What happened during the recent California oil spill?

By: Kyley Wilhite

Multimedia Journalist

On Saturday, Oct. 2, thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled into the ocean off of the coast of southern California caused by a ship’s hooking and dragging an underwater pipeline. The ship’s captain says that the hooking was a total accident and sends his regards.

“This caused commercial and recreational fishing to stop in the marshes as they were covered in oil,” AP News wrote.

Works cleaning up the oil and debris from the recent oil spill in California.
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

The New York Times says that there were 126,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean causing a fragile ecosystem to emerge. The pipeline responsible was supposedly one that happened to be by the old platforms installed in the late 1980s.

“When you’re talking about platforms that have been in place for 30 or 40 years, there’s going to be wear and tear. Over time, the risk of spills goes up,” says John B. Smith, a former independent consultant of The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in an interview with New York Times.

The spill was first noticed with a petroleum smell in the air and an oily sheen on the waters on Friday, Oct. 1. The spill, however, wasn’t reported to the CEO of Amplify Energy Corp until the next morning. According to AP News, the alarm in the control room went off at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, but they waited until 6:01 a.m. to shut down the pipeline.

An investigation was then launched on Amplify Energy Corp, and how that oil is now going to affect the ocean in California. On Tuesday, Oct. 5, federal investigators stated that the pipe was split open at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters) and a nearly mile-long section was pulled across the ocean floor.

The blackened water and beach from the oil. Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.

CEO of Amplify Energy Corp Mark Willshear says, “The pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bowstring. At its widest point, it is 105 feet (32 meters) away from where it was.”

Whenever questions about the ship arrived, they explained that anchored ships move all the time due to shifting weather patterns. The shifting wind tides can move an improperly set anchor, weighing ten tons, wherever it would like to go.

 “It can move or drag whatever the anchor gets fouled on,” says Steven Browne, a professor of marine transportation at California State University Maritime Academy.

According to AP News at a conference for the oil spill, congresswoman Katir Porter said, “We are going to make sure we have answers as to how this happened, and to make sure that we hold the responsible party accountable.”

Animal rescuers ashore have now started the clean-up and have been surprised to find many birds onshore have been covered in oil. The process of getting oil out of their skin and feathers is a very tedious process that takes multiple washes.

A baby sanderling bird covered in oil.
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

The Washington Post says that the oil spill is a disaster for birds, as their habitats are being destroyed. This oil contamination gives them no way to travel safely on their migration routes.

“These birds take off every year for thousand-mile travels through the Pacific Coast, through the Great Plains and Mississippi River basin, and down the Eastern Seaboard. These journeys are perilous and require safe habitats for rest and food along the journey,” Peter H. Gleick stated in an article on The Washington Post’s website.

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