Hi everyone, this is our first diary. I'm Reddhead on here and my husband is Reddbierd. He has been a long time member of Daily Kos. I am brand new to all of this. It has been expressed in some recent diaries that we as concerned citizens need to be the new reporters. We need to pick up our cameras and go out and see for ourselves what is going. So with this as our mission, we decided to pack up and drive out to the Gulf Coast. We live in Southern Alabama, about an hour from the coast.
Our trip began last week on Wed.,June 2, when we went to the Gulf for the day. In Gulf Shores, Alabama we saw workers building a berm in the opening of an inland waterway. I got out and took some pics and talked to one of the workers. He said they were temporarily closing it off from the gulf waters to protect it from the oil spill. As I was walked back across the berm a resident was standing there and we started talking. He told me that the waterway was managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. He had attended a city council meeting a few weeks back, where the city petitioned to build a berm of sand. The sand came from a stockpile that had been scooped out periodically to keep the waterway open and then used to replenish the beaches. Now it was being put back to keep the oil out. Alabama recycles...who knew? :)
I walked up to the road to get a few more shots and as I was standing there a local FOX news reporter came running over to me. He asked me what I thought of the berm and if I had noticed the booms. I did a short interview (I'm a star!) and then I asked him if he'd been to Pensacola Beach. He said another news team was covering it, there had been reports of oil on shore. So we took off to Pensacola Beach, the beautiful blue waters of the Gulf Of Mexico on our right.
The beaches that we passed on our way were all very busy, lots of sunworshipers seemingly out for a last chance to enjoy the white sandy beaches. Just before the bridge near Gulf State Park we saw piles and piles of some kind of material. I spoke to a BP supervisor who told me it was absorbent boom which would be placed along the shoreline if the oil came this way. He said it would soak up the oil and let the water pass through and that it had been used very successfully before.
We crossed the bridge and pulled into the state park. There we watched as boats strung orange boom across the pass. The boats themselves shrouded in clouds of black smoke as they chugged along.
We continued on to Pensacola Beach, where we saw a lot of news vans and vast crowds of bathers. We went a little further down the beach where is was less crowded but didn't see any signs of tarballs. Sitting there looking out at this gorgeous blue ocean and this beautiful sandy beach it was difficult to believe that an oil slick was probably on it's way. The last sighting said it was only 9 miles offshore. It may be the last time we see it this looking just like this.
After a swim we drove home planning on returning at the first opportunity.
That opportunity came quickly and within the next 3 days we were packed and ready to go. This time we wanted to go a little further down the coast so we picked an area we had actually lived in before. It is known as the Forgotten Coast and encompasses Appalachacola, Carrabelle, and St. George Island.
We left on Sunday, driving first to Pensacola Beach to see if anything had changed. There were lots of people driving across the bridge to the beach, making it seem like a normal summer afternoon until we saw this sign:
Walked out onto the beach itself but saw only sunbathers, no oil yet.
We proceeded down to Navarre Beach just east of Pensacola. There we found many small clumps of tar and tar mixed with seaweed. There were workers cleaning the beach and bags full of sand and tar. I tried to talk to a few of them, but was directed to go to their supervisor. He confirmed that they were working for BP. He also told me that he was not supposed to answer questions, that he'd been instructed to hand out a couple of phone numbers people could call for answers. However, he stated that the people that he had come in contact with had been so nice that he was answering anything that he could. He told me that all the workers were local (though he was not) and they were finding a lot of clumps of oil mixed in the sand. According to him, the clumping is a natural process that happens when the oil is exposed to the saltwater and air, and is not due to the dispersants.
I got back in the car and we continued our drive down the coast. I looked down and noticed this clump sticking to my knee. YUCK.
As we traveled down the coast highway we passed many beaches, all clear of oil clumps for the moment. Our destination for the night was St. Joseph Pennissula State Park on Cape San Blas. We arrived just in time to talk to the park ranger before she went home for the night. She told us that so far there had been no problem with oil on the beach and the park was at its normal occupancy for this time of year. It was already getting dark, so we just set up camp and called it a night.
