Ocean Currents » documentary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:30:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Meet the Scientists Studying the BP Oil Disaster in “Dispatches from the Gulf” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/19/meet-the-scientists-studying-the-bp-oil-disaster-in-dispatches-from-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/19/meet-the-scientists-studying-the-bp-oil-disaster-in-dispatches-from-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 13:00:39 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11930

In the new documentary “Dispatches from the Gulf,” the scientists are the heroes. The film airs for the general public for the first time via livestream on April 20 at 2pm and 7pm eastern. I got a sneak peek of the film, and trust me—you won’t want to miss it.

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in 2010, hundreds of scientists around the country have been documenting the impacts of the tragedy on the wildlife and habitats of the Gulf of Mexico. This documentary tells the stories of these scientists, from the University of Miami team that built the equivalent of a treadmill for mahi mahi to test their endurance and see how oil has affected their hearts, to Christopher Reddy, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist who scours the beach for tar balls with a simple tote bag and pair of purple gloves.

Their stories are pretty inspiring. For me, the most memorable part was watching Dr. Mandy Joye, professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, climb into the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) “Alvin”—the same ROV that explored the wreckage of the Titanic. Dr. Joye then traveled 90 minutes in the Alvin to the bottom of the Gulf, where she found a shocking amount of oil on the seafloor.

The work these scientists are doing is important to understand how the Gulf’s wildlife and habitats are recovering—or if they’re not recovering, why. For the creatures that live in the deep, blue ecosystem of the Gulf, expanding research and monitoring is one of our only options for restoring their populations. In the case of the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, the herring fishery collapsed unexpectedly after four years. The Gulf supports a giant seafood industry, and we don’t want to see a similar crisis strike here. That’s why we need science to understand how our fish and wildlife are coping with the stress of the BP oil disaster.

If there is something to be gained from this tragedy, it is knowledge. Many of the lessons we are learning about the Gulf in the aftermath of the BP oil disaster can be applied elsewhere in the world. If a researcher from the other side of the world wants to know how fish and corals in the deep sea are affected by exposure to oil, they will turn to our scientists in the Gulf. The Gulf stands on the forefront of a unique opportunity to lead in the field of marine science, but only if we make science a priority in the effort to restore the Gulf.

Don’t forget to catch the livestream of the documentary tomorrow, April 20 at 2pm and 7pm EDT, and follow the conversation on Twitter.

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Deepwater Horizon Victims on BP: “I Can Make Them Pay, but I Cannot Make Them Apologize.” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/30/deepwater-horizon-victims-on-bp-i-can-make-them-pay-but-i-cannot-make-them-apologize/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/30/deepwater-horizon-victims-on-bp-i-can-make-them-pay-but-i-cannot-make-them-apologize/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:00:49 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9443

My stepdad was working on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico when I heard that one of BP’s drilling platforms had exploded that Tuesday night in April 2010. Luckily he was not on the Deepwater Horizon, but I wondered who was—did I know them? Did their families live nearby?

There are many sides to the tragedy of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and a new documentary released yesterday, “The Great Invisible,” delves into the lives of the survivors, the decisions made by BP and Transocean to forgo safety measures, and the frustration that many communities felt as they pieced their lives and livelihoods back together after the well was capped.

To me, the most compelling stories from the documentary were those we don’t often hear—the stories of survivors Doug Brown and Stephen Stone. Doug was hired by Transocean as chief mechanic for the Deepwater Horizon, and he’d worked on the platform since it was first built in 2001. Before the explosion in 2010, Doug had complained to Transocean that the reduction in mechanical staff posed a real safety issue.

But staff cuts were not the only issue aboard the Deepwater Horizon. “There were 26 different mistakes made,” said Keith Jones, father of Gordon Jones—a drilling engineer who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The cement hadn’t cured, he said, there was rubber in the drilling mud and the hydraulics for the blow-out preventer were not working. These stories from staff aboard the Deepwater Horizon support the presidential oil spill commission’s conclusion that the BP oil disaster was caused by a culture of complacency, rather than a culture of safety.

Guilt is a prevailing sentiment among the survivors interviewed for the documentary. Despite his complaints about staff issues, Doug feels guilty as a lead Transocean staff member aboard the platform and even planned to commit suicide after the explosion. Stephen Stone worked as a roustabout on the Deepwater Horizon. “I didn’t really tell anybody that I was involved,” he said, “because I didn’t know if I should be proud of it or embarrassed by it, you know? And I still don’t know.” Keith said he had felt proud when his son Gordon got the job. “I bragged about getting my son work on the Deepwater Horizon,” he said. Gordon and his wife were expecting a second child when he was killed in the explosion.

Keith attended the screening at the New Orleans Film Festival last week. When asked by an audience member if there was any amount of money or convictions that he felt would truly hurt BP the way they have hurt his family, Keith, a lawyer based in Baton Rouge, said of his opponents in court, “I can make them pay, but I cannot make them apologize.”

BP is facing a fine as high as $17 billion to restore the Gulf of Mexico. Many survivors of the explosion, including Stephen and Doug, are still waiting on their settlements. But no amount of money will ever really reverse the damage caused, nor could it bring back Gordon and the 10 other people whose lives were lost.

The film’s director Margaret Brown, a native of Mobile, Alabama, said that she felt inspired to create this documentary because, even though she grew up on the Gulf Coast, not until the BP oil disaster did she fully understand that there is a “factory under the Gulf of Mexico that we’re all connected to.” That factory has led to great wealth in our region for a century now, but it also comes at great cost. As we work to ensure that the fish, birds and other wildlife in the Gulf are recovering, our thoughts are with the people and families who were directly affected by the BP oil disaster and who are also still recovering.

