I felt that the final words of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Return of the King spoken by Mr. Samwise Gamgee were an appropriate closing to our first voyage to the Gulf. Like our hobbit friends we departed Haverford blissfully ignorant of certain worldly facts and have returned as seasoned adventures full of knowledge. We can now easily identify tar balls and oil scraping at distance, we can safely navigate bayou roads, and we have learned (through trial and error) just exactly why sunscreen is important.
The first trip was amazing. The scenery was wild, the work fun, and the end result is 110 samples begging to be analysed. I see no reason to deny them. This week will be spent cataloguing and setting our plan of attack. While sitting comfortably in the lab, far removed from the Gulf, it seems necessary to offer some retrospective words of commentary concerning our work, the people we met, and what we hope to do better next time.
What struck me most down in the Gulf was how much oil was still washing up on beaches two years after the spill. While it’s true that beaches are no longer being swamped with oil, pounds of sand patties are washing up on Gulf beaches every day. Admittedly these patties are not the kitchen table sized monstrosities of two years ago, but they are there nonetheless. While we were there we talked with a lot of people. Some were happy to chat, others less so. We heard opinions ranging from “there was oil already on the beaches, what’s a little more,” to extremely explicit observations of how Gulf life is forever changed. For the most part though people just wanted to share their own oil spill story.
Next trip we hope to hit some other spots that were hit pretty hard by the spill. We are looking at beaches that have already been cleaned and some that have not. This should give us a good profile of oil that has been sitting out on the sand for a long time and oil fresh from the water. We want to thank the Haverford KINSC for their generous funding of these trips. Here’s to more fun in the sun next week!