Half a year ago, the world watched as an offshore oil rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. 11 workers on the rig died, and the sinking resulted in the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
An uncapped well spewed crude into the blue waters of the Gulf for three months. After several failed attempts, the leak was finally stopped on July 15 when crews were successfully able to cap the gushing wellhead. Retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, said, “We can now state definitively that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Not long after the spill began, oil and tar balls began appearing along the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. There was extensive damage to bird sanctuaries, marine and wildlife habitats and fisheries. Skimmer ships, floating containment booms and sand-filled barricades along shorelines were used in an attempt to protect hundreds of miles of beaches, wetlands and estuaries from the spreading oil.
Both the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf coast took a hit from the oil spill. Six months later, both industries are said to be on the mend. Despite an inital dip, tourism numbers were up in Florida and other Gulf shore regions throughout the summer months. In the affected fishing zones, officials said they had their best summer since Hurricane Katrina.
However, environmentalists agree that there is still recovery work to be done in some areas. Oil and tar is still being found below sand and on parts of the ocean floor. So far, $11 billion US has been spent cleaning up the spill.