Editors’ Trip to the Gulf

As oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill made its way to shore, three Coastal Living editors took a trip to Mobile, Alabama, in May 2010 to find out firsthand how the region was preparing for its arrival.

Driving to the Gulf Coast

Driving to the Gulf Coast

“On the way down, we saw sweeping waterscapes and sunny skies. It was hard to imagine that oil was on its way to this beautiful place.” —Sarah Latta, assistant features editor

Gulf Coast Photographers

Gulf Coast Photographers

Photographers and reporters were lined up to take scenic photographs of the Gulf before the oil arrived.

Gulf Coast Plane Ride

Gulf Coast Plane Ride

On the morning of day two, editor Sara Peterson and assistant features editor Sarah Latta took a three-hour flight in a single-engine plane to see the scope of the spill from the air.  SouthWings, a nonprofit organization that spreads the word of conservation through environment-focused flights, provided the tour. 

 

From left: assistant features editor Sarah Latta, SouthWings pilot Dan Luke, and editor Sara Peterson

 

Mobile Baykeeper Plane Ride

Mobile Baykeeper Plane Ride

“Casi Callaway of Mobile Baykeeper was our tour guide for the trip. She was a wealth of knowledge—explaining everything from the geography of Alabama’s coastline to locals’ perspectives on the spill to what needs to happen to save our shorelines.” –Sara Peterson, editor 

Southwings Pilot Dan Luke

Southwings Pilot Dan Luke

Dan Luke in the pilot’s seat of the four-seat Cessna 182, with Casi to his left. Since the spill, Dan has flown dozens of journalists, officials, and ocean nonprofit employees to witness the oil from 4,500 feet above sea level.

A plane ride over the gulf coast.

About to Take Off

Coastal Living Editor Sara Peterson, strapped in and ready to fly over the gulf coast.

Mobile Baykeeper Plane Ride

Mobile Baykeeper Plane Ride

“I went up in the air the first week and have flown every week since. On the ground, we’ve trained more than 200 people as field observers and are adding 80 per week. They’re our oil-spotters, the first line of defense, and when they see it, we let the clean-up crews know.” –Casi Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper

Gulf Coast Plane Ride

Gulf Coast Plane Ride

“One of the most important things we learned while there—only 35 days after the explosion—was just how angry locals were. There they were, the people with the most knowledge of their own shorelines, and they weren’t allowed to do a thing to help.” —Sarah Latta, assistant features editor 

Gulf Coast Shoreline

Gulf Coast Shoreline

Alabama’s white-sand beaches from the air

Gulf Oil Spill Site

Gulf Oil Spill Site

Pilot Dan Luke points to the oil-laden area on the plane’s radar screen.

Oil Spill Booms

Oil Spill Booms

“Booms stretched around some of the barrier islands had floated out of place in others, and for some, simply weren’t there.” –Sarah Latta, assistant features editor

Oil Spill Dispersant

Oil Spill Dispersant

Trails of red dispersant float in the ocean water.

Oil Spill Layers

Oil Spill Layers

Oil layers around a Gulf barrier island.

Oil Sheen

Oil Sheen

Oil sheens in slightly darker spots above the island.

Barrier Islands

Barrier Islands

“We saw oil that had washed ashore on small barrier islands, plus sheens that stretched in long, narrow trails through the water.” –Sara Peterson, editor

Mobile Bay Boat Ride

Mobile Bay Boat Ride

The Coastal Living crew prepares for a boat ride around the bay with local Mobile charter captain Bobby Abruscato, of A-Team Fishing Adventures.

BP Oil Booms

BP Oil Booms

Casi Callaway of Mobile Baykeeper explains how BP set up the booms.

Gulf Coast Boat Captains

Gulf Coast Boat Captains

Capt. Bobby Abruscato is a town favorite in Mobile.

Oil Spill Booms

Oil Spill Booms

“This photo, with birds lined up on the island and inside of the boom, was very symbolic of the impending fallout.” —Sarah Latta, assistant features editor

Gulf Coast Fishing Boats

Gulf Coast Fishing Boats

“Usually, the dockyard is empty during the day because all of the boats are out fishing. When we visited, fishermen were just waiting around, unsure of when they could return to the water.” –Jacquelyne Froeber, travel editor

Coastal Living Gulf Crew

Coastal Living Gulf Crew

“When we first arrived, I felt so blessed to be watching seabirds and dolphins in the water, but then you see a boom and you realize that this may be the last time for a while that you get to take a clean photo. We all just have to hold onto hope that we will recover.”—Jacquelyne Froeber, travel editor

 

From left: travel editor Jacquelyne Froeber, Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway, Capt. Bobby Abruscato, editor Sara Peterson, and assistant features editor Sarah Latta

 

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