Vancouver photographer describes horror of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

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      On June 22, Vancouver photographer Kris Krug finished up a week-long shoot in the Gulf of Mexico. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

      “As soon as you get out there, it fucking punches you in the gut,” Krug told the Straight. “Unless you are out there near the source, up in the air, it is hard to really imagine the scope [of the BP oil spill]. It is from horizon to horizon and way, way beyond.”

      On April 20, an explosion at a deepwater oil rig operated by BP resulted in a leak at the source of the well, 1,500 metres below sea level. Since then, as much as 60,000 barrels of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

      Speaking from Washington D.C., Krug told stories of shores, marshes, and grasslands, all overrun by oil.

      “It looks likes dirty dishwater in some places, with that rainbow, reflective sheen,” Krug recalled. “It looks like sewage sludge in others, where rusty-coloured orange and brown and black sludge is bubbling up from the bottom.”

      Krug was in the Gulf as part of the TEDxOilSpill Expedition, a project that aimed to collect first-hand information for presentation at a conference scheduled for June 28 in Washington D.C. He was also taking photographs for National Geographic.

      Krug talked at length about BP’s efforts to minimize media coverage of the spill and the troubles his team had accessing affected areas. He described several “control mechanisms” that BP is allegedly using to stifle the flow of information.

      For example, Krug said that he found that virtually every sea plane company in the Gulf has had every bookable hour bought up by BP. Many people who have lost their jobs as a result of the spill have since been hired by BP or an affiliated contractor to help with the cleanup, and have been given orders not to talk to anybody in the media. BP has established clean up control centres on stretches of shore badly affected by the spill, which is allowing the corporation to limit access to those areas, Krug continued. And a temporary flight restriction zone has been established over the source of the spill, which requires military authorization before entry.

      “Every time we showed up anywhere, we were approached by guys in badges, asking us who were, what we were doing, and telling us to not cross this line or that line,” Krug added.

      He said that the experience affected his opinions on energy. “Before I went, all I really had is a gut feel about this kind of stuff,” he explained. “What I’ve learned since I’ve been here is this: we don’t currently possess the technology to clean up our own messes. And until we do, I don’t want this around me.”


      A boat that was once white. Kris Krug photo.

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      Jun 23, 2010 at 8:10pm

      The ONLY positive outcome will be a great big NNNNOOOOO for nuclear power... like you say, we are incapable of cleaning up our own mess.


      Jun 23, 2010 at 9:56pm

      Kris Krug is a rockstar!

      Denise Rednour

      Jun 23, 2010 at 10:30pm

      Thank you Kris for documenting this tragedy! If one wanted to post your pictures or perhaps use them in a slideshow about the spill, how would we get permission to do so?

      Vivian Krause

      Jun 24, 2010 at 12:52am

      Thank you for this important reporting.

      Abhaya Thiele

      Jun 24, 2010 at 2:36am

      I would add as a postscript that the same lack of technology to clean up a worst-case scenario also applies to our current nuclear power industry. The all-too-familiar combination of corporate cost-cutting at the sake of safety and a lack of rigorous government oversight is creating a disaster waiting to happen.

      Angela Hubbard

      Jun 24, 2010 at 8:09am

      awesome KK+


      Jun 24, 2010 at 10:45am

      Great photos Kris!


      Jun 24, 2010 at 1:51pm

      I wonder what's in the chemical dispursants, what the side-effects could be, and why BP is using them. I suspect it's for visual purposes.
      Wouldn't it be easier to see and possibly collect the oil if it stays in clumps?


      Jun 24, 2010 at 3:29pm

      any links to klug's photos?


      Jun 25, 2010 at 4:26am

      As the well continues gushing, the oil spill porn starts trickling in....