The boat ride from Cypress Cove in Venice, La., took about an hour over choppy water and being stopped by the Coast Guard and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. We faced a southwesterly wind before we making landfall at an island along the South Pass, the very southern tip of the Louisiana bayou. NRDC’s crew has taken a few boat trips in the past 10 days and seen oil in various forms, but so far we’d only seen it dispersed or floating in red streams along the top of the water. Just a few days ago, on Friday, the team had visited this island without finding oil, but we heard reports that large clumps of oil had washed ashore here Saturday and Sunday and on Monday we found what we were looking for.
After getting out of the boat, we poked around the reeds dipping in the water to see that up to 1-2 feet above the waterline oil covered the intricate and threatened reeds. Once we knew what to look for, we found dozens of quarter-sized oil clumps on the beach. Initially the clumps looked like clay or pieces of rock typically found on some beaches, but when we poked some of the blobs, they broke apart and upon squeezing parts of the oil ball between my fingertips, the residue left behind was clearly oil-based.
We saw these reminders of the oil’s presence and the pools of thick, gooey red liquid at the base or roots of the reeds dotting the sandy beach only a few feet from the low tide. In some places, we found oil 20 feet inland, covering the reeds. When scraping some of the oil off the reeds, I found that it came off, but left a residue behind that no amount of scraping or cleaning could fully remove.
Photos taken May 10, 2010 by NRDC, click for captions and more photos
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.