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2012 December 24, Monday
Bayou Corne, Louisiana

UPDATE ON THE SINK HOLE IN BAYOU CORNE!

 19 weeks after our first flyover August 13 (see those photos and videos here), and we are seeing quite a different situation!
The trees that were just starting to be impacted by a small pool of liquid are no longer visible at all, and the hole itself looks at least twice as large in diameter as it was back in August. But everywhere the water levels seem higher, so it's hard for us to tell whether the dramatic sight change is because the sinkhole has really grown so much larger or everything is covered more by water than it was last August. In any case, it's not a pretty sight, and homes in the vicinity do not look like they'll be homes again anytime soon.  

Check out these paired photos -- the ones on the left were taken last August 13, 2012; the ones on the right were taken today, December 24, 2012, a bit longer than four months later.

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Following are more photos and videos taken today, Christmas Eve 2012, at around 4pm CST.  The GPS coordinates that put us close enough to circle it at about 1000' above ground level and the viewing angle shown here were approximately: N30° 00.015' W 091°08.7'.  We'll let the photos and videos speak for themselves.  Do make a quick comparison yourself with the photos and videos from our flyover August 13.  The changes seem to us to be quite significant.

2012 November 08, Thursday
East of Dallas, TX 

UPDATE 20130413 - Second Flyover of this section of pipeline!  See the video below!

The “Keystone XL” pipeline would connect the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to oil refineries along the U.S. Gulf coast, stretching about 1700 miles through six states. This proposed project has received enormous opposition from citizens concerned about climate change. Regardless of the causes of global climate change, it is a well established fact that continued unsustainable release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane will aggravate and accelerate so-called “global warming” and its attendant deleterious and widespread changes such as increased droughts, wildfires, violent storms, and floods.

Greenhouse gases are released in many ways, some of them involving natural processes out of our control, such as volcanoes, and some entirely within our control, such as the burning of “fossil fuels” like coal and oil. Fossil fuels are ancient carbon that has been sequestered in the earth for millennia -- in soils, oceans, lakes, forests, and so on.  Burning fossil fuels removes this sequestered carbon and releases it to the atmosphere. Tar sands are essentially a very unrefined source of oil. The amount that this pipeline alone could remove from the earth through energy production would add 240 gigatons of carbon to our atmosphere. The physics of our atmosphere is understood well enough that scientists have predicted with certainty that if we release more than about 565 more gigatons into our atmosphere, our planet will no longer be livable for known existing oxygen-breathing species.

This pipeline and the use of tar sands encourages our continued dependence on oil and other fossil fuels for energy production. Many people argue that our efforts and finances should go toward developing “greener,” environmentally sustainable  energy sources. It is eminently sensible for us to earnestly pursue sustainable energy sources whose use does not cause dangerous pollution to the atmosphere, to our freshwater sources or oceans, or to our soils.  It need not be necessary in the foreseeable future to cease all use of fossil fuels; but their use, along with any other practices that cause the release of carbon into our atmosphere, must be balanced by practices that sequester carbon. Very fortunately for us, the most efficient ways that humans can sequester organic carbon have attendant beneficial consequences such as sustained health and fertility of agricultural soils, rivers, lakes, oceans, and forests!  Science has proven that time-honored principles such as respect for the earth and all of her lifeforms, cooperation with nature, sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, moderation of our impact, and harmonization with and protection of biodiversity, are salutary for us all in the longterm.

To return to the Keystone XL Pipeline: While returning to the Gulf coast last week from the west coast in our small, fuel-efficient, low-and-slow airplane, we flew southeastward from Dallas, TX toward New Orleans, LA.  We were surprised to discover that a considerable degree of construction of this pipeline has already been completed, despite the project not yet having received government approval! (“Did our taxes pay for this?” we wondered.) We pulled out our small videocamera and recorded what we saw.

Here we share with you our brief “look from above” at  this pipeline -- what it looks like, and the kind of countryside it will permeate.  Even aside from the question of continuing to burn fossil fuels, seeing this beautiful countryside made us ask ourselves, with dread:  are we certain we want to bring these polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are toxic to oxygen-breathing life, through the midst of our agricultural soils, prairies, forests,  and rivers?

