Sunday, June 13, 2010

What is on the Beach?

Yesterday morning we went over the the eastern end of Grand Isle to see what is going on at the State Park. After paying the admission fee and entering the park it was immediately clear that we were entering a militarized zone. Three huge army trucks barreled down the road in front of us as we made our way to the camping area and the western end of the park beach. Only about a third of the campsites were filled, and we have been told that they are all occupied by the media. Nobody would actually want to visit the beach, of course, because it has become a fairly hostile area. As you can see from the sign above, in the state park they were not even allowing people on the area of beach above the tiger booms.
Having passed the sign, we snapped this picture. The security guy on the right watched us for the whole fifteen minutes that we were there. He was on his phone the entire time and was occasionally joined by other security officers. Lets remember: these people are NOT State Troopers or even State Park employees. You cannot go anywhere on or near the beach without knowing that you are being watched very carefully.
Three years ago, when I was a Williams-Mystic student, this is where we walked across to the beach. These are the bath houses and board walk in the center of the park beach. We got pretty close to the trucks before people started to notice us. The military seems to be more relaxed about where you go when compared to the blue-shirted security guys. This is of course another situation where it was impossible to get to the beach.
When we finally got to the eastern end of the park we came upon what appears to be the worker's base camp. We have not seen tents like these near the beaches anywhere else on the island. On the right is a bus that is just starting to unload workers. We were there around noon, so presumably the buses that were arriving were filled with workers taking their lunch breaks here. The gates and lines set up in front of the bus are marked with zone numbers. My assumption is that this is where people line up at the beginning of the day to get trucked around to different sections of the beach. Under the tents we could see that they were set up to feed and supply the small army of workers that have been deployed to clean the beaches on all of Grand Isle.

We have heard many of the locals complaining about how little the clean up crews work. When we arrived on Thursday we were told that the crews work for twenty minutes and then rest for forty minutes. Yesterday they were bumped down to fifteen minutes on every hour. It is the opinion of the locals that this is outrageous and inefficient, and they know how hot it gets.
Finally, I photo of what they workers are cleaning up. This is what the oil looks like along the edge of the beach. I was only able to take this picture because we were allowed to walk out on the pier at the park. These little reddish globules speckled the beach right now. We have been told that the oil comes in waves, and that we are between waves right now due to the weather patterns that control the movement of the oil. So this is the beach on a "good day."

I will take this opportunity to relate what it feels like to be here now. Every morning when I walk out of my chilled motel room the hot, humid air takes my breath away. Throughout the day the wind picks up and the humidity becomes more bearable, but it is still hot. The first time I crossed the bridge from Cheniere Caminada over to Grand Isle I could distinctly smell the stink of oil. That quickly passed after we got to the island. Only occasionally since then have I smelled oil. That is not to say that it is not a concern. We have been told that when the slick comes onto the beach the whole island smells. Floyd Lasseigne told us yesterday that his daughter got sick the last time that happened. Take home message: though there is not a heavy oil slick on the beach today and it does not smell now, it will be back when the currents and winds turn.

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