

The biggest challenge was perfecting the colors of the polluted water and soiled creatures. “Color usually means joy,” Mouly says. “But here we didn’t want the image to be joyful.” She and Staake took about seven or eight drafts to perfect the gradation from the nearly-black bird in a blue sky to the murky waters below.

“It’s really the ugliest color scheme you could ever imagine,” Staake says. “As an artist, it’s completely the opposite of what I’d want to do, but you have to remain faithful to your concept and your idea.”