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2012 August 13, Monday
Bayou Corne, LA

By now it's been all over the news and blogs, and the reports cover all extremes.  The beginning of the Apocalypse to some, citing 1.5 million barrels of butane present in the apparently collapsing salt domes under this rural area of southwestern Louisiana.  A small event involving only the loss of a few trees to others.  After flying over this sinkhole, and smelling the foul air for just 15 minutes, we can testify that it's definitely not the minor concern of a few trees lost.  We'll restrict ourselves here to providing you with photos and videos from today, but refer you to the web where you'll find photos from two, five, and more days ago -- and see for yourself how fast the trees are sinking and disappearing, and how much larger the hole is becoming!

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The maps showing our flight today are overlaid on Google Earth satellite photos, in which you'll see plenty of trees where today we saw a swampy lagoon filled with orange boom and air boats and workers wearing respirators.  Here are photos and video of the sinkhole and the surrounding community. Note the two large storage tanks just to the east of the sinkhole, with large printed name on their side: "Responsible Care"!  No end to the irony here sometimes...

 

2011 May 22 Sunday

The urgent needs for deliveries by plane having subsided, we have continued to provide supplies to victims of the recent tornados in Alabama by ground transportation.  With thanks to the business Flightline First at New Orlean's Lakefront Airport, we have continued collecting, storing, and organizing donations in their facility.  Thus far, each time we have accumulated enough supplies to need another truck bed to carry it, someone has given us a call or dropped us an email to say that they would be glad to haul a load of supplies up to the distributions centers in Epes or Tuscaloosa!  The Universe is definitely in touch with this need and supply source.  Anyone with more donations they'd like to make may drop us a line or bring them to Flightline First, and we'll continue coordinating their transport for as long as they are needed.  

Special thanks to recent drivers:  Stan Johnson, Flux Rostrum, and Jason Berry.
And to some very generous donors and hard-working volunteers who have helped collect, organize, and coordinate these deliveries:  Rob Coulon of New Orleans, Louisiana; Penny Edwards of Broussard, Louisiana.  Tereson Dupuy, Inventor and CEO of FuzziBunz Diapers LLC in New Iberia, Louisiana;  Ms. Ro Mayer of New Orleans, Louisiana; and Brayton Matthews and his team at Flightline First of New Orleans' Lakefront Airport.  

As of May 22, we have coordinate the ground transportation of four truckloads of supplies to the delivery centers in Tuscaloosa and Epes, Alabama.  We have for the most part answered the specific requests of these delivery centers, but we have also added extras in the way of clothing, especially for babies and children.  Supplies to date have included the following general categories of items:  

  • Tools, hardware, ropes, gloves, and so on.  
  • Children's and baby clothing (especially socks, underwear, shoes and tee shirts)
  • Baby supplies, especially disposable and reusable diapers, foods and formula, and related supplies
  • Nonperishable primary-nutrition (as opposed to empty-calorie snack) food items, ready to eat, with utensils and simple cooking devices 
  • Adult clothing (especially socks, underwear, tee shirts and work clothes)

We have returned to California now, to take care of some animal rescue work on the west coast and between there and the midwest.  We were pained to hear of the recent tornados in Missouri and hope that many more volunteers like us and our friends in the South will be doing what we are not there to do!  And we'll be back in the Gulf by mid-June, finding whales and whale sharks and other marine animals for scientists who are tagging and learning about their health status and migration and continuing to help with the understanding, documentation, and recovery of the Gulf wildlife and coastal ecosystems.  And of course, as always, we'll be helping with rescues of all sorts, never wasting a flight if we can use it to help save lives!

2011 May 4 Wednesday

Following our first flight to Tuscaloosa and distribution of supplies to people in Holt and vicinity, we learned of many outlying rural areas that had not yet received sufficient supplies or assistance, and in which there were both babies and elderly people in need.  These areas included Samantha, Brookwood, Friday Circle, Sawyerville, Coaling, Epes, and others.  Because of the urgency, we organized a second flight as soon as possible.  And thanks to the generosity of compassionate individuals in the Gulf area and of Flightline First at Lakefront Airport, we were again able to act fast by purchasing many of the specifically requested supplies.  

