Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster and Cultural Resources

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster continues to unfold. While there is some good news that they've been able to capture some of the oil currently spewing out of the ground, they're not catching all of it. Frankly, based on BP's track record of blowing smoke on how much oil is gushing into the oceans, I don't believe their numbers. I will go with "they are catching some of it."

Part of the problem with BP bullshitting about how much oil there was flowing into the ocean, is that the emergency response was planned around those really, really low numbers (1,000 barrels a day, they said). Most people are aware of the ecological impacts of the oil to the fisheries, marshes, and wildlife, and of the economic impacts to the fishermen, tourism industries, and even the oil industry. But most people are not aware that the spill also has impacted, and will continue to impact, cultural resources, including historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, historic structures, Civil War military sites, shipwrecks, etc.

For starters, here is the oil spill as it was on June 5, with Binghamton, NY as its source (still nothing personal, B'ton...):

The spill projected with Binghamton, NY as its source, as of June 5, 2010. Via

Here is the projection as of June 18, 2010:

The spill projected with Binghamton, NY as its source, as of June 18, 2010. Via

US/ICOMOS (U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites) has a website with an interactive map where you can see cultural resources that are threatened by the spill, and areas where the spill has reached the shore. It doesn't translate as anything I can reproduce here, but click on the link above, and then click on the icons for details on the cultural resource. It looks like a lot, but they've left off archaeological sites and shipwrecks to discourage looting. The potential for archaeological sites along the waters' edge, particularly around marshes and tidal estuaries is generally pretty high -- transitional zones like that often provide a huge variety of food resources, as well as access to the Gulf for travel and trade, and easily accessible areas for initial exploration and settlement. The number of shipwrecks noted for the area is "many." I was alerted to this link from the Historic Preservation Group at LinkedIn.

The National Park Service also has a website detailing their response to the Spill. Several National Parks and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places (which is managed by the National Park Service) are being affected.

And finally, we shouldn't forget that eleven people lost their lives when the rig exploded in the first place. This huge disaster and its media circus is also a very, very personal tragedy for people who have lost friends and loved ones, and for those whose means of making a living have also been lost.

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