Most of the television crews have packed up and left Pensacola Beach. A lack of large tar balls and no oil slick in Panhandle waters means that the crews will have to find their stories elsewhere. The reports from Pensacola Beach were getting tired, if the truth be known. Julie Martin of the Weather Channel showed the same plastic pail of tar balls for a few days before giving up and issuing generic, nothing-much-ado updates. No one paid any attention to Mr. B. and me this morning as we photographed the tannic-looking stains at the beach waterline. We talked about that later. We were out there before sunrise, taking flash photographs of the stains. No newspeople came down to ask what we were doing, leaving us with the sad conclusion that investigatory skills are not important when covering this unnatural disaster. That’s a shame, because to us the stains proved the existence of oil in the water.
We moved shop ourselves today, heading for the Orange Beach/Perdido Key area that was predicted to be in the way of an incoming slick. We drove over the state line and quickly found a situation that seemed surreal. A small advisory sign had been posted but people were in the water. Children were in the water. There were more tar balls at Orange Beach than we had seen since we came to this area four days ago, and the water had a slight orange tinge in certain places. Texturally, it appeared thicker than the water at Pensacola. It also looked duller.
Shrimp boats worked the waters close to shore, as did oil skimmers. We spoke to a resident who told us that she had never seen the boats that close. Another boat was laying boom and clean-up crews with their special protective gear worked the beach, once again creating that odd tableau where the workers are contrasted to the beachgoers. All of the workers wear a special type of boot that comes halfway up the calf. The beachgoers are barefoot. Young children lay on their stomachs in the waves, a few feet from the tar ball deposits. No reporter came down to the beach to ask the parents why they’d allow their children to play in these tainted waters. As we’ve noticed, the reporters mostly stand around on decking. If I’d been the reporter, I’d have zeroed in on the thirty-something mother of three young children, one of whom was an infant. She had parked her beach chair in the string of tar balls and the infant at her side was sitting in them. On the beach decking near the restrooms, a reporter from Fox 10 in Mobile interviewed Orange Beach City Administrator Ken Grimes, who gave a common sense interview in which he noted that the amount of oil on Orange Beach would likely change from day to day. We got there in the afternoon, long after the horrible morning mess had been carted away.
That’s what an advisory is all about. You still have the right to ignore anything you choose to ignore. That’s the American right and that’s the American Way. We’ve seen it all over the Gulf, and as we head home after this strange, sad, frustrating, illuminating, and perplexing trip all I can say is, Long may we wave–pun intended.