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    Posted September 2, 2010 by
    Bourg, Louisiana
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Track the oil disaster

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    The Barrier Islands along Terrebonne Parish - August 27, 2010


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     bayoubelle01 is a wildlife photographer who is looking at the environmental impacts of the oil disaster.
    - nsaidi, CNN iReport producer

    Today I set out on a charter boat with the World Animal Awareness Society members: Rachel, Colleen, Katie, Sarah, Craig, Brenda, Mary, Elijah; a thirteen year old, Gregg and Grady, to see the barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana.  The weather looked iffy at best when we left the dock around 10:00 a.m.   We took off from Sportman's Paradise and headed straight south to Raccoon Point.  A light chop...not too bad...yet that was.


    Trawl boats were scattered about in the lake; some trawling for shrimp while others had the infamous orange boom hanging where trawl nets once hung.  While the trawlers worked, the contracted boats with the boom were only moving about, not skimming for oil.  And, still collecting a pay check.


    Nearly an hour into our journey, we finally began to see pelicans flying near the surface of the water.  At first just a few, then more and more until we saw a whole flock fly up from Coon Point.  We took the Gulf side as the bay side was much too shallow and it had boom stretched from the east all the way to the west side and we couldnt' get close to see on the island.  On the Gulf side, however, we could see pretty good.  The pelicans and terns, gulls, plovers, and skimmers were all out there.  Some were on siesta with their heads turned into their backs to rest.  Some were fishing.  Some were flying from point A to point B for whatever reason they had.  In general the pelicans looked good from afar.  Except for one.


    I spotted one pelican a distance from the rest flapping his wings haphazardly and repeatedly.  Trying to preen over and over again.  Then he would stop for a few seconds then start over again.  His feathers looked like they were stuck together and were very dark like he had been oiled a while.  Brenda tried to call it in, but there was no phone service.  We continued to scout the beach and mangroves that we could see.


    As we drifted along, a large form became clear along the beach.  As we got closer we could see that it was a beached dolphin.  She was laying in the surf on her side as the waves crashed over her.  A huge knot began to tighten in my stomach and tears came to my eyes as I looked through my 400mm lens.   Everyone just couldn't believe what we were seeing.  My first thoughts were, What if she is still alive?  Can we help her?  So I voiced that thought and Craig decided to jump in and swim out there to check on her.  Another member said she knew how to give CPR on an animal if need be.  But, once he reached her the answer became clear.  Sadly, no signs of life was about her.  He checked her for signs of oil in the teeth, mouth and blow hole.  None.


    We started to drift once again to the west end of the Coon Point and continued to the last sand bar which happened to have thousands of pelicans perched on it.  That was a welcoming sight to me.  The most pelicans I've seen in a very long time.  The stench was awful, but the sight was beautiful!  They lined the beach in the cool wet sand making their cackling sounds.  It really sounded like a colony lived there.  We lingered a while longer then decided to take off east to view the rest of the island chain.  We were suppose to go all the way to Grand Isle and Queen Bess, but Cooter our captain said there was no way we'd make it that far with the seas and weather that had kicked up.  So we decided to skirt the barrier islands to Timbalier then head inland.


    Once we hit open waters, The Gulf seemed to swallow us up like a little boat in a giant bathtub!  White caps and huge swells rocked us all over the place.  It was at least 3x's more rougher than yesterday.  And to top it off I saw lots of thunder bumpers to the east where we were headed.  After three other days of rockin' and rollin' already, I wasn't looking forward to another 4-5 hours of bouncing around.  Luckily, no lightning strikes were visable in the clouds in the distance.  I picked up my camera in the dry box and got my poncho out to get ready for the rain I knew was coming.


    We were able to see Last Island but by the time we passed by Isle Derniers it was raining.  So, I couldn't see the Virgin Mary statue up close to take photos of it.  However, it was still there; perched high up on a pole in the middle of the island.  The rain continued to pelt my body as we continued traveling east.  The swells became larger and larger with white caps appearing on top the waves.  The pounding was really getting harder and was starting to hurt my back.  Time for some creativity...  So, when I saw the boat ready to bottom out on a swell, I'd lift up from the seat a little to let my legs receive the full force of the energy instead of my back.  That worked and it gave my legs an aerobic workout, lol...


    After we reached Timbalier Islands, we headed north to another small island with a few birds on it.  We saw laughing gulls, ibises, terns, and other smaller birds on the bits of exposed sediment within the marsh grasses.  The tide was high so we couldn't tell where there was marsh damage due to the oil.  We did see several streaks of oil sheen just east of Raccoon Point.  We also had phone service again so Brenda called in the oiled pelican and dolphin giving them the coordinates of their location.  I can only hope and pray that they resuce the pelican soon and take tissue samples of the dolphin.


    We headed back in and made it to the dock around 5:00.  At the dock we met a scientest, Ed Chesney from LUMCON.  I knew Ed from when I worked there at LUMCON years ago.  Craig wound up interviewing him concerning the oil disaster.  And, I asked him all sorts of questions.


    Basically the questions he answered were of his scientific opinion and not to be interpreted otherwise as set in stone.  He said he was glad they used the dispersant because if not ALL the oil would have stayed on the surface and would have ruined our estuaries for sure.  This way they may have a fighting chance to survive the disaster.  He did say that he eats the seafood and he thought it to be safe.  Mr. Chesney said when I asked about the toxicity of Corexit that it was no more than dishwashing detergent like Dawn.  He said it was made up of the same ingredients.  So, I asked him if he would drink some and he looked at me funny and shook his head no at first.  Then he said if you took out all the perfumes and soapy content, he would... Well, that would probably just leave water, lol...  Look for more of his interview on the World Animal Awareness Society site in the near future.


    Having worked very hard since the disaster began but especially in the last two weeks day in and day out in the field, I will be taking some time now to process all the photographs and video I obtained so that you can see what I saw out there.  I have made many great contacts with key people and expect to continue to get out there once or twice a week to see how our wildlife and our wetlands are fairing.


    It may take months and years to know the full effects of this disaster.  Some things we may never know.  Some species will be wiped out.  Some will be altered forever.  Some will adapt.  Some will evolve.  But one thing is for sure.  Our lives and the lives of every living organism has changed because of this disaster.  And, WE WILL NEVER GET OUR LIVES BACK AS WE KNEW IT.  For me, there will always be this lingering doubt if our seafood is safe.  With all I have actually seen firsthand, saying the seafood is safe is unbelievable to me.  And, I will continue to refuse to eat it until the correct test are conducted and are 100% accurate.  Each individual should make up his or her own mind.  With all the facts at your disposal, you should be able to make a sound decision whether or not to eat seafood.



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