Assessing The BP Spill's Impact

On April 20, 2010, a geyser of seawater, mud and methane gas exploded on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform off the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Smoke rises from surface oil being burned near the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The well spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil, making it the world's largest accidental marine oil spill.
    Hide caption
    Smoke rises from surface oil being burned near the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The well spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil, making it the world's largest accidental marine oil spill.
    Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • In this handout from NASA, an oil slick from the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is seen off the coast of Louisiana on May 18 with a portion flowing south from the accident site in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Hide caption
    In this handout from NASA, an oil slick from the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is seen off the coast of Louisiana on May 18 with a portion flowing south from the accident site in the Gulf of Mexico.
    NASA via Getty Images/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • Fishermen at a BP training session for cleanup crews in St. Bernard Parish, La., bow heads for an archbishop's impromptu prayer.
    Hide caption
    Fishermen at a BP training session for cleanup crews in St. Bernard Parish, La., bow heads for an archbishop's impromptu prayer.
    Tyrone Turner/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • An oily wave breaks on the beach at Gulf Shores, Ala.
    Hide caption
    An oily wave breaks on the beach at Gulf Shores, Ala.
    Tyrone Turner/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • "Mix two parts sugar white sand with one part crystal blue water," reads a tourism slogan for Orange Beach, Ala. Deepwater Horizon oil has altered the recipe.
    Hide caption
    "Mix two parts sugar white sand with one part crystal blue water," reads a tourism slogan for Orange Beach, Ala. Deepwater Horizon oil has altered the recipe.
    Tyrone Turner/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • Workers who were cleaning beaches on the Florida coast pass by tourists.
    Hide caption
    Workers who were cleaning beaches on the Florida coast pass by tourists.
    Tyrone Turner/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • Coated in oil, a dead sea turtle lies in oil-fouled Barataria Bay, La. More than 500 sea turtles died in the spill area. As of Aug. 2, eggs from 134 turtle nests had been moved to oil-free beaches and 2,134 hatchlings released.
    Hide caption
    Coated in oil, a dead sea turtle lies in oil-fouled Barataria Bay, La. More than 500 sea turtles died in the spill area. As of Aug. 2, eggs from 134 turtle nests had been moved to oil-free beaches and 2,134 hatchlings released.
    Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • A small shrimp swims amid dark brown globules of oil. The effect of the spill on the larvae and eggs of shrimps, crabs and fish remains unknown.
    Hide caption
    A small shrimp swims amid dark brown globules of oil. The effect of the spill on the larvae and eggs of shrimps, crabs and fish remains unknown.
    David Liittschwager/National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic

1 of 8

View slideshow i

The platform sank 5,000 feet to the bottom of the Gulf, and for 87 days, BP's Macondo well spewed millions of gallons of oil and natural gas into the ocean.

Scientists continue working to assess the spill's impact on the Gulf – a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, marshes and a complex chain of sea life.

In a special broadcast in front of a live audience, Talk of the Nation and National Geographic teamed up to explore the reach and impact of the spill in the Gulf.

Joel Bourne, contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris and Ian MacDonald, professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University, share an update on the state of the Gulf – and what scientists have yet to learn about the impact of the BP spill.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: