Oil from the air near the bleeding well, June 2010- Photo: Carl Safina

Though a bit imprecise, the time, approximately 9:50 p.m. on April 20, 2010, marks the end of knowing much precisely. A floating machinery system roughly the size of a forty-story hotel has for months been drilling into the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Its creators have named the drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon.”

Oil giant BP has contracted Deepwater Horizon‘s owner, Transocean, and various companies and crews to drill deep into the sea floor 40-odd miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The target has also been named: the Macondo formation. Giving it a name helps pull the target into our realm of understanding. But by doing so we risk failing to understand that it is a hot, highly pressurized layer of petroleum hydrocarbons—oil and methane—pent up and packed away undisturbed inside the earth for many millions of years.

Oil from the air near the bleeding well, June 2010- Photo: Carl Safina

Under mile-deep water, the worker crews have struck their target fully three and a half miles from the surface. The target is about to strike back.

A churning drill bit sent from a world of light and warmth and living beings. More than three miles under the sea surface, more than two miles under the sea floor. Eternal darkness. Unimaginable pressure. The drill bit has met a gas pocket. That tiny pinprick. That pressure. Mere bubbles, a mild fizz from deep within. Sudden influx of gas into the well. Rushing up the pipe. Gas expanding like crazy. Through the open gates on the seafloor. One more mile to the sea surface.

The sight was distressing to say the least-Photo: Carl Safina

The beings above are experiencing some difficulty managing it. A variety of people face a series of varied decisions. They don’t make all the right ones.

Explosion. Fireball.

Destroyed: eleven men. Created: —> Read More