BP Propaganda Poetry

The following poem was pieced together from excerpts of BP’s official, paid reporting on the Gulf Oil Spill. The fragments have not been modified in any way. More complete excerpts from each of the official BP articles follow. All emphasis has been added.

Literary Dispersants

I’m filled with the wonderment,
A sobering privilege
To shake off the weariness.

To look ahead, not behind, to dig in,
With brilliant clarity
I witnessed beauty preparing to face the beast,
Disappearing into the no-man’s land between terra firma and the sea
Like birds form in the sky,
Captains weave the long black boom
Gently caressing the sea surface,
Sweat-stained brows, hands sticky with salty sand,
Throats parched from Gulf Coast winds and heat,
The white-capped waves crashing ashore,
A brilliant concert plays out.

A ballet at sea,
Choreographed by skimming perfectionists,
Worthy of an audience in its own right,
I have an insight now that is so beautifully human,
A delicate mesh of vegetation,
The beehive of activities,
An air-conditioned TV room,
Cold bottle of water always in hand,
I can clearly see the importance and fragility
Of the strong threads that make the fabric of people.

Flying higher to get closer to spill response, Tom Seslar, June 15, 2010:

My appreciation for the enormity of the oil industry as an economic contributor in the Gulf of Mexico climbed sharply within minutes after I hitched a ride aboard a helicopter that BP had chartered for a couple of oil hunters.

Those hunters – armed with binoculars and a camera with a large telephoto lens – are women from a global emergency response company hired by BP. Their job is to spot oil that has escaped from the deepwater spill at the MC252 oil well off Louisiana.

A petty officer from the US Coast Guard is along too, his lap piled with maps and instruments to chart any patches of oil that the two women spot on the surface of the Gulf. Then, after we return to shore in a couple of hours, sea vessels will be dispatched to the charted locations to deal with the errant oil.

I’m filled with the wonderment of what’s happening below our chopper only moments after it lifts off from an airport in Houma, La.

Because we’re all wearing headgear to protect our hearing from the roar of long blades whirling overhead, it’s strangely peaceful up here – just right for surrendering to some meditation.

For a while, the most noticeable aspect of the scenes below is the presence of huge onshore facilities to supply and support the offshore oilfields. These facilities alone employ thousands, just in this one region of the coast.

Soon the scenes below begin changing, almost as if there’s a growing competition between land and water to dominate the landscape. Eventually, the marshes and swamps prevail – wetlands stridently pierced by canals, channels, harbors and causeways and even the last traces of roads that are gradually disappearing into the no-man’s land between terra firma and the sea.

From high above, I can clearly see the importance and fragility of sandy wetlands held together by a delicate mesh of vegetation.

Finally, all traces of land recede behind us. But I now have a much better understanding of why the vast wetlands are so important to wildlife and as barriers against hurricanes. These natural fortifications are the shore’s last line of defense.

Out here, flying at a height of up to 1,400 feet, the clouds are puffy white and brilliantly lighted but cast dark shadows on the wave-capped water below. We can see to the curvature of the earth and eventually pass over dozens of the more than 6,000 platforms that the oil and gas industry has built in US Gulf Coast waters during the past 60 some years.

I saw the oil spill today, Paula Komar, May 28, 2010:

As I was safely belted in an airplane that had opened its aft bay doors allowing a pristine aerial view without windows between us and outside, two realities came into spectacular focus: the oil spill and the beehive of activities. Both are astounding to witness.

US Coast Guard Load Master Stephen Perusin took charge of the back of the plane, assuring safety barriers and seat belts kept everyone secure while the bay doors were open. We were given the opportunity to experience the incident site literally from a bird’s eye view, with brilliant clarity. Because of the US Coast Guard’s skilled execution of the flight, my perspective, sense of immediacy and comprehension of the spill and activities around it, is in sharp focus, far better than before the over flight.

Fellow passengers returned to the Mobile Command Center more determined than ever to do what must be done to fight this subsea, surface and onshore – whatever it takes.

Seeing it real-time, up close, eyes-on is, oddly, an inspiration to shake off the weariness, to look ahead, not behind, to dig in and focus with vigour on the task at hand. Yes, I saw the oil spill today. I saw the skimmers. I saw the relief well drill ships. I saw the support vessels circling the incident site. It was indeed a sobering privilege.

Ballet at sea, Paula Komar, May 28, 2010:

Triangles, circles, v-angles: precision shapes at sea executed by shrimping vessels and choreographed by skimming perfectionists to stop any oil from potentially getting close to Alabama’s coast.

Though there isn’t oil close to shore, practices and rehearsals occur almost daily in preparation.

Watching the captains weave the long black boom as seamlessly as a professional ballet troupe performs an intricate dance, I found it difficult to believe that the rehearsals only started some weeks ago.

From the relative comfort of a large square deck with a cold bottle of water always in hand, and an air-conditioned TV room with comfy sofas a level below, I witnessed beauty preparing to face the beast. Miss Jasmine, the most experienced local shrimping vessel, beautifully painted with a colourful dragon streaming along her sides, pulled the folded boom in place. Then gently pulling along her side, another vessel took on a rope from Miss Jasmine. With barely a pause, the two boats moved apart at the same speed, spreading the boom into a v-shape just like birds form in the sky.

As this unfolded, a Navy skimmer craft attached itself to the point. Gently caressing the sea surface, the three vessels circled and swirled, guiding the boom without changing the design.

A ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right.

BP volunteer coordinator John Gastian, Tom Seslar, May 19, 2010:

With the help of ID from BP, I had made it past a sheriff’s deputy, whose cruiser was parked at an angle – with cop lights blazing – in the middle of a road leading to the huge beach at Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The public beach was closed to the public on this windy but beautiful, sunny day. It was closed so that a mighty, BP-led force could continue preparing it and be ready to defend it against any oil that might ride in with the white-capped waves crashing ashore from the Gulf.

I spotted groups of four to six paid volunteers working in scattered groups along the beach for as far as the eye could see.

Defending Dauphin Island, Paula Komar, May 12, 2010:

At first glance, the process looks chaotic, but after a minute of watching the orchestration a brilliant concert plays out. One of the young men of the Alabama National Guard is from a town not far from the work on Dauphin Island’s west end, as are many others in his outfit. He says that being on active duty in the place he calls home is something state guards hope for. Though they go wherever and whenever they are deployed, often overseas, working to protect home surf and turf is always a welcome assignment.

Sweat-stained brows, hands sticky with salty sand, throats parched from Gulf Coast winds and heat, these soldiers of Alabama are producing a visible protection as mile after mile of shoreline become lined with a solid defence against the oil spill should it come ashore. These ‘boxes’, when full of sand are often used as barriers against mortar fire in war zones. Some of these guardsmen have been behind them overseas. They don’t seem to care, however, whether they are used to stop weapons or an oil spill – they care that what they are accomplishing as a team is protecting home.

Burning the candle, Paula Komar, May 31, 2010

I have an insight now that is so beautifully human it reminds me of the strong threads that make the fabric of people. Just under the surface when things are going family (sic) well, but tested in times of great need, when friends and colleagues, even complete strangers, rely on you to be around to do what must be done.

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