Thank the Franklin Eddy. In 10, 20, even 100 years there a good chance that folks in South Florida will look back on the devastating tragedy that was the BP Oil Spill and find that the Franklin Eddy was the one thing that kept hope alive. See it is the Franklin Eddy that has thus far prevented the millions upon millions of gallons of crude that’s been bubbling up outta Deepwater Canyon from making its way down through the Keys and around to the Atlantic. In other words, it’s the only thing between us and a tar-ball beach.
Let me explain: According to the experts, there’s a massive loop current in the Gulf that travels through the Florida Straits south of the Dry Tortugas, below the rest of the Florida Keys and then snakes north up the Atlantic Coast and becomes the Gulf Stream. A couple weeks ago the loop grew so large that a bend broke off and formed the Franklin Eddy. Named after Benjamin Franklin himself, this atypical event has cut off the flow of crude and is in effect acting as a sort of natural barrier. It’s almost as if the earth has responded to the carnage and is doing everything in its power to contain the destruction.
A North Carolina expert named Rick Luettich, who is director of UNC’s Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City and UNC’s Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters in Chapel Hill, was almost giddy with glee when he was questioned by Drew C. Wilson of the Jacksonville (NC) Daily News.
“You couldn’t ask for a better situation from the perspective of the East Coast,” he said, “because were the eddy not sitting there, there would be oil coming around Florida by now.”
Luettichalso said “this current situation could last for a few months or perhaps a few years.”
“To some extent our fate is tied up with the fate of this eddy,” he added. “The longer it sits there in place and blocks the oil, the better off we are.”
Seconding Luettich’s glee is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who, due to the decreased threat to the Florida Keys, have just suspended production of the Transocean/BP offshore oil spill trajectory maps.
Furthermore, says a report posted on The Monroe County Tourist Development Council’s www.floridakeys.com website, “there are no advisories recommending against travel to the Florida Keys or any other precautions advising visitors and residents not to engage in fishing, diving, swimming or other water sports, according to the Monroe County Health Department. Seafood from immediate Florida Keys waters is safe to eat, officials said.”
“NOAA has closed a significant portion of the Gulf of Mexico to recreational and commercial fishing. [But] the closest point of the closure to the Keys remains about 200 miles to the west of Key West.”
Unfortunately not everyone is the world is getting that message about the Keys, and there’s been a significant drop in tourism since the April 20th blowout. And while the losses are nowhere near as catastrophic as those suffered in the Panhandle, they’re enough to have officials in Miami worried about the world’s perception of our sacred stretch of sand as well.
To that end the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has just been awarded $1.25 million in emergency marketing funds from Governor Charlie Crist and the State Division of Emergency Management “to assist the destination in correcting misperceptions among potential visitors about the effects of the Gulf oil spill.”
“Dispelling these perceptions is critical,” reads the announcement, released earlier this week,“since tourism is Miami-Dade’s number one industry.”
Perhaps the GMCVB is taking a page from New Orleans, who has launched its own $5 million campaign to dispel any rumors that crude is making its way to the Big Easy. Unlike Miami however, New Orleans is using BP money. And if theadditional $75 million our Crescent City friends are seeking from the company is any indication, they’ve just gotten started making BP pay.
And rightfully so.Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s comments to the contrary, the $20 billion Obama made BP put in escrow is not some kinda “Chicago shakedown;” it’s just good common sense. And with any luck it’ll be but a down payment on recompense to come. As everyone knows, Louisiana – and New Orleans in particular – has had it tough since Katrina. And the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is a terrible blow to region just when it’s getting back on its feet. Louisianans are understandably up in arms, as are folks from Texas, Mississippi and the Panhandle.
But Gulf States residents aren’t the only ones fed-up with America’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and last Saturday there was a massive show of solidarity that reached right around the country and indicated that maybe, just maybe, there’s something other than Deepwater on our horizon.
Yes, we mean, Hands Across the Sand, the nationwide call to action spearheaded by the SurfriderFoundaton.
The idea came from Dave Rauschkolb, a Northwest Florida Surfrider member whowas miffed by “efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.”
In response Rauschkolb founded Hands Across the Sand, and back on Saturday, February 13, his plan went into action.
“Thousands of Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts” ran the on-site statement.“[And] Florida’s Hands Across The Sand event was the largest gathering in the history of Florida united against oil drilling. Thousands joined hands from Jacksonville to Miami Beach and Key West to Pensacola Beach, each against oil drilling in Florida’s waters.”
This of course was months before BP blew its Deepwater top. But once they had, Rauschkolb and his fellow Surfriders, in conjunction with the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, ECOMB, 1Sky, the Urban Paradise Guild and Environment Florida, decided to go national. The results surpassed even that.
According to reports “events took place in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 30 other countries.” And Mike Gibaldi, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation’s Miami chapter, says he’s knows personally that Americans weren’t the only ones showing solidarity last Saturday.
“I received clips from people everywhere from India to New Zealand before I even started getting things in gear on Miami Beach,” Gibaldi told SunPost Weekly, “So there was a definite international component to this.”
Miami lensgirl Alissa Christine was in the air over the Hands and she was ecstatic over what she witnessed.
“I literally screamed when I first saw all those people down there joining hands,” she told us, a trace of awe still in her voice four days after the fact. “It was one of the most touching moments I’ve ever experienced.”
Even a cursory visit to the Hands Across the Sand site will show a unanimous concurrence from everyone in attendance, no matter where they drew their line in the sand. What’s less clear is if anyone from BP was anywhere near any one of the thousands upon thousands of folks who turned out to protest the behemoth’s bad actions. And if they did show up, whether or not they got the message as intended:
BP, clean up your mess and go home.