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.”
You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.