Tar balls, that is. They've found tar balls washing up on the beaches of Dauphin Island, which is a long, skinny barrier island that acts as a block to Mobile Bay. They can't prove that the tar balls are from the Deepwater Discovery spill, but they can't prove they ain't, either, so let's go with the former just to be safe. No balls have been found in Pensacola...err, on Pensacola Beach. Yet.
The oil has done...well, not much. It hasn't washed up on the beaches, and it hasn't gotten into the eddy currents and split for the Florida Keys. Some of it has washed up in Louisiana however.
It's becoming clear now that whatever happens, wherever this oil goes, it's not going to be a replay of Exxon Valdez. For one thing, this oil is different. It's not the "black gold, Texas tea" liquidy stuff that Jed Clampett struck when he was a-shootin' at some food in the opening credits of the 1960's sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies." Nor is it the thick, black, bird-coating gooey stuff that came a-gushin' outta the Exxon Valdez when the (cook? deckhand?) ran the ship aground while the Captain slept peacefully in his bunk. What's coming out of the ground at Mississippi Canyon 252 is akin to...well...babyshit. And by that I mean similar as in the color, texture and smell of the poop babies put out before they start eating solid food. Only this stuff burns. Okay, maybe no difference at all.
By the time it reaches land, this oil will already have been on the water for a couple of days. The "aromatics"...the things within the oil that burn will have already evaporated, leaving behind a mucky, unpleasant substance collected in big striated clumps. The clumps could wash up on land, as they have been already on Chandeleur Island, a long barrier island that looks like a big comma from the air. Chandeleur Island protects the marshland south of New Orleans and east of the Mississippi River.
Below is a map showing the mouth of the Mississippi River and a big red star on Chandeleur Island.
Some of the oil will disperse into a thin (too thin to burn) sheen that may drift for miles away from the main clumps. This sheen will carry a strong petroleum odor, and will coat whatever it touches.
Some of the oil will be broken down by wave action, the sun, and microbes that eat it.
So what will happen if any or all of this oil reaches the beaches? I don't know. Nobody really knows. Time is our friend here. The longer the oil stays offshore, the less of an impact it will have.
All in all, it's still a horrible mess. But honestly, it's like watching a train wreck or explosion in slow motion.
The big, inverted funnel contraption they tried to lower over the well to trap the oil and pump it to the surface has so far not worked. They say it "iced-up" and they say they expected it. Funny, nobody mentioned anything like that ahead of time. Which tells us something about what they're *not* telling us, which is probably a lot.
In the "irony of ironies" department, I read in today's Pensacola News Journal that on the day of the explosion, a number of executives from BP were on the Deepwater Horizon celebrating some safety milestone or other. Oops! Bad timing, that.
Here in Pensacola, we are seeing advertisements on t.v. and in the newspaper from law firms soliciting clients interested in suing BP. It seems that people are already primed and ready to sue BP for "damages," whatever they may be. We are a litigious culture, which should come as no surprise to anyone. But in this case the salivating is just disgusting. It takes big balls to prepare a lawsuit for something that has not even happened yet.