A spill that started with the tragic loss of life soon wrought major environmental devastation over huge region of the Gulf. Disturbing images appeared daily of oiled wildlife, iridescent surface slicks, overwhelmed cleanup workers, fouled beaches, burning oil fires, and blackened wetlands.
The damage from nearly five million barrels of oil was very real, yet many expert predictions missed their marks. Hurricanes didn’t drive enormous quantities of oil ashore, giant dead zones didn’t materialize, and oil didn’t round the tip of Florida to rocket up the East Coast via the Gulf Stream. Fisheries now appear poised to rebound instead of suffering the barren years or decades some feared. And Mother Nature had her own surprises in store, showcasing an ability to fight back against the spill and, later, to bounce back from the damage—at least in the short-term.
However, uncertainty still reigns among those trying to come to grips with the spill’s ultimate legacy. Even the final fate of all that oil is a matter of some debate—though the gooey crude still clings to some shorelines, where it will be visible for years to come.