NPR logo From The Air, Gulf Oil Slick Seems To Be Clearing


From The Air, Gulf Oil Slick Seems To Be Clearing

All of the crude oil that has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown-out well looks like it may be dissipating.

"Much of what remains in and around the site of the Deepwater Horizon that exploded and sank on April 20 is a lighter, glossier sheen of oil," reports NPR's Jamie Tarabay, who accompanied the U.S. Coast Guard on a flight over the area. "There's barely any trace of the thick black liquid that oozed from the blown well for months until it was capped nearly two weeks ago."

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lanigan, who routinely flies over the site, says he's feeling more optimistic about the cleanup effort.

"There's a lot more oil sheen," he says. "It's the light stuff, not the dark stuff, which is good to see."

Emergency workers also are finally seeing a difference in the amount of oil in the water after the well was capped nearly two weeks ago.

"One of the hardest things about battling the oil spill for many here along the Gulf Coast was that while the well was still spewing oil, it felt like a hopeless effort," Tarabay says.

But now, with no new oil pouring into the water, things might finally be improving.

Scientists say much of the oil has evaporated in the heat — and chemical dispersants broke it down so that it could be absorbed by bacteria in the water.

There were also skimmers gathering oil on the surface and booms to protect the fragile wetlands.

One sign of the extent of the cleanup: The Louisiana National Guard said it has now collected 1,200 pounds of oily debris from a berm built at Chandeleur Island.

But it's not over yet. Even after most of the oil is gone, it will take years for the affected wildlife, marsh and fishes to fully recover.