A day after the oil spill in Galveston Bay, I called a guy I’d met a few weeks ago on Oak Island, six miles south of Anahuac. I had gone there to pay tribute to a deceased friend. He reported that they didn’t have a problem at all in Trinity Bay.
Fortunately, they’d had a northeast wind blowing. Best he could tell, the oil was at the Texas City Dike. “They oughta have it pretty well contained and cleaned up probably by this evening,” he said.
Denial runs deeper than a river, I thought.
The next day, I traveled the long way to Galveston. I drove 1-10 East and took 61 South toward Anahuac. I turned left on FM 1985 and headed east, which minus a few curves runs as straight as a ruler. Off to the right in the distance, the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway looked like a prehistoric dinosaur. That’s where I found the first sign of trouble flashing across a black marquee. OIL IN WATER – MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE.
Just past High Island, I turned right on Highway 87 and traveled west on Bolivar peninsula. The peninsula is so narrow now that in places you can see both the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway. Typically, barges move like snakes down the waterway but on this day, all of them were parked. After awhile, I stopped counting them.
Further west at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary
, I parked my car and walked the beach where I met a birder. He was looking through binoculars at a Sandpiper, or so we thought, covered with oil. He explained that he’d already reported the bird to the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
About a mile west of there, I came across four workers carrying a dead dolphin in a plastic bag. They didn’t like talking to me much. One explained that until they performed the lab work, they couldn’t know for sure what killed it.
Leaving Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, I stopped a guy who was driving a Texas Parks and Wildlife truck and asked him if he’d seen any birds. He said that he’d been driving the beach for 10 miles and hadn’t seen one bird with oil. I told him about the Sandpiper.
“Oh, there’s tons of birds with oil on em’,” he said, “but they’re not catchable.” He must have seen my jaw drop. “If they can fly,” he said, “they’re OK.”
I got back on Highway 87 and continued toward the Bolivar Ferry, where I saw another marquee with the same message. OIL IN WATER – MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE. I pulled over to take a look at the oil booms on the Gulf side and a few minutes later, a nice couple from Port Arthur walked up. They’d just taken the ferry over from Galveston. The man had counted 20 or so tankers parked just outside Galveston Bay waiting to get in. “A lot of people are gonna get hurt from this,” he said.
Now riding the ferry over to Galveston, I saw the orange booms snaking around Seawolf Park had turned black. A family from Minnesota told me that the park had been closed since Sunday. Their son had also wanted to visit the Elisa
(an historic ship) but it was closed too.
On Galveston Island, I took a left on Seawall Boulevard and traveled toward the east end of the island. About a mile later, I came to a road blockade. After working up some nerve, I drove around it and continued. Until just up ahead, I saw some police car lights turn on and hit the brakes. To my relief, they weren’t for me. I made a U-turn and decided that it was time to go home.
Driving back, I thought about the dolphin and worried more about what I could not see. While it’s way too early to know the damage, there will be those who will minimize this oil spill.
In spite of what Mother Nature says. Repeatedly.