The dire impact of the massive Gulf spill can be seen again today along the Louisiana coast. On oil-soaked islands, pelicans are splashing in the water and preening themselves, apparently trying to clean crude oil from their feet and wings.
Thick globs of oil float on top of the water. Engineers are working furiously to protect the coastal area from the encroaching oil, as more wildlife and delicate wetlands are tainted. On Wednesday BP will try what is known as a top kill to plug up the hole in the Gulf of Mexico floor and stop the oil from gushing out. BP now says one of its earlier efforts to divert some of the oil isn’t working as well as it was. A spokesman says the tube that’s been sent into the leaking well a mile below the surface isn’t collecting nearly as much oil as it was a couple of days ago. But the company had said the amount of oil siphoned would vary from day to day.
Florida State University Oceanography professor Ian MacDonald says the range of the spill is so large that it’s just too early to tell how catastrophic it will be in the end.
According to Rigzone, an industry website, there are currently about 1,234 exploration rigs. (Spills are more common during exploration, as with the Deepwater Horizon.) One hundred and forty-six are in Europe’s North Sea. The Gulf of Mexico is home to 114. The remainder are off the coasts of Brazil, Venezuela, and West Africa; in the Persian Gulf; and in the seas of south and southeast Asia.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not the first and probably won’t be the last serious spill from an oil rig.
What have been a couple of the worst spills from offshore oil rigs?
Ixtoc 1 Oil Spill – June 3, 1979 – March 23, 1980
Location: Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico
Amount of Oil Spilled: 140 million gallons
Pemex, a state-owned Mexican petroleum company was drilling an oil well when a blowout occurred. The oil ignited causing the drilling rig to collapse. Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day for almost an entire year before workers were finally able to cap the well and stop the leak.
Arabian Gulf/Kuwait – January 19, 1991
Location: Persian Gulf, Kuwait
Amount of Oil Spilled: 380-520 million gallons
Ironically, the worst oil spill in human history wasn’t the result of an accident. During the Gulf War, Iraqi forces, attempting to thwart a potential landing of American soldiers, opened the valves at an offshore oil terminal and dumped oil from several tankers. The oil they released created a 4-inch thick oil slick that covered 4000 square miles. To put it in perspective, that’s enough oil to cover the entire state of Rhode Island one foot deep in oil.