Sunday, July 11

The Oil Spill

While this post has nothing to do with wellness, I couldn’t leave the Alabama coast without jotting down my thoughts about the oil spill.

Arriving on Thursday, it was apparent that something was amiss. Sepia-colored oil floated on the waves, staining the beach. Crews in white Haz Mat foot coverings worked in teams with shovels and garbage bags, scooping up tainted sand and carting it off. Occasionally, a bulldozer would roar by, scraping the top layer of earth from the beach.

For a sunny day in mid-July, the beaches were unusually quiet. During a normal summer they are probably crowded with sun worshipers, beach combers, shell seekers, and families. And for good reason. The beaches are lovely; powdery, white sand, a wide expanse between the ocean and the dunes, and gentle waves. Perfect conditions for a weeklong beach vacation.

But it’s not a normal summer. It’s difficult to parse out the affect the oil has had on tourism here. Travel has dropped off due to the recession, so it was going to be a difficult season anyway. However, being banned from the ocean certainly doesn’t help.

Yellow signs hang in the elevator advising everyone to stay out of the water, for our own safety. I’m guessing that’s not the marketing campaign the Gulf Coast wanted in this economic climate.

That being said, dining out Saturday night, it was unexpectedly crowded. Given the deserted beaches, I had assumed no one was here. Not so. The Wolf Bay Lodge had patrons streaming out the door. We waited thirty minutes for table. Customers sat outside The Shrimp Basket next door as well. Like us, these vacationers were probably enjoying the hotel pools in lieu of the beach.

It’s also possible the oil spill has created a different kind of tourism—rubberneckers. You know, the people that slow down to get a good, long look at a horrific car accident. People like the gentleman I met at Subway on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama, during our drive to the coast. He hailed from Atlanta and was headed to the shore to see the damage. To see what all the fuss was about. I'm guessing he's not alone in his curiosity.

I’m sure business has suffered here, but like I said, it’s tough to decipher how much of it is due to the economy versus the spill. To compensate for any lost revenue, I think the hotels and other local businesses should start selling these T-shirts from And it should be the required uniform of the clean up workers.

A few more pictures. 

Workers cleaning the shoreline.

The oil-stained, and now sadly but appropriately named, Orange Beach, Alabama

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