I’d stayed away from Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola Beach because I couldn’t take it…seeing the destruction of a rare, beautiful place and all that inhabit it. Finally, curiosity got to me and I went out on the western end of the island to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens. At its entrance I began walking with trepidation. It was about 8:45 and there were not many people out. As I walked along the glass green waves all I saw on the shoreline was a lot of kelp blown up by southerlies and the usual beach denizens: ghost crabs on the prowl, sanderling scurrying to snatch a welk from the draining sand and retreating waves; black skimmers trawling a long organge jaw to scoop minnows. A fleet of pelicans above and a squadron of spotted eagle rays below glided over their hunting grounds. A couple of small sharks had ventured into shore after fish and out on the horizon dolphins were feeding. I saw a dozen speicies of shorebirds including a dozen willets and one or two gulls. Least terns were solitary and dove straight down into the calm water then winged sharply upward. I think I might have seen a large loggerhead pop its big head out of the water.
Talked to two rangers patrolling the beach with bags full of tarballs and other trash left by humans – flipflops, bottles, condoms, and food containers. We chatted. Apparently just a quarter mile away the tar balls were entering Pensacola Pass and washing up on the Escambia Bay shoreline. The beach I walked this morning would be next unless by some miracle the winds and currents keep the advancing oil beds and sheen offshore. But given the size of the oncoming black tide (two miles wide by 30 miles long) there probably isn’t much chance of that.
A pall hovers over our vibrant city, newly recovered from Hurricane Ivan. This city that so many corporations have left lethal legacies and then moved on…this city has seen enough of that.
See below some reminders that all is not well and a couple of last images of ocean system denizens in the path of destruction.