6:30 AM

June 25 2010

Pensacola Pass


After reading the Pensacola News Journal account of the oil on Pensacola Beach yesterday and viewing their photos, we went back to Pensacola Pass this morning to see how bad it was compared to our trip there on the 12th shown here.  We took the following photographs on the same two mile walk around the end of Santa Rosa Island from the bay side to the Gulf.


Photos from the 4th of July 2010 are here.



A boom operation silhouetted against the early morning sky.

This was recent and sitting just off of the western sea wall at Fort Pickens.



A shot across the bay to the lighthouse.


The skimmer that was posted in the pass last week now sits well into the bay.  Our guess is that the current in the pass was so swift that it swept the oil over the booms so they moved farther into the bay were it was wider and the tidal flow consequently less.  There were verified reports yesterday of oil in Pensacola Bay so maybe this move will preclude any further oil encroachment.



There was a longer boom line this week and no booms left deployed along the beach.  Somebody has been busy.




The beaches are still clear in the pass area.  The brown mounds on the beach are not tar balls but clumps of Sargassum natans, a floating seaweed (actually a brown algae) that is frequently seen on Pensacola Beach this time of year.



The Gulf side is also still clear on the western end of the island.



We were the only people on the beach other than two workers who scooted by on their ATVs at one point.



The shore birds are also in good shape so far.



There were a few boats off shore that seemed to be skimming.



While the ghost crabs were in the clear…



…there were thousands of minnows washed up on the beach.  Some we could identify as young mackerel.  Others appeared to be alewives.



It may be the oil or its distillates killing them.  We also saw a lot of larger fish just a foot or so off of the beach that appeared to be trying to find better water.  They shot back and forth in the breaking waves often surfacing in the process.



And the crabs aren’t eating any of the dead fish.



A ghost crab fresh from the water.



We got the feeling that whatever killed the fish was detectable to the crabs who, themselves, are not particularly finicky eaters.  In fact we didn’t see any evidence that any of the fish had even been nibbled on by anything.  In spite of the dead minnows, we were relieved to see that the western end of the island at least had missed the incoming oil yesterday.  What next week might bring is another story.




We moved back down the island to a parking area just outside of the Fort Pickens park area and found a lot of activity going on there.  The crews looked tired but the beach was remarkably improved over the photos in the News Journal yesterday.  Most of the surface oil was already removed.  Of course there are layers of oil under the sand where the tidal action has deposited sand over yesterday’s oil.  We would guess that this oil will take much longer to remove.  Still, the beach today was far better than we anticipated.






Tar balls.



There are still a lot of tar balls to remove but the task doesn’t look impossible anymore.  If we are lucky enough not to get any further oil on shore, this could be cleaned up fairly well by next week.  Keep your fingers crossed.


Photos from the 4th of July 2010 are here.