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Update on penguin rescue efforts from oil spill in south Atlantic

Originally posted on Daily Kos. Reprinted here with permission at our request. - GH

This is a follow-up to an earlier diary about the threat posed by oil spilled by a freighter that broke up off Nightingale Island, home to approximately half of the world's endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population.

Here is a brief recap of key events. On March 16, for reasons no one has been able to determine, a fully loaded freighter containing soybeans slammed into the rocks off Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago (a World Heritage site) in the south Atlantic. The freighter broke in half and sank, dumping at least 1500 tons of fuel oil in the seas, which formed a heavy oil slick around the island, threatening marine life. The penguins attracted the most attention as they are a critically endangered. Because of the remote location, it took wildlife rescue teams nearly a week to reach the island by boat and set up operations. Wildlife biologists estimate that half of the 20,000 penguin colony have had some exposure to the oil and over 300 oiled penguins have already died.

One of thousands of Rockhopper penguins found oiled

"Unlike previous spills of this size, it didn't happen way out to sea and gradually approach such a vital conservation area. It struck right at the heart of the penguin colony and it's devastating to them."

- Sarah Sanders, Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds

Thanks to outreach and updates by marine biologist David Guggenheim, the difficult wildlife rescue operation is starting to get broader attention by NGOs and the media. CNN has finally covered the story.

 

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The Five Flawed Choices of the Oilpocalypse?

Just came across a post by emptywheel at Firedoglake who has put up a letter the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Henry Waxman has written to BP regarding the decisions made by BP leading up to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BP’s Well Failure Due to Effort to Save $10 Million?

It lays out five choices which BP appear to have made which, had they taken a different route, one which did not appear to be focused on saving time and money alone, the destruction in the Gulf of Mexico may not have happened.

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Deepwater Chernobyl

A while ago I watched a documentary on building the sarcophagus which encloses the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster site. I have unsuccessfully, tried to find that documentary as my recollection runs that the radioactivity released from the Chernobyl site was only able to be stopped by burying the reactor core in sand, concrete and an outer shell called a sarcophagus.

There seem to be parallels with the current Deepwater Horizon disaster in that we are witnessing once more that man is capable of unleashing uncontrollable forces in his pursuit of energy. Forces he had no contingency plan to deal with. Forces capable of devastating economies, destroying livelihoods and killing wildlife by contaminating the environment to such an extent that even people find they have to move away rather than suffer.

That the only way that we have to fix it once that bottle is uncorked, was to just bury it in concrete. In Russia the reactor core was covered in sand then concrete. In the Gulf of Mexico disaster, first mud was tried, but once the relief wells are drilled, it will be likewise be filled with concrete.

Based on this I went looking for supporting evidence to back up this initial premise, and am astounded by what I found.

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"I don't ever remember doing this" - Rig Survivor

Rig survivors: BP ordered shortcut on day of blast

BP official wanted workers to replace heavy mud, used to keep the well's pressure down, with lighter seawater to help speed a process that was costing an estimated $750,000 a day and was already running five weeks late, rig survivors told CNN.

BP won the argument, said Doug Brown, the rig's chief mechanic. "He basically said, 'Well, this is how it's gonna be.' "

In the CNN interviews, the workers described a corporate culture of cutting staff and ignoring warning signs ahead of the blast. They said BP routinely cut corners and pushed ahead despite concerns about safety.

Remember 60 minutes had the interview with Mike Williams where he suspected this was the case.

Jed wrote about it here:

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The Gulf appears to be bleeding - Worse Than BP Admits

Video from May 7th (4 days ago) flyover of Gulf of Mexico and location of sunken Deepwater Horizon courtesy, Current TV. Amateur Video Of Gulf Oil Slick - Worse Than BP Admits Transcript follows :

On May 7 2010, John Wathen and Pilot Tom Hutchins flew out over the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way we saw small boats dragging buoys out to the islands to protect them from the oil sheen that was certainly coming our way. At nine miles out we began to smell the oil.

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