Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oil Spill off the coast of Santa Barbara County

On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 2008, the oil spill was reported after platform workers discovered oil had leaked from a finger-sized hole in a pump line. I don't know how many birds were affected in Santa Barbara County, but I found one dead oil-soaked grebe yesterday (December 10th), and another bird--a species I have not seen before--standing on the Port Hueneme shore this morning, soaked in oil. See series of photos below.

This was the same platform that was responsible for an 80,000-barrel spill that killed 3,686 birds in 1969, and that underestimation did not include the birds that had died at sea, or whose carcasses had not been recovered. It was an environmental disaster of gargantuan proportions.
Santa Barbara's 1969 Oil Spill

I am including this photo of the dead grebe I found, because the sadness of even one bird being affected by this kind of petroleum-based mishap is worth acknowledging.

Two days after the spill, congresswoman Lois Capps, representative from the affected district, pledged to work with the Obama administration to protect the coastline from further oil development. She also called the oil spill another "painful reminder that drilling for oil is a dirty and dangerous business."

We have got to look to other fuel sources, and soon. As I walked the Port Hueneme beach (about 30 miles south of Carpinteria) yesterday afternoon and this morning, I could smell petroleum in the air. Maybe it was the incoming and outgoing ships into the only deep sea port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it was the first time I had noticed this level of oily pungency in the air. I imagine, though, that all those huge ships floating in and out of the harbor are powered by fossil fuel.

This was the bird I couldn't identify. As I moved closer, he went back out to sea. I thought he was just black-feathered, but on closer inspection of my photographs, it looked to me like this one had oil smeared on his feathers, too.

I wouldn't have been able to catch him, I don't think. He took off for the water as soon as I got near him. I just hope he survived out there. I read in the Malibu Surfside News that any soiling, or even just one drop of oil on a sea bird will compromise its feathers' protective structure and allow wind and water to reach the bird's skin. The article states, "There’s an old wives’ tale that a bird’s feathers are coated with a protective oil which makes water bead. This is not the case. A bird’s feathers are like shingles on a house. They are structured just so and aligned in such a way to protect the bird from the elements."
Here's a link to the article:
Malibu Surfside News: Rescuer Says Latest Oiled Sea Bird Event Points Out Shortcomings

I'm going back out to the beach in the morning, to see if this bird returned.
I'm worried that he will get too cold and die if it stays out to sea.

12-9-08 Oil spill article:
Oil Spill Off California Reminder of Offshore Drilling Danger

1 comment:

Spin point said...


If i'm not wrong.. that's an cormoran.

have a nice day and good luck where you need!