Singin’ Sweet Home Oilabama All Summer Long- Spill Ecotourism

(10AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

I’ve been checking on Linda Leavitt’s twitter account WhoDat35 for news of the effects of the ongoing BP oil spill, and I suggest you bookmark this-  she’s a tireless lover of all things Louisiana coastal, and the locals have been tweeting her some great links.

The oil has started to wash up quite a bit more on the sugar sands of Alabama-  I knew Alabama had Gulf of Mexico coastline, but I didn’t realize that they had such beautiful sand beaches until this oil spill.   Many concerned people are contacting Leavitt in astonishment that the oiled beaches have not been officially closed yet to beachgoers, and not only are people sunbathing,  that they’ve seen children actually swimming in this stuff.

A month ago, in Louisiana, Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies were blocking reporters and bloggers from seeing the oil washed up on Elmer’s Island, at BP’s request.  But the tourist beaches were still open.

Mac McClelland and John Hazlett end up kayaking into the spill area to see it 524/2010/…

At the turn to Elmer’s Island Road, a deputy flags us down. Can’t go to Elmer’s; he’s just “doing what they told me to do.” We continue on to Grand Isle beach, where toddlers splash in the surf. Only after I’ve stepped in a blob of crude do I realize that the sheen on the waves and the blackness covering a little blue heron from the neck down is oil.

The next day, cops drive up and down Grand Isle beach explicitly telling tourists it is still open, just stay out of the water. There are pools of oil on the beach; dolphins crest just offshore. A fifty-something couple, Southern Louisianians, tell me this kind of thing happened all the time when they were kids; they swam in rubber suits when it got bad, and it was no big deal. They just hope this doesn’t mean we’ll stop drilling.

The blockade to Elmer’s is now four cop cars strong. As we pull up, deputies start bawling us out; all media need to go to the Grand Isle community center, where a “BP Information Center” sign now hangs out front. nside, a couple of Times-Picayune reporters circle BP representative Barbara Martin, who tells them that if they want passage to Elmer they have to get it from another BP flack, Irvin Lipp; Grand Isle beach is closed too, she adds. When we inform the Times-Pic reporters otherwise, she asks Dr. Hazlett if he’s a reporter; he says,  “No.” She says, “Good.”

Where the tourist beache aren’t, the access is harder to come by-  see the June 11 kayak visit they made to Grande Terre,… ,  where BP’s contracted clean up crews were using some sort of cross between a paper towel and a sham wow, dozens of them laid across the sand, to blot up millions of gallons of oil from the beaches “where the oil stretched as far as we could see in deep, dark pools.”  

And Julia Whitty’s trip to Barataria Bay, Louisiana on June 9th (warning, more heartbreaking pictures)…

The dolphins congregated in these waters-even though fouled (the brown muck lines behind this dolphin were oil)-probably because it’s what these dolphins have always done. And probably also because it’s where the fish still were. These dolphins were swimming in poisonous water, inhaling particles and mist, certainly getting it in their eyes, ears, mouths, and internally. Truth is, there was nowhere else for them to go. All the waters around as far as we could see were oiled.  

Sights like this might upset the children.

But now we have more pictures of the tourists of Alabama going to their beaches as usual, and …..  look what the tide rolled in.

They’ll even pay $2 bucks to walk out above and have a look:…

On the beach under the pier, patches of tarballs had washed up, larger and thicker than those seen further east Sunday.  Two strands of oily boom floated around the pier in the Gulf.  

Some people, having heard about Saturday’s landfalls, actually came to the pier looking for oil. Joanne Walker of Dallas said that her family had seen little oil where they were staying, east of Perdido Pass. “I’m very pleasantly surprised that we’re not up to our ankles in red gunk,” she said.

How’s this for not snark:…

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Tarballs come in all shapes and sizes. The ones washing up at the Dauphin Island public beach Sunday evening looked like chocolate sprinkles.

The words “Dauphin Island public beach” above was a live link that went to this –  a description of the boardwalks and beach pavilions at Dauphin Island beach.  See, you’ll never have to touch the sand with the chocolate sprinkles.…

Alas, it also has a bird sanctuary.  With boardwalks.…

Strategic Importance- Wild Bird Magazine selected Dauphin Island as one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations! The Island has also been sited as one of the ten most globally important sites for bird migrations.

  The Sanctuary consists of 164 acres of maritime forest, marshes, and dunes, including a lake, a swamp and a beach. It is located at the Eastern end of Dauphin Island, a 14 mile-long Barrier Island situated off the Alabama Gulf coast. The Sanctuary is of vital importance because it is the largest segment of protected forest on the Island and the first landfall for neo-tropical migrant birds after their long flight across the Gulf from Central and South America each spring. Here these birds, often exhausted and weakened from severe weather during the long flight, find their first food and shelter. It is also their final feeding and resting place before their return flight each fall.

No word on whether they’ve thought of a way to keep the birds out of the sprinkles yet.

Here’s some kids in Gulf Shores, Alabama, playing with the washed up tar on the beaches,…

Don’t forget it looks like chocolate !

In the water, the oil was reddish and broken into small bits that resembled masses of sargassum or disintegrating driftwood. But when it latched onto the beach, its hue darkened and the pieces melted together in shiny globs, like chocolate that had exploded in a microwave, only toxic and as tacky as roof tar.

“This finally gives us an idea of what to expect,” said Orange Beach City Administrator Ken Grimes, who arrived with other officials from the neighboring city to survey the scene. “This is an example of what we’re going to be dealing with the rest of the summer.”

The good news for coastal Alabama’s $2.3 billion tourism trade is that most beachgoers regarded the oil as a curiosity, not something to run from. It was more solar eclipse than shark.

Some, like Melanie Montalvo from McComb, Miss., forbade their children from swimming and lamented the oil’s arrival.

But many swimmers simply moved down the beach and continued to play in the surf within 50 yards of the landfall’s edge. Families took their picture with it. Barefoot joggers ran through it without much hesitation. Some poked it with sticks. Others dipped a finger into it and took a sniff. (It was odorless.)

“I had never seen anything like that,” said Denver Seal, a vacationer from Russellville who watched the oil approach from a nearby high-rise and then went to the beach to collect some in a water bottle. “You couldn’t do nothing but stare at it.”

Even the President will be in the Gulf area and the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida today, Monday the 14th, and Tuesday June 15th, to see the oil spill.  Guess he doesn’t want to do a photo opp with this hardworking fellow-

  Sisyphus’ eternal tide roll of tar balls.  June 13, 2010, Grand Isle, Louisiana.

The Deepwater Horizon Incident.  Like Water for Chocolate.  Book your reservations now.

Current page from the Alabama State Dept of Tourism, “beaches,” on day 55 of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf:…

You linger over a succulent, fresh seafood dinner where nobody rushes to get away from the table.

A great weekend getaway is closer than you think. A visit to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offers the perfect balance of non-stop activity and lay-around-doing-nothing time. Putter around a bit on one of our championship golf courses. Cast your line for deep-sea adventure on a charter fishing trip from Dauphin Island. Travel back in history with a visit to Fort Morgan, the site of the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Commune with Mother Nature as you hike through one of our Alabama wildlife areas and gaze at gators and shorebirds.

I don’t quite get NASCAR either.  Must be a cultural thing.  

1 comment

  1. …. oh, we took the kids to get oiled at Gulf Shores.  

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