About
243PH

Daniel Beltrá

Spill

2010

It was the world’s worst offshore oil spill: 5m barrels spewing from the BP-run Deepwater Horizon rig into the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people, marine life and devastating hundreds of miles of coastline. From a Cessna floatplane 3,000ft above the Louisiana coastline, photographer Daniel Beltrá captured the carnage. It was only from this height, he said, that the magnitude of the spill – and the futility of the clean-up operation – became apparent. “It was like trying to clean an Olympic pool full of oil while sitting on the side using Q-tips.”

An environmental specialist who often works for Greenpeace, Beltrá prefers aerial photography, because it offers a humbling perspective, shrinking the scale of the planet to more human proportions and thereby revealing its fragility. This lofty viewpoint often shows the beauty of the natural world: in the case of a disaster, though, that can be unsettling. Here, the surface of the ocean is marbled with spectacular, iridescent blue and flashes of orange that resemble molten rock, and the rig, at first glance, might be a Hindu temple.

In the two years since the wellhead was sealed, the fallout has continued. BP has embarked on a selling spree of oilfields and refineries in an attempt to raise funds for the clean-up bill – estimated at $38bn. The company is working towards a settlement with the US government, with both sides trying to establish how much damage was done, and how much BP should pay.

The environment is counting the cost, too. Most recently, waves caused by Hurricane Isaac in August dumped oil from the spill on two Louisiana beaches. Beltrá, meanwhile, is documenting low levels of sea ice in the Arctic. He is one photographer unlikely to be out of work any time soon.

Spill
Ships gather near remaining oil platforms near the site of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, leaving oily wakes as they move through the polluted water, May, 2010
Spill
Oil spilled from the BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead rises to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near a supply ship, May, 2010
Spill
A ship drifts amidst a heavy band of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, May, 2010
Spill
A C-130 plane sprays dispersant the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, May, 2010
Spill
A helicopter flies above Gulf of Mexico water polluted from oil spilled from the BP Deepwater Horizon, May, 2010
Spill
Oil spilled from the BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead rises up to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the Development Driller II platform, May, 2010
Spill
A plume of smoke rises from a burn of collected oil, May, 2010. A total of 411 controlled burns were used to try rid the Gulf of the most visible surface oil leaked from the BP Deepwater Horizon
Spill
A ship leaves a path of oil-free water in its wake as it motors across the Gulf of Mexico, June, 2010
Spill
A ship drifts amidst a heavy band of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, May, 2010
Spill
Paths of oil-free water remain in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico from boats attempting to clean up the crude spill off the coast of Louisiana, June, 2010
Spill
BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico, May, 2010
28°44'17.3"N 88°21'57.4"W

Location: Gulf of Mexico

Text: Hannah Booth, Big picture: Spill, by Daniel Beltrá, 2012


Posted: November 2017
Category: Photography

Source