The next morning we drove on to Carrabelle, the town we used to live in. I spoke to a real estate agent who told me that the area had just started to experience an upswing, and had looked like it might be coming out of a 5 year slump when the oil leak happened. Now, she said, they are all just waiting to see what happens and fielding a lot of questions from people. In her opinion the oil would most likely make its way to their beaches.
We left Carrabelle (after checking out the old homestead) and went as far as the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge. Again, there was no sign of oil hitting this part of the coastline yet. We backtracked to Alligator Point where we found a spot to go swimming with our dog, a big black lab named Poncho. This whole area is a big sea turtle nesting area, with lots of sand dunes and nesting birds as well.
After a refreshing swim we headed back through Carrabelle to St. George Island to camp at the state park. Along the way we passed dozens of little fresh seafood shantys. Oysters in particular have been a huge industry here for many many generations. They are known as Appalachacola oysters from, of course, the Appalachacola Bay. This area alone supplies 90% of Florida's oysters and 10% of the countries oysters. We set up camp and decided to partake of the local bounty for dinner at a little eatery that allowed us to bring our puppy with us. We snapped a few shots as the sun was going down on the small inlet we were dining next to.
In the morning we stopped at a little coffee shop in Apalachicola. The young woman behind the counter said that business was definitely being affected by the oil spill. She blamed the media for clumping the entire gulf coast together in their coverage of the oil spill. Her belief was that the Apalachicola area would not see oil washing ashore since they are in a bit of an inlet and are missed by most hurricanes for that reason. We hope she is right.
Going back up the coast we stopped at Wind Mark Beach, just north of Port St. Joe. Again we were lucky to find a dog friendly beach and succumbed to the pantings of our pooch.
Continuing north stopping into Navarre again, we saw birds nesting in the sand dunes that run along the coast beach. Workers there were now willing to talk to us and told us the water was very clear today and the beaches they had been to were fairly clean. Less than a mile away we saw workers raking and digging. We stopped again and talked to a worker who was happy to show me what he had just dug up. Clumps of tar were being washed ashore then buried in the sand from the waves. They were digging them up and bagging them and raking the large piles of seaweed that had clumps of oil tangled in it. He spoke with a heavy spanish accent when he expressed how beautiful this whole area is and how he wants to make sure that they get all the clumps out of the sand so that when I brought my family here my children would not come in contact with it. He said he wouldn't want his little girl to be digging in the sand and come upon it.
We headed up to Pensacola Beach where I spoke to a lifeguard who told me things had been pretty normal and the beach had been clean for the last few days. He hadn't even seen any workers in the area. We did see a few news vans there though.
We wanted to check back at Gulf Shores to see how the berm was doing. On the way back we saw the now-placed boom off of Gulf Shores State Park.
Seeing some workers on the beach we stopped. This time it was the Coast Guard, the first we'd seen of their presence so far. On my way over to them I felt my foot hit something. I reached down to find tar balls in the sand. The young man wearing the Coast Guard uniform told me they had found some (tar balls) in the area, just wanted to get it all. I asked about this being the first I'd seen of them so far and he said their presence was being increased now that it is coming ashore. He then had to leave so I could ask no more questions.
We continued on to Gulf Shores and found a number of police cars and policemen around the bridge over the berm. The area had a lot of Coast Guard working as well. The berm seemed to be a good thing as there was oil in the water in front of it.
We saw a couple of young guys putting away some equipment and found out that they worked for a local environmental company called Green Life Technologies from Loxley, Alabama. They said they were collecting water samples because their company makes a product (called Environmental-1) that is a 100% biodegradable dispersant. It is environmentally safe and rated 600+% safer than baby shampoo according to the company. Here is a link to their website Green Life Technology.
And so our journey came to an end. We were glad to have the chance to see and enjoy the beach. We can only hope that we all get to have that chance for many years to come. We plan to go out again at the next opportunity. We greatly appreciate any feedback; comments, suggestions, ideas for future trips or thoughts about zombie journalism. Thank you for reading.
Great video hopefully moot.