James Buchan, a Scottish novelist, once said, “A century ago, petroleum-what we call oil- was just an obscure commodity; today it is almost as vital to our existence as water.”
In 1859, Edwin Drake became the first person to successfully drill into an oil well, which led to the birth of the modern petroleum industry. Now, crude oil is the most used commodity in the world, indicating how much we rely on oil, especially since the Industrial Revolution.
While reading some articles on marine life, I came across the terrible effects of oil spills on those ecosystems. Surprisingly, this isn’t a talking point as much as it should be. Oil spills happen pretty frequently and some of them happen over a large area and over the span of a very long time, such that they are sure to leave lasting impacts on the environment!
One of the most astonishing facts that I came across was that the biggest oil spill in the history of the world was actually intentional!! During the Persian Gulf War(1990), Iraq, with Saddam Hussein as its leader, invaded Kuwait for the sole purpose of obtaining the country’s large oil reserves. The United States formed a coalition including the British, French, Syrians and others to fight the Iraqi forces, due to which they ultimately backed out; but in this process, they burned a lot of Kuwaiti oil wells and released millions of gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf itself. About 300-500 million gallons of oil was thrown into the Gulf, marking it as one of the worst oil spill disasters ever. Thinking about the result of such large catastrophe can make anybody shiver.
The largest accidental oil spill in history, however, was the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill(2010) in the Gulf of Mexico. It happened because natural gas rose into the drilling rig and ignited and exploded the entire oil platform which sank a little later. The explosion not only led to one of the severest oil spills, spilling more than 200 gallons of oil into the water,but also claimed lives of about 11 people and injured several others. This disaster happened in “one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world”. Thus, the chemicals had huge effects on the organisms, leading to deformities of heart and other organs in the ones exposed to the spill. The chemicals from this spill were found in migratory birds as far always as Minnesota. It’s been 10 years since the spill was stopped but the environmental effects still show up, indicating how bad and deep rooted the damage always is.
When the investigation for the above mentioned BP oil spill was underway, an unusual trail of oil was found in the ocean which was confirmed to be from a different spill altogether. This led to some very shocking discoveries. The oil was actually from the Taylor Energy Oil Platform, which had been destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004!! You would be surprised to know that this spill went totally unnoticed till 2010 and was discovered just because of the Deepwater Horizon investigation. Taylor Energy oil spill was the longest oil spill in U.S. history, leaking about 140 million gallons of oil into the ocean . Most of us might not have heard about this because it isn’t brought to light even though we have faced huge consequences because of it, since the same continued leaking till 2019 !! This is very surprising since such spills are disastrous but we cannot even properly summarise the impacts due to an oil leak which continued for 15 whole years. The cleanup still goes on.
Just because of these oil leaks, we have seen insane consequences. Commercial fishermen have reported seeing a large number of mutated fish. As disgusting as it sounds, but 50% of shrimp were found missing eyes and eye sockets. Before the spill, about 0.1% of fish had skin lesions or sores; but University of Florida study reports after the spill reveal that about 20% of them had oozing sores and lesions on the skin; infact the study later changed the numbers to 50%. More than 10 times the normal number of baby dolphin carcasses were also found on the shores. The same goes for sea turtles and many other organisms.
Looking at all of this, it is pretty much rightly said by Kensho Furuya ,“Human beings are great in their own eyes, but are not much in the eyes of nature.”
If you ask the fish whether they’d rather have an oil spill or a season of fishing, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d vote for another blowout:))