Once again, we filled the plane to maximum capacity; in addition, a large quantity of baby supplies were shipped directly from Lafayette, Louisiana by the generous makers of Fuzzi-Buns diapers.  On this trip we were met by Tuscaloosa locals from the Daystar Family Church, who have set up a very large distribution center for supplies and for volunteers, who are welcomed to stay at church facilities overnight while they work in the rural areas during the days.  They drove me into some of these areas to speak with people and witness firsthand what the tornados had done and the work going on and still needed there.   These photos from today are not for the faint of heart.  We saw where neighborhoods and shopping malls were leveled, where adults and children and babies never made it out alive.  We saw cars and trucks that had been thrown for hundreds of yards, flipped over like pancakes.  Power lines were still down everywhere.  In towns like Alberta City, there seemed to be plenty of cleanup work done and being done, and there were lots of National Guard and other professional crews around.  As we walked by some destroyed structures, we could smell the stench of rotting flesh.  That was the most disturbing reminder of what this tornado really destroyed, far more significant than the structures and the cars and the trees.

A few photos are shown below, and many more are shown in the gallery at the end of this article.  (As always, click on any photo to see an enlarged, higher-resolution version of it.) Also, just prior to the final photo gallery, we list the supplies delivered and total costs for this second flight.  Donations are coming in steadily now to Flightline First at Lakefront Airport; we will be coordinating shipments from there by truck beginning this weekend and continuing next week.

Thanks go again to Gerald and Vickey Maples for providing funds to purchase the supplies, which for this flight included many tools as well as temporary shelters; and to Flightline First of Lakefront Airport in New Orleans for providing discounted fuel when purchased there, and for offering to match at 50% all monetary donations that come in for fuel costs.  Please consider that temporary opportunity to increase the effectiveness of any contribution you might want to make to these efforts!
{gallery}tornado-alabama-2011may/tornado-teasers-webres-20110504{/gallery}

2011 April 30

To Gulf shore residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, Hurricane Katrina remains a vivid nightmare.  So when one of history's largest and most powerful tornadoes touched down and leveled huge swaths of northern Alabama this past week, the scenes of destruction struck a deep and chilling chord.  On Wings Of Care and several residents of the New Orleans, Lafayette, and Gulfport areas went right to work planning how best to help.  We made lists of critical necessities such as temporary living shelters, baby and medical supplies, basic foodstuffs and some tools.  Instead of waiting for donations to get organized and assembled, we went out and bought most of it, filled our plane ('Bessie', as she is known affectionately to hundreds of grateful people now), and flew to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Sunday, May 1.

Thanks go to the prompt generosity of local Gulf residents for making this quick response possible:  Gerald Maples, who paid $800 for the supplies we bought; Marion and Penny Edwards and Executive Aircraft Charter/Acadian Ambulance, who donated $500 toward airplane operating costs; Brayton Matthews and Flightline First of Lakefront Airport who donated $250 of fuel plus hangar space and a vehicle for shopping and transporting; Robin Young and Jerry Cope who brought over bags of linens and clothing to round out our plane load of supplies.

Bessie was filled to her ceiling, with barely enough room for me to squeeze into the pilot's seat.  Fortunately, strong tailwinds made for a quick trip, putting me at Tuscaloosa airport in just under two hours.  When I landed, I was met by a very tired local friend, John Wathen, who is also a well-known friend to the Gulf since the BP disaster last April.  He looked like he had not slept or stopped to take a breath in days, and his voice was so hoarse he could hardly talk.  He hugged me and wept as he shared that just 20 minutes earlier, as he was leaving to meet me, they had discovered another dead body in the hills behind his house, and there were still over 400 people still unaccounted for.  Then he looked at my plane and cracked what was probably his first smile in days:  "Darlin', how the ___ did you ever get that plane off the ground?!"  As we unpacked it and he saw all that was there, he kept repeating "You are a godsend! This is unbelievable.  This is perfect!"