Countdown: Oil spread leaves horror in its wake

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keith olbermann: some of the most devastating pictures yet of the extent of the damage coming from an alabama conservativist named john wathen who has been flying over the spill whenever he can to document independently exactly what is taking place. footage shot yesterday placed on youtube, he revealed the devastation is worse than bp has been telling us and if possible it’s more extensive than many of us had feared.

john wathen: the farther out into the gulf we got, the more consistent it became. at 17 miles out it was obvious that the entire gulf was covered at this point. at 23 miles out we encountered the heaviest sheen yet. the water there was a deep purple, maroon, blue, it looked almost like a rainbow. the scope of this is beyond belief. it will take years at this rate to gather up even a portion of the oil that’s on the surface today. some of it looks more like bruised internal organs of the human body than the surface of the ocean. and yet that’s what it is. the first time i came out and saw a fire, there was only one. today when we got here there were four. within a couple of passes, there was seven. from the size of these fires it seems as though we’re not only trying to kill everything in the gulf of mexico but everything that flies over it as well. this toxic environment can’t be good for the birds that fly over the gulf and certainly nothing can live in these rainbows of death that cover the entire horizon. as we look closer, we saw this pod of dolphins obviously struggling just to breathe. then we found this guy. a sperm whale swimming in the oil had just breached. along his back we could see red patches of crude as if he had been basted for broiling. then there was this pod of dolphins found later. some already dead, some in throes. it seemed to me that they were raising their heads and looking at the fires wondering why is my world burning down around me. why would humans do this to me.

K: joining us now from tuscaloosa, the man behind the remarkable video, john wathen korveist with the water keeper alliance. thank you for your time.

>> thank you. i appreciate being here.

>> as i implied that’s not even your most recent footage. do the new images show any sign of improvement out there in.

john wathen: not at all. if anything, things are getting worse. when we first went out there were bright red colors. there were vivid colors in the oil and there was some separation between the bands. the second time it looked more like deep bruising on the skin. this time when we went out there it was much wider. it was much widespread from a mile and a half off the shores of gulf shore, alabama, all the way out to the rigs some 90 miles away. we didn’t fly over clean water one time.

>> obviously —

>> it is getting worse.

K: the thing that is resonating with people who have seen your video online in particular have been the dolphins. how many would you say you spotted and how many of them were already dead by the time you saw them?

john wathen: well, we couldn’t get an accurate count on how many were actually dead. we had three people in the plane trying to count, and we figure we saw over 100 dolphins that were in distress. some were obviously dead. they were belly up in the water. and there were several more that were in, you know, obvious distress. it looked to me as if they were in their death throes.

K: the burning of the oil, the use of the dispersants that obviously created those separations that you described and now just this sort of coating of the surface wall to wall oil, is this an instance where the attempt of the cure, what bp is supposedly doing to clean up what it has spilled into the gulf, that the cure is as bad if not worse than the original disease itself?

john wathen: in my opinion absolutely. this dispersant, we’re putting so much of this stuff in at the source. what they’re basically doing is just hiding it from sight. we’re not seeing it on the surface anymore so it must not be as bad, but it’s robbing the water column of its oxygen and we’re seeing these huge plumes of oil underwater, and what you’re seeing in florida today in my opinion is where these plumes are coming up from the continental shelf and boiling out into that shallow water. i flew the florida coast right after this video and i had people actually in water that had oil in it, and you could see the sheen for miles and miles and miles out on the horizon. so they can’t see from the beach what i can see from the airplane. this thing is huge.

K: what happens when that hurricane blows that into more sensitive, as if the rest of the ecology wasn’t sensitive enough, but into the things like the marshlands? what happens to the marshlands? do you have any guess?

john wathen: well, from what i have heard from most of the locals down there and the people that really know those marshes and bayous, this is the worst possible scenario is a weak storm like this because all it’s doing is raising the tide and pushing the oil into the marshes without enough force to really break it up. we’re pushing bulk into the marshes. with the dispersant that’s involved here, a lot of it is under the water. the booms had no effect. the oil was coming under the booms, so now there is nothing blocking it. all of that oil is going to be in our marshes, it’s going to be in our estuaries and there’s nothing we can do about it.

K: how much do you think the fire — the burning off has spread this into the environment in other ways? do you have any way of measuring that?

john wathen: i don’t have any way of measuring it, keith, but it’s phenomenal when you get out there and you realize that these huge towering columns of smoke are coming from incredibly small fires on the horizon. when you look at the amount of oil that’s out there, each one of those columns of smoke is nothing more than a tea cup in comparison. it will take thousands of these fires to burn all the oil on the gulf of mexico. this is ludicrous. we’re toxifying the atmosphere. it seems like we’re trying to kill everything in the air it’s insane out there.

>> john wathen, member of the waterkeeper alliance. thanks for your time. we’ll talk to you again when the next video gets edited.

>> thank you. it’s an honor and i’m hoping to have the next video out by the next week that will cover the florida coastline and then again we want to go up right after this storm. i want to try to go down there and get as much of it as i can.

>> thank you, sir.

For some perspective, here is video of the oil slick 20 days ago:

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