You know an event is big when they cast Mark Wahlberg to star in a film telling the story six years later. That is exactly what happened to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of the biggest industrial catastrophes, and one of the worst accidental oil spills, of all time, which destroyed ecosystems, sparked a global response, and cost the company responsible, BP a lot of money in clean up costs and legal action.
It’s incredible to think that the incident in question took place 8 years ago! That’s the length of two Presidential terms, the equivalent of the time between 3 Olympics and 3 Winter Olympics, and back when Matt Smith had just become the star of Doctor Who. It doesn’t feel remotely that long ago (nor, by the way, does it feel like the film has been out for two years). It was the days before Trump and before Brexit.
With it being so long ago, it’s easy to forget the terrifying scale of the disaster, not to mention the events themselves. But the events were very significant, and we have not seen any oil spills of comparable size since – though we have seen other forms of industrial accidents of similar scale, such as the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster.
It was reported on the 21st of April 2010 that a fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to a chain of events that would cause a cataclysmic industrial event of historic proportions. The ensuing explosion led to 11 workers going missing and the rig beginning to list in the Gulf. Though, at the point it was still a relatively minor story. BP said that they were going to try and control the fire, but the main focus was on the potential for casualties.
And then the rig sank on the 23rd of April, turning what was an accident on a rig and a danger to life in to a huge ecological risk. Efforts to plug the well which was by now spewing countless tonnes of oil in to the coast off the US state of Louisiana went on for several days, with images of robots desperately trying to stop the leak streamed across the world. Ultimately, as history tells us, their efforts to avert disaster were unsuccessful.
The images that came after the spill were all over the place in the immediate aftermath, with birds and fish coated in petroleum seen across the globe. BP’s efforts to reduce the impact of the spill may have made matters worse, with the dispersant used by the company being called “toxic” by experts. BP’s share price plummeted as 4 million barrels worth of oil were pumped into fragile eco-systems, eventually making landfall.
It has only been since that the full, long term impact of the spill has begun to become clear, with the basic building blocks of life in the Gulf of Mexico drastically altered by the ongoing fall out. But BP is well on the road to recovery, with its profits at a five year, and it’s reputation doing well to shake off the damage that the spill, and its reaction to it, might have done to it.