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“Midway” Film Answers Plastic Pollution Question “Why Care?” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/12/midway-film-answers-plastic-pollution-question-why-care/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/12/midway-film-answers-plastic-pollution-question-why-care/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 13:20:57 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6633 albatross chick

Photo: still from Chris Jordan’s “Midway”

Midway Atoll is truly “out there.” The closet population center is Honolulu, 1,200 miles to the southeast and a five-hour trip by plane. But despite its remoteness, Midway is not immune to the impacts of plastic debris.

Midway’s central position in the North Pacific Gyre makes it a sink for debris, which results in immense, daily accumulations on the island’s sandy beaches. This collection of debris—almost entirely plastics—threatens the endangered monk seals and sea turtles that inhabit Midway’s beaches and forage in the atoll’s shallow waters. Plastics that threaten the 1.5 million Laysan albatross on Midway, however, arrive in a different manner.

Each year, approximately 10,000 pounds of plastics are brought to Midway not by currents or wind, but in the stomachs of the birds themselves. Mothers and fathers forage at sea for weeks in search of fish eggs, squid and other prey in hopes of nourishing their newly hatched chicks that wait anxiously hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

All too often, adult albatross return to Midway not with nutrition from the sea but instead plastic bottle caps, cigarette lighters, fishing floats and colossal quantities of plastic fragments that float adrift in the North Pacific Ocean. Albatross chicks do not possess the ability to regurgitate; once consumed, these plastics often become fatal.

I witnessed the unintended consequences of plastics on Midway’s albatross firsthand in 2010, when my colleagues and I examined the impacts of plastics on the island’s fauna. Trekking around Midway, it was impossible to avoid plastics—colorful shapes and sizes speckled the ground while other types of plastic protruded from the guts of recently perished albatross chicks.

These lifeless forms rested only steps from the nests where their parents had diligently nurtured their newly hatched chicks; it was a stark reminder of the fine line between life and death on Midway Island.

Words alone do not suffice to accurately convey the severity of the impacts of plastics on Midway. Fortunately, Chris Jordan’s recent documentary, “Midway,” brings the sights, sounds and firsthand encounters with the concurrent beauty and distress of Midway to concerned citizens around the world.

Through stunning natural splendor and chilling visual testimony, “Midway” singlehandedly answers the plastic pollution question, “Why should we care?”

Perhaps an even more important question is “How do I help?” Join me and more than 500,000 other concerned citizens around the world on Sept. 21 to remove unsightly, unnecessary and destructive plastics from our beaches and waterways during the 28th annual International Coastal Cleanup.

There is one ocean. And that means even if you never travel to Midway, you can help ensure that the potentially harmful bottle caps, lighters and myriad other plastic debris items littering our beaches and waterways never arrive there either.

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“Midway” Film Tells Story of Plastics in Our Ocean Through Plight of Albatross http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/28/midway-film-tells-story-of-plastics-in-our-ocean-through-plight-of-albatross/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/28/midway-film-tells-story-of-plastics-in-our-ocean-through-plight-of-albatross/#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 20:23:35 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5307

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Artist Chris Jordan is best known for his large-scale images that deconstruct huge numbers while making a statement about our mass consumption habits. For example, the tiny pieces of plastic in “Gyre” represent the pounds of plastic that enter the world’s ocean.

Jordan’s latest project, “Midway,” is a feature-length film that expands on the plastic pollution problem by focusing on the plastic fragments that fill up albatross stomachs as they try to feed in the open ocean. Scientists estimate that 4.5 metric tons of plastic arrive on Midway Atoll every year in the stomachs of the albatross.

The trailer includes some disturbing images of dead and dying birds, but as the narrator says, “Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?” We can only hope the answer is “yes.”

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What Does Your Trash Say About You? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/04/what-does-your-trash-say-about-you/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/04/what-does-your-trash-say-about-you/#comments Wed, 04 Jul 2012 14:00:10 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1449

Volunteers pull a tire out of the water during Ocean Conservancy's 2009 International Coastal Cleanup in Athens, Greece. -- © Gerasimos Domenikos / Aurora Photos

Some people say “we are what we eat,” but maybe what we throw away is just as telling.

In profiling the film “Raw Material” about the garbage pickers of Athens, writer Jennifer Hattam points out how life has changed for these scavengers now that the entire country is facing an economic crisis:

In the shadow of the Acropolis, they set off before dawn. Men and boys driving rusty trucks, pushing heavy hand-carts, towing wagons behind battered motorcycles. As the city slowly comes to life, they are already well into their day’s work, scouring alleys and Dumpsters for old box-spring mattresses, appliances, car parts, anything they can salvage and sell at a scrap yard for a few dollars a day.

Many Athens residents have been struggling to get by since economic and political crisis erupted in Greece, threatening to engulf much of Europe. But the estimated 80,000 Athenians who collect and process scrap in the city’s informal economy were eking out their meager livings back when the rest of the city was still living large.

Having more people share their woes has made times even tougher for the garbage pickers, who remain at the margins of Greek society and face increased competition for shrinking resources. [Filmmaker Christos] Karakepelis says two or three times as many people are now picking over smaller and smaller pieces of trash as sharply reduced consumption by the middle class means fewer bonanzas like old refrigerators left out in the street.

In some ways, the trash in Athens (or lack thereof, in this case) illustrates a surprisingly complete story about an entire country’s economic well-being. As Karakepelis puts it, society’s “failure to consider the plight of some of its poorest urban dwellers may have blinded it to early warning signs of broader problems in Greece.”

Could we apply this idea to the trash in our ocean? What could we learn from analyzing what ends up there? What does your own trash say about you?

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