My son will never see the Gulf Coast the way I did.

I just find that incredibly sad. The Gulf Coast has been declining for decades, of course. The insistence of people building gigantic condos on the beach, wiping out dune and wetland habitat, has seen to that. But there have always been stretches that have remained relatively pristine.

All my life, I’ve been going to these places, because they were natural, serene, and beautiful. The sugar-white sand of the beaches of the Florida panhandle, Alabama, and Mississippi have been a welcome retreat for as long as I remember. I clearly recall the first day I ever swam in the ocean with my dad and my two older brothers. They taught me how to body-surf in the breakers, and we swam all the way out to the sandbars. I remember being freaked out by the little schools of fish that swarmed around our legs, occasionally bopping into us, until my dad caught one with his hands and showed me how harmless they were.

Later, all four of us got our SCUBA qualification in the same class, and we spent years diving in the Gulf, sometimes off the beach, and sometimes off boats. I’ve seen dogfish, bull sharks, a manta ray (!), octopi by the score, stingrays, sea stars, urchins. Once, I even saw a massive shadow that I’m convinced to this day was a whale shark.

I’ve trawled for shrimp. I’ve watched manatees. I love those blazing summer days when you’re on that white sand, and the sun is so intense that you can easily go snowblind, and the furnace-like heat just envelopes you. I mean, it’s so hot that it’s almost audible. There’s almost a sense that the incredible heat is muffling the outside world, except for the screaming gulls and the surf. Some may think that sounds like hell, but it’s utter bliss for me. And hey, there’s always the water, right?

Nope. Not any fucking more. I have a son who’s 2 months old, and I had very much looked forward to showing him the ocean and the beaches at Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Pensacola, Panama City, Mexico Beach, Destin, Fort Walton, Apalachicola, and a hundred other places. I looked forward to taking him diving at the jetties at St. Andrew’s. I looked forward to showing him Gulf State Park.

It has been incredibly sad realizing that I’ll probably never get to do that. That the smell of oil will probably linger on all my favorite places for decades. That a scum of oil will be killing the crabs, the fish, the beach mice (including endangered species), the birds, and everything else for YEARS. That those gorgeous white beaches, the most glorious I’ve ever seen, will be irretrievably stained black.

The Gulf Coast will never be the same in my lifetime.

It may not ever be the same in my SON’S lifetime, and he will never form those same attachments to that beautiful place that I did.

It makes me want to cry.

Oops. Crapped up the title.

Sad thought. I’ve never been to the coast or seen it but it sounds beautiful. It’s sad that your son won’t be able to see those really awe inspiring things.

I really hope you’re catastrophizing here. It’s my fervent hope that this mess will be cleaned up in a few years.

It will take a gigantic effort, of course.

I had just mentioned this in another thread, but I’ve spent my vacation there every summer for the past 30 odd years. We just booked this year’s vacation for end of July - beginning of August (for my birthday!). Today when I flipped over the cnn.com there was a picture of people that went to say goodbye to the beaches and someone had written “I’ll miss you” in the sand. It makes me want to cry too. Heck, it does make me cry.

I don’t know how to describe it. It is the sugar beaches and all the beauty that goes along with that but it is more. It is watching families be themselves but just a little more relaxed. It’s hanging out with your family for an hour before you get seated for dinner at the restaurant and it’s not a chore but an adventure. It’s taking the kids out after dark crab hunting and them thinking you are the coolest mom ever because you aren’t afraid to pick them up (the crabs, not the kids). It’s eating lunch out of a cooler on the beach and not really worrying for a few days if the family is eating right. It’s when you take a shower and your skin is tighter from the sun and the sand and the salt. It’s being happy that all your danged mosquito bites seemed to have been healed by the salt water.

Granted, many of these things are simply by-products of vacation and could happen anywhere, but Gulf Shores is where all those memories happened for me. I am glad I had the chance to take my kids the last few years so they already have memories of that. Hopefully they won’t be all grown up before we get to go again.

I’ve built a lot of memories over the years too, but on New England shores. I’m a little worried about the spill moving up the coast, which apparently is a possibility. I don’t know if I’ll get a vacation this year, but that’s small potatoes to what people on the Gulf shores are going to suffer.

“Drill, Baby, Drill!!!”, doncha know?

What are you, some kind of wussy environmentalist?

I’m hoping it isn’t that dire, Ogre.

I just spent a day driving around Waveland (field work) and was impressed by the gap-tooth-ness of the neighborhoods, five years after Katrina. Freshly paved streets with one or two lonely houses rebuilt there. Storm drains slam full of sand. Forlorn pilings sticking up, the remains of house foundations. It’s heartbreaking to think that something else beyond their control is coming along to slam those people back down.

