Oil Comes to Louisiana Beaches in Thick, Noxious Tar Balls

By Rebecca Horne | June 14, 2010 9:52 am



After the scale of the BP oil spill in the Gulf became evident, Photographer Nathaniel Welch went to Venice, Louisiana, to see what had become of his favorite fishing grounds. He used artificial light to capture these objects as he found them on the beach. Welch: “Ryan Lambert of Cajun Fishing Adventures took me out on his boat to some outer islands near Grande Isle, LA, where the majority of oil was starting to come ashore. As we got close to the island on the backside, we started to see an oil slick in the bay, not thick black oil, just a sheen on the water, too subtle to photograph, but you could smell it. We pulled up on the back of the island, got out, and walked out onto the beach on the front of the island. Big gooey tar balls were on the beach and also coating everything from old beer cans to marsh vegetation. There was an eerie absence of wildlife.

I’ve been going down to Venice, Louisiana for years to fish. I’ve fished offshore for the pelagics like tuna and marlin, and I’ve fished inshore in the marshes for coastal species like trout and redfish. It’s an understatement to say the fishing is exceptional. It is ironic that when fishing offshore there, the oil rigs are the fishing destination and that’s where we would set up. The fish congregate underneath and around the rigs, as the small bait fish use it for protection.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that there are 35 National Wildlife Refuges that line the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida that are currently at risk from the BP oil spill. These refuges are home to dozens of threatened and endangered species, including West Indian manatees, whooping cranes, Mississippi sandhill cranes, wood storks, and four species of sea turtles. “This spill is significant, and in all likelihood will affect fish and wildlife resources in the Gulf—and across the North American Continent—for years, if not decades, to come,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould in a recent teleconference.

For some suggestions on ways to help, click here.

All images Nathaniel Welch/Redux Pictures

Oil coated aluminum can, Louisiana, 6/5/10

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Oil Comes to Louisiana Beaches in Thick, Noxious Tar Balls | Visual Science | Discover Magazine -- Topsy.com()

  • http://spasmsofaccommodation.com Barbara Tomlinson

    I was just there on Grand Isle and surrounding islands. There is not an eerie lack of wildlife. I saw mullet and dolphins and birds and crabs and a giant floating rafts of oil a centimeter thick. There were also areas with droplets, globules, and tarballs spreading a sheen. You couldn’t ride a minute in the boat through clear water before you got in another area with oil. I photographed it fine. It does smell like creosote with overtones of paraffin but the exhaust from the two stroke engines smells stronger.

  • Jo Denny

    Wow, thats just downright messed up dude, seriously. So sad.


  • http://clifford.org.uk Alan Clifford

    So now there is oil coating the trash on the beach.

  • Levi in NY

    At least the oil-covered beach trash isn’t radioactive?

  • Pingback: Oil Lands on La. Beaches in Thick, Noxious Tar Balls [PICS] « Earth Environment Underground()

  • http://www.nds-gear.co.uk/ds-cards/r4-sdhc Hershel Layton

    That just looks disgusting. I hope it’s sorted out soon.


  • A. Wanker

    Looking at the photos, its interesting to see the adhesion properties of the oil. Sticks to aluminum, not sand for example. A possibility for mechanised oil/water extraction for the future?

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    0) OMG, the discarded can is ruined for recycle.

    1) Place a mechanical refrigeration collar around (a section of) the BOP (presumably outwardly thermally insulated with benthic syntactic foam).

    2) Turn it on, ammonia or sulfur dioxide working fluid. You want that collar cold, with huge BTUs/hr.

    3) The oil progressively freezes from the walls into the wellbore. Then, the blowout is plugged.

    4) Reversible at will.

    5) That’s not the problem. The problem is that Halliburton supplied the known defective BOP and possibly cemented the wellhead with pigeon snot. If the flow is stopped and full pressurization comes to local sea floor ~15,000 psig equilibrium minimum, the whole rig might blow like a champagne cork. That is why nobody is plugging the leak.

    6) As for 100 million gallons of leaked peripheral nuisuance… Giant NASA rocket-powered hover rumbas each containing hundreds of cream separators emergency confiscated from dairy farms across This Great Nation. Studies must begin immediately, with expense chit reimbursent money no object!

  • http://www.solartronenergy.com/ solar power

    That Smarmy Bastard Jindal is demanding that offshore drilling be resumed as quickly as possible.

  • http://www.solartronenergy.com/ solar power

    if you want to make a point that the oil spill is damaging precious nature that we all care about so much

  • http://silverhairspeaks.spaces.live.com/default.aspx Silverhairspeaks

    Thank you for the pix. It was nice to see something other than a satellite image or underwater cam. The pix seem to make it more real.
    This was a terrible and nasty thing to have happen.
    Terrible, nasty, and…looks…like…*chocolate*.
    Well it does!
    But seriously, I am going to rant some more about this on my blog as soon as I get time!

  • http://www.nakednews.com News

    I have Tweeted this, I will keep a eye on your other posts. Ohh what do you all think about the about the oil spil and the brazil flood?

  • Pingback: Call Caffe » Blog Archive » Oil Comes to Louisiana Beaches in Thick, Noxious Tar Balls()

  • Chris Winter

    Uncle Al wrote (in part): “The oil progressively freezes from the walls into the wellbore. Then, the blowout is plugged.”

    And the methane? I understand that well’s output is 40 percent methane. Lots of gas coming out at high pressure (~70k PSI AIUI), mixed with sand. Abrasion and friction.

    Also, how do you keep water from freezing and expanding in gaps and cracks? And might enough ice accumulate to generate significant unbalanced bouyancy forces?

    Maybe none of this matters. But I would want to run a test on that before trying it a mile deep in the Gulf.

  • Pingback: Will Methane Gas in Gulf Waters Create a Massive Dead Zone? | JetLib News()

  • http://pogosticksforsale.info pogo sticks for sale

    I really enjoyed reading about Oil Comes to Louisiana Beaches in Thick, Noxious Tar Balls | Visual Science | Discover Magazine and think it was well worth the read. The only other site I found on Google wasnt as good as this one, thanks.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Visual Science

Science stories, beautifully told.

About Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne (http://rebeccahornephotography.com) is an artist, multi-platform freelance writer, and award-winning photography director. She launched Visual Science for Discover.com in March 2010. She also writes about science and photography for The WallStreet Journal. You can reach her at rh@rebeccahornephotography.com.


See More

Collapse bottom bar