Reflections From the Gulf

06/10/2010 11:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Philippe Cousteau Emmy nominated TV host, author, speaker, social entrepreneur and a prominent leader in the environmental movement

The day started early as we left New Orleans in the morning in the hot muggy morning light. The drive to Grand Isle takes about two hours, plenty of time to contemplate what I was about to see. It had been about one week since I went down to Grand Isle and I had heard things were getting worse, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see. Once we made it to the southern part of Louisiana about an hour into the trip we started to see signs advertising small shops shut down due to no fish being available to sell and others pleading with the gov and BP to help them feed their children. By the time we got to Grand Isle and met the team there was a sense of frustration and anger that was palpable amongst the people milling about the marina.

We boarded the boat and headed out into Barataria Bay, the home of the most fertile oyster and shrimp and fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, our destination was several small islands were birds congregate. As we pulled up to the shore we saw oily booms washed up on the beach and thick red oil covering the sand along the shoreline. A few hundred yards down was a small heron covered in reddish colored oil thicker than molasses. As soon as I looked at it I knew she was waiting to die, shivering and too weak to stand up the death has begun I thought to myself...knowing that this was just the beginning. Further along we saw more birds whose normally bright white feathers were stained orange and knew it wouldn't be long for them either.

Soon a dark cloud rolled in above and we hurried back to the boat only to get caught a few minutes later in a squall that threatened to flip the small boat that had ferried us to the island. 45 minutes later we were back at port after a grueling ride that saw oily water splashing over the bow of the boat and over us constantly. As I jumped off the boat the taste of oil was still in my mouth from the splashing waves and we wasted no time drying off. We didn't have much time before we had to drive back to New Orleans to fly to Florida and so we interview several of the fishermen at the marina and headed to the main beach on the Gulf side of the island.

As soon as we arrived I was greeted by a horrible sight, a beach covered in thick blotches of oil as far as the eye could see and barely anyone on shore attempting to clean it up. Now I know why everyone was so frustrated, the oil had reached the beach which was bad enough but there seemed to be little effort to clean it. Soon two uniformed individuals asked us to leave the beach 'for our own safety' and ushered us away. On the way back we caught sight of Obama's motorcade and actually got stuck behind it which almost caused us to miss our airplane. This was a short trip and I knew I would be back within a week. From what I saw that day, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.