I remember one time, when my kids were small (my son was in diapers), I was friends with another struggling single mom. She had a relative who was working for one of the colleges, and finagled us a place to spend the night free - a dorm room on one of the coast campuses. We packed up my beater of a car and scraped up our coins for gas money, made a bunch of PB&J sammiches and headed to the coast. We took the kids to the beach and splurged an outing at McDonald’s. It was the most fun we’ve ever had for such a little amount of money. I have such fond memories of that trip.
I also went to a beach party on Thursday night in Gulfport, and I’m glad I went. None of us dared speak the unspeakable - that this might be the last time we saw the beach like that. At least I got to say goodbye. :frowning:

No, Ogre is almost certainly right.

The Exxon Valdez spill is still not entirely cleaned up. That mess happened in 1989. In 2006, the federal government and the state of Alaska sought more money from Exxon to continue cleanup efforts. There’s still oil there.

This spill is likely to be much worse.

Of course, at this point we don’t know just how big the spill is going to get. It’s still pumping it out, and it seems possible that the volume of oil released is going to substantially top Valdez, which spilled around 11 million gallons.

A barrel is 42 gallons. Do the math, if you can bear it.

That’s just the beginning, though; compared to Alaska, the Gulf Coast has many more habitat types and species that are going to be hurt. As in Alaska, no cleanup effort can get it all.

This may well go down as one of the worst regional environmental disasters in history.

Ogre, what I know about you is that we share the depth of admiration and understanding of nature and ecological systems, that every piece counts in the bigger picture. And, we’re both Southerners who love our corner of the world. I am as heartbroken as you in what looks to be an unprecented disaster.

That heartache in your post, while being a new joyful loving papa… there’'s been a great pause of lacking words here…teach that sweet boy everything you know, tell him truths, of every trillium and salamander. Love for all of that will make a difference someday, beyond all travails now.

I hope things will not be that bad. For now, it seems like it’s too early to tell, and I suppose that’s the best news we could hope for at this point.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/us/04enviro.html

Well, hey according to Limbaugh this is no big deal, and this mess will just take care of itself naturally.

I honeymooned at Gulf Shores. My son’s first vacation was there. He was 9 months old. So this spill makes me very sad. My hope is that since the gulf is warm, oil eating bacteria will be able to clean up whatever can’t be contained.

I grew up going to Panama City every summer for a week or two visiting my dad’s sister’s family and fell in love with the gulf coast. Moved to the eastern shore of Mobile bay in '87 and lived in
the area (Daphne/Pensacola) until 2000, returned from '04-'07. My kids grew up going to the beach from Dauphin Isle to Destin and now that we’re all in the Houston area, they don’t even consider Galveston a ‘beach’, “it’s more like the beach at Fairhope on Mobile bay” is their opinion…

We really need to use the Chinese method of punishing corporate wrongdoing - execute the company leaders so the ‘new’ company leaders get the message that just ignoring regulations will have dire consequences. We also need to regulate this sort of drilling like the rest of the world does, with acoustic switches on the blowout preventers required by law.

I mourn for the Gulf Coast. It will never be the same. I am glad that my kids (and nieces and nephews) have been able to experience it, but deeply regret that my grandchildren will not.

Farewell, redneck riviera, emerald coast, miracle strip, etc.

No thanks. I can’t bear it.

But the article linked to by Absolute gives me hope. Maybe luck is on our side for now. I am extremely impressed at how Boston dealt with the recent water crisis, and am hopeful that those working on Deepwater are every bit as efficient.

I’m bumping this in light of the fact that oil is now washing up on Dauphin Island.

Two friends and I are headed down next week to spend 5 days on Dog Island. I just want to make sure I get my fill of white sand, sea critters, wind-shaped pines, and moonlight on clear water before the oil and tar washes in and kills everything.

I was born and raised in North Florida. I can’t ever measure the amount of time I’ve spent on the coast, from Panama City to St. Pete Beach. My heart is breaking and broken and I really sort of refuse to think about it.

I hope and pray that I am wrong, but my gut tells me that this will be much, much worse than even the most dire predictions are saying…

The Gulf Coast will be living with the consequences of this environmental catastrophe for generations to come.

Ogre, I am certainly sorry for what you and all the other residents are dealing with—My prayers go out to the entire Gulf Coast region, which is one of the true treasures of the United States.

I am going to St. George Island for a week beginning Saturday. I hope it’s not a last farewell.

Too much beauty to lose.

Hey spoke, if you go to the easternmost point of your island and I go to the westernmost point of mine next week, we could wave at each other. (Okay, neither of us would see the other, but you it’s still sort of funny.)