The Deepwater Horizon explosion which took place in April of 2010 remains the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, dumping 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And it was also one of worst environmental disasters in American history.
And now, almost a decade later, the seafloor of the Gulf where the Deepwater Horizon once spewed oil is largely lifeless with the exception of a few brave crustaceans who are dotted with tumors and other abnormalities, according to Futurism:
“’Nothing prepared us for what we saw,’ Clifton Nunnally of the Louisiana University Marine Consortium, one of the researchers behind the research, told Atlas Obscura.
“’Everywhere there were crabs just kicking up black plumes of mud, laden with oil,’ he said. There were deformities, but mostly things were missing.'”
Visiting the scene of the Deepwater Horizon devastation was fraught with painful reminders. Not only of what has become of sea creatures but also the human toll that was caused when the well exploded, Atlas Obscura notes:
“At the spill site, the control room had grown somber. ‘One of the very first things that we saw was a solitary boot,’ Nunnally says. ‘That made us realize what we’re looking at here.’ The boot was leather and steel-toed, what a worker would have worn while operating BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig when it exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers.”
The impact on animals in the Gulf was also horrific, as the oily sludge coated pelicans and coated turtles in a tar-like residue.
But the greatest damage was beneath the water, and therefore isn’t seen by most when they look across the great expanse of water in the Gulf of Mexico:
“Researchers and the public paid little attention at the time to the harder-to-reach deep dwellers such as isopods and corals, according to Nunnally. ‘The deep sea is always out of sight, out of mind,’ he says. ‘You can burn off and disperse oil on the surface, but we don’t have the technology to get rid of oil on the seafloor.’ So approximately 10 million gallons of it settled there.”
‘Everywhere there were crabs’
One sea creature that remains in great abundance in the Gulf despite the oil spill is the crab. But these aren’t your normal crabs. Many are coated with oil or covered with parasites. And they don’t behave the way crabs normally do when you shine a light on them:
“Particularly eerie was the crab’s achingly slow movement. ‘Normally, they scatter when they see the ROV lights,’ (Nunnally) says. But these crabs seemed unbothered, or unaware of the robot’s presence.
The overwhelming level of hydrocarbons in the water has turned the crabs into creatures that have to scavenge off each other in order to survive, which is a terrible existence for them:
“The researchers liken the death trap to the La Brea Tar Pits: Once lured in, the crabs lose their ability to leave. With no other species able to thrive in the area, the crabs have no food source—except each other. And as one might imagine, consuming the flesh of a toxin-riddled crab or starving to death in a deep-sea tar pit is sort of a lose/lose situation.”
A Grim Memorial
Before they left the gulf, the team of researchers found the memorial wellhead marking the site of the spill itself, which serves as a somber reminder of what happened and continues to happen as a result of the tragedy:
“On November 8, 2010, the lemon-yellow concrete cap was secured on it. Back then, it was easy to read the words emblazoned in black on either side of it: ‘IN MEMORY OF THE DEEP WATER HORIZON 11,’ along with 11 stars. Now, splotched over in nine years of ambient floating oil, it’s harder to make out.”
More about the ongoing effects of the oil spill from a recent Fox 4 NOW report:
Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons