Guest blog post by Adam Griffith of Western Carolina University. Adam works as a Research Scientist in the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. During his most recent visit he teamed up with Grassroots Mapping and LABB on two trips to the Grand Isle area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday morning at the office of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), I met graduate students Tara Foster and Randy Caruso for a trip to Isle Grand Terre, just east of Grand Isle, Louisiana. We met Richard Shephard of RSAirPhotos.com and Drew Wheelan of the American Birding Association with our boat captain Jeff Brumfield of Flamin’ Hooks guide service. Our goal of visiting Isle Grand Terre was about to be fulfilled.
Upon our arrival on Isle Grand Terre, Richard and Drew met with a CBS news team while our team sought compelling photos of the oil reported here yesterday. I scouted the beach while Tara and Randy inflated the large weather balloon. Just as we were heading out a leader from Unified Command arrived by boat with some other officials. They were scouting locations to deliver the four wheelers and tents for the clean-up that he said might start the next day on the island. As we walked toward the beach a loud voice came through the bushes from one of the boats, “Hold it right there!” We froze in our tracks. As we peered through the bushes we saw why they wanted us to stand still: they were taking our picture with their cell phone cameras. Nice.
As we walked the beach, we were horrified: oil in large pools was evident on the beach. Hermit crabs wandered around next to bubbles of oil while dolphins frolicked in water that wasn’t quite the right color. Foul fumes were ubiquitous and oil could be seen oozing out of the wetlands. The LABB team successfully launched the balloon and walked the beach while the inexpensive camera snapped away overhead. Air traffic seemed heavier and two helicopters took a keen interest in the weather balloon. They circled us twice, but eventually and correctly determined that we were benign. We stayed for several more hours covering as much ground as we could in the 90 degree heat and eventually were picked up by captain Jeff who returned us to Grand Isle.
I have been to the Gulf Coast three times in three weeks from Western Carolina University where I work as a Research Scientist in the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. On our first visit, Andy Coburn, our policy wonk, and I flew the coast from Pensacola, FL to the Chandeleur Islands. Those aerial images are here: psds.shutterfly/oilspill
The following week, I returned with Research Scientist Katie McDowell and flew over the Chandeleurs again, the mouth of the Mississippi, and a large plume of oil near Bay Ronquille. Details from this trip can be found here: psds.shutterfly/louisianaflight
Jeff Warren of grassrootsmapping.org put me in contact with Stewart. Our goal at our office at Western Carolina University is the same as that of grassrootsmapping and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade: obtain high quality imagery in large volumes to serve as an archive of environmental conditions at specific places. The oil will hit land eventually in many more places. Hopefully these images will help remind us what the land should look like.